July 31, 2014

Up and down

I went up a mountain today at a hard pace, and then back down it somewhat recklessly. I laughed multiple times, the bliss bubbling out, and perhaps this is bad to say, but was nearly moved to the point of tears while screaming down a narrow rock path, on which both sides were snow covered tundra, fog all around, a self contained world of effort and ecstasy at 13,000 feet.

I don't have anything revelatory to say about mountains. They are bigger than people tell you, more striking in scope than they could with any language. But interacting with them is better than that, somehow bigger. You feel dwarfed by the magnitude of the thing on which you crawl, and yet titanic if measured by effort and accomplishment. The heart pounds, breath comes short, and it's all perfect.

I'm laying here now listening to a river rushing by, the perpetual white noise my temporary residence affords. Nothing hurts, and there is no detectable trace of fatigue. This, on some level, is the gift of fitness. Beyond racing, it grants you the opportunity to indulge in place, to say I'd like to walk there, then there, then there, then skirt this peak to that. To indulge your mind's fancy with your body's effort, which, by some alchemical reaction, becomes something better than ambrosia.

There are, of course, races for which this type of day would represent very specific training. And I can't comprehend them, frankly. I've run 50 miles through the Flint Hills, which are not nothing, but are not this. I don't know how anyone runs Pikes, split between running up and then back down a mountain. And something like Hardrock scarcely seems real, or even possible.

But that's a concern for another time. Or much more likely, a concern for a time that will never come. Racing at all, frankly, is the furthest thing from my mind. (Although allegedly, I do plan on doing it somewhat soon.) There is an indulgence beyond the clock, found in the freedom of movement and satisfaction only it can bring, in searing lungs and punching heart, in the confidence gained by doing this, whatever this is, in moving, testing, teasing, hammering. In running.

July 28, 2014

Going West

I'm going to Estes Park in a couple days. I'm really excited about it, but already somewhat dreading the return. I love Lawrence, really, but can't help but feel the teeth of withdrawal when leaving Colorado. There are mountains there, and none here. Mountains are cool. It's a simple calculus.

I'll probably post something silly during the trip, and then again after.

July 22, 2014

Tuesday treadhills

Today felt good. Good because it didn't particularly. Good because it felt a bit like the sort of thing I used to do, on designated workout days: Just make up hard shit as I went along. Nothing specific, because, to steal from Canova, I'm not at all in a "specific phase". (Also, for all of my interest in scientific training, I cannot stick to anything.) I am, rather, trying to build everything at once. Which is foolish, in some ways. Many ways, perhaps. But it felt good to not feel good, to inflict various modes of discomfort on myself, just because.

On a treadmill, because it was 107 out, and I'm not quite that stupid (with the numbers covered up, because I wanted to adjust the speed totally by feel): First, one hour, starting easy, moving towards a higher end aerobic effort in the last 15 minutes. Then 10 x 1 minute treadhills, with one minute rest. Then 10 x 30 second treadhills, with 30 seconds rest. Then 30 minutes on the stationary bike, "hard".

Then, sitting on the trunk of my car, drenched, drinking sparkling mineral water and watching the fireflies.

This last part, I think, is crucial. Post workout bliss is better, in some ways - maybe even many ways - than fitness. (Not health though. I think I've somewhat learned that.) Perhaps that makes me more of an enthusiastic exerciser than a runner who trains deliberately? Don't suppose that would be the worst thing, which is good, because I suspect it may be the case.

Still, in the meantime, I do have some shit I want to get done. A sub 1:20 half would be lovely, but I'm wildly out of running shape at the moment. So anything under 1:25 would be a more realistic goal, probably. (I'm stupid enough to think 1:19:59, however.) To that end, I plan on purchasing - or obtaining for free - something resembling a half marathon training plan once we get 12 weeks out from November 2. Short hard hills are cool, probably my favorite thing to do, but have nothing really to do with a flat road half marathon. Specificity matters, to such an extent that I might stop fucking around for a bit.

July 20, 2014

Not marathoning in September

In a rare good decision, I've opted against marathoning in September, officially offering myself to the RDs as a volunteer. I needed to do the latter, so that I couldn't go back on the former. A hedge against the feelings that will come with my returning fitness.

I do suppose I could run the thing, and perhaps even put on a respectable showing. But I'm not confident, and that matters. Furthermore, I want very much to not be injured again. Not that you can't get hurt doing any number of things, but running an under-trained marathon must be high on the list of probable causes.

I'd like to say that I'm also volunteering to fulfill some altruistic tendencies, but that would frankly be dishonest. Not that I won't enjoy it, and feel good about it. I will. But if I felt up to racing, I'd be racing.

And race I will, just shorter distances. Tentatively, the plan is this:

Sandrat Trail Run in October -- This is perhaps Lawrence's most competitive race, a mostly trail, some road 9.something miler. Non-standard distance on non-standard terrain, and as such, a very wide swath of local running talent shows.

Kansas Half Marathon in November -- Lawrence's biggest road race, and chance to perhaps dip under 1:20. A little ambitious, because I'm certainly not in that kind of shape now. But I feel as if November is far enough away I could approach a decent little peak by then.

Of course, any racing at all comes with the caveat that I feel properly fit for the event, which means I've remained healthy, and completed consistent training. If that isn't happening, I'll be patient.

July 19, 2014


I guess we'd call this my first week training again. I'd call it that, so, moving things to the present tense, I am going to call it that.

A little something everyday, with some short hills on Tuesday, light tempo on Thursday, and long today.

"Long" being 12, which feels a bit silly to say, but it's the longest I've gone in over two months now. Additionally, it's fucking hot today. So I'm going to drink all of the water, and take a nap. Short post, yeah?

July 12, 2014

While we're talking about dominance

I ran again today. This is unrelated to the headline. The heat index was over one hundred degrees, so I well and truly jogged for 1:10. Cleansing. No pain.

Regarding the headline, it looks as if Rudisha is near enough to "back". Not the strongest field he's crushing here, but it's amazing nonetheless. About the most perfect mix of power and aesthetic grace exemplified in a stride, and then a widening gap. Kilian's Hardrock is one thing, this another. Both are nominally running, but could hardly be more different. Both are stunning, however. They have that in common.

If I could, as in Space Jam, steal the powers of any one runner, it'd be this guy. Why race all day if you can beat people in under two minutes?

Some thoughts about Hardrock

Kilian comfortably broke a record that could not be broken, joked that he was tired the last 2 kilometers, then spent some time showing the RD pictures he had taken on his phone, mid race. According to Anna Frost, one of his pacers, he had taken it very easy until mile 70 (iRunfar has the astonishing splits after this point), at which point he decided he'd rather be done sooner than later, since he was getting cold. Hence the massive course record, and the dominant win over the strongest field the race has ever seen.

Perhaps most remarkably, no one is at all surprised by this.

One gets the feeling his finishing time was basically a choice, that he could perhaps have gone substantially faster. He did say it was the best 100 mile course he's ever done, so perhaps we'll see more attempts. As the winner, he's in next year's race if he wants to be.

The question then is, assuming Kilian doesn't get hurt or lost, is their anyone who could really push him the entire way? I've got a not even remotely comprehensive listing of possibilities.

Of those that weren't racing: A healthy Heras or Krupicka, maybe; but healthy is the key word there; Krar is presently dominating runnable ultras, but Hardrock is a very different thing; Mike Foote has had success at UTMB, and is known to excel at long, patient courses, so he's perhaps another; Speaking of UTMB, you could probably grab any number of the Europeans who run well there, but never attempt anything in the states.

Of those that were: You'd have to think Timothy Olsen could run much faster if he didn't lose hours to vomiting, and then endure stomach troubles the remaining duration of the race; Dakota Jones hasn't nailed at 100 yet, but he has beaten Kilian before, and has the CR at a 50 mile race in the San Juans (previously held by Matt Carpenter); On one hand, Julien Chorier finished second this year. On the other, he basically ran a perfect race, and still wasn't close. Same could be said for the rest of the top ten, really.

Things that will not happen: Kyle Skaggs comes out of retirement, revealing that the whole farming-in-New Mexico thing was a lie, and that he's secretly been doing mountain repeats in the Himalayas; The wet dream of Let's Run comes to life, and several elite East African marathoners decide to take up mountain ultramarathoning; The Flash turns out to be real; Time travel is invented, and prime Matt Carpenter is retrieved.

Any other ideas?

July 11, 2014

I ran and emailed Hoka because typos

Did another group run last night. Approximately 200% easier than last week's. Went longer and faster, but only a modicum of hamstring soreness marks the effort. Still, though, can't complain about the progress. About 50 people shared the route for this one (very uncommon, the result of a "group fitness", uh, group, going on an unusually long run), which was a 7 mile out and back. Me and another guy "led", and as such, got kind of a weird amount of congratulations and applause as we ran back by everyone. It's shallow, yeah, but having people congratulate you on running "fast" feels good in any scenario, and probably better when you're self conscious about injury related fitness degradation.

Comparing yourself to others is silly, of course, because you are not them, and they are not you. But for those of us who spend too much time reading blogs by fast people, and articles about them, it's maybe nice to remember that everyone doesn't run a 15 minute 5k. (In fact, the average male apparently runs something like a 28 minute 5k.)

I'd like to tell you I don't care about things like that, however. And at the moment, it's somewhat true. I'm running again, at present, and the only goal I really have is to perpetuate that state. Still, though, the prospect of racing again has entered my mind. I've got a local marathon belt (that exists only in my imagination, where running is treated like boxing) to defend this September, and I maybe kind of want to. Well, I certainly want to. But I want to not break things too. I want those things to compliment one another, and that's perhaps too much to ask for.

We'll see. Signup isn't closed til the night before the race (I think), so I've got plenty of time to whip myself back into shape. Only not quite that masochistically.

One other thing, that I haven't got a transition for:

I found a couple typos and false information, while scrolling around Hoka's website. I don't look for such things consciously. But my day job being what it is, I can't help it. So, I emailed them, as politely as possible. A rep emailed back, thanking me. (No free stuff though...) Oddly, this is the third company I've emailed about such things (Newton and New Balance being the others). If some running shoe folks wants to hire me to proofread their company lit, I'm happy to relocate. Just sayin', you guys seem to have an issue with this, and I'd love to help. For money.

July 9, 2014

Sticky Wicket

I learned about cricket these last few days. Looked around the internet and watched some footage. Seemed a thing to do. Maybe not the thing to do. It is a sport. If we'd have stayed a British colony for longer, we'd probably dig it. Probably be better at soccer too, though people seem to think that we're an ascending power, in that regard.

I'm not so sure.

There is a somewhat uniquely American opinion that we'd be the best at every sport, if only we cared. That is the narrative, isn't it? If more kids played soccer, we'd win everything. To the extent that other nations win things, it's only because we've not reached our potential. Their victories are thus somewhat by our permission.

This is the narrative in soccer, and again, most other sports. But interestingly, it seems not to be the case in distance running. The narrative in that regard seems persistently to be that "the East Africans" win. That for every one Rupp it takes Nike/Salazar untold resources to develop, there are thousands of - to this point, nameless - runners waiting to burst forth from Kenyan anonymity, and drop a 13 minute 5K, a 2:08 marathon, etc.

People guess at the why this is, of course. Genetics, altitude, culture, and everything else are offered as the reason, or at least some of the reasons. To be fair, they don't even really guess at it. Quite a lot of academic literature - to say nothing of well researched books/magazine articles - has been devoted to the question, and we're yet without an answer. This doesn't seem to surprise anyone, however. It's accepted, in much the same way existence itself is. We can't quite quantify that either, but it just is. Or seems to be, which is maybe the same thing anyway.

So what, then?

I don't know. It's different, again. That's about all I feel comfortable saying. That, and it doesn't bother me a lick, to be honest. Seems to bother others quite a lot. Which is fine.

I guess we'll see.

July 3, 2014

Thursday again.

I'm attending the group run tonight. I should probably opt out the fast kids group for this week. Probably next week too. Maybe the week after that also. It's a physical hurdle, to be sure. But psychological also. I haven't run hard in two months. Might hurt. Then what? It was halfway through this run that I cracked my leg. I finished it, then walked home, in not-the-best-decision-I've-ever-made. If I feel a twinge, will I stop? Should I? Doc says things are good, but I spent a decent portion of the morning reading about a lady who died 5 days after liver cancer diagnosis, because every doctor whiffed on the diagnosis for months.

Please don't think I'm equating these things. I'm not. Just pointing out the depths of my neurosis. Which, you probably know. Perfectly well adjusted people probably don't run enough to break bones in the first place unless they're fast enough to get scholarships/money out of the deal. Nobody is lining up to fit me for a kit. 

Still, I'm happy about this. Obviously. When you're "a runner", and not running, your identity feels a little hollow. If that sounds melodramatic, it is. But that doesn't make it false. 

So. I look forward to being a version of myself that runs, because it feels more honest, more fulfilling. Further neurosis will follow, of course. I'll feel slow again soon enough, then a mix of frustration/motivation to fix it. 

For now though, 8 minute miles will feel like bliss. I'll probably say so later.


It's later. I ran. Nothing bad happened. Quite a few good things happened.

Six miles at eight minute pace, and yikes, calves felt it, hamstrings too. Out of shape? Believe it. But the engine is there. The specific muscle patterning has waned, which is to be expected, of course. Given that it's been there before, I have reason to hope it comes back soon.

Not soon enough to do any ultras this fall, which wouldn't be noteworthy, except that there's a picture of me in Ultrarunning Magazine. I'm told. I don't read it. Apparently it's an ad for the Lawrence trail running club's 50/100 mile race, which is in September.

Two things: 1) I was running a regular ol' marathon at the time, not an ultra. 2) I sure as shit don't feel like an ultrarunner right now.

Feels just a tiny bit undeserved, but then, deserved never had anything to do with it, on my end. All the credit belongs to the photog, who snapped a pretty cool picture. To the extent that I'm in it, I'm in the way. (See below.) But I'm narcissistic enough to think this is cool anyway, so it's all good.