Former 2:24 marathoner, now pushing 50 and reduced to a pitiable spastic shuffle • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on distance running since 1999; mostly a crank since approximately 2016 and possibly long before • Coach and adviser of less pessimistic perambulators • Dobie-mix owner Sentence-fragment impresario

Monday, December 31, 2018

MMXVIII, in memoriam

Executive summary: 

I gave footracing as much of a shot as I could this year, but I no longer care enough about the outcomes of these to honor my own participation by working my hardest. Worse, even if I did push myself as hard as I routinely used to, the results would still be mortifying. I don't regret spending much of 2018 engaged in what turned out to be a pitiful display; we all need hobbies and goals, especially folks like me who spend a great deal of time alone, and I became friends with some superb people along the way. But it's clear that my energies are best directed elsewhere.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

On to 2019: Reviewing your year, part two

There is a danger in over-associating significant single workouts with race-day success. Sometimes, if an athlete completes a powerful, unprecedented workout like, say, 3 x one mile at well under 5K pace or a fantastic marathon-pace run a few weeks before a great race result, it is tempting for that athlete to think that this workout is absolutely essential. In reality, while such a thing should probably be retained, it says little about the overall training pattern.

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

On to 2019: Reviewing your year, part one

Last night, I wrote both the post I link to below (and its soon-to-be-published follow-up) and this one under the influence of lots of caffeine and probably some THC as well, thanks to ample application of a CBD-THC topical analgesic that I can easily get and you probably cannot. My hamstring's been bugging me and a friend recommended -- and donated -- the stuff. I like the results of writing on a more smoothed-out version of the usual coffee buzz. On the other hand, it's always easier to churn out thousands of recreational words in a single evening when I have no outstanding professional assignments.

Already, without prompting from the Internet, you’ve started concocting your running goals for 2019. Soon, you’ll see about a zillion articles and blog posts throwing more variables and ideas at you than your mind can process at once. Focus on the marathon and forget the 5K. PR across all distances. Work on speed. Conquer your tempo run bugaboo.

The most important aspect of planning for the upcoming year – and obviously this goes for any strategic endeavor, not just those that involve a significant turn of the calendar – is reviewing the most recent year, and specifically how your training related to your race results. It takes literally minutes to jot down sane but challenging goals based on times you’ve achieved across a range of distances. But the reason you fix those time goals in mind is because you’ve achieved something remotely similar already. So how did you get to this point – and how could you have done it better?

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

The blog's Christmas gift

My dog Rosie is half-Doberman Pinscher. I think she's also part pointer and who knows what else, but I know she runs and jumps like any Doberman I've ever seen. She doesn't even need a running start to clear the fence in the back yard, and she loves to scale the taller back fence in pursuit of chipmunks.


It turns out that the Doberman can reach top speeds of 30 MPH. That's not that much faster than Usain Bolt, who is reputed to have reached 27.8 MPH. Bolt averaged 23.3 MPH during his world-record 9.58 100 meters, so if you assume that a Doberman's acceleration and Bolt's are similar and that a Dobie could therefore average about 25.5 MPH over the same distance, that would give the Dobie the capability of running a 100-meter dash in 8.77 seconds. That's not exactly a close race between the dog and Bolt, but when you watch a Doberman in full flight, it's goddamn impressive that any human being could stay even that close for 10 seconds.

Having said all of that, I may have to rethink these conclusions. Greyhounds can run up to 45 MPH, and this one barely broke 9.00. Then again, it was on a dirt track, and who knows what kind of athlete that particular dog actually is. Maybe he or she is the canine answer to a hobbyjogger.

On a related note, I've never even considered the humor in the situation of seeing a cheetah coming around the bend of a residential street 50 meters away and watching it blow by me at 70 miles an hour. There would be no meaningful time to react. I could turn around and the cat would be a blur in the distance, or behind someone's house, before I could even process the event. Of course, the story breaks down, and the humor with it, if you stop assuming the cheetah had every intention of ignoring me in the first place.

I have now run for 54 straight days, which is itself unremarkable. My dog has also run for 54 straight days, which is perhaps slightly more noteworthy but also unremarkable. The fact that each of us has logged all of those miles with the other is perhaps very unusual. That is, there's no picking her up at the end of a solo run and continuing on a bit, or dropping her off partway through. I wonder how many people have strung together two months of formal running while logging every mile with the same canine companion. Whatever the case, it's a lot less impressive when you add in the fact that I've averaged less than a half hour a day of running in that span.

My guess is that I'll require a day off before she does. What I thought was a recurrence of my right lateral knee problem seems instead to be a hamstring problem, and it's limiting my stride. Of course, at my age it could be both, plus a pile of other shit that hasn't had a chance to become symptomatic yet. We did a Christmas Eve run where we averaged close to 6:30 a mile for 3.4 miles mostly on dirt, and that was with a 7:15 opener. While that's not quite yet a tempo run (but oh, it soon will be; it soon will be), it's fast enough so that I can't be doing things like that almost daily, which is what happens when I know I have the luxury of short, unplanned runs and nothing on the near, distant, or even theoretical space-time horizon. 

I am working on a short story about a high-school coach whose temperament, knowledge and rhetorical bent are of a piece with a certain prominent U.S. citizen. I will be posting snippets of that here. This is mainly because I have almost no work to do until January, but also because I want to get into a more narrative, less social-media-one-off-outburst vein owing to other recreational writing I have planned for 2019 and beyond.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Still operating despite the shutdown


  • I discovered a heartening statistic today: The number of participants in U.S. road races is on the decline and has been since 2013. I would have guessed that the number of road-race entrants was still increasing, but more slowly than it did in the first 10 of so years of this century. Instead, running events are becoming literally less popular. This doesn't gladden me as much as the concomitant decrease in U.S. life expectancy does, but it's still gratifying.

    Many of today's most populous road races are a sick joke of wrongly measured splits, bad logistics and poorly ordered priorities. While I admit that I'm more likely to notice such issues now that I'm far slower and more bitter than I was in my so-called prime, when I was too focused on my own results to care much about anything else, this decline in quality is unquestionably real. Despite the advent of chip timing and other conveniences over the past 25 years, I'd bet that virtually no one who's been competing seriously in road races since the late eighties or early nineties would tell you that races are better now. Some might call it a draw, but most would say it's gone downhill. (Now that I think about it, one of the reasons they'd say it's gone downhill is because so many courses literally go downhill by design, leading to malignant Instagram weenie-ism.)

Monday, December 17, 2018

It's trash day


  • I keep hearing more stories of misplaced mile/kilometer markers in non-trivial road races. While I have chalked this up mainly to the basic incompetence and inattention of the avaricious slapdicks who have taken over much of running, there may be an element of positive feedback involved: As GPS watches have become ubiquitous, road-race directors have even less incentive to get splits right because runners will not only collect their own but contest the posted ones whether they are accurate or not. This phenomenon seems to be nonexistent in Europe, where, coincidentally, major segments of the population operate free from the influence of pernicious mental compromise.
  • More and more races appear to be partnering with Athlinks.com to post results, a trend it would be nice to see obliterated unless Athlinks revamps its entire presentation. I appreciate the site's concept and the reach, but goddamn, if they can find the money and the motivation to fix the interface, they need to do it yesterday. 
  • Consistent with the "it's running -- who the hell cares?" theme, though, a lot of other major running sites are just as ugly as Athlinks if not worse. The Foot Locker Cross Country sites are so ghastly that I won't even link to them; their ramshackle, non-styled construction may be both a cause and a consequence of the series being rapidly supplanted by the NXN circus. USATF.org is routinely plagued with misspellings and other errors, befitting an organization led by someone whose priorities have long been awry. CEO Max Siegel wouldn't have to give up much to personally finance the addition of a part-time copy editor to USATF, but not only is he apparently a grifter who would be right at home sitting on Donald Trump's lap when not having rough yet tantric sex with Nike, he's also smart enough to know no one in the U.S. really gives a rip about running and that he and his cronies might as well make bank while no one of consequence is looking.
  • I noticed that the runaway winner of the New England Prep School XC Champs, junior Victoria Patterson of Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, wasn't in the results of the Foot Locker Northeast Regionals two weeks later, yet somehow lined up at Foot Locker Nationals two weeks after that. The mystery of how she apparently reached the finals without qualifying in her regional was solved when I saw that Patterson finished 10th at the Foot Locker South Regionals to grab that final qualifying spot for Nationals. She is from South Carolina; I'd forgotten that some of these kids at New England preparatory schools come from a long way away to attend, and still represent their home states, not their schools, in non-scholastic competitions like NXN, Foot Locker, and the New Balance indoor and outdoor national championship gatherings.
  • 2018 University of New Hampshire grad Elle Purrier, who almost became the first Wildcat track athlete to win an individual NCAA track title and now runs for New Balance, ran 8:48.92 at the second B.U. Mini-Meet in a mixed race. The main reason this is noteworthy isn't that 8:48 is a very good indoor women's time; it's that Purrier ran it at one of these mini-meets. These meets were introduced in 1999, when late Boston University coach Bruce Lehane started them as a way to give runners suffering through New England winters a chance to get in some speed work comfortably and safely. They have four or five every winter. In the early days, the only events were the 3,000 meters and the mile, and $5 was enough to get runners access to as many different heats of each as they wanted. Demand for other events inevitably grew, and now it's not unusual to see national-class times recorded, at least on the women's side; since these are open meets, there are no prohibitions against women and men being in the same races, a situation that can obviously help elite women who might otherwise be half a lap or a lap in front of the field. Cory McGee ran under 9:00 here a couple of years ago, I think, and she's not the only woman besides Purrier to have done so. My own fastest 3,000, slightly faster than Purrier's time, was at one of these meets in December 2000. 
  • Rosie and I received one of these yesterday as a holiday gift. I don't plan to enter any canicross races, in part because I don't know how well Rosie would handle being around that many rampaging dogs but mainly because it's still considered racing. But we tried out the harness already and Rosie loves it. It has become clear to me that, whether I realized it at the time or not, when I decided to take home a dog in June, I was admitting that I would be giving up the "let's see how stupid we can look trying to move fast in a straight line" experiment soon and would require a tangible reason to continue exercising enough to keep my most misanthropic features somewhat in check.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Stephen King's novel featuring a world-class runner

No, this isn't me trying to channel my favorite all-time author and come up with a bunch of crap I think he'd produce in the unlikely event he turned his talents to the realm of distance running. This is a review of an actual book, titled Elevation, which was published at the end of October and which I ordered yesterday on Kindle and read in its entirety last night. (The print version is only 146 pages, making it more a novella than a novel.)

Stephen King has officially been a novelist for 44 years (Carrie, his first, was published in 1974) and a writer of short fiction for over half a century. Still, it was far from inevitable that he would eventually write a story that includes a primary character who not only runs marathons, but is an Olympic marathoner who takes part in a Turkey Trot in Maine that serves as one of the story's major turning points.

I'll try to get through this without too many spoilers, but some of these are inevitable.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Adventures in courtroom lying, part 5: Kim Duclos really ought to vet her own stories

More than anything else, this revisiting of unpleasant events has underscored how easy it is to lie badly. Not knowing or forgetting important details about the physical environment you're describing tends to scuttle your story, as does sounding like a petulant fourth-grader with a Ritalin deficiency and having a lawyer who not only might have just walked out of the screenplay of My Cousin Vinny: Idiots Come to Boulder, but also obviously knows you're a lying and just wants to escape the agony of the proceedings.

Anyone have a beef in town with you, that you know of?



Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The glut of Olympic Trials qualifiers at the California International Marathon

At Sunday's California International Marathon in Sacramento, 100 women and 53 men achieved their respective qualifying times for the 2020 Olympic Trials -- 2:45:00 and 2:19:00 respectively. This was an amplified version of the already great results from the race in 2017, when 54 women and 38 men achieved these marks. (Note that there was significant overlap between the 2017 and 2018 races for both sexes, and some of these runners had already qualified for the Trials before doing it at CIM.) No matter what happens between now and the Trials in Atlanta in a little over a year, CIM will account for a vastly disproportionate number of qualifiers.

Whenever something like this happens, because it's a statistical outlier of an event, people are quick to look for course-driven factors rather than the whole picture when looking for "the" cause for the anomaly. As a result, a lot of people appear inclined to chalk up the times at CIM to an unduly fast layout. This is exceptionally short-sighted.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A month's work in seven days

Or more realistically, ten days' worth of work spread out over thirty days.

I didn't miss a day of running in November, those with knowledge of Strava say. Yet according to sources deep within the ass administration, my mileage total for the month was less than one of my average weeks in 2002. Individuals with first-hand knowledge of the situation, speaking on conditions of anonymity so they could discuss the matter candidly, agree that no one gives a shit.

I like to periodically look back on my 2002 training year to assess what was good and bad about it, because there was a lot of both and almost all of the variation was attributable to easily identified human factors -- not always the case in this sport energetic hobby. I went into that year in crappy shape after a shitty 2001 fall I largely spent watching incessant 9/11 coverage while slack-faced drunk in front of the television.

I spent the last part of November and of most December in New Mexico getting my mileage up from about 4.7 miles a week to about 100, and for a variety of reasons, I became a one-dimensional mileage machine for the entire winter. I knew I was tired, but I wasn't getting hurt or sick and could plausibly tell myself that I would start speed sessions in a few days or the following week. This basically never materialized and the entire winter and early spring was just an unending stretch of frustrations, which I responded to by punching myself in the metaphorical crotch and doubling down on my Forrest Gump training model, right down to the blithe lack of comprehension of any greater picture. I was able to rally for the Boston Marathon, and then the next six months or so were up and down as I moved to Virginia and spent a month or so in North Carolina along the way.

2002 was the only year in which I raced three marathons, and the only one in which I ducked under 2:30:00 twice. After I ran 2:27:31 at Rocket City in December off what remained almost pure base-type training, I was set up for a decent 2003.