December 31, 2013


It's difficult to wrap words around a year that was, and impossible to project that forward. I'll say that this was a good year, though, and that I expect the next one will be as well.

I won a half marathon, full marathon, and 50 miler. And that, having known myself for my entire life, is just absurd. I won't give you the whole "former unathletic chubby kid" narrative, because you've heard it before. And I guess that's a good thing. We should be glad that people getting in shape borders on cliche, even as quite a few more could stand to do so.

And while those things are true, and I hold in my mind the memory of those races, I can't say I really derive any satisfaction from those moments. I was elated - and exhausted - and the end of each; but ecstasy fades, and you need new highs, higher highs, reaching for a brass ring that is always just outside your grasp.

Or, you know, not.

2013, in terms of running, was about validation, for me. To be blunt: I needed to know that I didn't suck at this, and perhaps more to the point, I needed other people to know it too. I needed the fast guys to talk to me as something of an equal, to hear pre-race whispers that I was the guy to beat.

Is this ego? To some extent, yes. But it's more a lack of one. That is, someone who has confidence in themselves and their abilities doesn't really need much in the way of external validation. They do what they do, and they enjoy it.

I'm getting there. Probably won't ever make it all the way, and to some extent, I'm ok with that. I have my ambitions, and I'd rather they not be extinguished. I want to run a fast spring marathon - which is to say, faster than the guys I run with have. Petty, maybe. But there it is. And I'd like to win some races, run faster times, etc. So, in short, I still want the same things I wanted last year.

But there's a difference, which doesn't really show in terms of my training or racing. It's much less quantifiable than those things, wholly unnoticeable if you're not in my head. And, well, here I am, and welcome in. The difference is the focus, which is more on the process than the outcomes. That is, while I'm running more and harder, and racing better, that's all just sort of incidental to the point, which is that I really enjoy my daily indulgence of miles. It is a lot, usually. Double digits pretty much every day. Oftentimes pretty hard, too. But I haven't dreaded a run in a long time, no matter how gnarly, and I certainly haven't regretted one. Put another way, it's the reaching that's become the goal, not the ring.

The goal then, such as it is, for 2014, is to keep that up. Process-positive focus and consistency is the way forward, not berating one's self over a perceived need to be perpetually better. Which is not to say that "better" won't happen, or that I don't want it to happen.... just that, yeah, I said this was hard to get words around.

There are some conflicting notions at work here, and that's difficult to express in a comfortable way. It's difficult because we want to make sense, to craft cogent arguments. When that fails, the delete key beckons. We don't want to seem so transparently contradictory, even as being so is innately and necessarily human.

So all of that said, 2014, huh? Let's be chill about it.

December 29, 2013


The sky this morning was a robin's egg blue, pastel with whimsical white wisps drifting across. A quiet aesthetic until an SUV nearly runs a light and hits me - and I mean me, not my car this time, because I'm running, as I do. We exchange pleasant fuck yous and exasperated looks and then are on our respective ways, cheerily again. Someday, I'll learn that shouting profanity at people in large vehicles is not a wise life choice. Someday, though, was not today.

Perhaps I was tired? That would be an out, of sorts, an excuse that, if I didn't know my tendency towards juvenile language under any circumstances, I might take. (Didn't I get a degree in English? Don't I proofread things for a living? Shouldn't my vocabulary be so extensive that "fuck" is phased out? Nope.)

But I was out late last night - shocking! - at a bar - shockinger! - drinking water - as expected! There was a rather awful sludge metal band playing in one room, and a chubby white guy with ass-length dreadlocks playing early 90's rap, for the most part, in the adjacent room. When the band stopped playing, a swarm of denim jackets invaded the rap room; the DJ responded to the influx of PBR and cigarettes with Lil' Jon. The response was rampant enthusiasm, somehow. I didn't know that my life wouldn't be complete without seeing some guy with a Goatwhore patch on his (sleeveless, with red-painted metal spikes on the shoulder) denim jacket "get crunk", but now I can't imagine life otherwise.

Soon after, I went to bed. Then, I got up and went to work, on very little sleep. Then I ran. Then I almost became roadkill. So now we're caught up. But, I'm out of things to say, because my jogging exploits are far less interesting than a crew of would be Motorhead roadies dancing furiously and wholly without irony to "Get Low".

So thanks for that, Lawrence. Thanks for your lovely denizens and townie bars.

December 26, 2013

Eight and Rising

The closest thing to a local ultra-star we've got, if Omaha counts as "local". I'm saying it does, since two of her wins this year were in Lawrence and Kansas City. (I won the marathon in Lawrence, when she won the 50. Her min/mile pace was 4 seconds faster than mine. So, yeah. I should probably mail her my mug too. This is the part where I'd make an excuse about a wrong turn, except she took one too. Nevermind.)

She's got a Pearl Izumi sponsorship now, and is targeting some higher profile races with much stronger competition. Still, she hasn't lost an ultra yet, and I think her's is a name to watch, in the years to come. Also, just sayin', we talked once, in real life, post-race. Something about almost stepping on a copperhead. Basically makes me a running celebrity by proxy.

December 24, 2013


Lentils and red beans are an odd mix with blueberries, but since I was going to eat all three, why not together? Apart from the usual manner of reasons: taste, texture, normality, etc. Apart from those things, for which I had no concern, there was no remaining reason. None, at least, that superceded my primary directive in all food preparations - brevity. That is, putting everything I'm going to eat in a bowl, all at once, and downing it, with no regard for culinary or aesthetic sensibilities.

Pleasant? At times. Efficient? Very.

In this case, not wholly unpleasant, but yes, quite efficient.

I ate the whole mess cold, because, yes, heating it would take a minute or so, which was about how long I planned on spending eating, so certainly I couldn't double my food-attentive period with an equal amount of time spent cooking, or rather, heating things that had already been cooked, or did not need cooking at all. I did so and looked out at the snow, and my footsteps in the driveway. They appeared to be those of a much taller man - or at least, someone with very large feet - owing to the fact that I tried to step in the same foot holes every time, but usually missed by a little.

Satisfying, though, in the way that food tends to be, post-decent effort. In this case, 3 easy, 3 rather hard, 3 easy. Cheating, slightly, in using my a treadmill at my gym. Then, while there, doing some cursory strength work, and turning down the chance to mangle myself with a 200-lb ball of concrete, which was being hoisted by several much larger individuals. They chided me for not running longer. I chided them for not lifting heavier. And so it goes.

Cold lentils and treadmill miles, and really, I'm quite pleased with it all. Simple things, right?

December 23, 2013

Whitener Christmas

Walking in the basement of my office, I pass the coffee machine, that is nothing like what you're picturing while reading that. This is not a pot, or a small scale brewer of any kind, but rather, a massive thing, the size and dimensions of a soda dispensing machine. It produces something that is alleged to be coffee, for nominal change, at the push of several buttons.

You can get coffee. This is straightforward.

Or, you can get it with "whitener". Not cream. Not non-dairy creamer, even, with unspecified ingredients. No, whitener. Use your imagination. I dare not.

If that sounds appealing, but you'd really rather have it as a frothy mess, you can get a latte, or something called that, which is "whipped" with whitener.

Walking by, there is a wet floor sign. A mess underneath, brown, tan perhaps, coffee which had been whitened, yes, I think. Had been? Was? Is? What is it now? Coffee still? I kneel and prod at it. Look around and, when I confirm that I'm alone, I sniff. Taffy. Coffee taffy? To the touch and smell. Almost. But not quite. Not quite because there is no reference point for this. But wet? No. That much is clear. And so I can only conclude that this whitener is also a solidifier.

I won't be trying it.

December 22, 2013


At a group run the other night, discussing my training, such as it is. That being, for the most part, as much and as long as I care to go. No soreness ever, really. Durability is perhaps not the best talent, if you're choosing one, but it does count for a lot. One is rarely without a hobby, at least. I was slightly hurt at this time last year, however, a "stress reaction" in my left foot. Probably three times since, I have managed to get some smidge of soreness there, including last week, after my icy trail race. Nothing major, and it's gone now. I didn't - and don't - think that this indicates any long-term structural damage. Why?

Because of an episode in an alley, leaping down from a curb. My foot was still tender, on that night, and so I pushed off with my left foot, and landed on my right. I nearly tripped over myself, after all of a two-foot journey. I spent the rest of that run, and the rest of this week's runs, intentionally landing on my right foot. Not because my left hurts - it doesn't - but simply to note how awkward it feels. And it does feel awkward. There are a numerous little dips, turns, and technical sections at the Clinton Lake trails, where I frequently run. And I've noticed now, having tried to do the opposite, that I habitually "plant" on my left foot. That is, anytime there is a harsh landing to be had, either on or amongst rocks, or stopping my momentum at the bottom of the hill, I assign my left foot the task. Landing on the right, in such situations, feels horribly awkward.

What I'm working towards, and beginning to incorporate already, is a more agnostic approach. Ideally, I'd run through and over obstacles, paying as little mind to them as possible, altering my stride not at all. Neither chopping nor loping, aiming to artificially place my left foot as the stabilizer, so that I can then push off with my right. As much as possible, run over things as I would if it were a sidewalk, a road, a smooth dirt path. Land organically, without forced or unbalanced stress.

I'm quite happy to have discovered this. Not merely because I think it ought to improve my running, on technical trail, or keep my left foot free of the intermittent soreness that seems to find it. It's just fascinating, really. Fascinating the movement patterns our body chooses, decides are most efficient. Which, as I found leaping from that curb, is not often wrong. But "most efficient at the moment" is not optimally efficient. Of course, given the choice, we'd all have the latter. Fascinating, also, because this was unknown to me for quite some time, for hundreds of thousands of steps. We think, often, of imbalances in running in terms of weak muscles. But I wonder, how many are like this? Lapses in coordination, movement patterns which have worn a rut? For me, and for others, these must exist. How many of them do we see, but fail to observe? As I said, fascinating.

December 19, 2013


I am aware, in some sense, in some world, that I once had a bottle of water to my left, placed on a desk. It was some sort of sparkling water, one my favorite indulgences. Which, yes, is suggestive of how ascetic my lifestyle tends towards. I'm listening to this, the best reviewed album of the year, by most any measure (from Rolling Stone to Pitchfork to Metacritic to the guys on the metal internet forum I post at), from mainstream critics to those who focus wholly on loud things.

Its interesting. Black metal influence, shoegazey. Soaring and emphatic. Bursting with energy. The cover (both the color and lack of bleak nature scenes) and general brightness of sound (relative to black metal in general, which is, well, black) make me want to call it grapefruit metal. Although, I don't like grapefruit (it's one of the few fruits I truly dislike), and I do like this. I think the surging sensation of it would make for good running music too, but I've not tried that.

December 14, 2013

Ice is Slick and Hills are Steep

The official Kansas Road Running Records are, first of all, a thing. Not a thing dealing entirely with people from Kansas, and the fastest times run by them, but rather, a thing dealing with the times run on Kansas soil. By anyone. Or, you know, pavement. Whatever.

Regarding my spring marathon, I thought, perhaps, that a nice goal time would be whatever qualified for their "Honor Roll". I thought that, until I checked, and saw that the "open" (aged 20-34) standard for said honor roll is 2:32.

Well, nevermind.

(Not nevermind forever, necessarily. Although, if we're being honest, yeah, forever sounds about right. The standard does drop to 2:45 for the 35-39 bracket, which seems much more likely to me. But, whatever. Projecting a decade's progress/regression/being eaten by coyotes/hit by a bus/etc. is fruitless.)

Better to talk about racing in the present, which, hey, I did that today. 10.35 miles, I'm told, though the distance was never going to be the challenge. That, rather, was the ice covering the hills. I fell, I think, eight or so times, though I stopped counting. Hit a tree stump with my right shoulder, and couldn't really swing that arm for a few minutes. Cut up both knees a bit, watched the blood trickle, then freeze. Humorous, really, after the fact. Though I seem to recall, based on my shouted profanity during the race, that I didn't find any of it so funny at the time.

But, so it goes. I said yesterday that racing was the ultimate exercise in presence. And this was that, for better and worse. Exhilarating, at times. At others, I was quite sure I was going to be impaled on a tree. I did survive, however, despite my struggles with verticality. Even managed to finished second, behind a guy who, if memory serves, I'm now 0/1847291 against. You know, roughly. But hey, he's run a 2:32 marathon. (Not in Kansas though. So he's not on the honor roll either. We can sit in the back of class together, in that.)

December 13, 2013


A slog around the golf course behind my gym. Six miles or so, slow. Legs fatigued from yesterday's 5 easy-6 tempothresholdhardish (with some fast folks)-5 easy. Air wet, a sort of omni-damp, directionless. Rain is top down; this simply was. Up. Down. Foward. Back. Just on you. In you. The sky brown, or tan, really. Sepia, maybe. Shot through a soft filter. Like a dust storm but, you know, the opposite. Wet. It looked like nostalgia but felt very present.

Racing in the morning and there will be mud, maybe. Ice certainly, perhaps enough that it cancels out the former. The hills will be there in either case, not caring if they're slick or jagged, giving zero shits about you, trying to scale them. But I'm going to try. Hopefully faster than anyone else who shows. If not, among them. Close, at least. Stroke volume maxed, tendons and muscles straining, sucking down the biting cold. It will look like hell and feel like heaven, because there is no present like racing present.

We'll see. I'll let you know.

December 9, 2013

Heartland in URM

The December issue of Ultrarunning Magazine features three Kansas races, Heartland being one. (Heartland gets the damn cover too, if you can believe it.) I'm going to indulge myself, in pointing out that the name on top of the 50-mile finishers list is mine.

1. Alex Beecher, 25 7:59:59

From the article: "Among those stories was the all-out sprint to the finish by first-place 50-mile runner Alex Beecher, 25, who achieved his goal of a sub-eight-hour finish in 7:59:59."

There are all sorts of reasons I shouldn't care this much. It's just running, yeah? And not the biggest field, obviously. Over half dropped too. And really, still an hour off the course record. Would've lost a plenty of other years.

I know all that, really. Rob Krar I'm not. But for someone who won't ever be that level of athlete, to get your name in a real magazine, on shelves and in mailboxes, with the number "1" by your name.... I mean, not to be needlessly profane, but fuck, man. Sometimes that word just works.

It's just running, yeah. But it's also what I spent the last three years working towards. A trophy in my bedroom and my name on a glossy page aren't the most important things in the world, no, but they're tangible reminders of those miles and my progress from 10:54, to 9:01, to 7:59:59. I'm not telling you this matters, really, or that anyone but me should care. But I am telling you that I do.

December 7, 2013

December 7, 2013

Ran twice today, but only for a total of 11 miles. Pretty low volume, but more miles that degrees, roughly, and some decent hill climbing, with the kind of intensity only desperately wanting to return home and get out of this brutal cold can produce. I'm ok with this.

I also managed to get in 5 hours at work today, and I'll knock another 5 out tomorrow. Overtime is mandatory and substantial, this time of year, so it pays to get out in front of it, if I want to race next week. And I do want to race next week, to state the obvious. 10 mile trail loop, with what I'm told is good competition, and good bean chile after.

This, though. This right here. Coldest sporting event I've ever attended, and probably the most dramatic too. Can't really talk but that's cool.
A full weekend, and more to come. Listened to a couple good albums, and met a few former customers to chat about life, things, etc. Funny and actually quite charming that I did something well enough for people to remember even a year later, and for them to tell me it mattered to them. It does to me too, of course. And maybe I'll write more about that soon. I probably should, if I can find the words.

December 5, 2013

Picky Bars Smooth Caffeinator: Unsolicited Endorsement

This is both what I'm talking about, in a literal sense, and what I'm talking about, in that it's the first energy/protein/recovery/whatever bar I've had to get coffee flavor right, to not hide it behind, well, other stuff. Which isn't to say that this tastes like eating roasted beans - though I do that often, and it's delicious. Mostly, you taste chocolate and hazelnut, balanced with a vague sort of dried fruit texture and flavor. There are whole nuts and a little crisped rice too, so the whole thing isn't mush.

The ingredient list is as follows:
Organic Dates, Hazelnut Butter, Organic Agave Nectar, Rice Protein (Protein from Whole Grain Sprouted Brown Rice), Organic Crispy Brown Rice Cereal, Hazelnuts, Organic Chocolate Chips (Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Chocolate Liquor, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Soy Lecithin (non-GMO), Organic Vanilla Extract), Cranberries (Cranberries, Sugar, Sunflower Oil), Organic Apricots (Organic Apricots, Organic Rice Flour), Fair Trade Organic Coffee, Sea Salt, Organic Cinnamon, Organic Safflower Oil, Natural Vitamin E (to preserve freshness).
The bar itself looks like this. About the size of a quarter-deck of playing cards. Compact, and fairly dense. If you're inclined towards mechanical satiety - that is, eating for "stomach fullness" - this probably won't do the trick as anything but a tiny snack. But if you, like me, have the stomach of a 90-year-old, then the caloric/nutrient density is a bonus. I ate one with a largeish apple for lunch, six hours ago, and certainly wouldn't prefer to eat right now. Probably, the best application is as long-run fuel, for those who prefer something heartier than gels; or immediate post-workout snacking, for those - like me - who hate eating post-run.

Short version? I'd order again, for sure, and I'm slightly irritated that I can't buy these at any nearby groceries. Oh well. If you'd like to order this, or any other flavors, you can do so here. Also of note, if it's not perfectly obvious, this is a wholly unsolicited endorsement. As in, I got these with my own money. As in, I'm neither famous nor fast enough to get free shit. However, I do eat food, though most is pretty basic. It's hard to write "reviews" of sweet potatoes, apples, and beets, though, so I thought it worth mentioning that I found a coffee flavored bar that actually tastes awesome.

December 3, 2013

Opportunity Cost

Reading a lot about running lately, as I do, because I am somewhat obsessive, or rather, decidedly so, and unable to moderate my interest in things, to limit it to the mere indulgence in the act itself. And so I find myself ordering long out-of-print books by Osler and Henderson, digging up Let's Run threads about and by the late John "Hadd" Walsh, and generally spending far too much time on something I already spend far too much time on.

Though to be honest, it's not so much the time, as the mental energy, the neurosis, the feeling that, on every run, there is something else I should be doing, which is not to say not running, but rather running differently, faster, longer, etc., somehow other than what I am. Progress is nice and I've enjoyed a year of it, but how can you know, really know, if what you're doing is best, is optimal, isn't leaving, in Hadd's words, toothpaste in the tube?

You don't know, and crucially, can't. So you fret, and you read, and you fret even while plowing through a 40 mile weekend, and then a 15 mile Monday, because it was all rather slow, wasn't it? Well, except for the five 400s I managed on Saturday, on something of an urge, and the few miles on Sunday spent around half marathon pace, and then the hills on Monday. All of the miles, other than those, were really rather easy. Easy and slow. And so those other things happened, though perhaps they should not have, or perhaps there should have been more. Perhaps all this volume is silly or perhaps it is wholly insufficient.

I'd say that I digress, except that this, whatever this is, really, is the point. And I should also say that this, this point, if I'm going to call it that, is a happy one, or at worst, necessary, the result of some rather profound need to obsess, not over things, but a thing, that I've got. So, if not this, then something else. Perhaps better, but probably not. This, at least, is an obsession society has decided one ought to be congratulated for, even if they will suggest, kindly and gently, that we could, perhaps, eat just a little more.

But it's good, really, and best at the end of all those miles, deeply and thoroughly bonked, damp with effort and bliss. Running the sort of volume that I presently do may not, ultimately, make me fast (wherever that line is, it's hard to imagine I've crossed it), or even faster. But it feels good, always. And that's not nothing.