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

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

If these are your generals, don't expect a revolution

In 2011, one of my friends did a podcast on the topic of eating disorders with a professional runner. The audio portion of the podcast itself been lost, but some of the professional runner's impressions of the discussion, and of eating disorders among runners as a whole, remain online.

Lize was on the show mainly because she'd written a memoir about her own experiences as a top runner whose entire career was affected by bulimia and anorexia. In it, she describes the role of her coaches and other mentors -- fewer in those days, and apart from her peers and idols behind the starting line, all men -- in her successes and her disease in as nonjudgmental a way as anyone could, given the scope of the events she describes.

The pro runner proved to be something of a foil to the notion that eating disorders are really as much of a problem as is popularly believed. After the podcast was posted,  she characterized EDs as "a subject that is shaped everyday by millions of women doing the best they can to stay fit in a food-overloaded country." While allowing that she was aware of holding a perhaps unpopular opinion about such matters, she suggested that the "female athlete triad" (low bone mineral density, amenorrhea and negative energy balance) is, if not a nothingburger, flung around carelessly, and expressed annoyance at her own various doctors' asking about her eating habits when she was visiting for an unrelated complaint. She opined that "Someone just needs to write a tiny little book titled 'How to adjust your weight as a female distance runner without getting an eating disorder.'” She described her frustration in dealing with eating-disordered teammates, mainly because they refused to get the message abut what was healthy and what wasn't, and she found their fundamental incorrectness exhausting. She said that only by withdrawing emotionally from people with EDs could she foster any real empathy for their struggles.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Video (yes) of the 1972 New England High-School Cross-Country Championships

Every once in a while, something I post on the Internet for no better reason then to justify an emotionally satisfying exploration of history happens to add a few verses to the online distance-running canon. This in turn sometimes results in a mutually pleasing interaction between previously unacquainted running junkies who hail from different generations and places but have enjoyed overlapping experiences.

This has happened on a number of occasions as a result of this write-up stemming from my experiences coaching high-school track and cross-country in my hometown at the dawn of the century. Although I took charge of the BBHS teams sixteen years after John Savoie died, a number of members of the faculty remembered him, in some cases both as a student in the early seventies and as a young adult thereafter. Partly for this reason and also because I'd heard about J.P.'s nonpareil exploits over the years, I decided to give out a J.P. Savoie Award in addition to some other gimcrack in my second season there, when the boys went to the N.H. Meet of Champions for the first time. To quote myself:

As a junior he finished third in the 1971 New England Championship, having led his mates to the New Hampshire Class I state championship the week before. After again leading the Green Giants to the state crown in 1972, he returned to the New Englands and, coming from 50 yards behind in the final half-mile, crossed the line a winner by a full ten seconds, setting a record of 12:11 for the 2.5-mile course. In the spring, he set a Class I State record by grinding out a 4:19 mile. All told, Savoie at one time held over 30 cross-country records throughout New Hampshire. J.P. Savoie, who spent fewer than three decades running and roving among us, was a winner of the first magnitude. Sports were only a part of that.

Screen capture of J.P. Savoie about 30 meters from the finish line in Portland, Maine. 

In an unlikely bit of kismet, a gentleman who ran in the New Englands race that Savoie won got his hands on a video of it, or of a decent chunk of it. He tells the story well, so I will pass along his words in their native form.

Good evening,

I just stumbled on the piece you wrote about John Savoie. Heartbreaking really. 

It’s a bit of a story how I know his name and why I searched and found your essay today. 

I was in the New England Championship race in ‘72 that he won. I was not vaguely a contender to win but I was there, Riverside Golf Course in Portland Maine, Nov 11, 1972. My team Mt Desert Island from Maine won the Class B state title on the same course the week prior and ultimately we were 8th in that NE meet. 

It was the first of I think 16 state championships won by my coach, Howard Richard. We lost him in 1994 in his late 50s, too young, of a massive heart attack. 

Through the wonders of social media I’ve stayed in touch with my teammates, the larger Mt Desert island HS running community and perhaps most importantly (in this story) to my coaches widow.  

About 4 yrs ago she told me that she had unearthed a box of my coaches old home movies. I remembered him carrying his super 8 camera to most of our big races and at the end of the season at a pizza party we’d see his movies. I remembered such a thing at the end of the ‘72 season.  It made me wonder whether the ‘72 film somehow had magically survived. I didn’t quite dare believe it was even possible. 

It took me 4 yrs to get his widow to send the box of movies to me in New York City, where I live retired from my career at the Museum of Modern Art. None of the films I received were labeled. I still could only hope there might be familiar treasures among the reels but had no way to even see.

My son in law works in network TV in NYC and helped me arrange for the films to be sent to LA for careful cleaning, restoration  and to be digitized.  It took 6 weeks to get the work done...and yes, dreams do come true.  I literally put them up on YouTube yesterday. 

Of course the one you will be interested in features the New England Championship race that John Savoie won. The first segment on the film is that New England Championship race. The 2nd race from the reel is the Maine State Championship from the week prior. 

Naturally posting the races on social media has created a flood of warm nostalgia amongst my old teammates and friendly rivals from back in the day. I found myself thinking about that race again and became curious about the winner of the race. I found a website in Maine that listed the top 10 finishers for many of the races including 1972. It wasn’t hard from there to find information about Mr. Savoie and ultimately your essay. 

I will attach a link to the video here. 

I hope this completes the circle for you in the same way your essay did for me. 

Sincere thanks for what you wrote. 

Larry Allen 

I got this on May 31, so I haven't exactly done a quick turn-around with this. But with the passing of Coach Bill Luti, the era in which he operated -- a time for all intents and purposes preceded my own blundering upon the runningscape -- has suddenly become more interesting and urgent. Savoie ran for a crosstown rival of Luti's Concord boys, one that was actually better than the Crimson Tide in '71 and '72. Savoie's coach, Harvey Smith, was in some ways a protege' of Coach Luti, but Harvey, who went on to coach some historically dominant tennis teams at CHS after winning seven straight Division 2 cross-country titles at Brady, is now legendary in his own right. I hope I can direct him to the video, because I'm sure he knows nothing about it and it would be truly moved by it. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The state of the running media, and an eponym

Since I'm distracted by being absorbed in long-ago years' worth of memories about Bill Luti and the roles he directly and indirectly played in my running and greater life, and because most of those memories illustrate why I'm a running lifer despite my relentless bitching, I'm hesitant to jump back into the mode of critic. But Mario Fraioli's curiosity about people's general take on the state of the running media is too enticing to ignore, and would be even if not for the flood of recent events illustrating the deeper reason I think Mario, who now qualifies as a long-timer in the industry, was even asking the question of his guest, Jeanne Mack, in the first place. The portion of interest starts at 51:40.

I will strike a bastard compromise here and lodge a few complaints without bothering to defend them at any length, because both the people who agree with them and the people who disagree have access to the same information I do, and I am certain that anyone with the motivation to even form a meaningful opinion is aware of this information.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Bill Luti, 1921-2019

Even if I were to spend the rest of the day writing stream-of-consciousness ideas about the direct and indirect influence William V. "Bill" Luti had on my running, I wouldn't finish by the end of the day, so I will save most of that for a later time. But for now, based on what I know about this blog's readership, you'll either recognize Bill Luti as the most significant name in Concord's distance-running history or not recognize the name at all. (Actually, a few of you have probably run the Bill Luti 5-Miler without learning much or anything about him, especially if you're not from the Capital Area.)

September 1985. Coach Luti is not in the photo, but the fashion...
The basics are captured here. The founder of Granite State Race Services, Bob Teschek, was one of Coach Luti's runners himself at Concord High School and a contemporary of my mom, who also went to CHS and had Coach Luti for gym class. (If it's not yet clear, Coach Luti was one of those men you called Coach Luti or Mr. Luti no matter who you were or what sort of authority you might have believed you possessed.)

A deeper dive, which I didn't even know existed until yesterday when I got the news about Coach Luti's passing, is here. I seem to remember the author, Bob Estabrook, being present for all four versions of the CHS Alumni Race I ran as a student, and he probably ran two I returned for as a nominal adult. He's also my mom's age. Bill Luti (I can get away with that now) turned a lot of people into lifetime runners and running influencers.

Coach Luti was coaching the CHS girls in 1986, my junior year, and although I was never on one of his own teams, I paid very close attention to the many things he told me, even if I sometimes didn't like them. If nothing else, he was able to remind me I didn't know much about much at my age no matter how much I was reading about running and should probably just shut up and do 10 x 440 at White Park in 67-68 least once a week instead.

Of course this is sad news, and even this brief excursion into my own memories has been an emotional one. But it's hard to feel distressed, for the lack of a better word, about the passing of someone got 98 years and compiled both the resume' and the respect that Bill Luti did.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Advocacy plus cynicism equals reality

Any adult who devotes a large portion of his or her life to becoming faster at optional foot travel -- as a participant, director or both -- becomes an addition to an ongoing roiling expo of uncertainty, frustration, fatigue, and professional underachievement. Non-runners may think that runners look like they're in pain when they're plying their trade, but in reality, the true suffering of anyone who puts running at the top of the life priority list is as undetectable at a glance as it can be punishing and degrading to body and mind over a period of years.

Sometimes, for a while and even for the duration of a career, an athlete perceives the rewards as being at least proportional to the setbacks. Aside from those who can be considered professional runners (and probably two-thirds of the people you've ever met or will meet who make this claim are lying), longtime competitive runners as a rule are as emotionally labile as they are physically resilient, unusually so in both cases; the word that seems most apt is unfulfilled, especially those who lack other distractions of sufficient weight. This would be easy to say about anyone with enough spare time for a serious hobby and the capacity to dream big about it, but most runner types I know are more inclined to seek comfort from their actions and accomplishments than from their possessions or the people they know. That the at-large population is at least as askew in many ways as runners are is no reason to glorify the palette of traits that define "serious" runners. It's a difficult sport and the physical aspects are, to me, a comparatively small part of the challenge.

(I love running. I'd never willingly give it up. I'm just saying that admitting this in effect means admitting to a higher-than-average probability of possessing certain traits "they" might find curious if not nettlesome.)

At the same time, advising people who aspire to be better runners alluring remains a very alluring pursuit. Part of this is basic familiarity: Much of the time, running is the last thing I feel like discussing, but because I have immersed myself in this world for decades, analyzing and discussing training comes automatically to me. I sometimes wish I would suffer a blow to the head that would selectively wipe out all of my memories relating to running as a sporting endeavor. In fact, maybe this has already happened, and explains why I'm often a ball of inexplicable unrest, and also why no one will look me in the eye when I approach them while brandishing a light saber.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Worn down

The area shown below is known as the Muchyedo Banks. I took the photo on a drizzly Halloween mid-morning, a few days before leaving New Hampshire. This spot is about a half-mile into the run that morning capped my streak of 365 days. I'm facing approximately northwest. The soil is a lot sandier than it looks, and the drop from where soil yields to sand down to the waterline perhaps more pronounced as well -- according to Google Earth, about 80 to 85 vertical feet. That's significant, not only in its own right but because it's about a quarter of the entire way down to sea level itself.

About 18 years ago, I wrote a story called Swing Time based mainly on this spot. In my imagined version, a giant oak tree has managed to spring from the soil near the base of the water and rise to a height of well over a hundred feet. This forms the basis for an appropriately scaled rope swing and an interesting hoax. I wrote a number of bad short stories in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but this one I am somewhat happy with even with the passage of so many years and writing lessons learned and attendant reasons to shit on anything I wrote a long time ago, or this morning.

I did have some fun rope-swing experiences as a kid, not terribly far from hear but on the northwest edge of town, at Broad Cove. It's surely for the best that that place gets a lot of public foot and bicycle traffic now.

The spot is a little over a mile west-northwest of the house where I spent the majority of my life in Concord, marked below with an H. Starting in about third grade, in 1978, I and my neighborhood friends used to ride our bikes west along Hoit Road across the interchange with I-93 and, often, to the nearest grocery store, which was in Penacook, close to a three-mile ride from my house. 

Sometime in the past ten years, a long-overdue service station with a Dunkin' Do...a Dunkin' franchise was installed on Eli Whitney Drive, which in turn only started to exist on the 1990s, when Wheelabrator, a garbage-to-energy facility, built a plant and a giant waste emitter (can't call it a smoke stack, but it's the undisputed eyesore of the general northern Concord-Boscawen-Canterbury skyline) at what used to be Hannah Dustin Drive.

Before Interstate 93 was built in the late 1950s, Hannah Dustin Drive was the conduit from East Concord to Penacook. It ran southeast and intersected Mountain Road right at the spot where this unfolded. Portions of Hannah Dustin Drive west of I-93 are still paved even though they're only reachable on foot, and only then by people with an exploratory agenda. This strikes me as ectopic city tissue

To get to where I started my Halloween run, I just drove from Hoit Road (U.S. Route 4 at this point) out Old Boyce Road, which becomes Riverland Road as it just to the west, which becomes Oxbow Pond Road as it makes a hard left turns south, toward a commercial (sort of) bed and breakfast.

Today, there's a small parking lot at this location. The trail leading north is part of a state-designated conservation area. When I was a kid, Old Boyce Road ended in an unnamed dirt lane paralleling the railroad tracks and leading, via trails, to the eastern bank of the Merrimack, close to the Route 4 bridge. I explored this area on numerous runs both in high school and in my return to Concord from about 1997 to around 2003, and once followed the dirt path along the tracks all the way north to West Road in Canterbury, neat Exit 18.

That exact trip would not be possible today. I took the photo below from close to the same spot I grabbed the photo above from, obviously having rotated about 45 degrees counterclockwise.

I was standing on the remains of a path that ran straight north-south without interruption within the past 20 years. Here is a view of that spot as one approaches it from the north. The path is simply gone. If you want to get around the space, that's easily done by using the railroad tracks just to the left. But it's a jarring reminder that some events that occur slowly in relation to human lifetimes, like the inexorable changing of a river's course, occur with astonishing speed in geologic time.

You may find it odd that anyone could be titillated by this stuff, but it makes for a lot of inexpensive fun. For example, when writing posts like these aren't enough of a way to waste time, I can make a personal adventure game out of exploring a familiar area using Google Earth Pro's ground-level navigation feature.

I wish I could be at the "New England" Championships this weekend; they're being held in the same place they were staged my senior year, Wickham Park outside Hartford, which is actually an unusual site. But if nothing else, I am back to making high-school-level competition my main running focus at the moment, and probably moving forward until the sport, the planet or all two are eradicated, preferably amid the clamor of a gleeful cosmic drunken belch. Some of the reasons for this should be obvious to you, while others are ore personal but not exactly recondite.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

N.H. Meet of Champions recap

First, if you would rather watch the races in their entirety, with solid commentary, than risk reading reading a bunch of my choleric observations, that's easy (girls, boys). But that's clearly not the case because even the most arrant twits among you don't read this blog looking for glorified agate results. Besides, I have nothing choleric to offer today, although I'm annoyed that my hamstring is sore (if it's not going to heal, I want it to actually snap, loudly enough to be heard 40 feet away and preferably in G minor) and not thrilled about either the end of DST or the long journey back west I'll be starting shortly.

I predicted the top five girls' teams correctly, but in the wrong order (results). Picking Concord over Bishop Guertin was a bit of a reach and was predicated on more momentum than the Tide was likely muster. But Concord still ran a terrific race. Also, I did not count on Coe-Brown's usual number-one girl having unresolved Lyme disease and having to be pulled from the race. That, or something, resulted in Coe-Brown falling behind Exeter. So my 1-2-3-4-5 wound up going 1-3-2-5-4. Of note, the individual winner, Caroline Fischer, also had Lyme disease, which in effect robbed her of half of her high-school running career because her illness went undiagnosed for so long. What a fantastic kid. And now I'm thinking that half the state's runners have been infected with B. burgdorferi at some point, and here I am having spent as much time as possible in the woods in shorts and quarter-socks for the past week.

My boys' predictions were similarly decent (results). Coe-Brown would have won yesterday even if the places of their sixth and seventh runners had been scored. My forecast of an average time of "about 15:40 to 15:45" for their top five was cutting it close, but they managed to thread that needle with a 15:44.16. The Bears are ranked 23rd in the U.S. by Milesplit right now despite having a total enrollment of 700; I'm not sure how I feel about this because Milesplit is awful in virtually every way and will hopefully be gone soon, but they are right to recognize Coe-Brown's 2019 boys' team, and next year they won't have as much discretion because the team is almost certainly going to be even better next fall.

I actually called 1, 3, 4 and 5 on the nose, but I did not count on Londonderry losing one of its varsity runners in an unexpected and probably disruptive way, and they wound up sixth (claiming the last New Englands berth). I also didn't count on Pinkerton running a stellar race, which is fuckin' obvious or else I would have said they were going to, which is the nature of wrong predictions. Pinkerton has been semi-regularly punking Concord for at least 35 years now, and it's time someone bitterly pointed out the school has over three thousand students and therefore should never lose in anything. (I know it doesn't quite work that way, but it's good to have handy, difficult-to-refute excuses on hand to both explain your own shortcomings and devalue the achievements of others.

It remains surreal to me to watch Coe-Brown's Aidan Cox, believed to be one of sixty thousand kids named Aidan in New Hampshire alone and a freshman who looks like he skipped at least two grades, chasing the top runner in the state down the homestretch and then tossing his cookies in a trash can. The one time I puked after a race, it wasn't even after an especially hard effort, and I didn't know if was coming for sure until the initial surge was somewhere in the vicinity of my incisors. Yet there happened to be a trash can there, and I hit it perfectly -- not the opening but the side. Maybe if there were no cans available in finish chutes to vomit in, runners wouldn't have the urge to puke. They ought to start putting porta-johns in the chute area to see if that triggers similarly ignominious outbursts of an even more socially awkward sort.

Apart from the results, the day presented the usual array of faces I was happy to greet but in some cases could not match to a name with the immediacy I would have liked. I got to chat with my first coach, Rusty Cofrin, whose initial season at Concord High coincided with my freshman year and who went on to teach math and coach for about 25 years before brain cancer forced him into retirement. I had a chance to talk pretty extensively with some of the parents (at least three of whom I graduated with) and a couple of the kids. They seem like a nicer bunch than my team was, not that we were bad, but it's weird to consider some of the things we could get away with in the 1980s thanks to simple technological barriers to being caught, like speeding away from cops on snowmobiles at 80 miles an hour up right the middle of Route 132 and watching the police try to plow their Crown Vics through 8" of snow to catch up. Come to think of it, it's probably even easier to do that now, but if they really wanted to catch someone doing that and not just random teenagers cackling and trailing clouds of marijuana smoke (well, not all of us) and worse, all it would take is GPS and heat maps.

I have no special reason to be as pleased as I am about this visit. which officially ends in a few hours. Last fall, when things didn't go my way (which is code for "I pussied out of running a couple of races and then bailed on other shit") I cut my three-week trip in half and came back to Colorado before I started setting things on fire. This time, off the bat, I could have adopted the same ah-why-bother attitude when, right off the bat, annoyances started flying my way. Factors beyond my control kept me from watching the state divisional races last weekend, my hamstring kept me from running seriously, and I accepted even before arriving that I'll probably never see my dad again. 

That was offset by some good stuff that's not suitable for a blog, not because it's tawdry but because I don't have the verbal dexterity to convey exactly how my experiences this week have revitalized me. I seem to be embracing the fact that there are things I simply don't like as much as I used to, primarily because I have gone from mediocre to pitiful, and so it's fucking dumb to even feign aspiring to competence in these areas. Since this is, in the main, a positive post, I figure my plane has at most a 35 percent chance of crashing, because I'm really superstitious about these and other things. In case that happens, here's a pictorial summary of my more public endeavors. (I like cemeteries generally, not because of the morbidity factor, but because they are never, ever crowded in November. I like the ones I find in the woods better because I can invent lustrous false histories about the people they memorialize. I will have more to say about a few of these if I survive my flight.)

Friday, November 1, 2019

God knows there were holes in that barn

When I met my mom and Harper, her five-month-old Golden Retriever, for a walk at the Sewalls Falls Recreation Area on Tuesday, I happened to bring up a story about a different dog that took place about 30 years ago about a half-mile from our meeting spot, and a little over a mile south of the house I lived in for most of my childhood and young adult life outside of school, and visited regularly until my parents sold the property and moved to Dover in 2004. I'll describe that episode first, because it's kind of funny, and what follows as a result of watching a documentary film my story prompted my mother to describe is not funny in any way at all, and is in fact nothing short of horrible.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Concord High teams pull off an unprecedented double

In accordance with making this space what it is at the expense of uncluttered information, I have to describe how, in brilliant stepwise fashion, I dismantled my chances of watching the making of some modest history in Manchester, N.H. last weekend.

A few weeks ago, I decided on something resembling an extremely thoughtful impulse to travel to New Hampshire to see the state divisional championship meets, which were held on Saturday, and the statewide Meet of Champions, set for this Saturday at Mine Falls Park in Nashua. Coming to Concord and staying with my favorite couple -- and I'll be damned if that phrase doesn't look unavoidably creepy -- has been an annual tradition for me for a long time, but the last three years I've been here every fall while managing to either not stay around long enough for the prep championship races (2017) or skip them despite being less than 20 miles away because they weather sucked (2018). My nephew is in his first season of cross-country at a D-2 school, so I had a dash of extra incentive to be there this year.

The first way in which I started ejaculating obstacles into the path leading to my watching the races that started at 10:00 yesterday morning at Derryfield Park was by choosing a red-eye flight. That was okay and nothing unusual, but this time I failed to account for my take-off and landing dates being different despite thinking that I had. I didn't mind the idea of landing at 1 a.m. on Friday, driving the 75 or so minutes to Concord, waking up, and having a day to get everything together before spending an entire day watching races and then going to (or staying for) the annual Halloween party my hosts (who are not into Eyes Wide Shut shit, if only for lack of wealth and status) were staging. I was less happy to see that I had scheduled myself to land in Boston at 1:00 on Saturday morning, leaving me barely enough time for a nap at my hosts' even if everything about my Turo rental went smoothly. It did not, which this time was only in small part my error, so I didn't make it to Concord until almost 7:00 a.m.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A few steps ahead of EPO

Synthetic EPO in theory became available for athletic use in 1987, when the world record in the men's 1,500m stood at 3:29.46 (1985, Said Aouita, Morocco). Hicham El Guerrouj's current mark, which has stood since 1998, a drop of 1.65 percent from the pre-EPO era. In reality, no one knows exactly when EPO became a major thing in distance running, but you can be certain that athlete managers were hunting for it the moment they learned it could be made in labs as well as in kidneys.

Aouita also held the outdoor 3,000m record for a spell, being the first to dip under seven and a half minutes (7:29.45, 1989), breaking Henry Rono's 11-year-old record by over two and a half seconds. If I had to guess, which I obviously do, I would say that Aouita was probably the last world record holder in a distance event who can be almost definitely removed from EPO suspicion on logistical grounds alone, which isn't to say I think he was any cleaner by the standards of his day than anyone else. In any case, Aouita's 3,000m record has dropped by 1.95 percent. The record (7:20.67) has also been static since Daniel Komen set it in 1996, and in fact hasn't been seriously threatened. (I think Yomif Kejelcha has as good a shot as anyone has in the past 20 years now that Kenenisa Bekele has missed his chance.)

The 3,000m steeplechase record has fallen from 8:05.35 in 1989 to 7:53.63 today, with hat mark now fifteen years old, although it seems unfair to discount Brahim Boulami's 7:53.18 from 2002, since it's known he was on EPO. That's a drop of 2.39 percent.

The 5,000m record fell from Aouita's 12:58.39 in 1987 to Bekele's 12:37.35 in 2005, s drop of 2.70 percent, and the 10,000m mark was trimmed from Arturo Barrios' 27:08.23 in 1989 to Bekele's 26:17.53 in 2005, an improvement of 3.11 percent. Both records still stand.

The marathon is an outlier here, and not merely for being a road race and involving unique physiological demands compared to the aforementioned events. There is also a great deal more financial incentive at the world-class level, in large part because of the introduction of the World Marathon Majors in 2006.

Surprisingly, the world record in the marathon did not change during the 1990s until Ronaldo da Costa ran 2:06:05 in 1998 to take 45 seconds off the record set by the insanely anonymous Belayneh Dinsamo. The longest period without a new record since 1998 is 4 years and 2 days. Eliud Kipchoge's official mark of 2:01:39 from 2018 -- which Bekele came within two seconds of matching last month on the same course in Berlin -- is 4.09 percent faster than Dinsamo's.

I am hoping at this point that putting these distances in ascending order makes it clear that the records in the men's distance events have fallen by greater amounts with increasing race distance. There are a number of obvious issues with this rough assessment, among them the fact that the records listed aren't all from the same time frame (outliers in any sample will do that); otherwise, a graph no one will look at would be useful here. If one attempts to account for this to some extent by using Tergat's marathon record from 2003 (2:04:55), the drop from Dinsamo's record is only 1.51 percent, and the improvement level seen between the late 1980s and the mid-"oughts" in the 10,000 (about 3 percent) wasn't observed in the marathon until 2014, when Dennis Kimetto became the first man under 2:03:00.

I think the running world, of which I remain a mostly cognizant part, is coming around to the fact that the latest racing shoes really can make a phenomenal difference in the marathon on the right set of feet. That last disclaimer does a great deal of work, because most people who run marathons would be extremely ill-advised to run marathons in ordinary flats, much less something with zero cushioning at all. The runners who benefit most from the VaporFly 4% shoe are most likely those who are already extremely efficient, making this a case of the rich getting richer.

I don't know how much a factor EPO is on the roads, but I can say with confidence that most of the improvement in elite marathon times (and the improvement of the all-time top lists down to whatever ranking you pick) in recent years have been owed more to the shoes then to the drugs. I don't know if running will ever confront the issue of whether such footwear ought to be judged an unfair advantage, but unless they actually provide electrical power or something, they represent nothing more than one more clever engineering innovation. A few people my age will eventually start blare on about how much faster they would have been if better shoes had been available in their day, and anyone who hangs with other runners probably already knows which goon or two in the group will be the first to do so.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

More comedy from the Salazar suspension

File this in the overspilling drawer labeled Public statements that should have ended exactly one sentence earlier. From Sarah Lorge-Butler, to whom you should always devote your limited free RWOL clicks:

In sum, Sifan Hissan invites the reader to presume that she either knew nothing about the journalistic and legal investigations into Salazar before she joined the NOP or she didn't care and joined anyway; furthermore, she's basically admitting there's a shady pre-Hassan version of Salazar and that this one happened to be replaced by an upstanding one when she arrived. Maybe I am reading a lot into a few words, but I don't think so. I mean, what she's telegraphing, maybe without her own permission, might be more brazen: "Yeah, he's dirty. So are most people. If you think I am, prove it." Hassan appears uncomfortable speaking in public under any circumstances, and on the track generally looks like she wants to murder someone while trying to hold in explosive diarrhea at the same time; none of this is likely to temper this presentation one bit. What a goddamn shame.

Excellent comic timing

I haven't read this story yet and was just alerted to the headline. My own headline derives from the fact that the IAAF World Athletics Championships are being contested this week in Doha, Qatar, probably among the least hospitable heavily populated environments on Earth for non-sadists to stage distance races. My own motivation for seeing renewables replace oil, which won't ever happen, has little to do with the environment and everything to do with driving these nations into sufficient financial ruin to prevent world-class athletes from training full-time for four years to run a 10,000-meter final at 11 p.m. when it's still hot enough to fry the corners of your own balls on the track if you seat yourself just so.

It's important to throw out some of my initial reactions without assimilating or even perusing the details of the story, because I wasn't sure what exactly these reactions would be if the sport ever got around to sanctioning Alberto Salazar's program for perpetrating Trump-caliber excesses in plain view. (Well, it appears that my first reaction among these initial reactions is to liken the ethics of the Nike Oregon Project to that of the current White House. That doesn't feel like an inner conflict, praise Jesus.)

Besides, it's been a while since I rapped at ya, and if I weren't waiting on one thing I consider somewhat important by my standards, I would have posted a lengthy, tedious, and somehow captivating string of paragraphs at least a week and a half ago that would have included no distinguishing features except for exactly one strategic use of a word or phrase guaranteed to spike someone's blood pressure -- not always the same person of even an identifiable one at all. So this gives me an excuse to make one last Septemb...nah, not gonna make it at this rate.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Liberty Bell Invite results exemplify an ongoing Colorado youth bonanza

I closely follow high-school running in my home state of New Hampshire, and manage to stay on top of the rest of the New England prep scene as well (the latter partly by default; interstate competition is frequent in neighboring states that are all practically small enough to fart across on a clear, dry day). Now that I seem to have settled in Colorado permanently, I keep tabs on the kids here as well. But I'd like to think I'd be paying attention to Colorado high-school running anyway, because there are some notable things happening here at both the once-in-a-generation level and the top-ten-in-the-U.S. level. While Colorado appears to be enjoying an unusually strong ripple, I think the reasons for this are manifest in the rest of the country as well, and that these reasons fairly easily explain why we're seeing about the same number of superhero-level outliers as before, but quite a few more kids in the "extremely good" range.

At the Liberty Bell Invitational at Heritage High School south of Denver last weekend, an affair that ranks among the biggest regular-season cross-country events in the state if my guess is close, both the boys' and girls' already impressive course records were broken. Cole Sprout of Valor Christian, arguably the top prep runner in the country, ran 14:38 to break the 2007 mark by 13 seconds, while junior Sydney Thovaldson, now considered the second-most-influential woman in Wyoming behind Liz Cheney but overwhelmingly the more popular of the two, erased Brie Oakley's 16:43 standard from 2017 by three seconds. The finish line of this course reportedly sits at 5,466' above sea level.

I'll delve into the influences of the physical setting as a whole on the times at this event, but as a glance at the winners through 2015 reveals, some very talented athletes have raced at LBI in its forty-one year history. When future Olympian Adam Goucher of Doherty (Colorado Springs) broke the course record by over 18 seconds in 1993, the same fall he proceeded to rip a 14:41 to win the Foot Locker National title in San Diego, his blistering new mark was "only" 15:05. The next kid to get within even 15 seconds of Goucher's time was Brent Vaughn, who recorded a 15:16 in 2002 and went on to run 9:05 for 3,200 meters the next spring, a time that stood as the state record until quite recently and is now decisively held by Sprout. The next year, Ryan Deak of Smoky Hill of Aurora, at one time a veritable talent factory, was the first to break fifteen minutes (14:58); in 2007, Williams, who'd go on to reach FLN and run 8:51 for two miles at sea level the following spring, notched the 14:51 that had stood until Saturday.

On the girls' side, the erratic nature of the progression is even more evident. When Lize Brittin ran 17:50 at LBI in 1983, she broke the course record by 47 seconds, but the race was then only five years old, and it also may not have made her 17:36 the next fall seem as phenomenal as it proved to be, even if Lize did run those times in campaigns in which she placed 15th and 7th at FLN. Lize was the furthest thing from an open-road time-trialer as you'll ever find, so of her various course records from the 1980s, her LBI time would have looked the most vulnerable. But even as the race grew to include more and more out-of-state athletes, no one even came close. The first runner to go under 18:00 after Lize was Megan Kaltenbach of Smoky Hill in 2000 -- sixteen years later. In fact, Kaltenbach would win the race three times, with finishes of 17:40, 17:49 and 17:36.0. For good measure, in 2003, Katelyn Kaltenbach, also of never the hell mind because don't be a dumbass, ran 17:42 to put two extraordinarily hot sisters (as I would have seen them as a high-schooler, but not either in real time, when I was over 30, or now, when I am pushing 50) a total of about 31 seconds outside Lize's record in four combined tries.

As you can see from that PDF, which I won't link to again because I'm trying to get to the point as quickly as humanly possible before the missiles hit, the Smoky Hill sisters ushered in a new era (a phrase I just used on purpose because it should be abolished from the vernacular and is probably incorrect anyway) of faster winning times, but Lize's mark stood until 2011, when Eleanor Fulton broke it by less than a second. Then, one year later, Jordyn Colter of Cherry Creek (Denver) appeared to do the equivalent of hitting a baseball clear out of the old Tiger Stadium with a 17-flat. This meant that a record that had stood for 27 years and fallen by about half a second was now over half a minute in the dust. Colter would run 2:04.5 for the 800 and 4:41.1 for the mile as a senior in 2015, so anyone speculation that her record would stand for a good spell would have been reasonable. But in 2016, Lauren Gregory of Fort Collins ran an unbelievable 16:52 -- and lost the race by nine seconds to Oakley. You may remember Oakley running 10:09 to win the 2017 Colorado 5A 3,200m title (where Gregory ran 10:16; never, ever, ever again will a high-school girl finish second in 3,200-meter race at 5,560' with a time that fast, mark my or someone more reliable's words on that one) a few months after running 15:52 to set a national high-school indoor record in the 5,000m.

That sets the table for discussion of current events, now that I myself am sick of writing about them. I'm taking a break, but the rest will appear below the "Read more" link when I'm good and ready.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Coleman offered leniency owing to exceptional efficacy of doping regimen

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Citing the youth, promise, and above all remarkable success of U.S. sprinter Christian Coleman, the figurehead organization U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) declined to apply its rules and uphold its suspension of the decorated athlete from competition.

Coleman, who holds bests of 9.79 and 19.85 for the 100-meter and and 200-meter  dashes, was reportedly unavailable for between three and sixty random drug tests in a 12-month period between April of 2018 and this year. Coleman's lawyers, who candidly note being professional shit-sacks whose ideal ultimate fate is being found face-up, naked, and badly defiled in filthy roadside drainage ditches, were able to provide Coleman's sponsor, U.S.A Track and Field (USATF), with a plausible excuse to allow its wayward athlete to continue racing and typically besting the world's pre-eminent international dopers.

One of Coleman's attorneys, also an official in Nike's human development division at USATF's main offices in Indianapolis, expressed gratitude for the language intentionally placed in the USADA guidelines at the organization's inception that allows for especially successful dopers to continue competing after clear rules violations while allowing for the occasional sacrifice of over-the-hill talent to provide a veneer of concern for rules enforcement.

"Christian is young and doesn't understand that skipping tests outright is dumb and attracts attention," said the attorney, who was visibly intoxicated during the conversation and late for his third disbarment hearing of 2019. "He doesn't quite get that dirty urine goes down a biochemical rabbit hole if it comes from the right bladder. But the kid's only 23."

One of Coleman's trainers was more sanguine, emphasizing the willingness of USATF to limit its punitive doping-related actions to aging athletes whose real value is limited but whose name recognition suggests to the public that someone gives a rip. "They'll pop some American over 30 before Tokyo," the lawyer predicted confidently as he pleasured himself to a rare VHS video of Scrooge McDuck ejaculating into the face of an impoverished gosling. "Someone who ran 9.95 to 10.00 four years ago. It won't fool anyone, but it'll push enough attention back to the Russians and Turks so that we can absorb our own fucking carelessness. I mean really." The official said her real name was Ann and that the reporter could probably figure out her true identity if he wanted.

"Fuck this shit," a sprinter with knowledge of Coleman's thinking reportedly added sometime late last week. "I'll answer the door when I'm home and if I'm out, I'm out. I do what I need to do, which is what everyone does. Sadly, it's considered uncool to say that, so I won't."

Coleman, who is carefully being groomed for an eventual 9.65 on today's pharmacological aids but expects to break 9.50 in 2022 after a new class of rapid intramuscular kinase enzymes is secretly introduced, declined to go on record for this report.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Dear adults in the Runner's World editorial room

Last week, an article about the difficulty of breaking four minutes for the mile at high altitude and centering on an event at which I was present appeared on the website of Runner's World, the magazine that seems to boast the highest circulation among the few remaining print publications of its type. The article seems to have been published without any editorial oversight whatsoever. As in, the RW site, or part of it, functions as the author's personal blog, or did for the purposes of this mess. Another possibility is the editor who was supposed to review it was somehow compromised, maybe by a massive blow to the occiput to conclude a hilarious backward fall on roller skates after being drilled in the face by a love rival; I'm leaning toward higher-probability scenarios such as the author being the editor, or the transparent inattention and mail-it-in work ethic that appears to predominate wherever enough people congregate in an effort to produce a fitness periodical. Especially if enough of them are under 30.

With this post representing yet another opportunity to provide my jaded middle-aged perspective on the innumerable troublesome issues with contemporary running journalism (and facts per se as a matter of general relevance), I probably don't need to again explore the possibility that the entire running world, including you, me and everything actually not included in the set of things in the running world, is utter misery incarnate and in urgent need of violent dissolution by the most apocalyptic means imaginable, because we still owe Jesus more than the U.S. owes others. I could even suggest that without the existence of Alex Hutchinson, who is so much better than the rest us who have ever tried this have ever been, shows just how awful we are by showing that even the good ones sit in a cluster a solid delta behind Alex, and as result should either immediately strive to improve or immediately quit. As true as these things may be, though, they're hardly important, since I, like you, am weak and lack the means to do anything historically influential and downright vivacious such as amassing and constructing the necessary implements of doom without forgetting something important, like a trustworthy jackknife.

I could even offer a bland aside about how people's basic choices about how and where they seek and find their running and other information (or at least ideas) and how much they're willing to pay for it (note: This variable is "null" except in cases of extreme drunkenness or stone credit cards), but for whatever reason, magazines focusing on endurance sports are about as much of a growth industry as asbestos and saccharin, with Outside and Runner's World well outside of the top 100 in U.S. circulation and lagging behind various magazines you've surely never heard of. Runner's World's circulation is less than it was a dozen years ago, and the outfit appears to be trying to survive by selling even more garbage to naive and deluded readers than before, not that I would observe such a thing in a dry analysis like this one; Outside, like a number of companies, may be trying to expand its brand by focusing on things like Outside TV. Either way, the startling number of de facto place-holders who are now contributing to and employed by online and even print running pubs may represent a proxy for the incipient failure of whole components of businesses. If running articles are still being recycled after 20 years in circulation (like this "2016" example, published in print and online in 1999), demand for fresh content is obviously low, and what would original content outside of hi-tech product reviews even look like? Apparently like the story I decided to review over a period of days, not at the expense of work, but at the expense of 24, which is worse. RW is now putting its stuff behind a paywall, which is funny because if it's inaccurate or useless as a randomly chosen personal blog, it's basically worse than what you can see for free because of all the ads, every one of them a grotesque eyesore. And, yeah, I was going to link to the sources of some these claims, and maybe I went back and did, or will, but I decided to close all of those shimmering tabs instead because they were harshing my mellow.

More to create an interesting writing exercise for myself than out of some moral imperative, I will try point out the worst of the flaws in the article itself, with minimal editorial commentary to match this terse introduction, aiming for the perspective of a fact-checker who knows next to nothing about distance running and was ordered only to list the most glaring errors and biggest pieces of missing information. I know won't succeed in this, and will instead veer off into the weeds multiple times, as always, because bitching is just so easy. I will look this over when I'm done and maybe excise some of the more acidic output, and then I will remind myself that no one, no one at all, is listening, except for four distinct people who are madly pushing pins through the eyes of voodoo dolls who all look like someone who lives in my house.

But like I said, time to focus. This actually gets a little wonky, as Paul Krugman might say. (He writes for a bigger newspaper than this one.)

Monday, August 26, 2019

How to Beat the East Africans, revisited

I was poking around last night through my trove of musty Runner's World articles (all of which were actually written for Running Times) last night and decided to click on one I wasn't looking for from almost nine years ago. I decided to investigate this one because the title didn't immediately evoke any memories of having written it, the kind of lapse that happens with increasing frequency now that I live in a pleasantly beveled THC haze. I don't remember what I was actually looking for, either, come to think of it.

I had apparently once again gotten fed up with bad articles about running in mainstream publications (a tendency I'm thankful to say has since given way for the most part to attacking entire running publications themselves). In this instance, I was taking issue with the premise that American-born distance runners (to be interpreted in the traditional sense) should be able to beat East Africans with enough good old-fashioned American ingenuity, given that training didn't seem to be accomplishing this. Drugs were not mentioned, but should have been, since Alberto Salazar's name featured prominently in the piece and the ones I was attempting to rebut, or correct, or slander.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Instead of Tweets, Vol. 6

I haven't been blogging lately, but I've been dumping a lot of shit into this file or one like it, so I guess I'll publish some of it. ("Publish." Such a terrible pimping of that word, using it mean "spew words into cyberspace with zero editorial oversight.")

I have now run at least once for 20 minutes at a time every day since last Nov. 1. I've been doing lame doubles often enough this summer so that I'm sure I have quite a few more runs than the number of days that have passed (293). Despite this, I would be surprised if I have covered much more than 1,000 miles at a running clip. There are benefits from being consistent, and then there are people like me who basically try to claim fitness on what amount to a little under an hour a day of vigorous tai chi, and who would be better served by three well-structured intense runs a week and four days off were competitive aims near the top of the perambulatory priority list.

My general lack of participation in social media, and by extension my lower level of engagement with current events, has left me with a perhaps not surprising amount of free time and positive emotional energy (by my standards). As a result I have been spending more time outside and at least diddling with the outlines for some of my half-written stories, one of which has me legitimately excited. I am also probably going to do the thing that will bleed more time from my day (and there is still plenty to spare) and upgrade to a nicer keyboard, one that will produce better noise both because it'll be a better machine in general and because it will have the technological power to compensate for most of my mistakes.

Other than that...

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Instead of tweets, Vol. 5

  • The word "jogger" seemingly should have gone the way of "Negro" and "gal" by now, still tenaciously tumbling from the faces of especially old, sheltered or antisocial folks but nowhere else. Not because it's offensive, but because it's stupid. Yet the general media knows no other word besides "jogger" to describe a pedestrian who is not walking, crawling, hopping, or skipping, and we're always reminded of this when runners find dead human bodies, or otherwise bear witness to some kind of shit that has either degraded or ended someone's life. I am at times deeply disappointed to have never found a human corpse while running, or for that matter at any other time, with the most interesting unexpected find I have had during a jog being two people about my current age fornicating in a clearing in the woods of New Hampshire. (That happened when I was about ten years out of high school, a couple of miles from that high school, which made sense because both participants in these copulatory shenanigans were teachers there, and married. But not to each other, as I knew, or at least had good reason to believe, as a result of having had one of them as a teacher myself. That whole encounter could have gone darkly hilarious in a hurry because I had a loose dog with me who though disciplined, was naturally curious every time he saw a bare human ass thrust into the air, which, to be frank, wasn't all that often.)

    Anyway, I am convinced at this point that this "jogger" convention is not a journalistic convention at all but an inviolable rule. If Usain Bolt himself left the Olympic Stadium, a gold medal in each hand and one around his neck, and happened to see someone getting mugged during a private moment en route to his limo, and dashed over to intervene, the headline would read "Jogger Fresh Off Pair of Olympic Record Foils Would-Be Thief." Better still, say some unfortunate finalist in the Olympic 1,500 meters dropped dead after the start of the second lap. If his body were sprawled across the first two lanes when the field came around a minute later, if the announcers thought he was merely unconscious or play-acting, they would bark about the athletes having to hurdle him. But if they knew he was dead for some reason (say, his head had become separated from his body by an errant, whirling circular saw blade, which probably only happens in Naked Gun movies), they would cry with dismay that a group of joggers had just torn past a deceased victim of foul play with nary a concern for anything but their own unseen destination.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Fuckin' weirdo

I found myself looking at a fuckin' weirdo yesterday during my midday run, and what qualified the person as a weirdo (for present purposes only) is that she was looking back at me through a phone held up to and obscuring some of her face, in plain view of various others, ostentatiously following and apparently recording my movements for over a minute.

I was trotting north up the sidewalk along the eastern side of Manhattan Avenue in Boulder at about ten past noon, about halfway through an easy, clockwise-ish 25-minute run with Rosie, looping around the western side of East Boulder Park where the middle school and its track sit; in summer and non-school hours, these expanses are effectively extensions of the same park. This is my usual midday "Just in case I can't get Rosie out tonight" thing these days. Sometimes we do this twice, although we often run from home too. But the park has a big pond where Rosie can swim or cool off, a dedicated dog park if I want to take her in there to socialize, access to the unpaved part of the South Boulder Creek Trail, etc. It's flat, and if I want to I can do biggish loops entirely on grass, so Rosie's paws and my knee both like it there. Oh, and squirrels. And a big open field where I can set her off her leash with little worry so we can play fetch. It's almost perfect for my current recreational/exercise needs. The northwest corner of the complex sits about eight-tenths of a mile from my house, and that's where I usually park, just north of the track on a street called Tenino. People do this all the time in this neighborhood, all day long, so I don't know what was so special about me today.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Instead of tweets, Vol. 4

  • My running streak has now reached nine months. This means, above all, that roughly a third of the human ova fertilized on that day have become human babies, the vast majority of them within the past two weeks. One-third or so were eliminated by acts of God (e.g., they failed to implant in the uterine wall, or an accidental miscarriage took place). A few were uninvited guests who were quickly evicted when their intrauterine encampments were detected by the owners of the property. About a third are waiting to be born. At least that's what the stats say. Globally, about 1 in every 35 won't survive to see their first birthday, which is a big improvement on the past, assuming you see lower infant mortality as an improvement. I do. I also see a greatly lower number of infants overall as a good thing, but there is no effective or humane way to enact this, so on goes the circus.
  • I'm experiencing signs that I won't make it to a full year. I have been doing just enough unstructured fast running (faster than, I'm betting, whatever 3K race pace would be if I were stupid enough to establish it) to leave my legs tender without conferring anything in the way of additional fitness. I do think continuing to take iron will lead to feeling better overall and a lower likelihood of viewing competitive running and everything under its umbrella as a malignant, dreary and disposable enterprise. I hope that any moderation of my ideas thanks to a presumably rosier outlook does not cripple my uncanny ability to find and exploit the grisliest aspects of any experiences I might have and translate these foul perceptions into imperatives to shitcan civilization outright.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

SIM not provisioned

Executive summary: Thanks to a system glitch being experienced/perpetrated my mobile carrier, I can only be reached by e-mail at the moment. This "moment" could, per the carrier, stretch out for at least five business days. But, despite being a chance event reflective of nothing more than the mindless futility of everyday life, I can claim it a sign to take another decisive step away from the electronic mainstream, because after all, there isn't a single person out there I even like texting with or talking to live on a consistent basis anyway.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Asshole captured in action on doomed bridge

When you ride a bicycle on, or otherwise make use of, a shared public path, that part of the public that does not consist of your roving, slowly decaying, and nominally cognizant organic matter should be able to be reasonably confident that you will not in willfully engage in behavior that places their own stinkflesh at risk, however invaluable yours might be from an objective perspective. The same applies to people like me who take their dogs on these byways. Ordinary pedestrians, of course, have to maintain awareness and show consideration as well, but if I am out there running with a dog on a concrete strip visibly populated by a variety of other mobile elements, in my mind it can't be a "serious" run and I should be prepared to pull to the side at any time to let others pass when it is obvious I'm the one who's more likely the source of a potential problem.

All of this goes triple for certain segments of these paths, like the pedestrian bridge spanning the Foothills Parkway in East Boulder. This bridge is over 40 years old, and thanks to being plain worn out and out of compliance with ADA standards, it is being replaced with a tunnel beginning...well, now. City minions have marked certain trees in the park a quarter-mile up the street from my house and right on the west side of the bridge for removal and relocation, and in the fall they will start rerouting foot and bike traffic away from the entrance to the bridge and through the Blue Neighborhood to the north.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Instead of tweets, Vol. 3

  • One mark of true, far-reaching intelligence I have never seen mentioned is the ability to not only learn a second language as a teenager, but later become so proficient that you can discern good writing from mediocre writing in that second language. Ruben Sanca has this talent. As a monoglot, I am not sure how to internally evaluate this skill, but I think it;s impressive.
  • I imagine some performance-art version of Bitter Sweet Symphony where the "sex and violence" vocal part of the fade-out is voiced by a group of men and the "melody and silence" is a return volley from a female chorus across the stage. Imagine the costumes and the whole psychodrama that could be organized around it. Such an amazing and timeless song anyway, and one whose story underscores the wisdom that the world would be measurably improved if every lawyer in the entertainment industry tore his own shitgourd of a head off his neck, inverted it, and clumsily shit into the exposed foramen magnum and the pinkish, blood-ejaculating matter beneath before unceremoniously expiring. Except, that's a lie, because it would be one hell of a ceremony if anyone could pull that off. Sadly, too few ever try.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Instead of tweets, Vol. 2

  • When I hear the word "predator," I think of an animal with a menacing growl.Therefore, he term "sexual predator" provokes images of seedy old guys wandering the streets in trench coats and making "Gr-r-r-r-r" motorboat noises, hoping to ultimately molest or rape someone. Obviously, this is absurd, because no successful predator makes any noises if it can help it. 
  • Having quit the more chatterific forms of social media, I am a little slower to pick up on hot topics, frivolous and otherwise. But when I heard about FaceApp, which was released a couple of years ago but has generated buzz lately for some reason, I had to know what it thought I'd look like as a woman. (Everyone wonders the same thing. Women do too, by imagining themselves as other women.) It turns out I'd be far better looking than I am, because, perhaps with some aggressive yet delicate maintenance, I'd be Peggy Lipton, or at least Peggy Lipton taking an excellent and all-too-brief turn as Norma Jennings on Twin Peaks.

  • Last week, I ordered a new vacuum cleaner online for the first time, and couldn't wait for it to arrive. Not because I was living in filth, because no amount of literal cleansing of my environment could ever address the ghastly rot in the core of my hideous being, but because something is dreadfully fucking wrong with me. People with meaningful recreational lives don't even think about things like vacuum cleaners between the time they submit the order and the moment they see the UPS truck outside.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Instead of tweets, Vol. 1

  • This year's running of the Boulder West End 3K was last Thursday. They need to have separate men's and women's elite races at this event. For one thing, chasing a bunch of dudes who are mostly in the 8:40 - 9:30 range is not helpful when the first woman is lucky to break 10:00, as happened this year. More important, it would allow them to blast "West End Girls" the whole time. That one song is a good enough reason to own a modern musical keyboard.

    The local summer road race series always hammers home a bizarre truth: If a carbon copy of the fastest version of me (c. 2001-2004) showed up in Boulder and started laying down times commensurate with what I managed at sea level, that person would be considered a damn good runner. This is even though Boulder is considered a competitive running mecca and I myself was never good.

    This arises from the story here being the same as it always has in the Boston area, hierarchy-wise. Just as the truly elite runners based there rarely take part in the New England Grand Prix Road Series, the best of the best in the Boulder area don't usually line up even for "elite" races held here. I sometimes don't even know certain athletes are based here until I see their names in results in races that have taken place far from Colorado.

    (People may insist on training here, but it takes a lot of incentive to get world-class runners to actually race at altitude. One day, exercise physiologists and coaches will shake their heads, and in some cases their asses, at the idea that moving to altitude was generally considered a smart training tactic for endurance athletes born and raised at sea level, ceteris paribus, and wonder why no one connected all of the obvious dots in play in the current U.S. system.)
  • When I got into my car last Saturday afternoon, I had just learned that the windstorm named Barry had made landfall in Louisiana as a hurricane. When I started the car, and the first sound I heard was Deborah "Blondie" Harry's voice singing, "The tide is high, but I'm holding on." This was not a shock since my car's radio is always tuned to one of the startling number of stations in major markets that play nothing but 70s and 80s songs. I bet no DJs in New Orleans were loading up songs like The Tide Is High or anything by the Beach Boys at that point, but if so it could have been an honest mistake. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Outside Online is giving the Lifetime Channel a run for its money

That Outside Online has become source of thinly disguised clickbait is not a thesis any long-timer in the slapstick world of endurance-sports journalism would seriously dispute. It is perhaps to the organization's credit that people somehow expect it to survive while avoiding this practice, but avoid the scramble for traffic at the expense of quality Outside does not.

Every time one of its goons is assigned to cover a story with unusually transcendent ramifications -- and this year has already introduced several bona fide kabooms to the running world -- that person helpfully churns out a piece that is designed to do several things along the way to rapidly generating attention. The general formula is:

1. Assume a wounded tone. This never comes across as emotional labor.
2. Display evidence of shoddy or absent research, or otherwise misrepresent reality.
3. Quote a "big name" or two, even if their words make no sense in context or add no support to the general idea. For reasons that quickly become obvious to regular readers, try to rely on the same ones over and over.
4. Complain about how mean the anonymous jerks at Letsrun are, a true but facile observation that adds nothing and merely weaves vines of low-hanging, nameless fruit for the writer to grab for.
5. Propose no firm solutions, but suggest that you have pointed out a critical flaw in the psychodramatics of sporting culture that damn well needs to be solved. If possible, introduce possible nonwords like "psychodramatics."

As I see it, when a niche publication's bottom line isn't what its owners need it to be, its directorial team has a couple of choices: It can just eat mound after mound of excrement in full view, producing content that no one one either side of the journalistic transaction really treats as sincere, even if none of its content is actionable. Or it can take a more diabolical approach and pretend its output is 100 percent serious while posting piece after piece that doesn't pass sniff tests but is packaged strategically enough to fool most readers. In other words, it can be more like The Onion or the Borowitz Report and aim to primarily amuse, or it can adopt the Fox News model and aim to primarily misinform, depending on what the publisher sees as the clearest path to making (or not losing) money.

I think the result in this case more closely resembles the Lifetime Channel, and I have neither the motivation nor the ill will to explain this selection at this point. (It has nothing to do with my numbered list above.) But Outside, for the most part, has embraced moral outrage as its primary driver, complete with the Fox News tactic of smugly scolding everyone else to "prove" that its viewpoints are not only valid but uniquely superior, and continually quoting from the same pool of well-known but often blinkered athletes and observers to try to bolster its torrent of sophistry.

This tactic almost always fails even when it shouldn't, because most people are tired of "PC culture" (which means very different things to different people). When it requires tweaking reality or ignoring it outright, as it has with the Caster Semenya story and the one I'm writing about here, it seems to suggest that those running the publication have formally given up on running an earnest operation in the name of earning a living, because they have to know that, even in a world seemingly more powered by basic loathsome lying than ever before, the truth tends to prevail in same people's minds in the end. I suspect that this has led to a climate of combined embarrassment and hilarity amount the Outside staff and regular contributors*, because as bad as some of them have shown themselves to be at what they do, none of them are dumb. They know they fail at their core journalistic mission much and maybe most of the time. Perhaps they began their careers that way and were a good fit for the publication, or perhaps their cynicism only bloomed after they signed on. Almost everyone who wades into the publishing industry discovers, as do people in most other vocational sectors, that it is absolutely nothing like they wanted or expected it to be.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Linkless scrap heap

Imagine if the NFL playoffs had best-of-five and best-of-seven series, like other pro sports. Given that they would still have to wait a week between contests, individual seasons would stretch out into multiple years. The Super Bowl would be held every two years instead of annually and therefore assume twice the level of sporting importance, but at the same time it would also become a joke because rosters would become decimated throughout the endless postseason. Bookmakers would have no meaningful way to set useful odds. Of course I think this should be instituted immediately.

While running past an old folks' home the other day, which always makes me feel curiously guilty, I saw I license plate with the characters DTPANIC. I figure there are three ways to interpret this: Donald Trump panic, "Don't panic," or delerium tremens panic, the sort people experience while in withdrawal from alcohol. I was probably one of the few people I know who would have even though of the last one, but it was the first "explanation" that occurred to me.

I am going to have some things to say about the Frank Meza debacle in a subsequent outburst, which in turn will follow the relating of an uncomfortable personal experience that was timely enough to have even a skeptic like me looking for cosmic machinations behind the apparent coincidence thus produced. But one thing of the dozens that jumps out at me is that timing mats, while ostensibly a safeguard against illegitimate times, have surely made cheating more attractive to the members of a limited subset of deceivers: Those who are crafty enough to have the timing-mat data from the their faked marathons stand as the entirety of their "evidence" of fitness. That is, we've reached a point in this arms race where a bunch of missed mats in the results is all the evidence needed to identify cheaters; some of them have become sophisticated enough to work validity measures reliant on chip timing to their advantage. Catching these "organized" scalawags definitively this requires photo evidence, and in turn a measure of crowd-sourcing.

In the 1980s, no old dude whose form alone revealed he was plainly incapable of even a single seven-minute mile would have tried hopping out of the bushes onto the course in the last mile or a marathon and shuffled across the line with 2:55, give or take, on the clock. Not unless he was legitimately delusional or maybe hammered into the next dimension. People would have immediately called bullshit, and he wouldn't have been able to say "look at the data" while gradually slinking back to his private life, because no one would have been scoring the obvious shenanigans on the basis of the cheater's social contributions. At the same time, no one really gave a shit about masters' prizes. If I remember right, per RRCA guidelines, the divisions went masters (40-49), grandmasters (50-59), seniors (60-69) and veterans (70+). Which is kind of irrelevant, like all of this nonsense.

I may be going to watch the USATF Championships in Des Moines with a college teammate who lives up in the mountains west of here. As if there are mountains east of here. Well, there are, in Virginia. Which I miss, a lot, but not yet enough to consider pulling the trigger and migrating back to Roanoke thanks to the usual unspoken things that tend to keep people in place when they have both the freedom to gallivant around and an occasional defiant form of wanderlust.

I have been doubling on most days lately, mainly because it's gotten nice out. That means shorter runs during the day to keep Rosie from overheating (she never goes more than about 15 minutes without a dip in the creek, or maybe a trench) and usually a second one around dusk. None of this ever adds up to more than 60 minutes of near-jogging. In terms of fitness acquisition, I am basically just a racewalker who is constantly cheating, or in other words, a racewalker.