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

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.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Is Bernard Lagat the Dennis Eckersley of running?

Today, or yesterday, or maybe tomorrow in Australia, 44-year-old Bernard Lagat ran 2:12:10 to place seventh and break the American masters record.

That Lagat is able to immediately render decades obsolete any masters distance record he wants -- well over 1,000 sunsets past his fortieth birthday, at that -- naturally makes one wonder what he might have done over the distance in his prime. Bearing in mind that Lagat remains the second-fastest metric miler in history with his 3:26.34 in 2001 (in a race in which he was beaten by 0.34 by the current record-holder, Hicham El Guerrouj), it is reasonable to say that among male distance runners, only Mo Farah (3:28.81/2:05:11) has demonstrated comparable range over the mile-to-marathon spectrum.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Ironically, I don't even have a bad pun for this one

I saw my doctor for the first time in close to a year last week. The last time I had my iron levels and associated parameters checked, I was floating around somewhere in "recovering anemic" territory per most measures, having reached a recent-years low of 11-12 in the boozy summer of 2016.

Living on vodka and bleak thoughts will lead to such things, but one trouble spot I can run into even though I abandoned that poison for good at roughly the same time the current U.S. President was elected is being seduced into the idea that exercise and the avoidance of obvious no-nos is enough by itself to create a healthy physical specimen. This may be true in the low-common-denominator sense, but I can do better than living mainly on water, starch and skim milk in various lazy forms.

That ferritin level could be better, but all in all it appears that my reasonably diligent iron supplementation is doing enough to mostly compensate for whatever bad nutritional habits I have retained, at least in terms of this one element.

When the doc checked my iron in 2018, I asked her to run a testosterone test as well, because I'd never had one and I'm getting old. My basic rationale in both cases was the same: I was half-hoping that some correctable physical problem could account for my less-than-gratifying running results. My T level was 27.7 (normal 14 to 29), so as it happens, not trying as hard as I should in both training and racing can, by itself, lead to subpar performances even when the physiological excuse bag has come up empty.

(Also of minor note, I had a fasting glucose of 62, which is a little low but not unusual for me, and probably reflects my excessive lifelong intake of Splenda and Equal.)

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.