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


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.