The increasingly parochial observations of a casual runner in his fifties. Was "serious" about "the sport" until personal and sociocultural inevitabilities prevailed.

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 (

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.