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, September 30, 2018

Give me strength

About my only contribution to the U.S. Army as a reserve officer two decades ago was scoring very high on the APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test). In 1995, at Fort Sam Houston, I achieved a scaled score of 371 points, good for second in my unit behind a former Navy SEAL. This meant about 105 push-ups and sit-ups, each in a two-minute period, and close to 10:00 in the two-mile run (not even a decent time for a 15:30 5K guy, but this was after the other two events and on a crowded half-mile track in the sweltering July heat of San Antonio). I was always fairly dedicated when it came to basic body-weight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups and crunches. and working hard to prepare for the strength aspect of the test came naturally, this wasn't terribly long after high school, when I took up regular, if not exactly killer, weight-lifting in an effort to become a better runner starting at age 16. (I do think this helped.)

I offer this background not only to brag and demonstrate that my strikingly burly physique is not merely for show, but also to establish that I was once fairly serious about strength work.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Another runner's paradox: Seeking to demolish "impenetrable" barriers

In preparing for a race a few weeks or months ahead and formulating a specific goal, have you ever concluded that you could not only better your previous best time at that distance, but blow it cleanly out of the water? And then gone on to do just that?

On the other hand, are you in the habit of treating a personal best, even if it's clearly ripe for demolition, as defining your absolute physical limit, implying that a nearly miraculous effort will be required to erase it?

Most of us are guilty of managing to do both of these conflicting things at the same time -- one of them consciously, the other without realizing it...

(Read the rest at Lowell Running.)


I ran 15 miles yesterday around and near (but not in) the Boulder Reservoir at a shade under 7:00 pace, with the last five fairly close to 6:30s. There is nothing remarkable about this except that it comes one week after a 17-miler and the days in between included a couple of long, solid efforts, including 8 x 1,000 on the roads in 3:31. More than anything, I find myself bouncing back from harder days with increasing vigor. Although my workout times are not very impressive, those will come if my resilience keeps trending in a direction that lets me train like a bona fide runner. I got close to 70 miles last week even with my usual planned Monday off, but this needs to approach 80 or 90 before I can call myself serious again. If my knee allows it, I think the willingness is there. I certainly have no shortage of flexibility in my schedule.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How to slow down your easy runs

Runners often search for strategies for keeping the pace easy om recovery days, a practice even experienced runners have difficulty maintaining thanks to the two-edged blade of high motivation and competitiveness.

Here's one that's close to 50 percent effective: Run without underwear in shorts that have no built-in liner. The reason this is not 100 percent effective is that 50 percent of runners, give or take, are women. I suppose a comparable strategy for women would be to run with a very badly worn-out jogbra or no bra at all, but for a multitude of unrelated reasons I cannot endorse this idea.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Annual freak-out

This seems like a good time for the annual reminder that the first few races of any cross country season are practically irrelevant, especially at the high-school level, and that apparently subpar efforts do not signify a lack of fitness or preparedness (excepting obvious cases, e.g., your kid doesn't train at all and decides to run the first race in scuba flippers). Feel free to point out a running idol who performs nearly as well in early September as he or she does ten or twelve weeks later; I'll be happy to add this to my database of such athletes, which is currently empty.

This is sort of a corollary to the "times don't matter" in cross country. Yes, they matter to a small extent between races on the same course, but that's it. Despite winning the Meet of Champs my senior year, my high-school team suffered significantly from having a coach who never shut up about heart rates and paces. The kids who ran well that November were the ones who couldn't do, or didn't give a shit about, math. I wasn't one of them.

Monday, September 3, 2018

A mostly satisfactory race, and the value of being self-defeating

Abstract

37:53 for 10K in Fort Collins this morning, the best of the scattering of results I've had since coming back to this game for real in 2017 after spending a decade-plus in general ugliness peppered by occasional false comebacks. Second in the nonexistent 45-49 age group in a race that had around 6,000 entrants. (I won my actual division, M48, by over two minutes, but that's slicing the pie into unnecessarily small chunks.)

I am lurching in the direction of respectability thanks entirely to Kathy Butler's workouts and overall encouragement, and the special blend of people in this training group. My attitude is coming around as well, and only I can ultimately rehab that. But I ran well in spite of leaving lots of room for improvement in pacing and intensity.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Elite-level motivation: It's not (quite) what you think

Last week, I did a very hard but rewarding 45-minute structured fartlek workout here in Boulder, elevation 5,300’ (give or take). My coach, a two-time Olympian and extraordinarily warm and generous human being named Kathy Butler, has a way of setting up workouts that look fairly modest on paper but turn out to be gut-busters in the execution. This one, however, looked brutal even on paper.

When we were warming up, one or two of my mates were assessing the paved loop we’d be doing the workout on, a circuit of roughly 6K on the east side of town. This loop is about as flat as it gets, but you wouldn’t have known it from some of the clucking and banter. Probably the strongest athlete in the bunch was lamenting turning into a 200-meter-long “hill” halfway through the loop that would barely have been detectable using surveyor’s tools. Another was concerned about the wind being in our faces in the second half of the circuit; this wind didn’t even qualify as a zephyr, and if anything was welcome because of the warm-ish morning. Someone else grumbled, “I don’t even know if I can #*()& do this,” although no reason was given.

Although I have been a serious runner for over 30 years, this habit is not what landed me in Boulder, at least not directly. A lot of people do, however, specifically move here for the running – the “vibe” as much as the physical environment. I routinely see Olympians and national record-holders on the local roads and trails as well as in the coffee shops. There are, in other words, a lot of extremely dedicated distance runners within immediate reach.

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Sports drinks and Boulder

Boulder's sugary beverage tax, which took effect on July 1, 2017, is misguided. Stupid, actually. Not necessarily the entire concept, but the blunt-force way in which it was applied.

First, I'll disclose that I never, ever buy sweetened beverages. Ever. That way, on the extremely rare occasions I do buy these products, I can project both righteousness and detachment when I complain about pertinent policies.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Not enough heart...

...beats.

I went a dozen miles north to Longmont on Saturday to run a 2M race, the stepchild event of the Sunrise Stampede 10K. I did this primarily to get a read on my honest capabilities over 5,000 meters at sea level. The 5K was never close to my favorite distance back when it was legitimate for races to issue me official entries, but it's a convenient and revealing fitness test.

I decided that if I can't break 17:00 by the end of this year or record a defensibly comparable time at a different distance, I'm not going to race anymore. The sense of futility in lumbering along in ungainly fashion at dismal paces, and having this be red-lining, is mortifying, and it will only get worse if I keep staining events with my ridiculous presence.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Toni Reavis must hate Chicago

This might be the most spectacularly short-sighted sports blog entry I've ever seen from an experienced observer. The core idea is not on the level of absurdity of, say, a Space Force, but it's grim. I'm treating it as 95 percent joke and 5 percent serious despite the pleas of its author, longtime running commentator Toni Reavis, to at least entertain the potential upsides.

Reavis is arguing that instead of putting together the loaded field they did, the Chicago organizers should have set it up so that the only two runners with a chance to win are Galen Rupp and Mo Farah. Why? Because no one who plans to watch cares about anyone else in the race, including "admittedly fast but anonymous extras who do nothing but steal the spotlight from the one thing that might get average people to stop and pay attention." Reavis presumably thinks that everyone in the audience who matters would be watching from either the U.S. or Britain.

Leave aside the absolute hilarity of the Chicago Marathon being willing to just ditch its entire elite men's elite field, and thereby cease being a World Marathon Major overnight, so that two guys -- who probably wouldn't agree to the scheme anyway -- could duke it out for two hours, sans competition. (Or don't leave it aside, since I wouldn't have brought it up at all if that's what I wanted you to do and am merely employing a standard rhetorical device here.) This is just a calamity of a parody of a good idea, something Donald Trump Jr. might say when high on bath salts if he knew anything about distance running.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Responsible summer long runs

You may be familiar with the saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” It’s wisdom based on the sound idea that mixing up your day-to-day experiences helps keep life interesting. For example, don’t be like me and listen to the same six songs on your MP3 player for about 2,000 consecutive miles’ worth of running. (Hey, they’re great songs.)

Runners like variety because running itself — or so it’s often said — is not all that exciting. Doing runs, especially long runs, in new territory is a fine way to make the miles roll by faster (or seem to) while seeing neighborhoods and environments you don’t get to see often.

The problem with the “variety” theme is that it doesn’t often fit the needs of summer marathon training. If you have a 20-miler on your schedule, which you expect will take close to three hours, and the forecast calls for 85 degrees with 90 percent humidity by 9 a.m., then the last thing you really want to do is meet a group of people to run a single long loop with no assurance you’ll be able to get anything into your body along the way besides a few gulps of H2O from a park water fountain and whatever gels you can carry.

When I got serious about marathon training in the mid- to late 1990s, I became a strong believer in the power of marathon-pace long runs, which at the time were curiously underutilized among faster runners, at least in the U.S. I wound up writing an article for Running Times about these. Back then, GPS watches were a few years into the future, so finding accurately measured road routes was a far greater challenge than it is today, when you literally invent an accurate course on the go.

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Determined to be dedicated

I have a hard time writing in approving tones of my own running these days; I think this is mainly because my life no longer revolves around episodic but crippling futility and mayhem, so a part of my mind that's all too accustomed to personal cynicism continues to revel in the idea of keeping the dissatisfaction-train chugging along somehow. Since running offers an excellent platform for falling well short of objective goals (fortunately at little true cost, if you're just an aging road hog and in no position to let down an entire high-school or NCAA team), I find myself waxing scornful about the revival of a hobby that, in all honesty, I'm actually enjoying quite a bit. For the first time in many years, running, like a lot of my good habits, isn't something I am prepared to abandon anytime soon, even if my times are still fairly gruesome. So I can at least admit that I had a nice end to the last week: Three "quality" efforts in four days, ending Sunday. And this is despite my back, which I tweaked over a week ago, not yet being 100 percent (while also not seeming to limit my running).

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Banged up

In the past couple of days, I've gotten banged up.

On Sunday afternoon, the landlord was doing some minor landscaping work in the back yard, wanting to get this done before he leaves for Southeast Asia for a spell. Normally his son comes over and helps with that, but his son was unavailable, so I was recruited to assist. I had to move a few decent-sized slabs of rock, and thought I had escaped this without incident until a few hours later, when merely sitting up in bed was enough to case something sudden and  unpleasant to happen on the right side of my lower back.

It wasn't agonizing, and I slept fine, but getting out of bed the next morning was unexpectedly rough. I quickly learned that sitting for any length of time make walking quite difficult for the first 20 to 30 seconds. Yet I didn't notice the slightest thing wrong after I'd been walking walking around for a few minutes. Two full days later, I've concluded that it's some kind of minor muscle strain that seems to be abating for the most part. I ran about five easy miles last night with no issues...

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A pair of racy stories

(I was gonna put "racist stories," since I figure people who run races can fairly be termed racists. I mean, look the vernacular treats people who use parachutes and people who play the flute. But that's probably a bad idea. This title's dumber, but less offensive.)

FIRST STORY

I ran a 5K on Saturday morning. Despite getting to very sleep late on Friday might and being purposefully awakened by my newly acquired friend Rosie at 3:30 a.m. -- she never did make it clear what she wanted -- I made the hour-long drive to Fort Collins, with Lize joining the two of us. There, I recorded my second "real" race finish of the year and, by extension, my third since the latter part of the George W. Bush presidency. (Those quote marks leave me all the wiggle room I like to decide what counts and what doesn't.)  I also met someone with whom I've been exchanging information online, a man who was born in the former Soviet Union but has been in the U.S. for almost 30 years; I would call this meeting very fruitful, and our plans are clearly working.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Dodging eight common half-marathon mistakes

Now that we’re approaching midsummer, you’re probably training for at least the possibility of a half-marathon if you’re not training for a full marathon. If not, what follows is still likely to be useful to your race planning and execution.

The half-marathon isn’t just a stepping stone toward a marathon or a marathon companion event anymore; it’s arguably the new marathon. The number of 13.1-mile events in the U.S. rose 4 percent in 2017, making it the fastest growing distance domestically in that span, and close to two million people completed a half-marathon in 2016, making the event four times as popular as the marathon.

While it’s clearly true that part of the allure of the distance is being able to get away with a somewhat reduced overall commitment and confront a smaller likelihood of getting injured during training or the race itself, the half-marathon cannot be taken lightly. Any event that the average runner takes over two hours to complete requires special attention to pacing, fueling, hydration and footwear that shorter events do not, even if these concerns may be less pressing than in a 26.2-miler.

Most of the mistakes people make in training for racing a half are traceable to “It’s not a marathon, so…” syndromes. That is, thanks to how popular and long marathons are, it’s easy to dismiss just how far 13.1 miles is in its own right.

Some of the popular ways to sabotage a half-marathon:

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

If unrestrained yammering met startling-line caution

The first piece of writing a magazine ever paid me for was a back-pager in Running Times in the spring of 1999. It was called "Good Cheer," and met the criteria for a humor column, not a high bar to clear in the running world then or now. I don't think it was ever posted online; Running Times didn't even have a website until a few months later (in part because of a cybersquatting issue, a tale for another day and other commentators).

The premise of the piece was that well-meaning fans and even coaches often give not only sketchy and sometimes bizarre advice, but contradictory advice. Over the years, as both a young runner and an observer, I'd come to appreciate how badly race-about-to-start nervousness could contaminate the minds of even seasoned running counsel-givers. My first cross-country coach would sometimes urge us to establish a front-running position early in the race while also "running within ourselves." This was no 22-year-old dingbat hauled from the teachers' lounge because he was lowest on the totem pole and no one else would coach the team; he has been a solid D-III runner himself and went on to coach for a long time. But even then I wondered how to reconcile conflicting mandates like these.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Toughness and context

Running means pushing and experiencing a degree of unrelenting physical and mental discomfort that few other athletes face. Even sports we acknowledge to be punishing, such as rugby, football, and hockey, allow for periods of respite during games to gather and re-focus critical resources.  In a race, you’re never resting; how hard you’re working is a mater of degree.

As a result of the need to force ourselves through discomfort, a lot of us wonder about our own mental toughness. Because bearing down and tolerating pain in both training and racing is critical to our success as distance runners, we wonder if what we’re experiencing when we’re at our perceived limit is much different from what other runners experience. How could we possibly know if we’re any more or less “tough” than the typical competitor when we don’t have a frame of reference outside our own to use as a reference point?

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

4 on the 4th and other powers of two

I watched a Four (kilometers) on the Fourth this morning up the road in Gunbarrel. I was there not to run but to take pictures, cheer on friends, and provide a social opportunity for my newly adopted Doberman mix, Rosie. All three of my teammates who ran did well -- 2nd, 4th and 4th overall.



I ran an Independence Day race with an identical name thirty years ago -- the Four (miles) on the Fourth in York, Maine. This race is now in its 39th year. I had recently graduated from high school and was three weeks out from a 9:43 3200 for 12th place at the New Englands (times were slow because it was hot, but back then New England was still in Great Britain and thus not as track-oriented). I had spent the first two of those three weeks resting and the third one in my first week of training for what would prove to be a remarkably shitty and ultimately abbreviated college "career." I was in York because my then-girlfriend's then-parents had rented a then-cottage for the week and I was asked along.

I woke up the morning of the race reeking of Sun Country wine coolers, along with everyone else around. Then again, everyone stunk of that stuff then. I headed to the start with my then-girlfriend's then-dad. My then-girlfriend decided to sleep in (no surprise given how things then were).

I can recall my splits without looking at my Strava data or anything else: 5:08, 10:19, 15:45 and 21:40. That's right -- 5:08, 5:11, 5:26, 5:55. I nice quadratic function instead of a linear equation to describe the pattern. (Actually, this would have been great: 5:03, 5:11, 5:27, 5:59 for the same 21:40. See the subtle but mathematically powerful difference?)

I was pushing the whole time, too. It was hotter than Satan's anus with no shade in the second half along the then-Atlantic Ocean, but I also went through 2 miles almost on pace for a 5K PR when I was reeking of fruit and not at all sharp. I felt like a vault full of diamonds for about 4K and dumpster full of zirconium the rest if the way.

I think I was 10th overall and despite almost walking the last kilometer I think only one person passed me.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Inside the intrinsic rewards

As I've probably mentioned here, in my peak competitive years -- when I was never "good" but was probably decent enough to justify running 100-plus miles a week, at least when addressing a biased audience -- I often wondered how much running I would do in some hypothetical world in which racing was impossible (e.g., it was outlawed or I was being paid lots of money to abstain from it) but I still had full command of my physical capabilities. The idea in pondering such a question was to try to tease out how much of my willingness to train that much was rooted in trying to achieve competitive ends and how much was founded on a simple love for, or addiction to, the activity of running itself.

There is actually another layer to this question. If you knew that after, say, a date one month from  now, you wouldn't be able to run at all for an extended period -- maybe ever -- would you keep running anyway? If so, how much? And why bother?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The U.S. is producing more 2:15 marathoners than it did circa Y2K

...and probably about the same number it did in the 1980s, adjusting for population growth since then.

I "somehow" came across Track and Field News' top-50 U.S. men's performance lists from 2001. Post-Olympic years are sometimes lackluster in this area, but plus or minus years ago, this was unquestionably part of a nadir in American distance running.

For the year, there were only seven sub-13:30s and two sub-28:00s, and a high-schooler had the fastest mile time. Not one man ran a marathon at under 5:00 pace, only two had a faster performance than Paula Radcliffe's soon-to-be-run (and still-standing) WR, only 19 broke 2:20:00, and only 48 ran under 2:25:00. And there's no way I should have been the seventh American at the Boston Marathon and 41st on the U.S. list for the year with a time that would virtually never win the women's division of that race in similar weather conditions.

Using 2017 as a gauge, track distance events have not really become much deeper if one adopts the debatable tactic of factoring out naturalized Americans to assess "intrinsic" talent. Last year, 17 American men broke 13:30, eight of whom were born in Africa. Six broke 28:00, but no U.S.-born runner did.

The marathon is a different story. Last year, 35 men broke 2:19:00 (the current Olympic Trials and Olympic Marathon standard) on loop courses, and 40 more did so on courses considered aided (three at Boston, three at St. George and 34 at CIM/USATF Champs alone; St. George is considered too aided to be used for Trials or Olympics qualification purposes).

The take-home message? I was bored enough to Google mentions of my own fastest marathon and vomit up a passing response. This is it.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Reconciling passive nihilism and legitimately supporting others

I'm 48 years old. This is not ancient, but almost certainly means I'm more than halfway done with my stay on this 8,000-mile-thick incubator of indignities, cheating and strife, a reality that in turn allows me to be reasonably certain about a few things concerning my own future and absolutely certain about a few others.

One of these is that I'll never be a parent. Starting in my early twenties and maybe earlier, I was fairly sure I would never want to be a dad, but obviously my chances of following through on this unofficial mandate have improved with every passing year, and I can confidently declare the outcome decided. If you don't think humanity would be worse for the addition of my DNA to its profile, then you haven't smelled it up close.

Another is that I don't expect to ever have a career in the traditional sense. This isn't a consequence of having no primates to help support, because for while I did intend to have a serious career, and the plan persisted after I'd already disposed of the idea of having kids. But the two "goals" are clearly complementary. I've been saving more money than I spend every month for quite a while now, and frankly I don't have to work very hard to do it. Other than rent, food, gas, and my car insurance, I don't have any regular must-do expenses. I'm actually very good with money and overall planning now that I'm never shitfaced and wandering the streets in a suicidal funk.

I hope it's clear by this point that I'm not boasting about my relatively easy life any more than I'm griping about the surety of leaving no descendants. I didn't take the most deliberate route in landing where I have in life;  I'm just putting forth a few facts to lay the foundation for even more bullshit in the joyless paragraphs to come.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

10 running articles we might see before the industry goes extinct

When the Internet first showed promise of being something more than a bunch of static files retrievable by people lucky enough  to work for colleges or the government, pundits were proclaiming that print media would soon be relegated to the dustbin of information history. Maybe even books, too.

While this obviously hasn't come to pass even 25 years later, the World Wide Web has undeniably hit the publishing industry hard. Sectors with a higher buffering capacity have weathered this to varying degrees, with many remaining plenty solvent. But running magazines, which never were and never will be generally popular things to either hold in one's hand or read on screens, are moribund at the moment.

I'm hoping that when the biggest of them is finally in hospice, its editors prove playful enough to go full Onion on its global readership. Considering that "How to Train for a Marathon on Three Days a Week" (tagline: "Here's how to get faster on fewer miles") and "The Waver's Dilemma" are real titles of articles people were paid to write for the mag I'm thinking of, it shouldn't be too hard to put the following on the cover and expect to fool at least half of the people who see it in this wondrous land of prosperity and credulity:

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Review: "Running Is My Therapy," by Scott Douglas

Scott Douglas has written and co-written a great many things about running in the past 25 or so years, including a chapter in Run Strong. He had a back-page column in Running Times in the 1990s that was fearless by the standards of the day and made entire issues worth the cover price in RT's pre-Internet era. Most important of all, he remains the only person I know with a website boasting a .biz domain, and I even know the story behind it (hint: It's not complicated).

Scott has greatly aided and abetted my own writing career, such as it is, in a variety of ways, but that's not why I decided to write this review of Running is My Therapy, which was published in April. I did this because I have seen so few books in the running genre that are worth reading in the past two decades that I feel I owe it to the milieu as well as the authors to make a note of these lovely exceptions. (Another Alex Hutchinson's Endure, making 2018 a guaranteed banner running-book year no matter what's unveiled in the second half of it. Alex is a major reason my recent pitch to Outside was successful. But again, none of this post is about me except for the parts in which I carefully note my own accomplishments.)

Anyway:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Form matters: Limitations on assessment


Suppose someone asked you, in the warm, bright glow of an office Christmas party, if you have any fear of being in unlit places, or if the idea of being cold and alone in an unfamiliar environment was unsettling. Depending on your gender, age, and individual personality traits, you might respond that neither prospect is especially bleak, or you might allow that such things would be unwelcome but manageable. Some runners, after all, enjoy bouts of isolation, especially outdoors.

But no matter what answer you gave, it’s likely that it would suggest a more optimistic picture than whatever would unfold in reality. If I’m standing around shooting the breeze in a 65-degree room amid smiling people, wired on  plenty of coffee, I might not even be able to remember what it was like to be underdressed on a New Hampshire winter night, cutting through some woods because I thought I knew a short cut home, only to hear things that sounded suspiciously like large animals crashing about nearby. In short, I’d underestimate the extent to which I’d be stressed in such a scenario — even if I’d experienced something similar in the past.

How does this relate to form analysis? In several ways, actually.

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

The freak show is being relocated (or colocated)

I’ve copied all of my posts about Kim Duclos to the Chimp Refuge. Although Kim (new home) and once belonged to the running world, this is no longer true. As a result, inasmuch as there are good reasons to waste words on her at all, this is no longer an appropriate venue for it. I’m no longer interested in sullying a legitimate running blog with new material about a nutbag who happens to be a somewhat accomplished former runner. Because the Chimp Refuge was once part of the now-defunct ScienceBlogs.com network, it actually attracted a considerable number of hits in its day (we topped out at just over 90,000 unique visits one month in 2007), and thanks to the vagaries of Google indexing, it still gets more traffic than this one does in spite of my having largely neglected it in recent years. That aside, it's simply a more appropriate place to rant about the world’s reprobates, undesirables, and sickos.

Inevitable parting shots below the crease.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

No sir

About three-fourths of the way through the Bolder Boulder 10K on Monday, I was flagging (every single story I tell about my races now flows from an obligatory reference about how much I suck, so please bear with me) and shuffling gamely along a slightly downhill stretch on Pearl Street, when a group of three or four teenagers came up behind me, chatting gaily about the whole experience.

"We like your shirt, sir!" one of them chirped as the group trundled past. They were referring to the words GIN AND TACOS on the back of my T-shirt. I'm sure they didn't know the origin and didn't care to, which was fine. I replied that I pretty much felt like I was in a gin-and-taco bath at that point, and we all had a fine chuckle. Except me.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Rumors about your running form are greatly exaggerated

None of us can change most of what our bodies contain at the cellular level and how our bodies behave on the inside while we’re running. Anyone can improve vastly with training, no matter how great or small the genetic gifts that person received. But none of us can fundamentally alter the things that make up what we think of as talent in the distance-running world: the ceiling on our ability to process and utilize the oxygen we breathe in, our general build, and our muscle-fiber composition.

One thing we can do is change how we run — that is, our form. This is why coaches and athletes focus so intensely on this aspect of training: not because ample evidence that it does a lot of good, but simply because it’s an option.

We’re all in favor of doing form work here at Lowell Running — just not in the way you might think.

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Marathon Training Basics: Part 4 -- Have you been neglecting tempo runs, or doing them all wrong?

This is part 4 of a four-part series about the basic needs of serious marathoners.

When I wrote an article about tempo runs for Running Times in 1999 (in those days, no one foresaw that RT pieces would one day wind up on its chief business rival’s website, but I digress) the term wasn’t new, but far fewer coaches and athletes knew what they were than is the case today.

Although tempos, also called anaerobic threshold (AT) runs, are a staple of most serious, distance runners’ training these days, many of the same problems I wryly pointed out in that article persist almost two decades later.

People understand that tempo runs are hard workouts that are not intervals; that much seems clear. But tempo runs are also not…

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Extreme negativity at the New Hampshire D2 State Meet

I watched the livestream of the N.H. D2 Track and Field Champs yesterday, and what struck me most about the results is that five of the six individual distances races featured negative splits. Eyeballing from virtual clock embedded in the feed, I had the winners at:

Girls' 1600m: Julia Robitaille, Manchester West 4:58.76 (2:32.0/2:26.7)
Boys' 1600m: Spenser Sawyer, Windham 4:21.04 (2:18.0/2:03.0)
Girls' 800m: Corinne Robitaille, Manchester West 2:19.04 (67.9/71.1)
Boys' 800m: Sawyer 1:57.91 (59.8/58.1)
Girls' 3200m: Lauren Robinson, Milford 10:55.44 (5:32.5/5:22.9)
Boys' 3200m: Cameron Starr, Pelham 9:40.16 (5:00.0/4:40.1)

Julia Robitaille and Sawyer were fresh for the 1600m. Corinne Robitaille (Julia's twin; they're juniors) was doubling back in the 800m after placing second in the 400m, and the 800m was Sawyer's second effort of the day. Before their 3200m races, Robinson and Starr had both placed second in the 1600m.

Marathon Training Basics: Part 3 -- How specific is your race preparation?

This is part 3 of a four-part series about the basic needs of serious marathoners.

If you’re a modestly experienced competitor and getting ready to run  a 5K or a 10K, it doesn’t take a great deal of creativity to come up with a plan that, if nothing else, has you confident of having covered all of the bases. If you’re hoping to run, say, 50:00 for 10K, you understand that 1) this is 8:00 per mile, so 2) you need to run 8:00 pace and slightly faster fairly often, but that this is really only feasible on days set aside for unusually hard work, because 3) when you’re moving  at 10K pace or faster, it rarely happens by accident; that is, you’re not going to look at your watch and discover that you’ve been cranking along for a mile and a half at PR pace for either of these distances. Alas, the length of your long run really isn’t critical.

The marathon isn’t like this. Because it’s such a long race, the sharp line between everyday training pace and specific race pace doesn’t exist. How can that be?

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The New Hampshire divisional state meets are this weekend

Going into the NH D1 Boys' State Champs on Saturday, Concord High (my alma mater) has the top seed in the 800m (Colin Conery, 1:56.48) and the 1600m (Aidan O'Hern, 4:17.97). Neither of these guys was even on the team that went 1-2-3-9-13-14-15 and the D1 XC State Champs last fall, and was one of the strongest NH teams in recent, and even distant, memory.

Looking at the overall performance lists, CHS has 1, 3, 5, 8, 9 in the 800m, 1, 4, 5 (and 8 of the top 17) in the 1600m, and 3 of the top 7 in the 3200m. That includes a total of nine kids, five of whom return in the fall; three of the four they're losing to graduation are 800m specialists.

So, not to get ahead of myself even though that's exactly what I'm doing, in the fall they will in all likelihood have a stronger XC team than they did last year. Not even included in this post yet are a freshman who's run 2:05, another freshman who's run 4:43, and a sophomore who's run 9:51 this spring. All three broke 16:30 on legitimate cross-country courses in 2017.

The nice thing is -- all of you fans of NH high-school track can livestream the D1 State Champs for free on Saturday on the New Hampshire Track and Field website. Unlike the Flotrack-Milesplit oligopoly, not only is there no charge for this service, but the commentators are excellent. Some of them are current coaches and people I've known for up to 30 years.

The D2 and D3 meets will take place on Sunday. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Marathon Training Basics: Part 2 -- Are you running too hard on easy days?

This is part 2 of a four-part series about the basic needs of serious marathoners.

One of the most common questions thrown around the running community is “How fast should I run on my easy days?” Evidently there are limitless correct answers, because for every method that’s been tried, I can name at least one person who swears by it. “10K pace plus 60 (or 90, or 45.987) seconds a mile.” “75% (or 65%, or 80%, or 77.895%) of maximum heart rate.” “As fast (or slow) as you can manage (or not manage).”

Read the rest at Lowell Running.


Marathon Training Basics: Part 1 -- Are you running enough?

This is part 1 of a four-part series about the basic needs of serious marathoners.

Are you running enough?

Look closely at that simple question and apply it to an honest assessment of your own running. What’s the highest mileage (or kilometrage) level you have reached and maintained for a three-month period? Got it? Okay, why did you stop “there” instead of at “there plus ten?” Probably because you were bored, wanted to race, tired, or saw no immediate (and therefore no worthwhile) results.

The vast majority of people have never done what the greats suggest and put aside a race-free Lydyardian block of time to gradually and relentlessly build up to 70, 80, 90, and 100 miles a week or more. The incontrovertible truth is that the best runners in the world, even those specializing in the 800 meters and 1500 meters, have reached their competitive station by running an hour to an hour and a half per day – often more – for extended periods preceding sharpening and racing phases. Scads of so-called easy distance is critical, though as Keith alludes to the perfect amount varies from person to person.

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Marathon Training Basics: Introduction

This post introduces a four-part series about the basic needs of serious marathoners. 

Over 15 years ago, when I was working on a Running Times article about Keith Dowling, the top U.S. finisher at the 2002 Boston Marathon, Keith opined:

“Some say there’s no magic formula. I say there is. It’s just that the magic is different for everyone.”

Patience, trust, resilience, and the ability to learn from past experience are the greatest psychological determinants of success in long-distance running, just as they are in other realms. The greatest physical determinants are, regardless of your event, an aerobic base developed through years of accumulated mileage and — just as important — consistency (a by-product of resilience, both physical and psycho-emotional). Believe this philosophy, scrawl it on the inside of your eyelids, live it, and regardless of your inherent abilities, you’ll look around one day and be pleasantly astonished at your own improvement and achievements.

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mike Platt's visualization strategies

Mike Platt, who now lives in the Boston area, became a 2:18 marathon runner in the 1990s following a solid career at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania — and he only took up running thanks to trying to rehab a wrestling injury that derailed his efforts in that sport. Over 15 years ago, he supplied me with some simple but well-put advice on how to mentally prepare yourself for a supreme effort using the power of your own mind and senses.

I think you’ll agree that he is on to something here.



One of the keys to performing well is eliminating anxiety. I have no fear of failure and no fear of success; both will happen. I do not get embarrassed. What happens happens and it matters little to nothing to me if others don’t approve.

I do not train to beat people. I do not go into races determined to beat a particular runner or runners. I do use competitors as barometers, but no malice is involved. This way, when someone passes me, I am not demoralized because of harboring ill will; my concentration is not broken by negative emotion.

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Line 'em up

The table has been set for tomorrow's assault on the Colorado boys' 1600-meter record (4:10.98), set in the days when floppy disks were not only high tech, but actually floppy -- 1981.

There are four main players in this, distributed across two races.

At 11:20 a.m., sophs Cruz Culpepper (4:12.01) of Niwot and Cole Sprout (4:12.75) of Valor Christian go at it in 4A.

At 2:55, seniors Michael Mooney (4:11.99) of Broomfield and Carter Dillon (4:12.91) of Mountain Vista battle. By this time, the record might not be 4:10.98 anymore. By the way, almost every spot in Colorado is a mountain vista. Naming a high school that in this state is like naming one Pacific View Academy in Hawaii.

Interestingly, Culpepper and Mooney have faced off in this event this season, as have Sprout and Dillon; that's where these seed times all come from. But tomorrow's match-ups will be new.

This being high school, where even fast kids can make big leaps all at once, it would be foolish to discount the chances of Landon Rast in 5A, who is seeded at 4:15.34 and won the 800 today in 1:53.01 over Dillon (1:54.71). Dillon also ran on the winning 4 x 800 team yesterday.

Ditto James Lee in 4A, who won the 800 today in 1:54.25 and also has a 4:15 seed. Culpepper, it should be noted, finished last in this race in 2:08 off a 57.0 opener. I don't know if he packed it in on purpose after it didn't look good, but this is not a confidence-builder.

Mooney won the 5A 3200 yesterday in a close race in 9:12.91 (4:43/4:29) while Sprout won the 4A 3200 this morning by 11 seconds in 9:22 after going out in 65.

The biggest problem with the record attempts is not the doubling or tripling by all four major players, but the near-certainty of bad weather (rainy, high 40s) all day tomorrow.

My prediction, based on information anyone can gather, is that Sprout has the best chance of getting the record. This doesn't mean that I think he'll necessarily run the fastest time tomorrow or even win his race for sure. I do think he will go for it no matter what others in the race do, and I think it annoys him  that he can't race the graduating 5A twosome tomorrow. Just a hunch, based on the stuff my pitchfork-bearing people in the underworld are always whispering my way.

Results link

The marathon: the perfect race for everyone

I have a new post at The Long Run about why competitive types can make the marathon their event of focus beginning in early adulthood. (Nothing against participant-runners, but people who are merely aiming to finish a 26.2-miler for the medal or the self-actualization don't really need to follow any special long-range plan.)

I will be doing most of my training-related blogging at The Long Run from this point forward. This site will remain more of a personal diary and cognitive vomitorium peppered with the usual pointless but defensible tripe about whatever neurologically deviant layabouts have chosen to engage in verbal wars with me or attempt to position themselves as disruptive influences in the running world.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Quintessential Boulder (and a few huge, absolutely vital, totally crucial updates)

Every time I think I've already described the consummate Boulder scenario, someone one-ups it.

Yesterday afternoon, I was running on a wide, straight residential street on the eastern side of town (Pennsylvania Ave., if you must know, and no, there's no number 1600). Someone had helpfully set up one of those fold-out DRIVE LIKE YOUR OWN KID LIVES HERE signs right in the middle of the eastbound lane. I was on the sidewalk on the other side of the road when a guy turned out of a driveway on a mountain bike, pedaling toward me with his head down, texting or otherwise screwing with his phone. Two young kids, maybe 5 and 6, followed on their own little bikes equipped with training wheels. I made an indistinct noise, and when the guy looked up, he appeared surprised to see me there. And why not? What kind of pedestrian uses sidewalks when whole families might need them for bicycling expeditions? (Hey, at least they all had helmets on.)

I think I'll drive through that neighborhood tomorrow like my own putative kid really does live there. A kid who loves diving out of the way of oversized go-karts doing 85 miles on hour skimming across every lawn in sight.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Colorado State Track and Field Championships, and the musty boys' 1600-meter record

Rich Martinez, with whom I became friends thanks to a chance meeting in Boulder some seven years ago, has held the Colorado state championship record in the 1600 meters, 4:10.98, since 1981. (Some kids have run faster, but not in meets held in high-altitude Colorado.) That's incredible given not only the passage of 37 years but the fact that Colorado is not exactly a state starved of distance talent.

This Saturday, at the state champs in Lakewood, at least four kids have a real shot at it. The 4A race goes off at 11:20 and features two sophomores who have run 4:12.01 and 4:12.75. The owner of the faster time is Cruz Culpepper of Niwot, whose surname is familiar to track followers who have not just emerged from a 30-year-long coma. The other one is Cole Sprout of Valor Christian, who set a Colorado record in the 3200 meters earlier this month with a 9:01.53 in a race he won by approximately 68 lengths. I don't think these two have raced each other this season. They are both racing on Friday as well, but not against each other; Culppeper is in the 800m. and Sprout in the 3200m.

Dillon vs. Sprout at the Mullen Invitational last month. Photo courtesy of Bobby Reyes (Milesplit.com).

If the record falls to one of these youngsters, it may only last for a few hours. Michael Mooney of Broomfield, who ran 4:11.99 to edge out Culpepper this past weekend in Longmont, and Carter Dillon of cross-country juggernaut Mountain Vista, whose 4:12.91 saw him edged out by Sprout in April, will face off at 2:55 in the 5A race. Mooney is also running the 3200, which is on Thursday morning, while Dillon is competing in the 800 on Friday afternoon. (The Colorado state meet is a curiosity in spanning three days, although last year it was compressed into two because of snow.)

I think I will have to go watch these races.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Random ideas experienced on the plod lately

  • Sometime after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, cities in the U.S. and around the world began honoring his memory by naming new streets and renaming existing roads after him. It's a gesture, not a meaningful move in the direction of civil rights, and some of these roads are in very nasty parts of the cities through which they run.

    I have been staying with friends in Concord, New Hampshire, close to where I grew up and lived until about fifteen years ago. While running on the local roads and trails, I've noticed that many of the streets in residential developments that weren't here when I moved away bear girls' names: Lisa, Jennifer, Judith and Susan have all been given nods just in the East Concord section of town.

    I've noticed this in other parts of the country as well. This seems to be to feminism what MLK Jr. Drive is to race relations: We can't achieve anything like genuine equality, so we'll at least name things after underrepresented or otherwise beleaguered groups of people.

  • Not for the first time, I own a pair of shoes that feel sublime on my feet but have laces that come untied every two minutes no matter how I knot them; likewise, for at least the twentieth time in the past 30 years, I have a pair worn-out shoes that at least have miraculously reliable laces. Yet I can almost never be bothered to remove a pair of great laces from a pair of shitty shoes and put them  in the great shoes. I guess this idea will simply never occur to me.
  • The other day, I was running on a trail and was confronted by a puddle so extensive it might have been better classified as a bog. (It's been raining at least two days in three since I got to New England at the beginning of the month.) I had been on this trail for about two miles, and I could see the paved road I was hoping to reach right on the far side of the puddle,  maybe 200 feet away. Despite my shoes already being somewhat wet anyway, I decided to pick my way around the puddle rather than plunge through it, hoping to keep my feet from being absolutely soaked for the last 2.5 miles of the run. This resulted in a 10-minute side trip through some underbrush and a fair number of new scratches on my legs. When I was about ten feet from the road, I stepped into a puddle I had somehow failed to spot with both feet, right up to mid-calf. When this happened, I just stood there for a moment in the cold water, ruminating.

    This experience seems to encapsulates the entire state of my running at the moment. Wander, plan, try some workarounds, commit, hesitate, and blunder in the end no matter what.

  • Scott Douglas' new book Running Is My Therapy is proving to be an excellent read. I admit that I expected no less and would probably praise it even if I found it wanting, but the chances of Scott turning out a less-than-super piece of writing are very small. I'll post my Amazon review here once I, you know, write it, which means finishing the book.
  • I did a couple of workouts this week. One involved running a set distance on a track in a specified amount of time, while the other was effort-based on confined to the road. I did these on the basis of what my coach instructed, and strayed only slightly from the prescribed sessions. Clearly, this is progress.
  • See if you can figure out who "Literal_Crap_Bag" is, other than, obviously, an intoxicated person (the Subreddit is called "Crippling Alcoholism") blaring lies about the man she's obsessed with -- a guy who, according to her, is a drunk and dishonest social-media user who wants to have sex with her.

    If projection were a felony, Kim Duclos would get 35 years to life.

  • With some regret -- I'm loving seeing my friends, but hating the N.H. weather -- I'm heading back toward home, a 2,000-mile drive, at the end of the week. I will be giving a talk to a youth running group outside a major city along the way. That will no doubt make those of you convinced I am the spawn of Satan, a drunken woman-beater, or both deeply distressed. 





Monday, April 23, 2018

A foolproof method for identifying the toughest runners

Have you ever wondered if competitive distance runners vary widely in how tough, gritty, strong-willed, gutsy, etc. they are? That is, when you scan the results of, say, a 5K race in which the times of the top 25 male finishers range between about 14:30 and 15:30, do you wonder how much of the variation in outcomes at this level are owed to basic differences in how deep into the well of effort or pain these runners are willing or able to go, versus basic differences in their fitness and ability levels? (For purposes of this post, I am talking about runners in everyday events, i.e., track races and road distances up to the marathon. Ultras and all of the "adventure racing"-style bullshit represent different species of competitions. I'm not judging the value of that bullshit, just saying it's not the same as straight-up conventional racing, although certain ultras sort of are, maybe.)

In fact, there's an easy screening tool; it just takes a few decades to collect meaningful data.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Occult excellence

This morning, I watched a short Instagram video featuring a distance runner who recently won a major international championship. This was at least the hundredth such Internet clip I've seen in the past couple of years, and adds to the canon of similar television clips and -- reaching further back into the technological Pleistocene -- VHS videos I've watched that feature accomplished runners doing impressive things.

For perhaps the first time, I was struck by the full reality of why running as it exists today stands no chance of being a major spectator draw in in the United States in particular and worldwide more generally: With distance running, it's simply not possible to immediately recognize breathtaking excellence or be impressed by what you're seeing, at least not to the extent this occurs in other sports.

Monday, April 16, 2018

When it rains, it pours...unexpectedness: Boston 2018

For the fourth straight year, I was in at the 23-mile mark of the Boston Marathon waiting for a couple of athletes I work with to trundle by and, of course, to take in the fullness of the race up close.

This event had enjoyed the makings of a truly historic Boston for months. The American field included almost all of the leading lights of the very recent and somewhat recent past: Galen Rupp, Dathan Ritzenhein, 41-year-old Abdi Abdirahman, and a contingent of Kenyan-born U.S. entrants from Colorado on the men's side, and Shalane Flanagan, Molly Huddle, Jordan Hasay, and Desi Linden on the women's. Ritz withdrew about a week ago and Hasay pulled out yesterday citing a possible foot issue, but this still left a great domestic field ready to roll.

The weather went to hell during the weekend and it was assured that it not only would it be very cold and rainy at the start, but also that a 20- to 25-mile-an-hour wind would be blowing almost directly in the runner's faces the entire way out of the east-northeast. This meant that times would obviously be slow, but also that attrition -- always a big factor in any world-class marathon but especially at Boston -- would play a major role. Usually, the East Africans are hit even harder than others when it's as raw as it was guaranteed to be today.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

In the bud

This weekend, I did a couple of runs on land-patches close to my childhood home, tracts that were mostly unsullied by the presence of hominid life forms until fairly recently. By "fairly recently," I mean "until about 15 to 20 years ago." That may not qualify as "recent" by most standards, given that only about 1.14% of dogs alive at this moment were alive on April 8, 2003. But I haven't been a permanent resident of Concord since 2002, meaning that I've missed a lot of goings-on here. Furthermore, my useful life ended somewhere between roughly 1996 and 2001, and as a result, my mind is often stuck a couple of decades in the past, when I sometimes envisioned a future that didn't include being a seething, cynical misanthrope with a strangely persistent pro-social streak.

Yesterday, close to a snowmobile trail that threads its way along a power-line corridor that passes within a hundred yards of my old house in northernmost Concord, I saw a sign that did exactly what it was supposed to do: It succeeded in getting me to investigate an issue of public interest.

Friday, April 6, 2018

A solid example of why this blog should be repealed and run through a shredder

In a recent four-day span, I drove about two-thirds of the way across the country, leaving Colorado last Friday morning and arriving in Concord, N.H. on Tuesday afternoon. In theory, my two primary purposes here are visiting my family and friends and being at the Boston Marathon in the services of a couple of athletes who inexplicably trust me to advise them.  Just as appealing, though, was the idea of spending a lot of time by myself, free of the self-imposed lunacy of social-media engagement and other Internet bullshit, which is the main reason I drove instead of flying.

The most interesting, or at least distinctive, thing in the Jayhawk State.

On Friday afternoon, I stopped in a nowhere town in Kansas off I-70 and ran 3.3 miles. It was fairly unpleasant, in part because of the wind but mostly because almost every time I run these days, even for just a few steps, I am fighting the biological tide. The fact that my legs, knees, hips, and arms work with sufficient synchronicity to permit me to move in a mostly straight line at about 10 miles per hour for short spells doesn't imply that it's wise, fun, or remotely useful to do this. When I was younger, I could make a weak case for the amount of time I spent trying to be proficient at distance running to the exclusion of pursuing more productive and beneficial things. Today, however, the only defensible justification that I can offer for running every day is that I have irrevocably failed at everything that was once important to me, and I'd like to navigate the rest of my life free of both harmful mood-altering drugs and the insistent desire to destroy myself. Running doesn't induce physical pain (well, my knee sometimes sings) so much as remind me of my overwhelming purposelessness and the futility of continuing to do very basic and necessary things such as consume food, drink fluids, and draw breath. I mean really, why even take steps to maintain this unsightly bag of decaying cells? Yet I insist on bumblefucking my way along toward a long-overdue but natural demise, and physical activity, even as it ratchets up my demand for food and water and oxygen and drives home the fact of how much less capable I am at various things than I once was, is the most reliable means at my disposal to keep the noises driving me toward ruthlessly maladaptive behaviors to a comparative minimum.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Runners born before 1970 who should even bother: a comprehensive list

The people named in this post, and only those people, have defensible reasons to take running seriously. While they are strongly advised to avoid indiscriminately volunteering their status as "competitive runners" owing to the high risk of rightful ridicule, they may unreservedly self-identify as such in the right settings if prompted, although the label "athlete" should be altogether omitted from such conversations.

"Taking running seriously" in this context means aiming for given times, placings, accolades, or awards in the manner of genuine distance runners (e.g., Olympians, World Championship team members, paid professionals, or members of high-school or collegiate teams) and engaging in goal-oriented machinations toward those ends (e.g., track workouts, hill repetitions, and tempo runs). It notably excludes those who participate in road races --- especially "getaway" marathons -- simply to finish them as well as those who take part in organized running events mainly for the social aspects; such activities can indisputably add utility to people's lives by giving them reasons to keep "fit" and "healthy" without exacting undue physical, psychological, or emotional costs.

Note that while it is possible for formerly competitive runners to morph gracefully into participant-runners, there are no known or even theorized instances of people making the transition in the other direction.

The data used in compiling this list was collected via an informal but thorough review of race results, in-person interviews, blog analyses, and on-site observations over a period of approximately many years.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Things informed runners would admit to if injected with a strong barbiturate

A lot of people do good things for good reasons, such as working multiple jobs to support their families. People also do not-so-good things for good or at least defensible reasons, such as stealing food to stay alive or exacting various forms of revenge on physically abusive spouses.

Moving down the urgency scale, people often maintain vaguely defensible or sketchy practices when it comes to their serious hobbies -- not because they really believe that these practices are beneficial (or at least harmless) but because they are enslaved by them. As cognitive-dissonance theory predicts, such people search for rationales to logically justify habits their psychological make-up compels them to do anyway. A person who embarks on a spending spree in the midst of a manic episode might claim that the reason he just put $2,000 worth of CDs on a credit card is that he really likes Justin Bieber, and he might even convince himself that this is true.

Runners, being more compulsive than most, are a hotbed of such rationalizations. When we  knowingly do things likely to impede our competitive development, handy rationalizations are always within easy reach: I don't need to taper for this race, it's just a 5K. I don't need to do over 40 miles a week for a half-marathon if I get in plenty of long tempos. I can be kinda sorta bulimic and run well if I manage it right. Anything slower than  x minutes a mile is just junk, so why even bother?

Below is a list of rarely expressed truths or de facto truths in the running world. Most people who have been around the sport for a while would not disagree with any of these statements, but in most cases would not want to be the person volunteering them, as a few are more controversial than others. (Understand that this is not a list of common running myths, which are different in that myths, in this context, are things people mistakenly believe to be true.)

Feeble disclosures

1. I topped 55 miles this week. That's a first for this calendar year and my highest total since last July, before I injured my right knee. I'm a little hesitant to push much higher than this, but I think that if I'm careful about where I run and attentive to replacing my shoes when they are excessively beat up, I can stay in the range of 60 to 70. I have as much time as I need and sufficient motivation, even if things have changed on the go-for-it front since the days I had a solid shot at qualifying for the Olympic Trials.

Obviously I can't know for sure my body will hold up, but I've been receiving a veritable flood of thoughts and prayers from various interstellar sources (a good chunk of which, it must be noted, is the metaphysical equivalent of hate mail) so I'm going for it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Running, social media and the Dunning-Kruger effect

One of the few things I will take credit for as a runner is never believing that I was any better than I was despite a fair number of other people attempting to enable such a fantasy. Avoiding self-delusion really shouldn't be a source of pride for anyone, but considering the shape the world has taken since the advent of the Internet and the ascendancy of social media in particular, it's actually worth remarking on.

I created a personal Web site in 1998, using a MediaOne (later bought by AT & T and then Comcast) account. In the spring of 2001, I bought the domain kemibe.com, with the idea coming from what was already on my license plate (kevinbeck.com was already taken by an artist in North Carolina -- he does good work) and moved my stuff there. In the three years between those events, I became a Lab owner, a contributing editor and then a senior writer for Running Times, and ran what would turn out to be my fastest lifetime marathon. Most of what I posted to my site -- which also included a message board starting in, I believe, 2000 thanks to the good people at Network 54 -- was, predictably, about running, writing, and my dog. (and no, Jim, you don't need to plumb the port-a-johns of the Wayback Machine and produce evidence of the sad pages I'm mentioning. I know it's out there.)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A new equilibrium (wonkish) and various observations (petty)

In basic economics, a supply-and-demand graph shows quantity supplied and demanded on the x-axis and price on the y-axis. The supply curve (normally a line) is upward-sloping, because the higher a price a firm can command for its goods, the more of that good it will produce. Similarly, the lower a good's price, the higher the demand for that good, so the demand curve is downward-sloping. The point at which these curves intersect represents the equilibrium price of that good.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Why exercise is underutilized in fighting depression (warning: it's a bummer)

Scott Douglas is a longtime denizen of the running-writing world. He wrote a chapter for Run Strong -- the contract for which I wouldn't have landed without his help in the first place -- and if it weren't for his active assistance and passive encouragement over the years, I would have contributed far less than I now have to the pantheon of published blather about running and a few other things (the fact that most of this material is of negligible utility isn't the point).

More than anything else, Scott is intensely thoughtful and committed to a reality-based view of the world, regardless of the consequences such an ethos might engender. (Case in point: he's a seminary graduate who has identified an atheist.) This, not the fact that I have solid personal reasons to like him, is the primary reason I appreciate his work.

Today he has a piece in Slate attempting to answer a question I've asked a great many psychiatrists and psychologists going back to my own days as a medical student in the 1990s: Why don't mental-health clinicians more strongly encourage exercise?

Friday, March 9, 2018

Blaming clean athletes for the doping of others?

If nothing else, Toni Reavis' idea is a new one: Tracksters need to essentially divorce themselves of their own governing body if they expect to be part of a clean sport.

Reavis attempts to draw an analogy between a group of soldiers undergoing basic training in a particular time and space and the entire worldwide community of top-level track and field athletes. If one soiled private fails to take a shower, the story goes, then his mates will physically force him to do so to maintain the integrity and smooth functioning of the unit. And so it should be, Reavis says, with athletes who dope: Their peers should somehow force them to clean themselves up for the benefit of the sport as a whole.

I've seen, and made, some sketchy analogies in the past, but this one is dismal for two extremely obvious reasons.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The diamonds establish the ugliness of the rough

Lately, in my noble quest to find better versions of Eighties songs to imitate on my keyboard, I've been getting distracted by wily YouTube algorithms and diving far down the rabbit-hole of Diamond League, Olympic, and World Champs distance races going back 20 or more years. I've watched, not for the first time, most of the world record races in the men's and women's 800 meters on up to the 10,000 meters.

One predictable effect of this is reinforcing, in purely numerical terms, how slow almost all of us are in comparison to the best of the best. I can see, for example, that I would have just missed getting lapped twice by Kenenisa Bekele, Daniel Komen and Haile Gebrselassie if you could superimpose their fastest track 5Ks onto my own. I can see just how quickly I'd fall off the leaders in a 2:03 marathon even at my lifetime acme, when I, like many of you, was fast enough to win a flurry of podunk 5Ks and use such metrics as an excuse to start a worthless blog.

But that's just math, and such differences are dry and quantifiable and therefore forgettable. Watching these videos has a far more insidious effect on the subconscious in that exposure to a steady stream of truly gifted runners devalues the running of mortals, even mortals most people would think of as fast.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Febrero

According to Strava, I ran about 180 miles in February. (The total shows less than that, but I don't record all of my runs because it's a bad idea to bring an Android out in a snowstorm.) I have no plans to boost this by a statistically significant amount, because this seems to represent a level of exercise that satisfies me psychologically without being enough to put me at risk for relapsing into "training." For all but maybe two dozen people over the age of 40 in the entire U.S., competing in races when you have no shot at approaching your fastest times is an incredibly stupid idea, and I am not close to being one of those 24-ish people. Neither is anyone reading this, but that won't stop a single one of you from getting out there and riding the struggle-bus anyway, which means your only fruitful option -- whether you realize it or not -- is to become permanently injured and find other ways to sweat.

As I just realized today for the first time in at least a week, I still haven't missed a day of running in  2018. This, in some respects, makes it all the more remarkable how much less I ran in  Feb. 2018 than I did in the same month sixteen years ago, my highest-volume week ever at 611.

I mean, I shouldn't even be admitting to this upon questioning, much less volunteering the info, but here is the data:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

10 running article titles we'd enjoy seeing (and never will)

In the spirit of Carl Hiaasen's "Released secret transcript from the last Mar-a-Lago party"-style columns...

  • Your Absurd Running Goals: Merely Unrealistic or Signs of Psychosis?
  • The Top 15 Marathons Where You Can Evade Intermediate Chip Mats
  • The 12 Most Obviously Doped-Up "Clean" Distance Runners of Yesteryear
  • 238 Instagram Runners Whose Countless Ass Photos Are Identical
  • Why USATF Should Worry About The RICO Act
  • The 9 Local 5Ks in America That Are Accurate to Within a Football Field
  • Why Potassium's Not to Blame For Your Marathon Cramps, You Undertrained Fool
  • Should Running With a Husky in Florida Be a Capital Crime?
  • How to Determine Who Farted During the Weekly Fun-Run
  • 7 Ways to Convince Yourself That Your Running Blog Matters

I considered including relevant links, but that would be both mean and unnecessary, and worse, would require work on my part.




Sunday, February 18, 2018

The best of heckling

Anyone who's been a regular runner for even a few years, let alone several decades, is inclined to ponder the most unusual episode of heckling he or she has ever endured -- especially former itinerants like me who have tarried in some version of every conceivable U.S. subculture. I draw the line here short of actual physical confrontations, which merit their own category, and focus instead on exchanges that end, if not entirely benignly, with no one beaten up or jailed or finding a brand-new, brick-shaped hole in the rear windshield of his pickup truck.

While I could name countless instances of aggression and stupidity that pissed me off, most of these were prosaic, usually involving nothing more than sullen primates operating vehicles under the lash of generations of pernicious inbreeding having their say en route to a gun show. Instead, I'll focus on two that stand out as 1) extremely strange, and 2) extremely funny (but also strange).

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

1988 NHIAA Indoor State Championship (video)

My friend and high-school classmate Troy Patoine and his wife Teressa (who live in Concord and whose home I invade every April as a waypoint en route to the Boston Marathon) have conspired to convert some 30-year-old videos of our cross-country and track meets from VHS to digital format.

This is the New Hampshire High School Indoor Track and Field Championship meet from Jan. 30, 1988, held at Leverone Field House, Dartmouth College's facility, in Hanover. The first ten minutes are actually from the last league meet of the season on January 16. On the 24th, with nothing on the scholastic schedule, I ran a hilly 5-mile road race in Penacook (a few miles from my house) on a very cold and icy day. I had my coach's blessing and he knew his stuff, but it was probably a bad idea because I went out too hard and ended up with a 27:45 or so. That left me a little draggy at States, I think, but then again I was barely 18 and recovered from almost anything in about 10 minutes, including most sexual activity. Just seeing if you're awake.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Instagram and the rabble effect

Thousands of women (and a far smaller, but nonzero, number of men) use Instagram as a platform for flashing their mostly-naked bodies and nothing more. Some of them are in this only for the validation, while others do it as part of short- or long-range campaigns to earn money. A lot of these women -- or at least accounts featuring photos of women, which are not always the same thing -- don't feign pretense at being anything other than "click on the link to see me naked and more" scams; I don't have a lot of Instagram followers myself and don't seek to, but I'm still routinely followed by "people" that turn out to be nothing more than asses in thongs coupled to invitations to see the whole package. Hey, to paraphrase the great 19th-century economist Adam Smith, the invisible gonads of the free market represent a serious force.

Running is fundamentally about athletic performance for almost everyone I know who does it, but it's primarily about vanity for, I would guess, a majority or plurality of runners overall. This, predictably, has led to scads of vanity Instagram accounts that purport to double as training- and performance-based platforms, which in turn has produced an influx of idiocy and bullshit that unfortunately reaches a lot of eyes when the clueless or nefarious person behind the account happens to have a body that people enjoy ogling. (Many distance runners do have such bodies, and a lot of these attractive runners are in fact athletically accomplished or wise or both. This post is strictly about running's posers and grifters.)

The upshot, in case my rambling is unclear, is that you have uninformed people giving out bad running advice on the basis of pure aesthetic appeal, which is not nearly as unsettling as the fact that this strategy is effective.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Eclectica

  • I've decided to train exclusively for inframarathons. In fact, if my knee holds up for two weeks of 8- to 10-mile days, I am going to hire a coach. (I already know which one.)
  • Moving into ultras as a "masters" runner because you feel that you can no longer be effective at shorter distances is like retiring from boxing and picking fights with random people in bars. Yeah, at first you may dominate the local scene, and you may even fare well in respected venues. But before long, you'll wind up with your ass kicked anyway, because, while you may think you're taking on inferior competitors, you're still old. And you can't escape the physical punishment of fighting no matter who your choose as adversaries, so even if you keep winning, you'll still accelerate your own physical degradation.

    The wiser thing to do is remain on the sidelines and make crude analogies about your peers who are still out there battling.
  • Once self-driving cars become commonplace, how long will it take for them to start yelling, "Hey, faggot!" at runners?
  • As dumb as literal mouth-breathers look, runners who try to breathe exclusively through their nostrils, who are far less numerous but not altogether rare, look even more ridiculous.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Enero

I ran every day in January. Biggest day was about 12. Average, 4 to 6. I don't think I had any doubles. There is nothing worth noting about a single one of my quarter of a million or so running steps except that my trend of running a little faster at the same effort level, paribus ceteris, remains intact.

I'm in better shape than I was at this time last year, no question. I'm probably in better shape than I was at any time last year, in fact. Also, in spite of regularly pondering whether humanity might be best served by a global thermonuclear war, and despite my well-established distaste for the idea of being around animals that can talk*, I make a point of running with other people at least once and usually two or more times a week.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Unprecedented excellence

Most of us have known or heard of accomplished high-school distance runners who initially competed only in track because they played soccer in the fall. (Less common is a standout cross-country runner who participates a sport other than track in the spring, a la Russell Brown, almost undoubtedly the only kid in history to run a 1:54 800 meters -- good enough for a national Junior Olympics title -- following his sophomore-year lacrosse season.)

When these kids become sufficiently good at track, they are often inclined to give up soccer in favor of three-season running. When I was in high-school in the late 1980s, a kid from White Mountains Regional High School named Jonathan Ingram, having run 50.8, 1:57, and 4:26 by the end of his junior year, eschewed futbol for cross-country as a senior and wound up winning the New Hampshire Meet of Champions. Sometimes, this transition doesn't happen until after high school, even in instances of extreme talent. For example, Thomas Ratcliffe, who graduated from Concord-Carlisle High School in Massachusetts with a 4:01.5 mile (a Massachusetts and New England record) and an 8:57.47 indoor two-mile to his credit and is now a redshirt freshman at Stanford University, never ran a cross-country race as a prep, although he did run cross in middle school.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Hashtag 80s hashtag fashion

New England Interscholastic High-School Championship 3200 meters, Boston College, 1988. 96 degrees on the track if it was an inch.


Our team supposedly wound up with this style of shorts at the beginning of the season thanks to a mistaken order by the Concord High School athletic department; these weren't actually "track bottoms" as they were clearly way too long for that sport. In fact, runners on other teams ribbed us for wearing "racing boxers," etc. By contemporary standards, these "Bermuda running shorts" would be considered downright immodest in some locales. Hashtag 80s hashtag fashion.

As for the race, I placed 12th, 4th in the unseeded heat, in 9:43. I felt great throughout the race despite the heat, but got no splits along the way because the track at B.C. was oversized by some bizarre amount, costing me whatever number of seconds I feel like pulling out of my ass.

Friday, January 19, 2018

With apologies to the Farrelly brothers: My program stops at EIGHT-mile long runs!

A friend recently had an interesting ad crop up on his Facebook feed. People like this fellow who have known me for a while, since before the glut of Internet weirdness and pseudo-scams and half-intelligible noise inevitably permeated the running world, understand that throwing certain links my way is analogous to danging a five-pound rock of crystal meth in the face of a broke tweaker on a tear and politely asking, "Any thoughts on this?"

I suggest that you take a spin through the pages at the other end of the Facebook link before reading on, so that you're not biased by what follows here, inasmuch as that could possibly matter.

This is what everyday insanity looks like

And most of it isn't even my own.

I'm going to try to present the continuation of this nonsense in a somewhat more succinct form than I did last time. This is partly because all words devoted to Kim Duclos' hijinks are by some measure a waste of time, but also because I don't think I need to belabor the obvious by overthrowing my analysis into the mix; there are no alternative interpretations of Kim's idiocy other than "it's idiocy."

About a week after the appearance of the "Thoughts on removing posts from homeless individuals asking for help?"  thread on the Boulder subreddit -- a topic I learned of days after the fact and stayed out of -- someone submitted a link to an article in 5280 Magazine about dangerous people camping in the foothills west of town. It didn't take long for the human-bullfrog hybrid behind "legal_throwaway34," having a tropism for anything that lets her blather about her caricature of me as well as indirectly vent her own long-ago-disclosed fears about becoming homeless, to find her way to this thread. She posted this:

Monday, January 15, 2018

Yet another false nutritional dilemma

The headline of a recent Boulder Daily Camera article, "Carbs not the enemy: CU Boulder physiologist shares key to weight loss, metabolic health" is misleading. Despite the Camera being my local paper, I became aware of this article only after one of my East Coast friends, an instigator extraordinaire, told me that it had appeared on the Facebook timeline of one of the running world's more energetic, self-important, and prickly cranks, who had parroted the "carbs are not the enemy" line, and gone on to yammer indulgently about how people who can't lose weight should simply be exercising more. Because I maintain a longstanding policy of not associating with this person both practical and historical reasons, I decided to refrain from commenting on his Facebook page and review the article here instead.

Nowhere in this piece does the University of Colorado researcher, Inigo San Millan, claim that carbohydrates, specifically, are not to blame for people gaining weight, although that's part of the story. He's pointing out that homing in on any one macronutrient is futile, despite America's cyclic obsession with demonizing fats (circa 1988-1990), carbs (mid-1990s and beyond), gluten (who the hell cares), and whatever else comes along (soon). (The gluten-free craze has nothing to do with weight-loss-through-supermarket-choices specifically, but is emblematic of the same futility.)

Lunatic troll doubles down on self-abasement: part 89 in an infinite series

Perhaps you've encountered this kind of thing before: Someone is caught in an undeniable, flat-out  lie on the Internet, and instead of fessing up or simply disappearing, he or she compounds the entire uproarious fuckup with ever-more-ridiculous lies while becoming markedly more agitated after every reply from her interlocutors. This person decides she will fight until the bitter end, reality be damned, her headlong rush into sheer humiliation notwithstanding.

In adopting a "go big or go home" mentality with respect to all-important Internet wars, this brand of troll ignores a simple, critical fact: from the moment the exchange first started, there was zero chance of her "winning," by any definition.

I mentioned that I'd be addressing Kim Duclos' using the death of one of my friends as tool for hammering away at her usual bullshit: that I'm a homeless, criminal, abusive gutter-drunk who relies on some combination of the local shelter, the charity of the woman I beat up, running prowess, thievery, and mind control to get what I want out of my sad and hopeless life. Kind of like a combination of Alex DeLarge, James Bond, and Jeff Lebowski.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering

I've had accounts on both Garmin Connect and Strava for several years, but it's been ages since I actually used a GPS watch -- something I've never done consistently anyway -- and I've used my profiles almost exclusively to keep track of other people's training for both professional and recreational purposes. To the extent that I've used either interface to keep track of my own running, I've usually just entered the data manually.

It's possible that what I am doing these days constitutes training and not just therapy. I say this because even though entering a race would be a misguided idea for me now and at any imaginable time in the future, I'm probably between 50 and 75 percent certain of doing so anyway within the lifetimes of almost everyone reading this. Maybe even all of you.

As a result, I like to time myself over known distances from time to time, in the same way I like to troll blogs perpetrated by abject morons -- i.e., I don't get any real benefit from it and I'm often more disappointed than gratified after it's over, but I still keep fucking doing it. Until a few weeks ago, however, I could not do this with any precision unless I was either on a track or puttering along one of the numerous sections of paved rec paths that  have been wheeled and marked off at regular intervals.