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

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 (2:28.81/2:05:11) has demonstrated comparable range over the mile-to-marathon spectrum.