November 23, 2015

Spot the difference

Just a few years, a little fabric, and facial hair. Same last name, though.



A good race, all around.

November 2, 2015

I ran a 17:50 5K yesterday, which, as ever, is a time that is completely specific, and yet not the least bit informative without additional context. Running is weird that way. You ran what you ran, and that's it. But it's not, not really, because though the time is the time, the time is also not the time. It's the sum of previous experiences and expectations, and as such, functions more as a point in a narrative than a data point in an algorithm.

So, I ran that time, which is a faster time than I'd ever run before. It strikes me, at once, as the sort of time a "real runner" might run, but only might, because it's not that fast. Not really. Not now that I've done it. That too is the nature of the hobby. Times are immutable and ephemeral all at once.

October 15, 2015

In the time since my last posting, I've run two marathons. Here are a few words.

I ran the Hawk Marathon, a semi-organic race (of three at the event: 26.2, 50, and 100 miles) on my home town trails, sort of out and back, with some extra business on either end to make up for what would otherwise be something closer to 23 miles. These are trails, really trails, that wind and twist and undulate. There are rocks and roots and snakes that look too much like the latter. It is, as such, an arrhythmic course. You're always pushing, never cruising.

I won the race in 3:28:08, breaking the previous course record by 5:18.

This is, of course, no big thing. Zach Bitter and Matt Flaherty have run - and predictably, won - races in Kansas City, but not Lawrence.

I'm the local guy with the local record at the local race. I live maybe eight miles from the trail head. I have rock jumps memorized - or perhaps, better known even than that. Intuited. I don't remember how to take them because I don't think them. I dart right of that tree, then kick off the adjacent rock with my right foot, landing on the peak of another with my left. Two quick turnovers later, I'm down, spinning, and then hurdling the creak. 

I can roll with those trails. True, a lot of people, totally ignorant of the course, could do it faster. But, no one has.

It's no big thing. But it's my small thing, and I'm glad to have it. 

In 2011, I volunteered at the event on something of a lark. I was, at the time, a 20 some odd miles a week hobbyist, looking for something to do over the weekend. I was struck by the euphoric absurdity of the whole goddamn thing (100 fucking miles?), and promptly entered - and finished, somehow - my first 50 mile race the next month.

In 2012, I ran the marathon, then paced 25 miles with the final 100 mile runner.

In 2013, I won the marathon.

In 2014, I paced 40 miles of the 100 mile course record.

And now, 2015. It adds to an odd collection that has nonetheless proven influential. Without this event, I don't know that I'd be any kind of runner at all. It's marked me, so I'm glad to have marked it back.


Five days ago, I ran the Prairie Fire Marathon, in Wichita.

It was, appropriately, hot. I flamed out, then jogged it in.

3:29:28 on an almost sarcastically flat (really, not a single hill?) road course. Slower than the same distance covered on technical mountain bike trails the month before. (And yes, the trail race is measured accurately.)

Given that I'd expected to run at least thirty minutes faster, this is, without question, a really poor time. But I also had, without question, a pretty good time running it.

If this sounds like some hobbyjogger inspo bullshit... well, maybe. But shit races can still be good training runs, so long as you emerge uninjured. And I'm comfortably running again, so, life goes on. As it would whether I was pissed about my time or not.

It's no big thing. But it's my small thing, and... well, I don't actually have to take it with me.


Tonight was a steady six under a rippling sky, the sun setting and bleeding across the expanse like grapefruit juice spilled on gently wrinkled white tablecloth.

June 16, 2015

Night Hawk 50K

4:27:50, 2nd

Before the race, I'd have taken that. And after? Well, there's nothing to do but take it, at that point. You can wonder, though, and I did for a bit. Could I have gone for it a bit harder? Well, yes. Could I have gone hard enough to run the eleven minutes faster I'd have needed to, in order to win? Nope.

I could have tried, sure; but not sustainably. And maybe not effectively. That's the thing about running: You can always go harder. But harder isn't always - or even usually - better. You find the fastest possible sustainable pace, and sit there. I did that, and the result is what it is. Axiomatically. I'm pleased, then, because of that. Because, quite improbably, I've turned into the veteran distance guy, who paces himself pretty well. Who jogs around just fine, right after the race - and certainly the day after - because I didn't fuck myself up too badly.

There's something very satisfying about that. About not having to explain to anyone and everyone why you're a shambling corpse, this morning. About not really being afraid of the distance itself, regardless of the other shit. Which, there was other shit. Ninety degrees at the start, with humidity pushing the heat index right down into hell. Then, driving rain. Big puddles. Slick mud. Walking downhills.

But there was running. Not fast, ever. But never especially hard, either. Steady pace. Steady fueling. Workmanlike. Not dramatic, particularly. I have no stories to tell.

But I would like to go looking for one. That is, among other things, what we're running towards: Narrative. And in any good story, there has to be a goal. The protagonist - which we all are, in our own lives - seeks something, shit happens; maybe they get it, maybe not. But that's pretty much every story ever told.

So, what do I want to do?

I'd like to run a marathon in under three hours. Online calculators say I can, but that's about as close to cold comfort as you can get.

I'd like to get my half down under 1:20. This, of course, could easily precede the marathon goal. Or it could follow it. The two require comparable fitness.

BUT. But. One hundred miles is a race distance that exists. People do it. I've seen video, read about it, and even observed in person. Shit, I've paced forty miles of a course record. But I haven't done it. Because it scares me. You read things like the Outside Magazine piece about overtraining, and you wonder. It's a damn stupid thing, you think. Risky. Counterproductive to almost any other goal, and perhaps damaging to your basic health. So yeah, it scares me. But someday, I'm going to have to try it. Maybe this year, maybe not. Because it scares me. And I need to know.

Things to consider.

May 2, 2015

I ran the Garmin Half Marathon a couple weeks ago in 1:23:05. The time is what it is, which is one of the most useless phrases in English, and yet somehow instructive, when it comes to running. The time, after all, is what it is. Putting aside philosophical concerns about the true experience of time, that's easy enough to agree upon. And yet it's a great many things besides a sum of seconds, ticked off over the course of 13.1 miles.

This isn't much of a race report, though. Not really. I used to write them and I always try, but I find myself chronically unable. And this race actually has some specifics worth telling. I didn't get passed. Ran my first mile in 6:20, averaged 6:21 for the entire race. Just sat on my pace, even as the lead pack sprinted away, and then strung out before me. Something similar happened behind too. I ran the first few miles by myself. Then, slowly caught people. I think that, if the race had kept going, I'd have caught more. It was easy that way. The easiest race I've ever run, at any distance.

I got seventh, which both matters and doesn't. It matters, because it's a race, and other people were there, trying to run as fast as they could. I ran faster than 1879 of them. But it doesn't, because field size and depth is pretty arbitrary. I ran faster than a lot of people but not what I would call objectively fast. There are plenty of people from around here who would have gone faster than me, if they had raced.

Which brings me back to the time. It used to be fast. But now that I can run it, it's not. A few years back, when I was pretty new at this, I didn't expect to ever get under 1:30. Now I have, and I honestly expect to get under 1:20 soon. Well, not "soon". But soon. You know how that goes. Maybe that's a foolish expectation, but all expectations are, sort of. The Earth could always just explode, and then no one would run fast. So we don't know. Can't know. Not really. But we can look at the trajectory of things and suggest that maybe I will keep getting faster for a while. I'm still somewhat new, and not quite 27 yet. There's time. And maybe, additional fitness to be mined.

I should probably say here that I am coached now, and was for the several months leading up to Garmin. This certainly helped me run an easy race, whether I'm able to call it fast or not. It was as fast as I could go and it was never difficult. Doing hard workouts helps. And for the first time, I've really committed to doing them. I always knew I probably should. But the truth is I'm a hobby jogger at heart, and happy enough to trot around at 8:30 pace day in, day out. Hard workouts are generally uncomfortable, and maybe I'm a wimp, maybe I'm lazy, but I don't usually like them as much as the easy days. But I'm doing them now. Some would probably say money is the motivator here, but I don't think so. I've bought training plans before and every book about running there is. I never followed anything, really. But Scott Spitz, the coach in question, is a guy I know, like, and respect. He has some PR's I'd unequivocally call fast, but that doesn't really matter as much as those other things. Simply, I'll do the workouts he tells me to do, because he tells me to do them. If he were a faster guy I didn't know, I'm not sure I would. It's a little strange, but is what it is.

March 17, 2015

Pi Day Progression

The thing about running the same race, year after year, is that it provides an objective marker by which to judge progress. There are variables, of course, beyond baseline fitness. But in general, it's the best we can do. And since I'm getting up there in my trail running years now - I'm only half joking - I've now got a race for which I can call up four results.

2011: 1:39:08

2012: Didn't run it

2013: 1:34:31

2014: 1:31:54

2015: 1:26:48

This is not remarkable progress, of course. No massive jump, hinting at a deep well of untapped abilities. But it does speak to how one can shave time, and eventually, the resulting cut seems pretty significant. I also think it's interesting that my biggest improvement came four years after my first running. Which could, if I'm being optimistic, suggest that I still have some progressing to do, and that I haven't quite leveled off. I turn 27 in two months, so I wouldn't expect physical abilities to deteriorate soon. That will happen, of course. Inevitably. And then regression will follow. But for now, I'll indulge myself with the fantasy of perpetual linear progress.