December 29, 2014

I can't really type pirate noises well but that's ok because I don't really ever need to

My R key is broken. Well, not broken entirely, as I'm - sadly - forcing myself to use it quite often, thus far. But I really do have to mash it. It's bothersome. Makes writing difficult.

Though I've been doing no small amount of it, despite that handicap. Something like... 12 hours a day over my four day break, probably? Much of that consecutive, and no, never once boring. I've found myself growing increasingly fond of writing about the things made up in my head rather than those things which actually occur in my life. And so that's what I've been indulging, with no inclinations whatsoever that anyone but myself ever read that which results. So that's enough about that. (It's not about pirates though. That isn't why my R key seems vaguely smashed.)

Running? Yes, that too. Always that. Better than ever, I say, tentatively, since I haven't raced in months, and basing fitness on how you feel during training is, at best, subject to no small amount of wishful thinking. But I do feel good, consistently. And considering that a statistically insignificant portion of your time is actually spent racing, versus training, that's not a small thing.

December 26, 2014

Running by a bar, outside of which is a sign that says "Country night!" The size of the trucks in the lot out front voice the same thing without the need for words.

December 23, 2014

This is Mount Oread, in Lawrence, on which sits the University of Kansas. It is not actually a mountain. Be a lot cooler if it was.

December 22, 2014

Steve Magness speaks truth to the bulletproof bullshit.

People ask fairly often if I miss coffee bar work, and the answer, honestly, is yes. But I'm also quite glad I got out before anyone started asking for butter in their fucking coffee.

Anyway, happy holidays. Hopefully you were good so a goat demon doesn't come beat you with sticks and drag you to hell. 

December 9, 2014

Eat this.

It's not actually ten dollars anywhere. The grocery near my house has it for less than four. But whatever. It's great. The first coffee ice cream I've ever had that's worth a damn.

Also, there is an old dog napping on the floor by my bed, and that makes it very hard for me to get vertical. The tired permeates the room. She's 14 though, which is a better excuse than I have.

In ultrarunning, the rumor mill - confirmed, more or less, by athletes on twitter - says that the Pearl Izumi ultra team is dead, and that Dakota Jones is jumping from Montrail to Salomon. The latter makes all the sense in the world, the former, less so. Hopefully we hear something resembling a why.

December 8, 2014

These things are mostly for telling you I ran, yeah? So.

In the spirit of telling you that I ran today - which I did do - I'm going to tell you that I did a fair bit of upper body specific weight lifting. That probably stands out a bit, mostly because I haven't mentioned doing so here - I don't think - and because, this having morphed mostly into a running hobbyist blog, weightlifting seems an incongruous subject.

Or more specifically, the things I did - barbell rows, dips, bench, pulldowns, etc. - are not specific to running. And that specificity is of course a lauded goal of all training. Weight lifting is good, but only to the extent that it better enables more running volume, and more running intensity. The more it approximates the biomechanics of the running motion, the better. Or something like that.

But let me present an alternate theory.

While most of America presently rests in the cold grasp of winter - well, it's winter everywhere, but I'm attempting a "writery" sentence, even if it sucks, which it pretty obviously does - there will soon come a time - it's getting worse - when that frigid air will disperse, and we'll welcome the warm embrace of spring, and then summer. Then, racing - and running in general - is often done done sans shirt, or sans sleeves, at least.

And so all of this can be called specific training for that, because if I'm going to run in the heat - and I am - and I'm going to (un)dress appropriately - and I am - then I'd rather not look like shit.

That is, if not a noble aspiration, certainly an understandable one for a young man who will by summer be 27, and catching glimpses of middle age on the horizon. I've never been the most secure person, even at the best of times.

No, it's not all about getting faster. Nor is it all about ego, neither inflating any given amount or compensating for a lack. (Though it is alternately one or the other, often enough.)

It is for me doing something I want to do - frankly, have to do - anyway, and letting that be its own justification. Which is to say, somewhat joking aside, none of this is new for me. A life without running sounds somewhat empty, but not really an more so - to me - than a life without dips. (Or that other stuff.) Given my assumed audience, that probably sounds ludicrous. But I can honestly say that, right up there with the last half mile of my Heartland win, there is the time I managed 49 very strict reps on the dip bars, years ago. (None of the bouncy, "plyometric" bullshit.) I didn't get a trophy for that, and indeed, nobody in the gym noticed or cared. But it was my PR - and will remain, I feel quite sure - on my favorite lift. (If you're wondering, yes it does bother me that I never hit 50.)

So all of this is to say... what, exactly? That I'm slightly shallow, more than a little awkward, afraid to embrace the inherent scrawniness brought on by high mileage? All of that probably, yes. But also that, I dunno, here is some stuff I like, and it's my little corner of the internet, so I'm going to write about it.

December 4, 2014

There's a big Russian doping scandal presently breaking. It appears systematic, obligatory, with conspirators as high as the IAAF itself. It does not appear surprising, however. At least, not to me. Not to people who... I don't know.... watch sports at all? Any sport will do, really.

Still, I don't expect the broader reaction to be that cynical. We're very comfortable seeing Russians as "the bad guys", a nation of Ivan Drago science experiments turned athletes. Putin's last few years have done nothing but solidify that enmity.

Even among the running community, I imagine much of the reaction will be that, well, it's just them. Or mostly them, Turkey, Morocco, and a few other nations that make up the bulk of positive tests. The reality, I think, almost must be quite different, given that many athletes compete with and/or defeat these now known dopers. There certainly isn't dominance approaching a Ma's army level.

Given that, we can only assume that A) The talent gap is just that big; B) Doping is more or less a global precondition to success in high level athletics; C) They're micro dosing to avoid suspicious results; D) Something like all of those, mixed together, and some other stuff that hasn't occurred to me.

Still, at least we can be assured that - Comrades aside - ultrarunning is surely a pristine sport, filled exclusively with nice people who would never cheat. Just like how we know there's no doping in high level soccer. We're so sure of this that there really isn't even any testing. How much more proof could you ask for than the winking compliance of FIFA?

December 2, 2014

I went for a run today. Mile reps went well. Despite my lack of words devoted to the subject lately, my running has, as a rule, been going very well. Thanks Scott.

Turns out I function slightly better within set parameters, when aimed at a target and told simply "do that". With too much choice comes too much anxiety, for me. That's something I ought to fix, but frankly, I ought to have fixed it some time ago. It's not as if I'm just realizing this general truth.

An instructive vignette would feature me in a bookstore. I'd spend an hour at least, perhaps two, and leave with nothing. Not for lack of choice, but from a lack of ability to make one. Without fail, I find at least 5 books I'd like to get, but rather than get all of them, or some of them, I arbitrarily decide that no, only one for now, who knows how my tastes might change in the several days it takes me to polish off those I do purchase? But which? There is opportunity cost to consider. The hours spent reading a book are hours that could have spent reading another book, and can you ever truly know that the book you are reading is the perfect book for you right at that time? Given that uncertainty, how could anyone choose? Well, I often won't. The pressure builds, I become legitimately anxious, bothered, and simply leave. I'll return several hours later, or perhaps the next day, because I simply can't function without a book queued up.

I say I function, though perhaps, having read that, you'd argue that I don't really. Fair enough. It's a... quirk, if we're feeling generous. Anyay, running has always been similar for me. Since I couldn't ever know that a given workout was the perfect choice, or even "good", I'd basically always opt for a 1-2 hour cruise. Which isn't the worst thing. It's certainly not nothing. But it's not exactly training either.

So. I did a workout. I also listened to my usual assortment of geeky metal. Here is an example - probably the year's best - of how damn pretty black metal can be. That particular sub genre - specifically, it's bastard children: post-, atmospheric, avant garde, etc. - strikes me as the most consistently inventive and progressive, or at least the most interesting of metal's infinite incarnations.

These days, I'm more interested in soundscapes, sonic fringes, and contemplative inspirations than straightforward statements of brutality or violence. 

That said, these themes need not be wholly exclusive. Lest we think so, there comes something like this, which is an example of how metal can still sound scary in 2014. Bleak, nihilistic, and deeply unsettling. Which is to say, I really like it. 

I'm writing this at work. Eating peanuts. Drinking very bad coffee. Riveting.

November 30, 2014

I've been reading a lot of books lately. Yesterday, I read for 8 consecutive hours. This isn't a point of pride exactly, so much as a mere statement of fact. You will make various assumptions about me based on that fact. They are likely to be accurate and not flattering. Still, the truth is its own justification, and all that.  

You could argue that none of those sentences need the commas they have. I'd like to delete them, but won't. I'm going to use one there as well. But not in the previous sentence to this one.

Writing is hard. Well that's not strictly true. Writing things I don't hate is hard. I've been trying to do that in other places and so there has been nothing here for a bit. 


Turns out you can run just as much without worrying a thing about it. Nice to know, or rather, since I knew it already, nice to experience. I haven't read much in the way of running training theory for a few weeks now, and indeed I've still ran everyday. 
I'd like to transition here to something about the "holiday season", or whatever, but I'll just start with this: People, for the most part, have an unhealthy relationship with running, or "cardio" in general. I can't tell you how many times I've seen ads prompting people to earn their calories, or have a guilt free meal by sweating on a treadmill for twenty minutes. 

As if bulimia was the only reason to run consistently. (Exercise bulimia is a thing, by the way, and it's not something we should encourage. Not that it's an exact comparison, but we'd never suggest someone enjoy their pie without guilt, because they're going to fast for the next 48 hours, after perhaps vomiting.)

How about asserting that consistently good exercise and eating habits are their own justification? Provide their own satisfaction and rewards? That a fucking vegetable tastes good and running is fun?

Fuck. I dunno. I'm a scrawny guy who likes vegetables, likes running. So I don't get it, exactly. And can't. But I feel like reinforcing a cycle of binge/punishment is probably the worst possible thing we can do.

Happy holidays?

November 17, 2014

I'd like to ask a favor of you. Please check the link to follow, then act as you see fit. If that includes a contribution of money, or perhaps further sharing on social media, that would be perfect.

Click this link:

The story of the school is there at the link, for the most part, which hopefully you've read by now. The story from my perspective is that this is my brother's effort, to help the village in Zambia where he currently lives. So that is, to be honest, at least part of the reason for my investment. The other, of course, is that this is a very worthwhile project regardless, and the residents have done a tremendous amount of work already. (Have you ever made 25000 bricks?) The only thing left is the funding. Which, hopefully a decent effort can be made to collect the needed funds. It's simply a matter of enough people choosing to do so.

November 14, 2014

I like one of these covers significantly more than the other

Kilian is on the cover of Outside this month, and appears to be laying on some hay, jacket open, making come hither eyes. Walking past the magazine section in my local bookstore, I have to say, this was a little, uh, uncomfortable? Disconcerting? Strange? Something like that.

As jarring as Kilian's attempts to seduce the magazine browsing public were, seeing this cover in person quickly diverted my attention. I won't attempt to tell the story, because you can read the accompanying article here, and Scott's personal blog here. You could always, of course, click the link on my blogroll. It's the one that says Run Fast. Run Vegan. I considered saying it was the one that said bad mother fucker on it, but thought that perhaps the Pulp Fiction reference was a little too dated, and anyway, that you should actually be directed to the blog, because the quality of writing is absurdly high (and has been for years), and joking aside, Sam Jackson's line would've been accurate enough. 

November 12, 2014

Polar vortex

The title of this post is a forced reference to the fact that it's fucking cold now, quite suddenly. Anyway.

Matt Fitzgerald has a new book out, promoting what he calls 80/20 training. I haven't read it. But, here's a lecture from an exercise scientist discussing polarized training, which is more or less the same thing, except without a catchy name.

This more or less lines up with what is now conventional wisdom, but perhaps not conventional action. My training for the past couple years, for instance, has mostly been medium distance, medium effort. Probably not for the best. Trying to rectify that.

November 4, 2014

Some things

Some running things:

For being a "volume guy" and having nothing in the way of natural speed, my race times run somewhat counter to what you might expect, or what calculators indicate. It seems that, decent mileage aside, I can pretty well assume I'll slightly underperform as the race distance increases. Looking at my PR's, there aren't any exceptions to this. Could this simply be a pacing issue? Wouldn't really doubt it.

When getting passed, does anyone not look at the person now ahead of you and think "My pace looks like that? Oh god, surely I'm not that slow. And they're pulling away from me? Which means... oh no..." This happened, like, eight times to me this weekend.

Half marathons are still a pretty chill distance though. No searing oxygen debt, and it's over before your legs can really go to hell.

Some non-running things:

When you get home and the dogs are like OH MY GOD I THOUGHT YOU'D NEVER COME HOME BUT YOU DID AND HERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW LET ME JUMP ALL OVER YOU life basically peaks. This happens every day, so that's a pretty good state of affairs. Dogs are the best.

Just try to be this happy about something as often as possible, and things will be ok. The tao of dog.

Larabars are the best packaged food product, an assertion I believe with all my being to be true. They have seasonal flavors, one of which is pumpkin pie. That will get all the focus, but snickerdoodle is the real star. (Gingerbread is whatever.) It tastes like a fucking cookie. A great fucking cookie. They say it's just fruit and nuts but that's bullshit. Pretty sure they're just putting real cookie in there and lying to everyone. I don't care.

Today I realized that I don't know any of the lyrics to many of my favorite songs. Certainly can't understand them when listening, and never bothered to look the lyrics up. The growling, shrieking, screaming, etc., functions almost like another instrument. You understand the vocals in the same way you understand a guitar. But even still, not sure I could explain the appeal to anyone.

November 3, 2014

Kansas Half (empty)

The Lawrence Half was rough. That is objectively true, owing to the hills and up to 30 mph wind, but especially true in my case, because I don't think anyone bombed harder than me.



Can't say I'm pleased, but neither can I say I'm surprised, or that I didn't deserve it. Went out like an asshole, as I do, trying to race a bit over my head, running more of a dream pace than a goal pace. This is typical for me, and typically, it does not work. (But those times it does are pretty sweet.) In local races, I'm basically always going to attempt to go with the lead pack, if such a thing exists, even if this is objectively an awful idea.

I'd like to fix this, uh, quirk, someday, but I've said that too often already and done nothing at all.

So, the first 3 miles were great, the next 7 were fine, and the last 3 were, to put it kindly, slow as shit. I wasn't wearing a Garmin, but I'm not sure it would have registered the movement regardless. It got to the point that my legs couldn't make anything else work hard; that is, my breathing was as controlled as it is this second, because my legs were just toast.

C'est la vie.

There are more races soon - indeed, I may run another two half marathons this month - and a decent portion of my race rust is now hopefully knocked off.


October 29, 2014

Here are some words, its been a while

It wouldn't be accurate to say that I haven't written, exactly, although you've seen nothing here. I've spent as much - perhaps more - time than usual hunched over this laptop, trying to hammer out things that are not blog posts. But they are all deleted now. About which I am pleased. Or at least, not unhappy.

What are these things? Impressions. Tangents. I start with something or someone that strikes me and then go until I can't. And I don't save. Or I haven't, yet.

Joyce did this, more or less, and it always struck me as genius. Write things down, as they interest you. Words carry themselves forward, sometimes outpacing our expectations for them. Joyce carried with him a notebook, however, and thus of course did save everything, and incorporated much of it into his works. I am not Joyce, though, which is so absurd a thing to say that it simply must be said.

But while I don't save the words, I save the act. It's not undone. And that path now trod across my synapses perhaps brings me closer to something worth finding. Perhaps not. But the movement is worthwhile, just the same.

They say you never regret a run, and I find that to be true for reading and writing as well. Somewhat arbitrarily, I mandate for myself at least an hour of physical book reading a day, and as much time writing - or trying to. Add that to my hour or more of running, and you might get the impression that I don't get out much. You'd be correct. But it's good. And maybe "it" wouldn't be without these things, so, no regrets.

On the running front, I should note that I'm running a half marathon on Sunday. This race - the Kansas Half Marathon, April 2011 - was largely the impetus for my taking running somewhat more seriously, when I ran 1:33:27 on - and I can't say for sure - maybe 15 miles a week. I had fun, but if I'm being honest, the primary appeal was that I had stumbled upon a sport at which I was not immediately awful. I wanted to try and get something like "good", which has turned out to be quite the moving target, perpetually several minutes faster than whatever my best happens to be at that moment.

But - despite my occasional bitching, which might reasonably lead you to assume the opposite - I'm quite happy to chase the carrot, knowing full well that I can't possibly get it. The chase - and the exploration, of terrain both literal and metaphorical, that results - has become almost wholly the point.

(Still, I'd like to run a time I don't hate at the moment, even if I'll deem it too slow in 6 months.)

October 14, 2014

Good time

From Breaking Madden, the internet's best football videogame comedy series:
Running is awesome if you don't have access to a bicycle. Or maybe you do, but you want to see less of the world and have a bad time.
Sometimes it's nice to remember that this hobby is still a powerfully silly indulgence, to most. But powerfully silly is still powerful, in its way.

I run a lot, and my routes vary basically not at all. I run on a treadmill by choice several times a week even when the weather is perfect. It would, in short, be hard for a runner to see less of the world than I do, and yet I nearly always have a good time. Because, while I enjoy quality trail and mountain porn as much as the next person, the act of sustained bipedal self propulsion is itself so satisfying to me as to require no accompaniments, no additional stimuli.  

People ask how I don't get bored and I say there are three steps a second to focus on, which is almost too much action to process. Then there's all the shit in my head, which, well, that's irritating often enough, but never boring. 

I have not, to my knowledge, changed any minds. 

But there is a dog right now trying to wrestle with my foam roller, and that's ok. 

October 8, 2014

Springs eternal

My first and thus far only attempt at a road marathon was this spring, and it sucked.

Or rather, I sucked. And as such, it sucked. Let's not blame external factors when my inability to hold pace - or even to hold myself together - covers things nicely. Causation should be kept in the right order, and I fell apart. I ended up running, jogging, the sometimes even walking my way to like 3:25. (I honestly don't remember the exact time and I don't want to look it up.)

Talking about that with some folks today, and it struck me that I need to fix that. ("Need", yeah, I know.)

I'd like to jump in to Kansas City or Wichita this month but I haven't quite had the time to rebuild the fitness I had pre-injury or get my iron levels up above par. (That, sadly, takes months.) Also, I'm broke, and marathons are expensive. Cheap sport, yeah, but not free. So it goes. Injuries hurt fitness and the wallet, because medical bills are a bitch. Again, so it goes.

But spring is months away and has marathons of its own. Iron levels should be replete by then, and of course I'll keep training, because I'm a raging addict who does nothing but run, really. If I'm being honest, there is a part of me that hopes those two things act synergistically and produce something of a tangible "jump", rather than meager gains. Anecdotally, it does seem correcting anemia does that for some. But to be honest, not for others. While it certainly is wishful thinking on my part, wishes do sometimes come true. In any case, it's enough time to achieve the same fitness I had this spring, which - even if I'm not a step "faster" - should produce a much faster marathon time. (The calculators all swear I'm comfortably under three hours! But, I mean, fuck them.)

So here's my motivation then, which I've been missing, of late. It's based purely in negativity, sure, and people will say that's a bad thing. But it's worked for me in the past. To the extent that I've had success in running, it's almost always come from a desire to correct perceived failures. (That, and the fact that I simply enjoy the act. These do seem like contradictory notions. I know. It's strange.)

Light on specifics for now, of course. Hopefully by then I'll be unbroken - or less broke, relatively - and be able to pay someone/something to help with this. Training will emerge from random 70 mile weeks, and fitness will be gauged from real workouts and shorter races. I'll show up healthy, confident, focused, and ready to execute.

And then, I won't fuck it up. (Hopefully.)

October 5, 2014

Running this morning and a couple music things

Was going to race this Saturday, but slept in, saved my money. Felt good about it and ran about 10 at about 7 this morning with some folks. Not a "race effort" but enough to make me feel like something other than a lazy ass for doing neither race nor long run this weekend.

Thus, motivation to run (kind of a lot) remains very high. Feeling great. Feeling fit. However, motivation to race is still very low. I'm not sure what to say about that because I'm not sure how I feel about it. Fine? I guess. Certainly cheaper this way. And axiomatically, doing what I enjoy is enjoyable. So there is always that.

There is also this, a shamelessly theatrical - nobody really does the corpse paint/pretend satanic gimmick anymore - bit of blackened death metal that would make for excellent pre-race music, could I muster the desire.
The opening riff has been my favorite thing in music for a month or so now. The entire album, perhaps owing to the mainstream fame of the lead singer in his home country of Poland (he's dated a pop star and is a judge on their version of The Voice... which is amazing) is actually quite accessible and eminently listenable, at least as things called The Satanist go. Very well produced, with hooks, choruses, and such. Very much the antithesis of Behemoth's earlier black metal work in that regard, and yet a natural evolution if you've listened along the way.

Going more for a "back to a past that never quite existed" approach is XTRMST, which is the more famous half of AFI (the lead singer and guitar player), a band that was once a west coast punk outfit, but became briefly quite famous as a sort of glam/goth/rock hybrid. (Thank MTV2 and Guitar Hero for that, I suppose.) This is the straight edge hardcore band they never became, chaotic, chuggy, shouty, and harshly judgemental. (They really don't like meat or alcohol.) The entire album isn't out for a couple more weeks, but it too will probably make great pre-race music in the future.

September 29, 2014

Monday things that are mostly not running, then yeah, running

Lost dog posters strike me as the most effectively tragic short stories. In another life I would like to be the Sherlock of lost dog cases. I think that would be the most good I could do in the world.

Bottled water is an absurd waste of resources, and not really ecologically justifiable, but I do buy it anyway sometimes, because we all have our private failures. Sparkling mineral water is specifically mine, because I'm that kind of insufferable person. Today, the cashier asked me if it was vodka. I told her no. She asked if I drank, which seemed a step too far, probably, but I told her it had been a few years. She asked why and I said apathy. That's a strange answer, she said. I agreed but said some things just happen but most things just don't.

Gap is running an ad campaign basically promoting wearing black shirts(?) and I am a little too seduced by it. I wore a black shirt and black jeans today - both from Gap - but I did not look like a model and it did not tastefully rain on me.

Getting gas today, the cashier offered to me, unprompted, that she hoped I was staying in school. I told her that I was 26 and done. She said that was good because I wouldn't want to end up like her, working at a place like this. I told her I actually liked retail, did it for a while post college, and didn't consider it a step below anything. All jobs are kinda stupid, I said. She just said she had made a lot of mistakes. She seemed pretty down about something specific and a lot of things generally but I didn't know what to say so I got my gas and left.

While running I went by a new restaurant around 7 that really isn't that new and should have been busy since it was dinner time but nobody was there. One server looked very bored and I felt bad for her and also for the owners, because I run by this place a lot and it's always desolate. A lot of money and a lot of work and it seems like it's going nowhere.

I watched the news. A lot people are being killed. Perpetually.

This is every day, basically. Not specifically. The details vary. But you look around and you see people and things which are to you set pieces and the most minor of details but are entire lives in reality, whole existences equivalent to our own. And I think about those things. A lot. Can't help but look at a line of people in a grocery store and wonder how they got here, if they're happy. It's their whole life going on right now, after all.

I realize that sounds neurotic. Hell, I realize it is neurotic. And I realize too that this all sounds negative, perhaps a bit depressing. But I don't feel negative, nor depressed. I wonder why not sometimes, if being a generally pleased, positive person is blatantly irrational. And then I wonder if irrationality necessarily conflicts with rightness, and whether those two things can be quantified to any meaningful extent, thus making the basic calculus even possible. If the nature of each is truly unknowable, then...

Which is where I'm getting back around to the two hour jog at the end of the day. It doesn't fix any of this, and I get that. But it fixes me, and I get that too. Turns down - if not off - the neurosis, puts me in the present, in myself. Just run. And it feels good. And that's it. It doesn't matter. It doesn't have to. Just step, step, step. Breathe. Sweat. Burn. Self immolate and grow back stronger.

September 28, 2014

< 2:03

Dennis Kimetto is good at running.

I will probably never run a 4:41 mile. I will certainly never run a step further at that pace. 26.2 miles of it defies comprehension.

Hence "good at running". Superlatives fail. As they must, when faced with truly elite athletic performance.

I tried to explain the speed, the distance, and the combination thereof to some non-running friends tonight. Failed, mostly. Hard to explain that pace to someone who's never run a step of it.

I can, however, tell you that Kimetto is a faster distance runner than Dungeons and Dragons rules allow for, in humans without magical aid. Ergo, he must have had his Adidas +2 Racing Flats of Speed. Which, if you're reading, Adidas, I would buy so many pairs of any shoe named that. Just so you know.

September 25, 2014

I ran in Hokas

Tonight. Cliftons. Hoka's "racing flat".

A six mile test run, one of quite a few available via the local running store.

Can't really write a review based on one run, but I can say that I really liked them, so much so that they'll very likely be my next purchase.

Light (7.9 oz). Low (4 mm drop). Soft, but not so much as to compromise stride mechanics or turnover. The whole thing was sub seven pace, and the shoe never felt in the way or lacking in response. In truth, it felt faster than the Saucony Kinvara and New Balance Fresh Foam, both of which we've test run'd recently.

The real fun though - and this is kinda the point of the soft foam/rocker combo that Hokas are known for - was found downhill. Hit 4:30 and 4:13 pace VERY BRIEFLY down some of KU's steeper offerings, and if felt pretty damn effortless. Just stay loose, keep a good cadence, and let the shoe turnover.

I did find the heel fit a little sloppy, and the laces came untied near the end. The rocker profile also made for a funny sensation while standing around and walking, like your body really wanted to roll backwards. Of course, it is a running shoe. My biggest worry would be that the soft foam, most of which isn't covered by any rubber, would wear very quickly.

So, a large pinch of salt considering the sample size, but I could see the shoe being very useful for daily plodding, tempo efforts, and races longer than 10K.

For reference: I'm currently running mostly in the Adidas Boost 2, with some shorter work in the Mizuno Wave Universe 5 and Saucony Hattori. Before my stress fractures this year, I was a much more committed minimalist; but I've learned to embrace cushion since. I did a test run in the Bondi 3 previously, and hated it. So this could perhaps be the Hoka that unites the die-hards with the holdouts.

September 23, 2014

4 x 1

I wrote rather extensively yesterday on the pleasures of the run as a tour, the bipedal equivalent of a Sunday afternoon country drive.

I do have to say, though, that I'm enjoying my recent commitment to track work. Nobody ever told me it was this fun. Perhaps because they don't think it is? Certainly possible. There's a beautiful rhythm to be had though, in cruising around a 400 meter oval, bounding along on a surface that feels made for the task... because it is.

Mile repeats today. Something about that distance and that pace that just invites a sense of flow, of speed without strain. Wanted to run all four at six minute pace, but by the fourth, I felt far too curious what a harder effort would yield. So I gave one, and found 4:54 on the watch. (This is a good how to/why concerning different paced mile reps. Assuming you don't just want to do my usual "whatever the hell" pace.)

The sun had set, the rain fell lightly, and lighting danced between clouds. A lovely night.

And I felt pretty damn good. Pretty damn perfect, really. The sort of sensation you'd like to bottle up and save for races. (It does so rarely happen that a race feels like a best possible effort.) Like there was a perfectly linear relationship between effort and pace, such that going faster was only a question of willing it. (I think El G's world record is safe though.)

Of course, the satisfaction I derive from such nights is so significant as to render races almost beside the point. Another instance, as mentioned yesterday, that I'm more concerned with chasing down certain sensations than times.

Feeling good feels good. How's that for philosophy?

On hobbyjogging, briefly

Fitness happens when we stimulate adaptations. That takes a certain amount of stress, of course. Hormesis is the ideal. The just-right porridge, if you will. Unless you're paleo. Then you're shit out of luck, I guess.

That, generally, is agreed upon. How we go about doing it, however, is more complicated.

Good thing I didn't give a shit about that today. Ran... two and half hours? Maybe? And slow. So fucking slow, you wouldn't believe it. Or maybe you would. I don't know exactly. But I got passed. And I let it happen. Just let the ship pass in the night, no salvos traded. New to me. But worthwhile.

This is what I mean when I say "hobbyjogger". Says so right up in my bio section, see? I mean that, while I do want to race well - whatever that is to mean - and get faster than whatever I am now, my primary goal in running... is to run. Kind of a lot. Sometimes fast. But mostly an hour or two of steady improvisation. If you were feeling generous you could call it a fartlek, and then laugh because the word sounds funny.

I'll wait.

Hello again. I worked 12 hours today. Nothing remarkable about that, and I'm not complaining. Overtime pays extra, so, yeah. Could be worse. I majored in English at a kinda meh public university. Could be a lot worse.

But 12 hours of work is, while "good" in a sense, not exactly what I'd call fun. Running is. Ergo, we come to the running, or the hobbyjogging, as it were. The thing that I do to refresh myself, to revive myself, to... well, you know. Not sit on my ass all day, basically. Feel alive. Feel the wind, the muscles firing, the sensations that accompany the movement, but can't wholly define it.

This is running, of course, but with no competitive aim. The goal here is not specifically to stimulate fitness adaptations, but rather stimulate the mind, the body, and whatever notion of the soul you feel comfortable with.

Put it this way: When leaving work after a long day, my coworkers will usually ask if I still have to run. I try not to respond with quite so pithy a cliche, but in sum, I basically do say that I get to. It does smell a bit of self help bullshit speak, but there it is nonetheless.

This, I consider to be my most significant running related talent. And, taking the long view, it's a good one to have. I seem to be a very high responder to the chemical cocktail that results when my feet hit the ground 180 times in a minute, while my heart beats 150.

It's an exercise in presence. The ultimate, for me. The respite from a five hour talk with my philosophy and religious studies friends about the nature and purpose of existence, or the grind of cubicle life. It turns things off and turns them on. Offers self discovery, actualization, and definition.

You push the boulder up the hill, and maybe it comes back down - maybe it always will - but damn if the view isn't something, and if the trek wasn't better.

September 21, 2014


Coffee then twelve miles then food then coffee then Murakami and a candle then driving a bit with the windows open and vague strumming of guitars about.

The sun was out.

September 20, 2014

We're not special snowflakes, which is good, because they melt really fast, but we are different, I guess

This isn't a new sentiment, but something I do try and remind myself of quite often. I think it's worth sharing.

We - as runners, and more broadly speaking, fitness dorks in general - have a tendency to look at those faster than us and think, "What I'd do to have such talent", and then to glance at those slower than us and think, "There's so much more they could - maybe even should - be doing."

"I, of course, am not talented. Not in the slightest. But I work very hard, and it is because of that work that I have such fitness as I do. I deserve this, because I've earned every second."

There is a myriad of psychological phenomena on display here, but mostly I think it's an attempt to veil hubris with modesty. In saying "I'm not any good", we're trying to diminish ourselves, to suggest a deflated sense of ego. I think what we're actually doing is the opposite, however. In suggesting that we're slow, genetically cursed, etc., we are in fact inflating our work ethic. We are imagining ourselves as the quintessentially American ideal, to whom nothing was given, and everything was earned by blood, sweat, and diligent toil.

I say "we", not because I'm talking to you specifically, but rather you generally. And of course, because I'm including myself.

The answer, of course, is to appreciate whatever measure of talent we've got, and indulge in whatever amount of training seems worthwhile. And then to grant that others have variable talent levels, and are free to train as much as they see fit. Speed is not a moral imperative, and thus we shouldn't attach too much to those who have it, those who don't, and whether anyone bothers to pursue it.

September 15, 2014

A couple pacing pics

I'm never not going to point out the awesome job they do, so:

That said, a couple pics from my pacing duties on Saturday. Matt Becker won and set a CR in 18:47 (previous was 20:20), and I was lucky enough to get a front row seat for 35 miles. (I said 40 previously... but I was really tired then, and my math was bad.)

The final few steps. Me, turning away from the finish. Matt, with eyes for nothing else. His 16-year-old daughter (His wife, other daughter, sister, and niece all were present at the finish. It was really beautiful and they were all very nice to me.) shares the finishing kick.

Here, our post-race portrait-style photo. We're both filthy and deliriously happy. He looks the ultrarunner; I look like I dressed for a 5K and threw on the volunteer shirt (wonder why?).

Doesn't get much better.

Running wisdom by way of Greek myth and a French author

“To work and create 'for nothing', to sculpture in clay, to know that one's creation has no future, to see one's work destroyed in a day while being aware that fundamentally this has no more importance than building for centuries- this is the difficult wisdom that absurd thought sanctions. Performing these two tasks simultaneously, negating on one hand and magnifying on the other, is the way open to the absurd creator. He must give the void its colors.” 

“There is scarcely any passion without struggle.”

“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” 

-Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

Simply, in the fleeting dusk of a weekend very full of running, I'm inclined to wonder on the why of it all, to question the genesis and potential for meaning inherent in any of it.

I'd say more, but the quotes above answer better than I can, and additional words could only detract.

There will be more later, of course. 

UPDATE: Went running. Recovered like magic from a massive weekend, but held back to 7 miles. Felt perfect. Feel perfect. Banished, for a day, maybe, my "meaning of everything" anxieties. 

September 14, 2014

Everything hurts, and I don't care.

Won the 5K this morning, and thus a pair of Adidas shoes.

Paced my runner for the last 40 miles of his first place, course record 100 miler.

I suppose it's possible to have a better day, but I don't know how.

September 12, 2014

It's Friday, and I'm not writing much

I am not the religious sort, but this really speaks to me.

I'm not the drinking sort either (I think it's been about 4 years since I've had a drop, half by accident). So replace that with coconut milk ice cream, or mixed nuts/dried fruit and you've got me.

More here.

Also, it's going to dip below 40 tonight. Perhaps it will get a little chilly in your area as well? If so, please enjoy the finest one woman Danish black metal act you'll hear all week. Or ever. In any case, it's music to fit the weather.

September 11, 2014

Evidence that 30 second intervals and heavy weights improves distance performance

I'm desperate to read this entire study, once it's available. In the meantime, it will almost certainly be co-opted by the all intensity, all the time crowd, disregarding the fact that some interval work mixed with some endurance work is basically standard distance training fare.

Still, I've got a few thoughts, just from the abstract.

1) First of all, I love that they tested actual performance, rather than physiological measurements. Too many studies assume that an increase in VO2max is the same as an increase in performance. That simply isn't true. But 10K and 1500 meter times are real, relatable things. I know what a 42 minute 10K is, what it looks like.

2) We really need to see what the control group's training looked like. Was it all slow? What was the volume?

3) We also need to see how long the endurance runs were for the "intensity" group. The abstract implies that they were reduced, but it could also be referring to weekly volume.

4) What did the weight training consist of? It was heavy, we know that. Were plyos involved too?

5) Lydiard folks would note that the intensity group basically did an old fashioned sharpening phase. Of course the athletes ran faster, they'd argue. But without the previous base work, they wouldn't have benefited to the same degree, or perhaps, been able to handle the training.

6) To that end, it is a very short study. Peaking works. We know this already. How would the 10K times look if the intensity group had kept up their training for 6 months, however?

7) See number one again. Seriously. They nailed this aspect.

Easy doesn't

Probably a lot more to say about the psychology of the "longer is better" thing, but it's late, too late, and I'm getting up at around five to go in to work early. Well, earlier. Though the barista days are now long gone, that sort of schedule still makes sense to me. One of these days I may shake it. One day, I may be forced to. But not yet.

Anyway, I mentioned yesterday that I'm going to run a 5K this Saturday. I'd thought about jumping in anyway, but frankly, I'm a little scared to see numbers attached to my present fitness. It's irrational, and nobody but me cares... but still, that neurosis exists.

I pulled the trigger when one of the managing editors at my office asked if I was going to do the race. She suggested that maybe I might like to, if 5Ks weren't too easy for me, and that it was for a good cause (it really is).

That middle portion is what I'm talking about, and what I've talked about several times before. Recently. And not at all recently. Running nine ultra/marathons in the last three years - inevitably, people ask about the limp, and things get around - seems to give the impression of running abilities well beyond what I feel is reality. This knowledge of my having done some longer stuff actually embarasses me slightly. Not that the act itself is embarrassing. It's not. But the idea that I'm a particularly good runner... well, I'm not really comfortable with that, nor do I really agree with it. And I'm certainly not comfortable with using my slight ultra pedigree as evidence to that point.

In any case, specific to this instance: 5Ks aren't easy. Not for me. And not for anyone that gives a real effort. That is to say, racing them isn't easy. Racing anything is never easy.

And frankly, as mentioned above, racing always scares me a bit. Not the difficulty inherent to the task. That, I don't mind. It's the goddamn clock. To look at a clock, a flat stretch of concrete, and know that these things will not lie to you. They will take all your effort, and assign a cold value to it. This is where you stand. We don't care how hard to tried. This is what it's worth.

Waiting on my number.

September 10, 2014

60 seconds

I'm going to race a 5K this Saturday, the morning of my pacing duties.

To that end, I decided to indulge in a little specific work, a few days out. Not to improve fitness, so much as improve my capacity to use the fitness I've got. Semantics, maybe. But something many smart people encourage, for reasons ranging from muscle tuning to "because it works".

Either works for me.

In any case: 2 miles easy, 4 x 400 @ 80 seconds, 4 x 400 @ 70 seconds, 4 x 400 @ 65 seconds, 2 miles easy.

I hit the last 400 at 64 seconds, if I'm being specific, which conjured up the question of whether I could run under a minute when fresh.

At the moment, no. But with focused work, and a drastic reduction in my easy running, I think it'd be possible in somewhat short order. A couple months? Maybe?

Will I actually attempt this? No. My broader goals, such as they exist, are at much longer distances. Just yesterday, I wrote about how I'd attempt to train for a hypothetical 100 mile race, which is quite a bit further than 400 meters. And while that is very hypothetical, I don't see myself really getting inspired by anything shorter than 13.1 miles in the near future.

Ideally, what I'd like to see is this: I continue my several weeks long now focus of including a myriad of paces, of doing actual workouts, rather than falling back into my volume for volume's sake habits. Gradually, as those weeks become months, and months become years, I'll get progressively more fit. That is at least somewhat the goal, right? And whether it's foolish or not, I really can't believe that I've maxed out my abilities, such as they are. (Though inevitably, that point will come. I won't acknowledge it except in hindsight, of course.) Subsequently, my workout paces will organically drop, and a sub 60 second 400 will be academic.


Ideally, of course, is not reality. And the truth is that nobody I know is really satisfied with their fitness. In fact, just about all of them - across an incredibly broad swath of abilities - classify themselves as pretty slow. I certainly count myself in that group.

The pleasant side to all of this is that those same people - and myself - enjoy the training for its own sake. And so, neurosis and self effacement aside, we all blissfully indulge in the process, outcomes be damned.

Strange hobby we've got.

September 8, 2014

100 steps

Hypothetical training musings ahead, by someone who is not a scientist, a coach, or that accomplished a runner. So, get your salt ready:

I'm pacing the last 25 of a 100 this weekend, which is a rewarding experience, but brings with it the unfortunate likelihood that I'll come away from the experience wanting to attempt one of the damn things myself.

I've allowed myself to taste the idea, if only because I don't presently have the desire to make a meal of it.

Still, that hasn't stopped me from thinking on potential recipes I might employ, should a genuine craving strike.

(Food metaphor is done now, I promise.)

The thinking goes that, the longer the race, the more "slow twitch" it is. No need to run fast. The law of specificity says so.

And there's intuitive logic to that. After all, if we assume the most important training is done around and at goal pace, and goal 100 pace is fucking slow (unless you're Zach Bitter, in which case, hi Zach Bitter), then why do anything but indulge in sweet LSD?

I dunno, exactly. Certainly plenty of people (probably most), from the sharpest end of the stick to the blunt, have trained with nothing but lots of weekly volume. Specificity is respected with big weekend mileage, and the pursuit of terrain (and perhaps vertical) that mimics the goal race. That has worked quite well for many.

My thinking, however - and this is far from revolutionary - is that the demands of running 100 miles are possibly best met by including multi pace and resistance training in addition to high mileage.

I believe this might have to do with muscle fibers. For our purposes, let's say that we've got slow, intermediate, and fast twitch fibers. The utilization progression goes mostly how you would expect, as the race distance increases. The further you run, the less fast and intermediate twitch fibers are involved.

And this is true... right up to somewhere around the marathon. At that distance, glycogen depletion and muscle damage require greater recruitment from the other fiber types. And although it hasn't been studied to my knowledge, it only makes sense to assume that 100 milers increase the need for these ancillary fibers to be recruited, when compared to marathons. And so the notion that 100 milers are an entirely slow twitch event, such as it exists, I would argue, is wrong. Much more likely, I think, is the possibility that every damn fiber you can muster becomes vital.

This same concept is also the driving force behind Lydiard's top down approach to training middle distance, which has since been articulated by real runner/scientist Peter Snell.

Do note that, as Snell points out, it's possible to train all fiber types with nothing but lots of steady distance. But you have to do a lot of it, and you can't just jog. Lydiard emphasized most running be done at a "good aerobic pace", which was not slow. And so possible, I'd argue, isn't necessarily optimal in this case. Certainly not when we're discussing the vast majority of ultra/marathon runners, 100% of whom are not Peter Snell.

I know I'm not. So it follows, then, that if I were to train myself for such an endeavor, I'd strive to increase the number of fibers I could recruit, and practice getting them to fire cohesively in a running stride, across a range of paces.

Practically, this means I'd do squats, box jumps, hill sprints, hill reps, track reps, and tempos. In other words, I think I'd probably train an awful lot like I would for sub marathon races, but with a greater emphasis big back to back weekend long runs.

It is worth noting that I'm hardly inventing anything here. Though plenty do train for 100s on nothing but volume, many others do more or less what I just spelled out here. Even still, the "why?" fascinates me, as ever. Maybe not enough to ever test any of this, but we'll see.

(An aside to this: Since it's long enough to not be "fast", but short enough to avoid marathon damage, is it possible that the half marathon is best distance for the truly slow twitch athlete?)

September 6, 2014

Saturday "race"

Ten miles this morning, doing hill reps later. Planned on easy, but the levee was crowded, very crowded, and so I raced everyone. They were almost certainly unaware of this race, its distance or its terms. Which is fair enough, as they were arbitrarily decided by me, at the time. Sixty degrees, a light breeze, inviting.

September 4, 2014

First steps

Being the approach to fall, many people who would otherwise be spared the insanity are inclined towards running a race of some kind.

They tell others, and those others say that it's good that they're running. I should too, they say. I used to, you know. But, life.

They tell me, and I say that I hope they enjoy it. The training, that is. Enjoy that and the race usually goes ok. Even if it doesn't, well, that's a relatively small time investment, relative to the hours spent building up to that first 5K, or whatever the case may be.

I don't offer much in the way of advice, because although I read voraciously on the subject, I end up truly believing very little, and that which I do believe is very simple. I tell them, again, to enjoy themselves. To only push so hard as they feel. To take it easy. Cover the distance before you worry about covering it fast.

I do tell them a little about the concept of base, to drive the point home. Maybe throw out stuff about mitochondria and capillaries. Definately reference how much slower my "easy" pace is than my 5K pace.

I tell them that, if they keep it pleasant, they'll run more. If they run more, they'll run better. If they run better, then they can run even more. And so on.

But if you hate it, none of that happens.

And if you do hate it, that's ok. Running isn't a moral imperative. Nobody should feel guilty for being slow, for hating it, or for not even bothering in the first place.

September 2, 2014

Things from yesterday, today

This post is entirely random bullshit.

- The scent of arboreal necrosis has begun to fill the wooded air. As sure a sign as any that fall approaches, as does the accompanying benefits of cooler air, darker skies, and delicious breathing. (That sounds odd, I know, but the air tastes so much better in the fall. And when you spend a lot of time breathing hard outside, you notice these things). I really do adore the aesthetic of late fall. It's odd the extent to which that's true. So yes, I'm very excited to see the calendar turn.

- Stories of huge marathon PRs often speak more to the disaster of the initial effort than real fitness gains. But then, if you ran faster, do we really have any other way to decipher fitness? Even if other race times are stagnant, if your target improves, that's not nothing. Oh well. Marathons are strange that way. Fueling and muscle damage are such a large factor. I just think it's a tad odd that everyone wants to discuss marathon PRs, and not, say 5Ks.

- On that note, I feel like 5Ks are chronically disrespected. Sure, they're relatively short. Three point something something miles doesn't inspire awe the same way 26.2 does. The distance is not inherently part of the challenge. But that just means you have to run harder. Often very uncomfortably hard, at a pace you never touch in training. (If you're a lazy ass, like me.)

- Lawrence's best post-collegiate runner by a pretty wide margin is almost exclusively a road 5K guy. I wonder if he gets sick of people asking him when he's going to run a marathon? As if running 15 and change on the roads doesn't count for much.

- I'm pacing a guy for 25 at the Hawk 100, on September 13. If things go well, I expect he'll be in contention. If things go really well.... he'll be better off even than that. But I don't want to jinx things. It's exciting for me, and I'm certainly feeling fit enough to push for 25, if it comes to that. Hoping it does.

- If LSD were thought of as long steady distance, rather than slow, I think people would have a much higher opinion of the concept. Slow conjures up images of a slouched back, flailing legs, and mournful chugging. Steady implies rhythm, which requires form, posture, etc., to be mostly on point. It's strong running, rather than weak. Easy, but not holding yourself back easy. It's also the most consistent source of bliss available, I think, and probably the "workout" I'd choose if I could only ever do one thing. (Especially if I'm allowed a hilly course.)

- I went on three runs yesterday, each an hour, just to see what it would be like. Sweaty, mostly. Produced an irritating amount of laundry.

- Legs feel fine though. Fine enough to do 14 today, at the aforementioned "steady" effort, and yes, over a hilly course. Six not very steep hill sprints/strides also, for some token turnover work.

- Still have no idea what I'm going to do this fall, in terms of racing. But very much enjoying my running, which, at the moment, is my primary concern.

- People are freaking out, as every year, over abominable pumpkin flavored coffee drinks. The only thing about fall I actively detest.

August 31, 2014

August 25-31

I've never done a this-week-in-training post before, mostly because it would always go like this: I ran a lot. Pretty slow. Some hills. Not too instructive. But I did some things this week, so if for nothing else but posterity and, perhaps, to puff up my own ego, here we go.

Monday: Easy 2 hours. Strides. Weights.

Tuesday: Easy 3 miles. 4 mile repeats @ 6ish pace. Easy 3 miles.

Wednesday. Easy 2 hours. Strides. Weights.

Thursday: Easy 3 miles. 8 miles @ tempo "feel". Easy 2 miles.

Friday: Easy 2 hours. Strides. Weights.

Saturday: Easy 1 hour. Strides.

Sunday: Easy 1 hour. 3 mile repeats @ tempo "feel". Easy 30 minutes.

That's... a pretty big week? With quite a bit of quality, really. But looking back, it was mostly doing what sounded like fun at the time. It always was.

My leg is good. Creeping back up above outright anemia is helping too, of course. Excited to see where this goes.

August 30, 2014

UTMB, very briefly

Today is more or less the first weekend of football, and also the conclusion of UTMB. It's on such occasions of overlap that I'm glad for ultrarunning's niche status. The lack of popular media spares us such brilliant lines of inquiry as: Why can't the American (men) win the big one? Are they chokers? Are they even elite? The relative lack of fucks given is actually quite refreshing.

Rory Bosio is the story though, and ought to be. Two in a row. Amazing talent, planning, and execution.

August 27, 2014

Novel Reps

I did mile repeats yesterday, which wouldn't be noteworthy - even in the context of a personal running blog - were it not for the fact that, as best I can recall, this was the first time I'd done such a workout. That's something of an embarrassing admission, if I'm being honest. Nominally, I'm a runner. I present myself as such, and that's the lens through which many people see me. If you're reading this, you very likely know me as little else.

And yet... that's a pretty basic thing to have never done, yeah? For a runner with the occasional result I'm not ashamed by - even down to 5K - to have never really run a hard mile, much less a series of them, seems sacrilegious. And this is Lawrence, former home of Cunningham, Santee, and Ryun (though in Lawrence, the latter is much better known as a generally despised politician), each the best collegiate miler of their time.

So it feels a bit stupid to sit here and write, as a not exactly new 26 year old runner, that I ran mile repeats, and guys, it was really fun. Three easy to start, then four reps, each around six minutes, with full rest (three minutes or so) in between, then another easy three to finish. It feels a bit stupid, because it's hardly a novel thing I've done. You've done such a workout. Very soon, countless high schoolers and collegians will as well. Not to mention the hobbyists, targeting their fall marathons, 5K PRs, or whatever.

Those who might not, I'd wager, are primarily the ultra folks, a term I've never really embraced, though it's largely defined my training for these last three years. I've never embraced it, first of all, because I've always raced plenty of other stuff, and my ultra results really haven't been that frequent or that strong. (In that regard, I don't feel wholly as if I've earned it.) But, like the off color in white paint, it takes only a little to create something else entirely. So, you run high mileage - at the exclusion of anything else - and refuse to shut up about one good 50 miler, and people notice.

That said, the races which first romanced me into taking running somewhat seriously were all long, and they still capture my imagination more fully than anything else. Though as a nod to my stress fracture, I'm focusing on shorter things for the moment, I'd be lying if I didn't acknowledge a temptation to do the opposite, to say fuck it, and sign up for a 100 in two weeks, probably crash and burn, but eh, it happens. (I'm pacing instead. Spring, though...) So perhaps I reject the label because it's accurate, and I'm simply being a contrarian hipster? Could be.

All of that is functionally irrelevant to the training discussion at hand though, because mile repeats, or any kind of consistent work at faster than "steady" pace (which I've always been happy to indulge in) is probably helpful. At least, willfully neglecting anything is probably explicitly unhelpful. Magness talks extensively (as Canova) of "never leaving anything behind", even as your focus changes. With that in mind, I followed up today with 10 easy, and then strides post.

Strides. Fucking strides, seriously. Another revolutionary ingredient in my training, that really should be anything but.

Tempo (or threshold, or steady state, or whatever. Hard. How about that?) tomorrow, and then we're damn close to something that might resemble an actual week of training. Hope for me yet, perhaps.

August 25, 2014

Not to Run

My Hawk Marathon status after further - albeit totally unnecessary - deliberation:

Subtitles? Okay. 

I'll probably do some other stuff, which I keep saying, and I do mean. But we'll see. Marathons are long. A hard thing to do, if you're not really feeling it, and thus a miserable thing to fake. 

I'll volunteer instead, which is cool, because I sometimes need to appear a nice enough guy.

August 23, 2014

Kettle, Coil

Deafheaven's Sunbather was the closest thing to a mainstream black metal album we've ever seen, or are likely to see. This assertion is of course contingent upon your acknowledging Sunbather as a black metal album, and not post-rock, shoegaze, "hipster metal", whatever. The urge to classify something as "real" is very strong in the music community, especially among those die-hard fans of niche genres. Compound this further when said genre is nearly always the target of derision, and you understand why black metal fans are very touchy about what they allow into their club.

It's from that maelstrom of mainstream approval and die-hard derision that Deafheaven release their new single. Though I don't claim to know their motivations, this is a much more straightforward bit of blackened death metal, complete with a *ghasp!* guitar solo.

I'm quite fond of it, but then I found Sunbather breathtaking. People who hated that will likely hate this, and from what the internet has told me so far, it seems they mostly do. The critical consensus is thus far positive. So it goes, I guess. 

I simply find it more pleasant not being a genre die-hard, I suppose, but rather more sonically polyamorous.

Now I'm left to hope the band stops in Lawrence again when promoting their next album, as I missed their last show with a stress fracture. (Yes, I could have stood in the back, and out of the fray. But that wouldn't have been any fun at all.)

August 22, 2014

Outliers and Us

Thing about which I'm thinking today: There's a general assumption in the weightlifting community that even very serious hobbyists ought not follow the training plans of the drugged up genetic elite, being that they're neither of those things. (Assuming they are neither. Steroids change everything.) It goes further even than that, stating that much of what we know about training theory is severely skewed, having been too heavily influenced by a statistically insignificant pool of outliers.

(For a couple specific examples: The classic 6 day body part split and uber protein diets really require superhuman testosterone levels to work well. Mortals need less stimulation, more frequently, and can't make use of nearly 2 g/lb protein.)

For many fairly obvious reasons, this lesson could extend to endurance training. Don't think I've heard it echoed, however. In fact, I'd suggest we go the opposite route. Rather than disregard what they do, it seems we tend to look to the elites (athletes and coaches) for guidance and ideas.

If we assume that elite athletes have a decided genetic advantage (they do) and that many are getting chemical help (probably more true than we'd like to think), are we all idiots for more or less aping their training methods?

Yes, we basically always do less volume overall, and less volume of intensity. But the basic structure isn't that different. And it isn't really uncommon to see, say, a 2:40 marathoner training more or less like a 2:15 runner, despite being worlds apart.

Would the 2:40 guy be better off running 40 miles a week, with very specific hard workouts, and little overall volume? (The scientific literature would say yes.) Or maybe it should go the other way, with tons of easy miles. (The sub elite marathon times of the 1970's would suggest this.) Maybe he's got it perfect. Maybe it depends, and is wholly individual. Maybe everything works just about equally well, and none of this really matters.

I really have no idea.

August 21, 2014

Something for Nothing

This season's winter caps are now arriving at Running Warehouse, which is a cruel thing to see when you're running in triple digit temperatures. I don't presume this is some epic "fuck you" to those of us in Kansas - although sometimes it seems as if much of existence is a "fuck you" to Kansas - but that won't stop me from interpreting it that way.

But, yeah, it was hot and I ran anyway. High 7 minute pace for 12 on a pretty hilly route felt like shit, but in that kinda good after-the-fact sorta way. I stood in the shower and leaned on the wall and felt, even as the water was at a moderate temperature, that my body temperature was plummeting. Then I ate a little fruit, drank some water, and yeah, that's it. (Eating a substantial meal after a run is supposedly important, but I've never been able to stomach it, and at this point, I've stopped caring/trying.)

Doesn't seem all that interesting, now that I've written it out. Lacks context. Mundane steps are interesting if part of a journey. If this were a training run for something, there would, I think, be additional narrative heft. But as is, it's a training run for myself, for my own edification, satisfaction, etc. I'm training for everything and nothing.

I've attempted to write out something like a fall schedule, with promises that I'd target things, really train, and try and eek a few shorter distance PRs out of this otherwise somewhat wasted year (in terms of racing). Those were probably always empty promises anyway, given that my training inevitably devolves into doing whatever I want on that day, basically just trying to run a lot, with some hills thrown in. Pretty clear at this point that, no matter what intentions I may claim, that's basically what I'll end up doing.

Enjoying you "training" isn't the worst thing, of course. You could even argue it's the best thing, for those of us in the subsusbsubsub-elite crowd. Maybe we could find a few seconds here and there. Maybe, if we nailed everything, 30 seconds off a 5K, a minute off 10K, so on. Is this worth it? It is if you want it to be, I suppose. It just depends where your priorities are.

Last year, I had two races I cared too much about. And even then, my training was basically "do a lot of hilly miles". (Probably 70-100 per week, if I had to guess. But I never track, so...) Of course, when your biggest target is a hilly 50 miler, that's probably not the worst idea. Not exactly incisive Canova specificity, but not bad.

This year, I don't have anything like that. I'm still going to race, probably, but I'm not going to pretend I have any idea what, or where. Mostly my goal is "get my shit together". Get my iron up above corpse levels, keep fucking around with my "base", get some quality gym work done, keep my leg unbroken, and see when/if inspiration strikes. Frankly, the training will probably look the same regardless.

Not the worst thing.

August 14, 2014

A damned dozen

I wrote, post stress fracture(s), that my ferritin level was low.

It is, as of yesterday, 12. Which is pretty awful still. Not any better, in fact, than what it was.

This is frustrating for the obvious reasons that it would be. But it's oddly encouraging to think I've managed some not embarrassing fitness while essentially taking reverse EPO.

"Optimal" is a viscous concept in both fitness and nutrition, so of course it's even more vague where they intersect, as here. Some suggest levels should be at least 50, others 75. I've seen some recommend as high as 135. Which, I dunno. But not 12. Nobody thinks that's optimal for basic healthy functioning, much less distance training and racing. The reference range of my particular blood test bottoms out at 30, so I need to more than double it to simply reach that - still "deficient" - range.

The answer, of course, is a pill. I'd love to say I'd simply fix it "naturally", with diet, but then I'm no purist on such matters. I want what works. Give me the pills, not fucks.

In the meantime, I'll imagine a hidden well of fitness, just waiting to be oxygenated.

August 12, 2014


I don't own a camera but if I did I'd post a picture of the levee in north Lawrence. It's my favorite running destination. Not for the scenery, because there basically isn't any. Not for the terrain, because it's a flat gravel path

But actually, yeah, for those things. For those things, or rather, for the absence of them. It's my favorite place to run because that's all it is. You go, and there is no auto traffic, and thus no stop signs or lights. There are very few other runners, walkers, and cyclists as well.

It's about 4.75 miles from the start to the railroad, at which point I'll turn around, sometimes after sitting for a bit to watch a train go by. I look at the graffiti and goods and wonder what stories are there, think on the intersections of industry and culture.

I could run the other direction - towards Topeka instead of KC - but I don't. I like the repetition.

It's a little crunchy but basically silent. There are things to see but nothing to look at. So you run, and while running, you are running, and you are thinking about running, about your cadence, arm carriage, pace, etc. Sometimes you think about nothing and the wind narrates your actions, punctuated by rhythmic footfalls.

If I could change it I would add some rolling hills, but then it would be a road, not a levee, and I'd have to share with trucks. So no. It's fine as is.

I ran there yesterday, sharing it with a few members of KU's cross country team. A steady day for them, conversational, fluid, symmetrical, and of course, faster than me. I was more aware than usual of my short legs, slight inward ankle roll, floppy hair, mediocre pace, sub 10 but not sub 5% body fat, etc. Self conscious but I said hi, they said hi, and I went along, thinking that yes they should run here, it's a good spot, probably the best spot in town and the only one that allows you to miss hills, if you want to really cruise.

And so I did, and so I'll do today, with other people or not, because it's not my lawn, and even if it was, I wouldn't tell any damn kids to get off it.

Also, one of the dogs - you can never tell which - ripped my heart rate monitor strap to bits. So - as usual anyway - "cruise" is gonna be my only pace metric for a bit.

Edit: A picture has been provided in the comments. I'm to technologically illiterate to post it, however.

August 9, 2014

5K for 5K

Baldwin City is about a twenty minute drive from Lawrence, headed South. A few thousand residents. It's one of the options I could give when asked where I'm from, given that I attended junior high and high school there. (Born in Portland, ME, but never lived there. Childhood in Abilene, KS. Adolescence in Baldwin. College to present in Lawrence.) It is also a running town - though I didn't start until I'd been gone for a few years - owing mostly to the fact that the boys have 11 state titles in the last 20 years, while the girls have 8. (Same coach.) This has raised the sport's profile in the town considerably. At least when I was there, the runners were very much celebrated athletes, and it was considered the cool thing to do. (Somehow my 3rd place in state debate didn't have the same result.)

So, there are 5Ks for many occasions, one every few months, never lacking for participation. Today's was a benefit for a junior high school English/History teacher who has recently been diagnosed with ALS. I had her, and so did my younger brother. She's been there over 20 years, so it goes without saying that many other students did as well.

As the purpose was simply to raise money, there were no bibs, chips, timekeepers, awards, etc. A start line and a donation jar. That was enough to draw over 100 starters and 5500 dollars, on rather short notice.

It is just running, yeah, and too often, I probably care too much about it. But I don't think there's anything else that could've attracted such interest in Baldwin. People wanted to get out, run/walk, then hang out. Small thing, yeah. But something.

The atmosphere was a difficult thing to describe. Serious and solemn at times, but never altogether unhappy. Post-race was borderline celebratory. The mingling you'd expect, with fruit, water, burritos, and ice buckets dousing random people.

The race itself went well. The course is hilly, and the grass is allowed to grow a bit, so it doesn't run like green pavement. A good turnout, with a few faster folks, including a couple high schools runners. I held off the faster of the two by a couple seconds. Those kids can kick, though.

Felt like this at the start.

Felt like this at the end.

Ran nine more back in Lawrence. Difficult day to get my head around.

August 8, 2014

Narrative and Context

There's a sentiment expressed (ironically, yes) on running blogs and message boards, when discussions get overly technical or argumentative, that we should all just shutup and go for a run. Chill, and stop thinking so hard, basically. I'd like to put aside the irony of someone taking the time to comment that others shouldn't take the time to comment for a moment, and say that this sentiment isn't one I share.

Not to say that it isn't valid. Plenty of people enjoy running for the act, and that is, of course, perfect. It's a very simple thing, running. One foot at a time, and away you go. There's a local guy who races plenty, with whom I've spoken, who just runs 30 minutes a day. He doesn't consider pace, or distance - though he goes plenty hard, from what I've seen. He knows nothing at all about the biochemistry that informs his fitness, nor does he care. He runs, races well - but only ever on a whim - and enjoys it.

But there are - while perhaps fewer - a not insignificant number of neurotic headcases like myself who sometimes enjoy the ideas more than the acts. Again, I do realize the inherent potential for minor blasphemy here. That I spend more time every day reading about running than actually hammering out miles (though most would say I run plenty) speaks to a certain pencil necked sensibility, a bookishness I've always been happy to embrace.

I don't, however, think these are contradictory notions. Reading about mitochondrial adaptations gives meaning and purpose to runs that would otherwise be mere movement. That movement is of course pleasant in its own right, but like words, needs context to demonstrate its true poetry. And those adaptations - like so much of biology - goes beyond imagination, truly a case of reality outpacing fiction. We are, in this case, protagonists of our own narratives, and the authors too. We can shape ourselves by our actions, exert control in a world that so often deprives us of any semblance of autonomy. And we can do so knowingly, eyes perpetually wide in amazement.

This was - and remains - the central appeal of running, to me. It began with questions. Could I run a lot? What would happen if I did? Could I finish a half marathon? A full? An ultra? How would I do those things? How would I then optimize performance? (That last question will never be answered with total satisfaction, acting instead as a perpetual rabbit.) These questions give context to the act, purpose to an hour or two every day, makes letters, words, and narrative out of otherwise incomprehensible shapes.

(Please note that, in all of this, I'm speaking only for myself. And that I'm a happy dork.)

August 7, 2014

Rambling, Geeking

I like fantasy novels. Always have, and at this point, it's probably safe to assume that isn't changing. I was, as it happens, greatly amused that there's a "Goblin's Forest" on Longs Peak, which itself looked menacing, while shrouded in cloud and fog. I consider myself likely the only person to have won a 50 mile race and played several games of Magic: The Gathering in the same calendar year. I'm very proud of that - imagined - fact.

So, I'm excited that my favorite current fantasy author has a new book. It's his first that's categorized as.... young.... adult, however, and I don't consider myself one of those. But I did buy it, because the reviews are good, and categories are often no help at all.

This can be even more true in music, where one man's atmospheric black metal is another's progressive shoegaze with elements of blackened death. And both insist the other's taste is garbage. Still, I was excited for Wolves in the Throne Room's latest album, although I heard rumblings it was something of a departure from their usual, which I'll call American atmospheric black metal. You can listen below, and decide for yourself what you'd call it. Probably, you'll think it's disgusting, which is fine. I've listened to this album nearly every day for about two years now, so I'd obviously disagree. (I'm listening to it right now, actually. Second time today. Brilliant as ever.)

These different notions are fine. It's also fine when a band or artist decides they want to do something very different from their typical work. This in no way invalidates previous offerings, though some fans act otherwise. But for me, life goes on. Crash Love didn't ruin Open Your Eyes and Shut Your Mouth. Same band. Different sounds. One I vastly prefer, but so it goes.

With that preface, I really want to emphasize that WITTR's latest record doesn't color my opinion of the band's previous catalog, nor does it diminish my interest in what they'll do next. But I'd also like to say that I hate the album, after one listen. It's entirely ambient noise. Spacey, vibey, synth stuff. Which yes, is a thing. A valid thing. But not my thing. I'll listen again tomorrow. And then on, perhaps, when I'm playing chess.

Which I do like. Though I'm really awful. A better runner, I guess, and better than I thought I'd be at this moment. My Colorado efforts were good - if errant - and I completed 12 @ 7 flat in 94-degree heat this afternoon, able to pass the talk test the entire time. My fitness, such as it ever was, seems to have returned quickly.

Still, I'm not terribly motivated to do anything with it, other than enjoy not having a broken leg bone. Call it a base phase, if you want.

Related, Running Times posted an interesting article by Greg McMillan today, concerning the oft-debated merits of speedwork (VO2max, in their parlance) during the base phase. McMillan, being a Lydiard guy, is against it, though he advocates for a more Canova model of periodization in the article. Not to say he's wrong (for what it's worth - nothing - I actually agree with him, fundamentally), but his arguments are not really empirically proven. If there is any research on muscle pH and mitochondrial degradation - related to training intensity - I've never seen it, and he certainly never cites it. But then, he - like Lydiard - is a coach more than a scientist. And even the "science guys", like Magness, advocate a basically identical model. Train the opposites, work towards race pace specificity. It does make sense, but given that reading academic journals is my job, perhaps, I really like to see them used when science sounding terms are used somewhat haphazardly to build a case.

Not to say I received zero running related articles today. I did work on an article concerning blisters in ultrarunners for a podiatry journal. It was, to my mind, fascinating. The short version: Injiji was the only sock that seemed to help. No tapes, powders, creams, etc., did. The best predictors of blister freedom, however, were ultra experience and training volume. Something to that, probably.

By the way, yes, I realize this is basically four posts in one, and if you read this whole thing, I offer you either congratulations or my sympathy. It just so happens that the primary things about which I geek (fantasy lit, people screaming loudly with backing guitars/drums, and running) offered inspiration today. So a near perfect day, yes, but probably also a hint as to why I haven't had a date in a while. Somehow, a profound interest in hobbits, scary music, and blisters accomplishes this.