Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Monday, June 24, 2019

Kingmaker, talent scout or early bandwagon jumper?

None of the above, of course. I have achieved little in the way of personal success by any applicable measure, and have no noteworthy first-degree associations with ultra-high-achievers. But on a run earlier, I was considering the niches I have managed to stumble into over the years in the course of pursuing my pedestrian aims in the journalism world, if that's what writing about running even is or ever was.

If nothing else, in a number of instances, I was the first person to write an article in a "serious" publication about a then-unheralded athlete who later achieved greatness (or an already heralded athlete who far outstripped expectations). In the case of each athlete, today you can find a flurry of articles about all of these greats written by folks with far higher profiles than I'll ever enjoy. But I don't think you will find any that are older than mine that appeal in each instance to a national, or at least broader-than-local, audience.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Messaging and the purpose of blogs

I recently posted two videos, one showing the movement that led to the disqualification of a high-school distance runner from the Wisconsin State Championships 1,600 meters that I believe was unwarranted and the other displaying the athlete's mortified but understandable reaction to this iffy DQ. I was defending this kid, or at least saying she shouldn't be DQ'd and the fact that such things happen underscores why this sport is, in the grand scheme, hard to take seriously. A guy who sometimes links to me linked to the post, asking his readers to chime in. One of them admitted that he had no opinion about either the DQ or the sharing of the video, but was disturbed that I seemed, as usual, on the verge of "going postal."

I've seen such reactions from people before, and my response is not to become upset or scornful, but to look at the situation the way a writer should. In this case, I have wonder why most people manage to see humor for what it is even if many of them don't think it's funny, while others are moved to complain. (There is a nonzero chance that "Will" is someone I know, and is trolling me with this, but I would guess not.)

In a way, I see this aghast comment as an honest expression of "Will's" thoughts because he may have assumed I wouldn't see them (I have commented only once or twice on the blog that led him to me, and both times a while ago). But I will never stop laughing at people who serially seek out commentary from total strangers they claim is upsetting. If someone heaves something in your face and you don't like it, don't look at it again. If someone links to a site and you check it out and find it distasteful, don't go back. More generally, If you find yourself writing sentences that say, in so many words, "I keep inviting this one experience and that experience throws me off," then stop expecting yourself to learn to enjoy or at least tolerate whatever it is that chaps your ass.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Voices carry, a streak ends, and post-vanity recreation, in reverse order

Even the most attentive person who regularly uses a common walking/hobo-hiking/running/cycling path occasionally operates in ignorance of a threat to personal safety, or helps create one himself. This is a consequence of the unavoidable: No moving human manages to process 100 percent of the pertinent stimuli in a given environment. Little kids can dart onto the path between hedges in some places, and no one who exercises in public and covers ground at even an ambling pace can avoid unpredictable negative encounters with upright fauna, small and grown alike. Since we're all by definition ignorant at times, each of us ought to have a modicum of empathy for the entirely fucking ignorant, as we have at least dabbled in their life's toil, and even more empathy for the sort-of-benignly-ignorant species in between the generally alert and the completely oblivious.

An increasing percentage  the ignorant people I encounter, though, seem almost gleeful in their ignorance. Or at least indulgent. In fact, to borrow from a trite descriptor, no one is really "woefully ignorant" anymore, because no one seems especially woeful about knowingly transgressing the boundaries of others. A casual "my bad" flung over the shoulder is now a standard, acceptable apology after you've almost taken someone out riding your skateboard around a quarter at 50 miles an hour, the reek of weed and unwashed ass trailing a remarkable distance in your wake. That was partly gratuitous, but so is this whole post, blog, and universe.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Why you should never allow any child you care about near a track team

This scenario illustrates why every human being alive should be discouraged from participating in track and field.

The footage below is allegedly from the start of the 1600-meter run at the Wisconsin High School D-1 State Championships held the other day. The girl third from the right "false-starts" and was disqualified from the event outright, as the rules allow, if not always demand.


The aftermath of the disqualification is painful to watch, and I'm sure the other girls in her heat wished, in that moment, that she would desist from her goddamn tantrum and disappear forthwith. Still, I empathize with the angst of the disqualified girl, a senior with 5:08/11:01 credentials.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

A half-dozen running questions likely to stump almost everyone

Here are some questions you should ask runners for fun the next time you encounter one or more of them in person. They're no good for Internet situations because they're meant to put people on the spot, and the power of that is obviously diminished in online discourse because even the most flamboyant know-nothings in existence can usually make passable use of Google.

1. What is the purpose of a cool-down?

In most cases, you're likely to be told that it flushes the lactic acid out of your legs, or some such bullshit. The real purposes of a cool-down -- and I consider these benefits, just different benefits from the one the name implies -- are to pad the mileage log and shoot the breeze with your friends after a workout or race. Anyone who claims otherwise is ignorant or lying.

I mean, think about this. Do you really think there are situations in which running your car's engine makes it cooler than it was before instead of warmer? If not, consider helping me phase out this terrible term through the systematic shaming and personal degradation of anyone who uses it, even your mom. And trust me, if you're who I think you are, she does. A lot.

2. What are the proven physiological benefits of compression socks in distance runners?

"There are none" is the correct answer. Most people training to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trails are not simultaneously battling congestive heart failure and pitting edema. People report feeling sleek and aerodynamic in them, which is fair, but also not indicative of a physiological benefit.

3. What are the proven physiological benefits of compression sleeves in distance runners?

"There are none" is the correct answer. These are a natural enough descendant of compression socks, and the two of them together are an inevitability of the "sprint suits" from the 1980s, which according to one study might be worth about five seconds in a marathon, not accounting for the various inconveniences they would pose in such a setting.

4. What are the proven physiological benefits of "breathing strips" in distance runners?

See above. You have to be either superstitious beyond measure or completely clueless about how human ventilation actually works to even think these could help you. If Paula Radcliffe really did dope her way to her 2:15:25, then shame on her, but to me it's worse that she ever allowed herself to be associated with this scam.

5. What is the purpose of a carbohydrate-depletion and loading cycle and when is is needed?

Most people who champion "carbo-loading" know nothing about the underlying physiology. I still hear people -- most of them my age, actually -- talking about carbo-depletion as a precursor to carbohydrate-loading before intense long-distance (at least 1 hr 30 min, usually closer to 1 hr 45 min) events. Not exactly new research suggests that this is not necessary for most people.

And on the "most people" front, it's worth noting that most people who run marathons these days are not well prepared for them in relation to some theoretical maximum level, meaning that dietary considerations are further down on the list of race-day concerns than, say, a total absence of 20-mile runs, no weeks over 30 miles, etc. (I'm not roundly bagging on people for running races less than well prepared; I did this every time I raced last year, and though I probably should have been punished for it, I wasn't, except in the form of humiliating results. I am only saying that people should be realistic about what they gave and have not done when standing on the starting line contemplating their immediate future.)

6. You have a squirt gun filled with your own urine, and all of its contents are obligatorily discharged in a single squeeze. Faced with one person extolling the benefits of veganism for distance runners and a second person yammering about the utility of a ketogenic diet, who gets a face full of piss?

This is a tough one because it's tempting to reach beyond the parameters of the question and consider which group of people tends to be more annoying overall. I would advise not listening to either person unless you are planning to unleash a 90-second torrent of scathing invective inches from the speaker's face as soon as it stops flapping and it's your turn to speak.

Both of these practices can in fact help a limited number of diligent, careful people who happen to be highly competitive in certain niche endurance events. Most of you are stupid and slow (no offense -- I'm just playing the percentages here), so you should steer clear of overmanipulating the nature of the crap you shove into your mouth.





Friday, May 24, 2019

Closing the door on Outside

In contrast, it seems, to a number of other contributors (or "contributors") to Outside Online, I got my check for $200 for not being published there in rapid fashion -- astonishingly so, in fact. I submitted my invoice on March 29, it was reportedly submitted for payment on April 1 (yeah, yeah), a check was printed dated April 11, and at some point after April 19, the date of the postmark on the envelope, the check arrived at my house. (I say "at some point" because I only got back to Boulder yesterday evening.) I could speculate that the rapid response was in some way linked to circumstances perhaps unique to my interaction with the folks there, but instead I'll pull the "I brought it up by not bringing it up" trick.

So, since I was not actually published but was compensated for my labors, much of which consisted of blogging here, I have, as promised, donated the loot to those who are on the front lines of animal welfare. Instead of the ASPCA, however, I chose Outside Online's generous donation to go to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley.


God Bless the Living Jesus out of everyone involved in this wondrously wayward transaction, and if you want to try your hand at getting published in that increasingly comical online repository of randomness, I suggest interviewing Lauren Fleshman about her last dump, and describing in 700 to 800 words how sportswomen being unapologetic about defecating is part of the long-overdue empowerment of female athletes, or at least of female Twitter users desperate to be acknowledged and appreciated by Lauren Fleshman. (Credit for that one's core thesis goes to an unnamed faithful reader of the blog.)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The suicide-bomber tactics of East African dopers

Dealing with Kenyan dopers (including the mercenaries who are bought by Middle Eastern states) presents many of the same challenges as confronting suicide bombers: How do you stop someone who doesn't care about the worst consequences?

Jemima Sumgong (L) and Eunice Kirwa celebrate their juicy 1-2 finish after the 2016 Olympic Marathon in Rio de Janeiro. Both have since been suspended for doping; both are unlikely to be stripped of their medals. (Photo credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

While they and many others like them obviously prefer to not get caught, they're not really discouraged from worrying about it. A single major marathon win or high placing is enough to set up someone from a poor country like Kenya (average GDP in 2017: $1,169 in U.S. dollars) virtually for life. It's usually more than one race, though: The fairly obvious pattern is to dope like hell, ride the wave of a series of (often shockingly) great performances, and recede from view. It may take months or a few years for the inevitable drug positives to become known, by which time the caught runner has his or her money safely in hand.

In other words, it's literally worth it to a lot of the world's best runners to dope because they care a lot more about lining their pockets than avoiding shame. (Looks toward the U.S. Capitol) You see the same impulse in countless realms all around the globe, obviously.

All of this, of course, ignores the reality that a lot of athletes enjoy protected status, sometimes for their entire careers. This is not conspiratorial thinking, as anyone who has heard of a certain Texas cyclist and a well-known bike race in western Europe is aware. Anyone who thinks that shoe companies do not conspire with sports governing authorities to cover up doping by popular athletes who raise the profile of the sport is a fool.

So what's the answer? U.S.-only prize money at major American marathons would be going too far even if it ensured discouraging all cheaters and only cheaters. Targeting specific countries is a non-starter. There's probably not much do be done at root level because competitive human beings, at root level, like to cheat and cut corners and fuck each other out of resources, no matter who they are or what faith they claim to hold or what pursuit they choose. Not everyone, obviously, but a high fraction of the people driven to succeed.

I would never want my own kid to be a world-class runner, assuming such an unlikely organism were interested in running in the first place. I'd like to see her reach, say, the level of an NCAA All-American, but not be good enough to consider running professionally and be faced with the choice of other getting her ass repeatedly kicked by juiced-up Russians, Africans, Turks, and others or going on the magic sauce herself. Best to quit the sport and get a job doing something honorable.

Also, shitbags like Renato Canova are largely responsible for this. Anyone who listens to him or any of those fossilized Italian pricks who pretend to be "coaches" but are nothing more than fuel for the PED fire is sorely misguided. It sums up the sport perfectly that Letsrun, which has a full-throated anti-doping stance, has given this guy the title of "Coach" on his message-board login despite his years-long history of flagrantly, laughably inane comments about East Africans and doping. I'm betting the world will find out one day what a dirtball he is. And this has real consequences, because a lot of high-end runners and coaches like to follow Canova-style plans, which is highly questionable when you're not on an illicit blood-booster and sleeping all day when not training.

Finally, don't pretend the Ethiopians aren't in on this. They have always lagged a few years behind since the Kenyans came on the scene in big numbers in the early 1990s or so, and there are apparently some practical and political factors that makes catching them more difficult. Go ahead and believe that your heroes and heroines from that country are "cleaner" than the ones from Kenya while it lasts, because this illusion will be shattered before too long as well.

UPDATE -- 11:07 p.m. MDT, May 23: I'll blame this on traveling, but I left out the whole idea that gave me the idea for this post in the first place.

Doping positives should trigger the annulment of all previous WC, Olympic, and World Marathon Majors results by caught athletes, no matter how much time has passed. The IAAF won't do this because it would require too much admittedly messy work. But it's kinda their job.

No one really wants the reality of having to routinely reassign medals (not so much the actual pieces of metal, but the places) at unpredictable times, and extracting ill-gotten prize money would be a nightmare as well.

But it would accomplish a few important things.

At a minimum, confirmed cheaters would never be able to say, "I still am, and always will be, the 2008 Olympic Champion in XXX" or the like. And it shouldn't matter even if the caught athlete was in fact "clean" at such times (as if this could somehow be known anyway).

Runners should have to plan on maintaining whole drug-free careers or being remembered as, in effect, never having had a career as a pro athlete.

From a practical standpoint, yeah, this would be unwieldy. But I don't see a sound counter-argument from an ethical standpoint.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The revenge of the choppy, workmanlike gait

Before I get to the point here, I should observe something those of you who also blog have probably noticed about yourselves, too: The less I write about running -- be it here or in my past life as an occasional paid contributor to a bunch of now-dead or moribund magazines and their websites -- the more I enjoy my own running. I don't know if there is really a cause-and-effect relationship in play here, and if there is it may be bidirectional, because it seems just as likely that, since I'm strictly a recreational runner now, during periods when I am enjoying my jogging more, I feel less inclined to write about it. I feel no special need to announce that my aerobic therapy appears to be working even better than usual.

Also, I'm still on my road trip; in fact, I can barely call it that anymore, because as of tomorrow, I will have been gone for over two months, and overall, I've kept up and at times even increased the pace of my work (such as it is) in those nine weeks. Rosie and I have run every day for at least 20 minutes, although I am starting to curtail her runs with the increasing heat in some places. That means our mutual streak is up to 201 days. This is getting close to what I managed between the end of November 2017 and July of 2018, which ended in a knee injury that hasn't completely healed. One big difference: I'm running less than half as much as a was then. It's still a bad idea to not take days off, but I don't really care because having a streak to protect gets me, and thus a grateful animal, out the door.

So far, I have stayed in:

A motel in Colorado for two nights
A motel in Kansas for one night
A house in Indiana for four nights
A shitty motel in Bloomington, In. for six nights
A less-shitty motel in Bloomington for two nights
A motel in Kentucky for one night
A motel in Roanoke for one night
A house in Virginia for 24 nights
A house in Philadelphia for six nights
A house in Concord, N.H. for ten nights
A motel in North East, Pa. for one night
A motel in Columbus, Ohio for two nights
A motel in Terre Haute, In. for one night

I am really dreading the drive, because I have come to hate driving, and much of the journey will unavoidably include a large swath of the United States that should be evacuated of the few decent life forms it contains and then turned into a a giant, bland patch of mostly uninhabitable dirt...wait. Someone has already wrapped up that dubious project.

I have a couple more stops to make, but I should be back in Boulder in time to watch the Bolder Boulder 10K on Monday. If so, I think I have curbed my masochistic streak, or at least strategically re-channeled it, in such a way as to prevent me from running the race for a third straight year. It's kind of tempting, since I did place third and second in my age "group" in 2017 and 2018 respectively. But my times -- and moreover, running with zero heart whatsoever -- were and are enough to actually make me angry to the point of wanting to do something extreme, like mutter "What a fucking pussy I am" loud enough to make the sleeping dog next to me crack an eye open a few millimeters in passing curiosity before falling back into dreamland with an inaudible but suitably noxious fart. And like most people who ran too many pointless miles in their 20s and 30s (and possessed the grace of a marionette with muscular dystrophy to begin with) I now look like someone effecting a slow-motion escape from a psychiatric nursing home whenever I "race," or try to run hard at all, so I will choose to humiliate myself in other ways from this point onward. I hope.

Anyway, while I was in New Hampshire at the home of my friends Troy and Teressa, I discovered that Troy, a high-school classmate and teammate for our senior year, was even more of a thorough scrapbooker and record-keeper than I knew at the time, and I knew he was a collector. (He has enough signed Beatles and Star Wars memorabilia to open a museum, and his baseball-card collection alone has an estimated worth of $15.8 trillion.) But I didn't know just how little he missed. He may have missed nothing at all from the Concord Monitor pertaining to the 1987-1988 cross-country, indoor-track and outdoor-track seasons, which for me were alternately excoriating and satisfying.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Some of the dumbest stuff about elite track and field ever written (including blog posts)

I've written some misguided articles and blog posts over the years, but I don't think I could write one as bad as this one if someone paid me a few thousand bucks (probably the approximate compensation for this one, given the venue) to try. The title is stupid, the content is vapid and wandering and the thesis is inane. That the author is a skilled writer only makes all of this worse, because this prevents typical New York Times readers (e.g., educated people who don't follow track) from immediately discerning that the content is mostly nonsense.

I won't waste time diving deep into the various aspects of the Caster Semenya situation, which finally reached a level of urgency sufficient to compel action by the IAAF last week, when I can merely state the obvious in a few sentences: It's a difficult, emotionally charged situation for Semenya and numerous others, and for years Semenya has clearly not belonged in world-class women's events.

But who better to try to co-opt a difficult, emotionally charged situation than a writer intent on framing it as an issue of gender feminism?

Friday, April 26, 2019

Road trip or roving relocation?

Last year, having bought a used MINI Cooper over the winter from a friend at a fair price, I made a road trip across the country starting on March 31. Along the way, I stopped and saw friends in Columbus, Ohio, but was intent on getting to my destination of Concord, N.H. apace, because I wanted to make it there in time for the April 3 birthday party held at the home of the couple I always stay with in my hometown.

I did in fact arrive in time for that gathering, meaning that I completed the trip in about four and a half days. I was still almost three months away from adopting Rosie and I was also, in theory, still training to compete in running races. I was also planning to station myself at the 23-mile mark of the Boston Marathon for the fourth straight year, which I did (and the weather was so abysmal last year that I practically had Beacon Street to myself). I didn't run any races while I was there, although on the way back, I accompanied a friend to a 64-something at the Broad Street 10-Miler in Philadelphia. I stopped to see friends in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa, and after surviving the desolation of Nebraska and northeastern Colorado -- which is not as soul-crushing as the strip of I-70 that crosses eastern Colorado and Kansas -- I made it home around May 10.

















This year, I'm making a similar trip in terms of its timing (I left Boulder on March 21) and its general eastward direction. Running is playing a supporting, not starring, role. I hope to never be at the Boston Marathon again, and having confirmed that "masters racing" is an especially ugly and embarrassing form of being graded on a curve, I shitcanned the idea of goal-oriented running about six months ago. But I'm still an eager jogger, and since June I've had have a companion who loves both trotting with me and riding shotgun in the car to wherever we decide to jog when we don't start from our home in East(ish) Boulder. I also have a much more enjoyable and lucrative source of primary income than I did a year ago, which is the sort of thing that tends to happen when you have low-to-modest career aspirations (to me, not having to be around other humans while I work is not a perk but a requirement), have stopped pouring booze into the anus in the middle of your face, and have a have a decent flair for marketing whatever professional skills you've managed to develop and retain despite routinely applying a flamethrower to your own efforts.

When I set out on this journey, I did not have a fixed itinerary, with the only confirmed stops being the house of the same friend in Indiana on the way east and the house of same buddy in Iowa on the way back west. I was strongly considering swinging through Roanoke, Virginia, where I lived for a couple of years and enjoyed some great running circa 2003, and heading either north or south from there before starting the return leg. But the one-two punch of multiple automotive troubles resulting from the same incident and an off-putting experience in Indiana in the final days of March made even uglier by those car woes had me thinking while I was still in Bloomington that I'd be headed back to Boulder as soon as I got my headlight fixed. Boulder can be a maddening place even for someone who is untroubled by the fact that American society even on its best day is an irredeemable shambles, but it's my home now, and Rosie's as well, and the more I imagined motoring through a bunch of uninviting land-patches mostly for the sake of motoring, the more alluring the notion of lounging around on the Front Range became.

As it happened, I kept driving east after I got the headlight replaced, which cost me a modest $149. That was on March 5, and I'm still in Virginia, in no hurry to get home, though when the time comes I won't be thrilled to have to drive across the country's flabby, shit-encrusted midsection again.

Monday, April 22, 2019

I have favorite things

Alert readers may have noticed that I use this blog mainly to complain -- about me, you and whatever garbage lies between. I've made every effort to eviscerate myself and my own pitiful endeavors in the same unflinching, corrosive language I've devoted to other broken and failed people, places and institutions. This a challenging balance to strike, because many of my targets have proven so dismal that I struggle to find instances in which I -- even at my most malicious, ignorant and incompetent -- have performed as badly as they have.

Part of my silence lately is owed to having a discouragingly low quantity of irritants in my midst. Car issues made the long drive to the Appalachians stressful, but I got that stuff taken care of and am now ready to drive in a fully damaging way again, and burn as much gas as I can in the process.

As a result, while I continue to add to a post to sum up my road trip with Rosie (we're on day 33, happily winding up the Virginia leg of the journey at my cousins' place), I feel as if this is a good time to emphasize some things in the running world I like a great deal, or at least did back when I was misguided enough to consider anything in the running world important enough to actually rank on quality lists.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Outside invoice clock is ticking

It appears that remarking on the continued passivity of the most unprofessional editor I've ever worked with was sufficient to accomplish what my initial series of complaints about my dealings with Outside could not: I finally got a direct response. At the end of the day on Friday, the traditional time for cowards to do things they desperately wish they could ignore altogether, she sent me this e-mail:

Hi Kevin,

I wanted to circle back here and let you know that we've decided to kill this piece. As I mentioned in my previous emails, it still needs more work in order to be publishable for us, and given the emails I've received from you in recent months I'm not convinced we'll be able to work together on the necessary edits to get there. I never take the decision to kill a story lightly, and I completely understand that the long wait time on this piece was frustrating. If you send me an invoice for 1/3 of the original rate (our standard kill fee), I'll submit for your payment, and you can feel free to take the story elsewhere if you like.


Where to even start? I guess my response to her is as good a place to circle back to as any.

Hi Molly,

Rather than waste more time litigating every dishonest observation and presumption you managed to pack into a one-paragraph e-mail, I'll settle for being relieved that this fiasco is officially over. Besides, you've taken zero responsibility for your assorted screw-ups with up this project, so I wouldn't expect you to start now, and I doubt you do more than scan my messages at this point since you already know how you'll respond.

My invoice is attached, although given your accounting department's reputation and the fact that I'm 49, I'll probably be dead before the check arrives (not that the money was ever an important aspect of this).

As you can see, she didn't admit that she had already seen me take the story off the table and describe in florid and irrefutable detail the events that had compelled me to do this, which I would bet any amount of money is true. So I didn't either, taking this as permission to keep it up. But if she had merely told me, "We've decided not to run the piece" and left it at that, without even offering a kill fee, I would not be writing this. But trying to pin the blame for this on me was a bad idea. So here goes.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The shit-processor: Part 2 of why running is no place to achieve (the good kind of) fame


I imagine the everyday American media consumer as consisting almost entirely of a round, anus-like construct between two and three feet in diameter and about six to eight inches thick, pulsating and pink and ringed with exactly the kind of inelegant detritus you'd expect to find on the fringes of a less-than-perfectly-tended bunghole. This repugnant disk -- and hell, let's just call it an asshole for ease of description -- serves as the nominal head of the beast, and is centered about five feet off the ground, supported by a single stork-like leg; the ostensible purpose of this is to keep the asshole from rolling away on terrain that is not level, but its primary function is more sinister.

In case you haven't gotten the picture yet: The typical human being you see on the street is basically a 150-pound flesh-colored Dilly Bar with an extra stick, with a winking, rasping shit-pore smack in the middle instead of a nodule of chocolate coating left as a marker of the manufacturing process.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The "sport" of distance running will never be popular (and why this is mostly a good thing), Part 1

Since you've all been refreshing this page dozens of times a day to check for a follow-up to my posts(1, 2, 3) about my experience with the ever-more-decrepit and hopefully moribund Outside Online, the only response from their end was an affirmation that no official response would be forthcoming. At least that's how I interpreted this:


Remarkably, she has managed to convince herself – or so it seems – that my posts were just out-of-the-blue random vitriol, and that the various coaches and interviewees involved in the mess at my end basically do not exist or do not have legitimate concerns, possibly because none of them happen to have ovaries.

To sum up the events:
  • Editor approves query and assigns article
  • Editor does virtually zero work on the piece for nine months while dispatching a series of e-mails intended only to placate the sender
  • Article progressively loses relevance thanks to shifting issues specified at various points by the writer
  • Writer loses patience and flips the game board
  • Editor sees (wholly predictable, in my view) response 
  • Editor apparently figures with a sigh that if nothing else the angry writer has solved the problem for her, giving her license to "just sit this one out." Honestly.
More than establishing that this editor is globally useless – in fact, while she may be lazy, dishonest, and even cowardly in her official capacity, she is far from stupid and has written some solid stuff outside the running milieu, which I will leave to you to locate because I am not out to either Google-bomb or help anyone here – the way this all unfolded implies exactly the kind of passivity and torpor that writers who have flitted around this pitiful industry for a while have come to expect of the staff of any publication or website where running plays a prominent role.

The reason is simple: Very few people in America besides distance runners give a shit about distance running as a "sport," and you can safely bet your trivial and banal life that nothing will ever change this. As a consequence, those working in managerial positions (including editors) at these publications have no extrinsic impetus to display competence, let alone excellence, at their paying jobs. Many of them are busy concocting grander fitness-world plans for themselves, which is cool and all, but in most cases these ideas are pipe dreams at best.

I'm on the road now with Rosie in a banged-up car, having just driven through parts of the United States with problems that would be best solved by carefully excising these places with a trowel the size and shape of Tennessee and catapulting the whole manure- and Jesus-laden mess in the general direction of Cassiopeia; I also have my own actual work to catch up on. So the bulk of this will have to wait.


But do keep eagerly refreshing the page, hundreds of times a day, as the next installment will focus on the main reasons women's athletics are unfortunately given the shaft, a discussion of how not even the sort of tawdriness that draws a few new fans into niche sports can boost the overall profile of track and field, and a review of a few athletes who would be considered international demigods if they were major-league team players instead of highly proficient joggers. Sadly, it will even mention Dean Karnazes, who may or may not be alive and running these days.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Vigilantism looks better and better every day

I'll try to describe an event that took place on Saturday without littering it with too many editorial comments en route. That way, I can pack almost all of my unrestrained hate into a few dismal paragraphs at the end, where all of you who read that far will be punished for your morbid fascination with the words of someone who fantasizes about depositing all but nine of you into massive porta-john and launching it toward the moon, using powerful binoculars to ensure seeing the septic projectile smash into the surface of our only natural satellite with lethal force amid a silent but awe-inspiring explosion of shit, plastic, bungwipe, blue chemical, and -- count on it -- a few stray cell phones.

I left home at about 11:20 to watch the Jerry Quiller Classic, the first of two home meets the University of Colorado hosts every spring. Because C.U. (and it really should be "U.-Col," in the spirit of "U.-Conn," since nobody asked) doesn't enter its best runners and no good teams show up -- which understandable because the college indoor track season officially ended just a week ago and  mid-March rarely presents good racing conditions -- this would be an easy one to pass on watching. But a lot of my friends were entered, it was actually nice out, and Rosie likes to be out from under a roof and moving around as much as possible. So a cheerful obligation this became.

Although Potts Field is only a mile away on foot and I run past the track early in my runs (meaning, near the beginning the middle or the end) at least once or twice a week, I decided to drive over in jogging garb and do a run at noon, after the 1,500-meter races and well before the other distance events. (When one usually considers 5 miles to be a full day's work, one finds the challenge of "squeezing in" runs laughably easy.)

As is often the case on somewhat ill-fated adventures, this one started off on a series of positive notes, which I believe amounts to a positive melody or at least an optimistic arpeggio sound. (Just as often, people who run into problems describe everything in the previous hour as some kind of omen. Retrospective analysis is great because anything you think might be correct, you can declare true by incontestable fiat.) We did the first part of this on the Skunk Creek Path east of the track, then merging onto the Boulder Creek Path and heading under Arapahoe Ave and the Foothills Parkway. We jogged along with some people who had just raced and some others who were going to. We met John and Linus, one of whom is a dog named after a scientist and the other a chiropractor with a 3:42 1,500-meter best. The day was cloudless and almost breeze-free and the midday sun was warming the air quickly.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

When life is a living hell

...because App Satan is destined to ensure that you never get to say the words "I walked three miles" and really, totally mean it.


This comment thread continues to be an absolute gold mine of people trying to outdo each other on the First World Problems scale. Every once in a while someone who is clearly on the autism spectrum checks in and fucks it up by giving a clear view of just how painful this "gimme my hundredth of a mile in real time" stuff actually is for some folks, but for the most part it's a joyless merry-go-round of some of the strangest grievances I have ever seen in this terribly disfigured running world of ours.

I have a friend who says cyclists are far worse about shit of this nature, so it's reassuring to know that as always, there's always a layer of slime separating runners from the bottom of the sporting barrel, now for the most part a large cask of drug-soaked piss.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Orts aplenty

On the first Friday evening of 2018, a couple of bastards from Texas tried to screw me. This was not a complete surprise; bastards (and here I mean this word maliciously, not descriptively or even truthfully) are everywhere, and bastards, at least by my definition, attempt to sexually penetrate others with tiresome regularity. In this respect, and indeed in others, they resemble fuckers; some even dabble in motherfuckery. Just yesterday, I tracked the bastards* down and shot them both in the back of the head, double-tap, splat split, with a plastic pistol loaded with my own septic urine, and now the show is over; every falsifiable sentence in this paragraph is true except for this one.

Now that I've weeded out the lightweights, some quick background: I just replaced the mirror that was mortally wounded in this episode, and was reminded by the crass negligence of the unknown perpetrator of an incident that took place at about 7:30 on a Friday evening early in the 2018 yare. In that instance, I was at the wheel of a friend's car and, while preparing to ease out of a parking spot onto the quiet street, was lightly side-swiped by a passing minivan. There were no witnesses. Neither I nor my passenger, the car's owner, was hurt, and it was unimaginable that anyone in the other car was, either. My friend either called the non-emergency police number or stuck her head out the window and yelled "NEED SOME FUCKING COPS OVER HERE, PLEASE!"; I think it was the former, but as fucked up as I was on bath salts, my memory is shaky, other than knowing with certainly the precise details of the incident I am describing here. I do know that my friend had put me on her insurance policy at some point because I drove her car so often, but this turned out to be irrelevant.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

"This one got a little stalled" (or: Pulling the plug, part 2)

Were my editors mostly lazy about dealing with my article or mostly lying about planning to publish it in the first place? You decide! (Feel free to present other possibilities for me to shoot down.) And if you get stuck, try this: On December 10, two days after her last look at the Google document holding my article draft, the main editor launched a women's running online newsletter. That's great! Except when you're already shirking your duties at your day job and telling your freelancers your Outside plate is perpetually far too full to keep up with. (Some people can do more than one writing-related thing at a time; others plainly can't.)

Since my first post about this just two days ago, input from a number of readers with personal and second-hand experience suggests that having business dealings with Outside almost invariably comes coupled to various degrees of misery. Somewhat more to my surprise, it seems that Outside's star has fallen drastically in the eyes of most longtime readers since the current crew took over and decided that, among other things, the fitness world needed its own version of Jezebel. And to the extent that anyone in a position to at least put a tourniquet near the wound even hears of these gripes, I suppose they could attribute this apparent shift in popular opinion to people like me being too old to appreciate their jazzed-up mission, but they could also consider the possibility that they've been systematically ruining a formerly esteemed source of real information, and are forcefully unprofessional in any case.

If it's typical for people to not get paid for almost six months after invoicing Outside, I'm guessing one of one or more things will happen soon. The will either pay their freelancers less, which they can easily get away with because as it is they're running garbage a lot of up-and-comers would happily barf up for the publishing credit alone (and to be fair, $600 for 700 or so words in this industry is generous, although it's far less so it's never actually paid); they will shift their model away from page views- or clicks-for-revenue toward something else, and simply run fewer articles from random writers; or they will get really drunk, tell each other falsely "We tried our best!" and proceed to burn the offices down for the insurance money, which will then arrive 171 days late. 

Ironically, the only things I'm tempted to be embarrassed about concerning this whole fiasco are how polite I was in my e-mails after about the first four months of this shit, and the way I effused dishonestly over unremarkable feedback in in effort to get a mediocre editor to run the damn piece. I think, though, that the lack of a basic acknowledgment of my message from the editor-in-chief was really what bothered me the most; that's just a classless move, one no one would have gotten away with before social media came along and normalized being unproductive as hell at media jobs.

I should invoice the company just for the thousands of words I dedicated to trying to get meaningful attention from this bonehead.

When I look back on this, I expect my predominant source of aggravation will be having talked at length to so many people who believed, rightfully, that their words and efforts would appear in a media outlet and therefore not be wasted. Because of this editor's airy inattention to the entire show, I contend that she has screwed all of them over as well.

On a final note, I know exactly what the fatal flaw with my piece was, and there is absolutely nothing I could have done to facilitate its publication other than change some of the names of the people involved. I have left clues about this, but anyone who has already gone even partway down the rabbit hole with this knows what I'm talking about.

From: Kevin Beck <kemibe@gmail.com>
To: <M****@shitmag.com>
Tue, May 29, 2018 at 3:18 PM

Hi M****,

**** tells me you're the go-to person for pitches. I'm a former senior writer for Running Times and have been a frequent contributor to other outlets that. like RT, are now either dead or moribund. It's somewhat surprising that Outside has come to feature the best running content of any of the remaining publications, but with RW having morphed into a version of SELF or Prevention, I'm thankful!

My idea is perhaps not what you're generally looking for, but I do think it's a story.

Running is disappearing from the U.S. conversation; the early promise of the internet to help raise its profile is being compromised by consolidation in the streaming world that’s making it harder than ever to follow the sport, even at a grassroots level. Track fans are sliding toward endangered-species status. But while distance runners and their fans often bemoan the low visibility of road racing and track and field, but in the finest American tradition, complaining is about all anyone does.

In New Hampshire, an unlikely alliance of involving coaches, a running store, and a timing company has produced a heartening situation: A pair of websites created in recent years by active high-school coaches now offer free live-streaming of all of the New Hampshire state championship meets as well as a host of midseason invitationals. Often, commentary is provided by a blend of current coaches, recently graduated (e.g., collegiate) NH athletes, and people's parents. They do a slew of interviews. It is all centered on a positive presentation without it being nothing but a series of vacuous promos, if that makes sense.

The webcasts are pretty sophisticated, with onscreen clocks and, in the case of cross-country, multiple cameras set up at different point around the course to capture entire races. And in a wag-the-dog aspect of all of this, kids and coaches are actually using the webcasts to scout each other and plot race strategy.

I don't know if you've heard of Flotrack or MileSplit, the for-profit, ramshackle operations who have a near-monopoly on streaming events these days, but NHTrackAndField puts what they do to absolute shame, and again, at no charge. That itself is a big deal.

I'd like to write about exactly how this came into being, because it could serve as a model for others to follow. The big ideas are that 1) the coaches and others behind this are dedicating enormous amount of time to this with no promise of monetary reward (or more accurately, a guarantee of no financial reward) and are doing so because 2) their goal is to greatly elevate the profile of track and field/XC and the kids who do it. And it's working, albeit in a state with 1.4 million people.

Let me know if this sounds like anything you're interested in, and if not I am sure to pester you with other ideas in due time. Getting Alex was a huge score for Outside, but you have others doing fine things in the running realm as well.

Kevin
--------
On Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 1:10 PM M**** wrote:

Hey Kevin,

Thanks for the note and the kind words! I do think there's a story here. (I'm actually from NH, so that may have biased me just a little.) I think this would work best at around 1200 words, largely how you described it: first, detailing the efforts in NH and tying that back to the broader issues we see in the sport and what the rest of the running community could learn from this subculture. We generally pay $600 for stories like this one. How does all that sound to you?

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns!

M****
--------

Monday, March 4, 2019

Inside a movement to elevate youth running

This was originally supposed to be appear in Outside Online. As I've explained, I decided I wasn't going to wait forever for the editors to get around to publishing it. And this is not a purely spiteful move; even after accounting for my obvious resentment, from a practical standpoint, developments over the past nine months have rendered the piece almost worthless. To name just one, Flotrack executed a "takeover" of the webcast of the Massachusetts All-State Indoor Championships on Feb. 23 that BaystateRunning.com was originally going to produce (I don't know the details). I was not surprised, but if this piece had run last summer or fall, it might not have altered this or related outcomes, but it may well have given people some ideas and catalyzed communication between coaches and other players in different states.

Outside doesn't operate using contracts, which is only one of its endemic editorial problems, so I'm not in violation of anything here except for possibly exercising bad judgment in throwing away the $600 they ostensibly planed to pay me for my work. Besides, the accounts payable side of Outside is apparently as dismal as its editorial arm.

I actually gave up months ago on Outside publishing this in a timely or usefully edited manner, but for a while afterward, I continued to grudgingly acknowledge that if I deep-sixed the arrangement, far fewer people would learn of the efforts of the people profiled than if I contained my exasperation and waited. After all, Outside may want for competence, but it offers a far larger platform than this electronic urinal ever could.

Then I admitted: No one outside the region in question really cares anyway. Men and women who have been involved with youth running for a long time might appreciate the occasional spotlight being shined on their efforts, but it's not what motivates them. Anyone who has ever coached high-school sports gets this.

I hope everyone understands how absurd it is to have a piece accepted for publication by a paying, professional entity ($600 is not chump change in the running-writing niche, which is to the greater world of publishing world what Top Ramen is to fine cuisine). As I noted in the chain of correspondence between myself and the editor that I will post as soon as I decide what, if anything, to redact from it, even when I was writing for print publications, I never experienced anything remotely close to this level of delay, neglect and all-around bullshit. I expect Outside to eventually be purchased by a Chinese billionaire and somehow made even worse as a result for everyone but the dickheads who own it.

Anyway, enjoy!


American running fans usually accept that their sport represents a very small slice of the media pie. For example, ESPN’s 2018 list< of the 100 most famous names in sports didn’t include a single track and field or road-running athlete, and neither did their accompanying list of the 25 most famous sportswomen. And unsurprisingly, traditional outlets haven’t jumped to seize broadcasting rights to most track and road events, with the exception of national championships.

As a result, most live-streaming of the sport happens on a trio of sites: FloTrack, NBC Sports Gold, and USATF.tv. As a rule, running fans aren’t happy with either the pricing or the output, citing grievances ranging from announcers’ bad math to the quality of the video streams. As former pro runner Lauren Fleshman tweeted earlier this year: “Did the math, it costs $339.86 (including a discount going on right now) to watch track and field per year between three digital subscriptions.”

In the state of New Hampshire, which has a population of 1.4 million, a unique experiment aimed at addressing these issues got underway a couple of years ago. A coalition of coaches, business owners and parents began producing and delivering high-quality Internet streams of many of the state’s high-school cross-country and track meets -- and at no cost to viewers. Lest this be seen as a limited undertaking suited for a small state, it’s vital to note that the motivation for this -- to elevate the profile of youth running and legitimize the efforts of the kids and their supporters -- is universal among running fans, and that the model has in fact already spread.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Pulling the plug, part 1

This morning, I somewhat mysteriously lost a draft of a "potpourri"-style post that would have detailed a range of uninteresting topics. There was a section describing how painful it is to watch track announcers try to give splits and projected times in a mile or two-mile race held on an indoor metric track, because almost no one gets this right. There was a passage about how funny it is that Ohio and Colorado are in the same Foot Locker Cross Country region, and how two kids who live in cities connected by I-80 over 1,600 miles apart, Grand Junction and Youngstown, could meet at the Midwest Regional Championship held every November in Wisconsin. There was a brief and pointless analysis of some heartfelt garbage assembled by a religiously ailing cretin who recently found this place and, after dribbling a bit of his opinion-spooge into a comment, decided to have a full-on blog-wank to his own various misapprehensions; talking to or even about people that brain-dead is generally a bad idea anyway, because a lot of them are charged with that special-needs brand of persistence that keeps people arguing well past the point where they should have pounded about a gallon of Drano and put themselves out of the Internet's misery.

It's just as well I lost all of that shit, because it was just more noise. Harmless, but as superfluous in the grand scheme as the rest of the jibber-jabber my feeble hate-scape of a mind has concocted and my fumbling fingers have then converted to a form most of you can cognitively process, albeit to a shockingly limited extent in some cases, and in a way that leads some of you to respond in ways that make me wonder if, and how, you manage to feed yourself unassisted, and what sort of grim detritus would be found caking your unkempt anus if someone were ambitious enough to investigate.

I have long assumed that as long as my relationships with my friends and family members were up to snuff, I wouldn't agonize about how painfully incompetent, dishonest, or malicious Earthlings as a rule are. You don't even have to be capable, wise, or decent yourself to grasp how feckless this species is, and to appreciate what a dangerously rotted branch it represents on the evolutionary tree. Sadly, by the time we manage to do something righteous for once and wipe ourselves out, instead of just sawing that one deadweight branch off, we'll take out the whole goddamn forest and leave our morbid ass-prints behind for the next round of creatures to ponder, should they ever emerge from the smoldering 60-million-square-mile landfill we bequeath

Obviously, this is not the case, and probably wouldn't be even if I were a zillionaire with no need to interact at all with anyone else on a "professional" level (and I'm using quotation marks to emphasize the fact that money changing hands alone doesn't make a transaction "professional"). I would still hate society even if I could become as detached from it as possible without actually being institutionalized or killing myself, and I'm counting on escaping this shitshow via the latter route, though not imminently. And you can all relax, because as much as you probably deserve to be culled from the mammalian herd, I am not the sort of dickwad who dreams of taking others out out of spite. This is not because I am a humanist; it's because life is a prison and I find more pleasure in the idea of shit

All of which is a preamble to describing a situation that began as annoying and has since progressed to being dully infuriating and a howl by turns.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Boys in girls' races

"Boys don't belong on girls' sports teams" is about the most noncontroversial assertion imaginable. Yet in a country where unpopular positions are invariably rewarded because someone, somewhere, is always quick to equate fighting the social tide with righteousness and courage, it is.

There is no need to pedantically explore the differences between being biologically intersexed and choosing to conduct oneself as a member of the opposite gender, or between formally transitioning from male to female and choosing to conduct oneself as a member of the female gender. I understand that some people experience an undeniable conflict between the sex of the body they were given and the one their minds are compelled to identify with. Neither of these issues justifies boys competing in girls' races.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

If cheating in races is widespread now...

...what about in the pre-chip mat, pre-GPS days?

Mid-race timing mats, which have been a feature of most major marathons for close to 20 years and now routinely crop up even in smaller, shorter events, are a handy way for PC and smartphone users to keep track of runners' progress on the course. But they are also a reliable, if imperfect, way to make sure that runners who wind up in the finish chute have actually run the whole course. Similarly, GPS watches and the websites that display the data collected therefrom are an easy tool for sharing workouts online for the benefit of coaches, rubberneckers and potential sexual partners; they are also helpful in determining whether someone did or did not complete a claimed run.

A fellow in Ohio named Derek Murphy has been operating a website for a few moons now, Marathon Investigation, with the aim of rooting out course-cutters, bib-swappers and other malignant elements as well as confirming the occasional disputed but legitimate finish. I won't dive deep into anything on the site, but understand that Derek, who does this work in his spare time, has been placed on a pedestal by the running community at large while becoming a target of vitriol of the cheaters he nails. At least one such cheater recently used an unjust accusation of copyright infringement to have, Derek's site pulled offline for a brief spell (the general practice of ISPs is to treat such claims as legitimate until shown otherwise, making them a useful tool for spiteful pieces of shit to temporarily scrub evidence of their malfeasance from the Web.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Status quo

Another week, another few incremental slips toward the bottom of the pit of nihilism, which is of course as deep as one chooses to envision it. But first, the crap you didn't come here to see.



Thursday, February 14, 2019

Mirror mirror

Someone took out my driver's side car mirror one evening in the wake of a snowstorm last week. I found the wrecked remains of it on the ground the next morning. There was no note, of course, or anything else in the way of apology or acknowledgement. Just the evidence that some filthy fuckface had made his mark on someone else's life in a way that is all too typical of the diseased members of this feckless species.

I take solace in knowing that, unless this person dies suddenly -- a statistically unlikely scenario, but one I can passively root for -- he will be lying in his own excrement one day, enfeebled by age or disease or both, and terrified beyond measure because he fears, correctly, that there is no afterlife and that that he will soon be nothing but a decomposing, stinking, and forgettable mess. His stupid brain will race with panic as he accepts that he was a failure for decades on end and a morbid stain on an already putrid world, and that people only wanted him for whatever money he had, just as he only bothered with others so that he could try to divert resources from them in turn.

Hopefully, he will be overwhelmed by knowing that, inasmuch as anyone will remember his sad and ugly face at all, he will be recalled as utterly stupid, replaceable, and unlovable, as is true of almost all of us. His ebbing spirit will fray as he grasps that his existence was as unsolicited as it was pointless and undeserved. If he has children, he will have unquestionably helped fuck them up and turn them into whatever gibbering inadequates they became in their own right; if he had a job, he was probably a substandard employee who could and should have been replaced by either a machine or a literal moron. He should have become an incidentally miscarried splotch of mucus or an actively aborted zygote, embryo, or, for all I genuinely care, 38-week-old perfectly viable foetus. He may have been a country music fan.

To those of us who fail to hold a great deal of concern about whether we make it through any given day alive, annoyances are almost worse than crises because they aren't sufficiently distracting. When I was routinely setting fire to whatever prosperity I had managed to achieve in life, I rarely had time to stop and ponder the absurdity of this fucking circus. Consider the sheer lunacy of supposedly sentient primates regarding this whole awful shitshow of humanity and actually thinking, ceaselessly by the millions: "Let's bring another human victim or two into this fucking nightmare! We don't have the couple hundred thousand it'll cost us, but who cares because vanity!" Now that I am sober and stable, the same basic abhorrence for simply being here and having to participate in this ruinous scrum (I expect to die by my own hand someday, just not yet) that I have always held is a more insistent force, as I am no longer trying to assemble the elements of basic survival.

In short, if nothing else, I comprehend why I drank so destructively all along: I don't like being here, and I don't like the way I or pretty much anyone else behaves. Yes, I have a special distaste for certain themes and practices, notably toxic Christianity (right down to the fact that these malformed dunces seem to be incompetent at everything besides breeding, that great equalizer, the one thing abject fish-eyed dipshits can do as well as anyone else).  People as a rule are incompetent, life is a series of annoyances, and no one should be sorry about the prospect of leaving the world.

This has nothing to do with running other than giving me reason to note that running is the only thing that takes some of the sting out of being here. I don't even have a difficult life and never have, and my unhappiness today stems entirely from my own bad wiring. But I didn't fucking ask to be here and I deeply resent ever having taken part in this shit, and I offer no apologies for saying as much. People and their habits as a rule are fucking disgusting.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Sports "diets" are about the process, not the outcome

That's a basic statement of fact, not an indirect endorsement. Put another way, it means that, in my experience, people sign on to "diets" not because they have good reason to expect stellar results, but because it gives them a point of focus shared by thousands of others at any given time. If enough people are engaged in a given thing, jumping on the bandwagon may not better your life, and it may not even be medically or psychologically advisable, but you'll automatically gain a bunch of new de facto allies. The pursuit in question may be watching Real Adultresses of Botox Junction, summiting a specific group of mountain peaks wearing only a cowboy hat, or deciding that vaccinating your kids will cause them to be even more fucked up than you are.

Many have suggested that were it not for parents instilling religious ideas into their kids' heads before their brains are old enough to respond critically, the whole scheme would largely collapse, at least at the level of obviously untenable claims like six-day creation, dead people coming back to life, and the Bible -- errors, contradictions, atrocities and all -- being authored, or at least dictated, by a being of unimpeachable wisdom and utmost kindness. After all, tell any educated 18-year-old who has somehow never heard that Christianity is not merely mythology that people rally around but an actual account, and that the account established that the cosmos is between six and ten thousand years old with Earth at its center, and the response would be incredulous laughter.

Friday, February 8, 2019

My uncle the child molester is dead and other indicators of a wondrous cosmos


My mother grew up with two brothers and no sisters, which for you non-genealogists means I had two maternal uncles and no maternal aunts. I'm using the past tense because the younger of those two uncles recently died. I think he was 73. And he really was the "uncle with wandering hands" motherfucker of holiday horror-joke lore. Starting in 2001, he served a six-year sentence in the New Hampshire State Prison after his three children -- that is, my first cousins, who as you'd expect are all about my age -- learned from their own kids that my uncle had molested all eleven of them. In other words, my uncle went to prison for sexually abusing his eleven grandchildren after those kids became old enough to start reporting his behavior to their parents.

He was kind of a lifelong fuck-up even without this in the mix, so my mom was never especially close to him even though both of them never left New Hampshire. He and the mother of my cousins were divorced when I was very young (this is perhaps not a surprise given the various details already provided) and my dad used to take my sister and I used to visit my uncle, my three cousins, and whoever my uncle's new girlfriend was maybe once a month on weekends, about a 30-mile drive. We would do some things I liked, like play frisbee, and other things I didn't, like go fishing. I wish more fish were like sharks and ate the fuck out of folks. Anyway, my Uncle Fondle rented some little red shack in a place called East Sutton, which was and remains about as boonies at it gets. At one point he had a goat, which seemed cool at the time, but now who the fuck knows how that damn goat was treated and what it saw. He smoked pot that he grew himself (Uncle Fondle, not the goat) which a lot of people living out in the New Hampshire sticks did and continue to do, and it's funny to consider now that in the 1970s, this seemed the most deviant thing about him. They should be putting cannabinoids in the municipal fucking water supply by now. And this is really nothing to laugh about.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Effective drug testing is the "taxing the super-rich" of athletics

The sport's powers-that-be (USATF in the United States, the IAAF internationally) claim to want a banned-drug-free sport. That's a hard position to not publicly take.

These governing bodies, at least the latter one, have tacitly admitted that world records currently on the books may be drug-aided. This was the basis for the dead-on-arrival proposal to erase all world records set before 2005.

Everyone, however, likes world records. Meet promoters, athletes, fans and -- critically -- sponsors.

Thus the sport faces a perennial dilemma. With a truly clean sport in place, there is little chance of new records being set, and fan interest may wane. With a continued doping free-for-all or the perception of same, records may fall, but the sport will be perceived as a bleak laughingstock.

As a result, the governing bodies sort of have to try, but not their very hardest, at all. If this assessment is accurate, it is borne out by the reality that this is exactly what appears to be happening. A horde of big-name Kenyans have been busted in recent years, but as yet no Ethiopians, and this is almost certainly not attributable entirely to real differences in PED usage patterns. If athletes aren't being rigorously tested, for whatever reason, than there is no assurance at all that they are running clean.

At any rate, this scheme seems sufficient to generate a solid degree of fan interest. Road records are more often the target now, especially Radcliffe's 2:15:25 marathon record, and these can only occur so often, and not to packed stadiums in their entirety.

People, broadly speaking, want a clean sport, but not the sum of the results of what that would require. This is where I see parallels with the debate on how much to tax the ultra-rich. It's an idea that almost everyone can get behind, because almost everyone really has no problem at all with higher taxes on people who have a lot more than they do or ever will. Many people don't want higher taxes on well-off, but not really wealthy, people because they (however feebly) often envision themselves joining the ranks of those nicely situated not-storybook-wealthy types. Problem is, those very ultra-wealthy have the power to dictate public policy as long as they can continue garnering enough votes. So much is likely to be said in the next two years about far higher taxes for the top 0.1 percenters, but in reality it's probable we'll see a tepid compromise that sets off no rebellions but makes no one very happy.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Altitude training may not be worth it, and other scatterings and orts

It is practically a given that any American distance runner with so much as an outside shot at reaching the Olympics will relocate to high altitude at some point, or at least do training stints of several weeks at high altitude. (For purposes of this discussion, think 5,000' or higher.) This is in spite of the fact that there appears to be no evidence at all that taking a sea-level native and training him or her at altitude produces a more successful runner.

It is plain that people who are born in places like Boulder are suited for high-altitude running in a way that no migrants can replicate if they move here as adults and perhaps even if they arrive as teenagers. This is evident not so much in the surreal performances some of these natives can throw down here as it is in the unfortunate fact that they don't usually gain as much as the charts would predict (about 3.5 percent).

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Alternative engagement

I get regular reminders that anything I do for pleasure or gain that is unrelated to running adds more non-quantifiable satisfaction to my life than any running-related stuff does, apart from the requirement that I actually jog a little every day. Importantly (he snickered, as if any of this shit were important), "running-related stuff" can be broken down into three fairly distinct categories: Doing it, advising other people how to best do it, and writing about it. To get even more granular, "doing it" means either training or jogging.

The daily runs I do with Rosie constitute jogging, which is not a pejorative or even a loose description of speed but a euphemism for "moving around outside" -- something from which I invariably draw satisfaction. Any running I do that involves noticing my pace in a way that sets in motion even faint thoughts of racing again is a warning sign of a relapse into training, and that crap is toxic. The catch is that, as I hinted at above, some of my "jogs" are done at pretty quick paces, at least over shortish segments. As I noted last time, I have stopped recording most of my runs with my GPS watch, but I have a pretty good idea of when Rosie has dropped the pace into the low-6:00 range, which she almost always does in cool weather.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Heisenberg principle, recovery-run style

When I was racing well, or at least racing regularly and feeling confident about attaining a new performance level, my easy days were often very slow compared to others at my level. I embraced this, which was the proper response. As I was building toward my best period of running between ages 31 and 35, I did a lot of my 15 or more daily miles with the high-schoolers I was coaching, usually at no faster than 8:00 per mile and often considerably slower. To the extent I kept even a loose eye on the paces of these runs, I didn't have a GPS watch, so I was often making informed guesses anyway. I was usually doing a couple of pace-specific harder sessions every week; everything else was filler, and when you're nailing the workouts, you're basically pitter-pattering around for a couple of days -- albeit for up to two hours a day -- in anticipation of the next hard session. If you know that on Friday you'll be throwing back 15 vodka shots in the company of some outstanding prostitutes, you probably aren't particularly concerned about only getting to nurse Bud Lights while pleasuring yourself alone at home on Wednesday and Thursday. When the peaks are redeeming, you don't worry about the troughs in between.

Now that my return-to-racing experiment is over, my pace on any given run shouldn't matter to me one bit. There is nothing cumulative about my running other than the fact that if I only did it once a week or something, it would become harder and less enjoyable. In theory I could record every running step I take and never even look at it at the output, or I could just glance at the numbers from these efforts with the same level of concern as I do when noting in passing how much junk mail arrived this week.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Famous runners I met in high school

I started running in the fall of 1984, when, as hard as it is to believe unless you were alive and sentient at the time, there were two basic ways to interact with people in real time: You talked to them in person, or you spoke with them on the phone. Video footage of pro athletes was limited to television and VCR recordings; a few people might have their own photos of star sportspersons that they had taken themselves, but for the most part, pics of these luminaries were found only in magazines and newspapers. There was, for better or otherwise, a far clearer boundary between famous folks and the rabble (and between citizens of Earth more generally).

At the Space Coast Marathon in Cocoa Beach, Fla., Nov. 2005. One of us won the half that day; 
the other won four Boston Marathons.
In the summer of 1985, after my freshman year, a runner from Colorado traveled to Manchester, New Hampshire to run a now long-defunct summer road race called the Bud Kings 10K. It was de rigueur at the time for alcoholic beverage manufacturers to sponsor road races, mainly because during the running boom that had started after Frank Shorter's 1972 Olympic Marathon victory, someone noticed that runners liked to drink like fish, or, almost equivalently, that abusers of ethanol liked participating in road races. A cursory search failed to uncover any real evidence that this race ever existed, although this is somewhat helpful.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Gimme gimme gimme

On the first day of summer in 2015, long after human life should have been relegated to God's drunken memory by a massive meteoroid or triumphant supervirus, someone started a thread on the Strava forums to complain that the mobile app displays distances to only a tenth of a mile or km, which is an order of magnitude less precise than the website offers.

First, in the event you just awakened from a multi-year coma, Strava is a service that integrates data from a GPS watch or even a mobile phone to tell you how much distance you have covered in a given time. Those who received advanced math degrees from Trump University will recall that if one knows the distance of a trip and the time taken to complete it, one may invoke a complex algebraic expression to compute average speed. Runners are often concerned with all of these, which is why so many of them now have GPS watches and corresponding online accounts. (Garmin, the company that is synonymous with the term "GPS watch," has its own mobile app and web interface, but you can import your data from these into Strava and proceed do a lot of fun, pointless things with it, like show it to people who don't give a shit because they're busy showing you theirs.)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

One glaring lie

I just realized that as a corollary to doing literally all of my running with my dog beginning on Nov. 1, I have now done about 75 consecutive runs without listening to music. I haven't assembled this long of a no-earphones streak of running since, I believe, the early 1990s. Actually, for all I know I have never done it because it's nothing I've ever formally or passively tracked. I started listening to a Walkman while doing runs alone for the first time in the winter of 1984-1985, in my freshman year of high school. I had run cross-country on a last-minute suggestion, so this was my first experience with off-season running prep. On that cassette tape I used over and over while running mostly in the frozen slop of the dirt roads of Canterbury, N.H. were such forgettable top-40 numbers such as Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, I Want to Know What Love Is and Let's Hear It For The Boy. Except that they aren't forgettable, either to me or to a great many radio stations. I'm not sure that in those days anyone realized what a lasting and powerful influence George Michael would become, but no one ever sees the upper echelon of pop culture coming.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A glimpse 25 years into the future

No, I am not offering an idea of what the running world will look like in 2044. In a best-case scenario, human civilization will exist only in the form of irradiated rubble that persistent insects can build homes in. But if I'd been able to magically ascertain in 1994 -- the year I ran my first marathon and one of the last calendar years in which I was an optimist about most aspects of the world -- how things would develop in this niche over the next 25 years, I'm positive I would have said "Fuck that noise, I'll have moved on long before it gets that stupid." But here I am anyway with the rest of the dipshits, because I lack the sense or the resolve to get out and am a natural at demeaning the rabble.

Running was far better when it was far less popular than it is today. Every sane economic and sociological argument applied to the running world I knew as a kid and young adult would have foretold much of the bullshit that has helped fuck it up. Increasing demand for road-races entries has driven up the cost of entry fees far out of proportion to inflation, meaning that people who are serious about these affairs not only pay a lot more money to get into them, but enjoy the experience of being surrounded by hordes of screaming waddlers at most venues.

I've already covered most of the economic aspects of running's blighting, but one thing no one I know saw coming even 15 years ago, by which time the Internet and running had become well acquainted and enmeshed, was a shift in the direction of a flesh-based kakistocracy. Every sport has boasted mostly nude fitness models in its ads and self-aggrandizing goofballs among its ranks, but I doubt anyone predicted that some of these yutzes would become running's self-appointed and widely respected voices and coaches.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Locals who should be put to the the sword: Part 1 of a limited series

I run with my dog, every day. (Lately my knee's been acting up more than it has in a while, so both of us may be out of the formal running picture soon.) I usually take her to off-road locations on public land, such as the South Boulder Creek Trail, the East Boulder Rec Center, C.U. South Campus, Teller Farm, the Cottonwood Trail, Twin Lakes, Davidson Mesa...now that I'm considering the range of our travels, it is apparent we enjoy more variety than I realized. I am usually too busy castigating my own lameness to appreciate this.

I've noticed that there is virtually nowhere in the area that is safe from the phenomenon of idiots allowing behaviorally challenged dogs to roam free, often in spite of immediate evidence that this is not just rude but unsafe. I know this is not unique to Boulder, but it may be more pervasive here because people labor under the delusion that their dogs and their children are inherently more valuable and less prone to disrupting other people than "normal" pets and kids (and to me these are more or less the same thing). Rosie is always, always on a leash when I run with her. Part of this is because I don't trust her not to behave aggressively toward other dogs. I've never seen her attack one, but I've known her to lunge at dogs now and then. Maybe only once in every 10 or even 20 encounters, but to me, if there is any chance that she might hurt another dog, there is zero chance I will create conditions that would facilitate such an event.

I am in the overwhelming minority on this issue. Wherever I go, people are taking advantage of the fact that dogs do not have to be on their leashes. This is fine to the extent that your dog is docile or at least remains 100 percent under your voice command at all times. It is plain, however, that some people understand full well that their dogs might be anywhere from over-exuberant to actively violent, and choose to simply roll the dice and let these animals roam free anyway. This most often happens in places where people don't expect to encounter other people walking or running, e.g., when it's really cold or along a rarely used rec path. These people are stupid for thinking this -- we're in Boulder, Colorado, where even the kinds of people who will be dead of natural causes within a year are out roaming the landscape for exercise. But more than that, they are assholes.