December 8, 2017


I have declined to write here for a while, both because I lack a keyboard at home and because Real Life made writing mostly about hobby running seem more trivial than it already does. I won't say more about the latter, not for now, because addressing it at all would seem flippant in a way even this dismissal does not.

About the running: I have done it. This will be the first year since I adopted this hobby in which I haven't completed a marathon or ultra--you might phrase that as "failed to complete", though I don't think of it that way. I've had a lot of good runs, some with several people much faster than me. That's good. Hurting for a couple days after an "easy ten" probably implies a degree of fitness has been earned; but also, it tells you where you are in the world. Not that I don't know; but there is knowing and then there is knowing. Calves that feel like gas station beef jerky looks hold a special wisdom, I think.

I raced on a track for the first time in my life, at 29 years old. I did so for five minutes, which was a second or five longer than I'd wanted to spend, as much as the novelty appealed. Road races are spread horizontally, and trail races are often lonely. The track was claustrophobic, the centrifugal force of the oval creating a permanent tension. Of course, mile pace also feels like shit. I liked it though--or rather, I liked training for it. I only came to running at 23, after spending my college years focused on aesthetics driven weight lifting, with the elliptical for "cardio". So it makes sense that I would still enjoy short bursts of intense effort, with a minute or two between. Weight lifting helps with this stuff too; though in truth I've kept at that anyway, and I'm really terrible at it.

I got third in the Thanksgiving Day 5K, beating a couple guys I don't beat. Passing them was strange, insofar as passing at all is a statement of intent. "I'm going to beat you," essentially. And as I said, I don't beat these guys. But they blew up badly, so I did. 17:10 was enough to do the job, which it wouldn't have been in any other year that I can remember--but this line of thinking tends towards an irritating degree of self effacing digression. I was happy with the time. I was happier still with this:

My hair looks stupid; I’m “in the bucket”; my q angle is terrible; and I didn't catch second, but I nearly did. I'd be happier if I had, of course; but I didn't expect to, not at the time. So I'm happy because I tried anyway, and it nearly worked. I don't kick well, I've always said; but I closed a few yards rather quickly here. And once again, the important thing is in the choosing. It's easy to run slower--or at least, to not run faster. That's sort of how this racing thing is decided. There is fitness, of course; but as important is the fitness you're willing to access and expend. People ran faster--that guy among them--and certainly many, many people can run faster; but I fucked myself up, and that's satisfying.

Running is weird, that way. In most sports, you hurt the other person. Maybe I should say I dislike those things, but that wouldn't be honest. Concerns about barbarity and concussions and rampant financial malpractice--I could go on--aside, I like watching football, boxing, etc. On Saturday, for the first time ever, two Olympic Gold Medalist boxers will fight as professionals. I'm excited to watch, although the only way to guarantee victory is for one man to inflict severe brain damage on the other person, such that they're unresponsive for at least a count of ten. Running doesn't ask you to do that to others, or to yourself. Certainly there is pressure when someone near you begins to speed up; but you can just abstain from following. If you fail, no one hurts you. In fact you have to choose the hurting yourself in order to increase your chances of success.

It's easy to take this too far, I know. God knows the hyperbole devoted to violent sports, and to running as well. I flailed at the finish, and it doesn't matter, ultimately, not in the way that real things do. But there is significance to be found within that apparent nihilism. That is, if a thing doesn't matter, then choosing it anyway might.

April 5, 2017

In case you don't check sports illustrated for running news

Inside look: Joyciline Jepkosgei’s training ahead of half marathon world record finish

Nothing, I suspect, that will surprise you too much. A twitter thread by a couple people who would know say this is pretty much what everyone does in Iten. The difference, it is suggested, between it and "western training" is using the long run as a harder session, rather than accumulating extended time on feet for its own sake, and keeping in touch with faster stuff--even track work--while training for longer races. To be fair, I think that idea has infiltrated training thought on this continent to a significant degree. Even mainstream online calculators suggest a long run pace that's a little faster than your easy pace, these days, regardless of target distance, and significant work at marathon or half pace is par for many courses.

March 21, 2017

There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.
So begins Chapter 82 of Moby Dick, a slog of a book about an ultimately futile pursuit, chronicled with spectacularly granular detail, yet with a scale and reverence bordering on religious.

(Sound like anything else?)

March 17, 2017

5:10 road mile. Not what I wanted, the two climbs, the wind, yada yada. There are always reasons not to have run faster. Anyway, some things.

Swimming teaches this well, but so does fast running: faster ain't harder, faster is faster. Tense and flail and you're not going to have a good time.

A guy ran 4:20, who was close to sub-4 at KU, a couple years ago. That looks really fast, up "close".

I talked to a lot of people. I never need reminded that this is a great running community, but I like to be all the same.

So, it was fun. I'm enjoying running and racing right now. That's a boring sentence, but it's true.

Oh, also: my ankle feels fine. Weirdly, only volume seems to agitate it. I can run for over an hour at any pace, no problem. Close to 90 minutes, though...

March 13, 2017

2017 Pi Day Half

So I did win, after all. Sometimes you wake up feeling good, and it's all pretty easy. Those are good days, and I'm growing increasingly comfortable with my relative inability to predict them--much less conjure them. Still, Winter in March, a cold wind ripping through the trees, snow falling during the last mile... I'll take all of that, whenever I can get it. In general, I really do just love this race. It's very, very local; virtually the entire field is Lawrence, not even "greater Kansas City", but there's something to be said for intimate, family-reunion type races.

Some things:

My workouts have been road/track exclusive for the past few months, and it will never not be shocking how much slower real trail running actually is. 1:28:35, 6:46 pace, is still conversational--and yet the legs have to navigate banked trail, 180-degree turns, and of course, hills. The course was designed for mountain bike racing, so it really is the turns that stand out. There are a lot of them, and many are quite acute. So, my hips and ankles feel it.

I wore the Nike Zoom Streak XC, which didn't help in the "keep the legs feeling fresh" department. Too little shoe for a half, and I don't really know what I was thinking, since I've never gone past 10K in them. They did allow for this cool picture, though.

Anyway I've got a road mile on Friday, which has only one turn, but it's 180-degrees, right in the middle, which should be horrible but fun in a masochistic sort of way. There will be very fast people who will pull impossibly far away, given the distance, and it will not be conversational. I'll probably find something to say after the fact, though.

Training--more or less--for that and racing this half, I'm still in a place where I can imagine a perfectly fulfilled running life racing only within those margins. I'd expected some lingering disappointment at not having finished my attempt at a 100, but there's nothing. I still don't care what my road marathon PR is, either. But I do care that I can pop my ankle like most people pop their knuckles, right where I sprained it last fall. It gets sore, too, every so often, and I'm beginning to suspect it'll just be one of this "things" most runners eventually get--lingering not-quite injuries that nag perpetually. That anxiety--granted, of course one can get hurt training for and racing shorter distances--combined with my present fondness for harder running means that, while I have nothing like a goal moving forward, I know roughly what I'm going to be doing.

March 9, 2017

Pi is not endless--though we cannot articulate the border after which the stream of numbers dries up, such a point must exist. Namely, Pi is between 3.1 and 3.2, and there is a point where 3.2 becomes 3.2; so, anything that was something else before that must cease, in order to bring about the immutable reality of 3.2. Perpetuity is not, in this case, possible, though the post-decimal notation is so long as to seem infinite.

Half marathons, though, are a determined distance, and the time it takes one to traverse that mileage is equally measurable. So too is it possible to grant numbers and even values to the order in which one accomplishes this.

So, there is a Pi Day Half Marathon this weekend, and I'm running it for the 5th time, hopefully faster than ever before, and faster than anyone else for the 4th consecutive year. I've run with the guy most likely to threaten this outcome once a week for about 6 years, which is a lot of miles, a lot of time, though I don't count either habitually.

The distance and the terrain are at a(n un)comfortable intersection of our abilities. Me: 5'10, 145 lbs, with a 30 inch inseam and tendency, lately, for short, fast, and hard work. I've really targeted a road mile, which is in another week. Him: 5'11, 125 lbs, with a 34 inch inseam and a tendency to tempo everything everyday. He probably has a couple marathons a month for the next few years, though I don't know for certain. I'd intended that as hyperbole when I typed it, but I have to say it might not be. Taken together: If it were a shorter race, I'd win; if it were longer, he would.

It's gonna be a race, though, and it's going to hurt quite a bit, which is not an easily quantifiable thing.

Other things:

--I've tried to read less training things. Fiction makes for better mental health, which tends to positively impact training anyway. I'm probably going to violate this condition regardless, since I always do.

--I swam 1000 meters last night. I've done this a few times recently. I don't have any interest in doing a triathlon. (Really.) It simply struck me that I'm not very good at it, that I probably couldn't manage a mile if I had to, and that bothered me. Admittedly, this is a bit stupid, but total incompetence in any physical capacity bothers me. I try to maintain a five rep max on the bench of at least my bodyweight, and a (also five-rep) deadlift of 1.5 times it. Neither mark is impressive in any conventional sense, but it feels vaguely and arbitrarily enough. Taken all together, this post could sound very Crossfit-inclined. I'm not, though, promise. I just figure I'm not a good enough runner to justify being awful at everything else. If it sounds like I'm a somewhat unfocused exerciser who mostly focuses on running but is not as dedicated to being a runner as he could be, well, that's probably true, and also ok.

--I was a barista for a long time--this was a reasonably well trafficked coffee blog, years ago, hence the name--and so qualify as a coffee snob by most metrics. For cheap office coffee, though, Dunkin' Donuts and 8 o'clock are perfectly adequate. I'm drinking a lot of cheap office coffee, lately.

--I tried to see if I could make a top 10 list of my favorite albums of 2016. I made it to 35. I don't know how anyone pares it down to such a fine edge. I've basically indulged in old black and death metal since.

January 9, 2017

I have intended, at various times, to write about what I have done, am doing, might do--and I have of course done none of those things, for various reasons.

I do have some thoughts, though, which are not terribly organized, but I will share now, because I'm bored at work, and have done enough to feel this is not a terrible dereliction of duty.

--My ankle is fine now. It would be cool to isolate a variable here, and say "This is the fix." I've done several things, however. 1) Barefoot single-leg balancing, every morning and every night. I'm awful at it, but less awful than I was. That's probably something. 2) Keeping easy runs no longer than 10 miles, and usually only 40-60 minutes. I've a tendency to gravitate towards everything being medium long, medium effort, when left to my own devices. (Yes, the classic recreational runner problem. We are all unique in the same ways.) That's not great, except, maybe, for what some folks might call base building.

--I'd argue, however, that it's probably not optimal for that either. (Once you can tolerate frequent, steady running, at least.) Or rather, I wouldn't argue it, because people get fanatical about such things. But it strikes me that--especially for those runners who, like me, don't have a real athletic background to draw on--all paces are "basic"--or, to borrow from Canova, fundamental.

--To that end, my volume is a bit lower, though I don't ever count it. Probably 55 or 60 miles a week, instead of 70-80. But, I'm doing bits of mile, 5-10K, half-full marathon pace work every week, plus some strides and true sprints. My long run is only 90-120 minutes. Perhaps that sounds like more of a sharpening phase, but I'm only really dabbling in all of it. It's all a little hard--but only a little--I'm not tasting copper twice a week. This is, again, perhaps a bit Canova-by-way-of-Magness, in the "never leave anything behind" sense. There is no race in which it's better to be weak and slow, so I'm trying to improve all those things, at least a little. I'm willing to be patient.

--Speaking of patience: I don't think I could race a good marathon or ultra off of this, so I'm not going to try. I'd like to get stronger, faster, etc., before trying again. Maybe that will be this fall, maybe it will be never. I'm honestly not concerned. I've completed 14 marathons/ultras, (I think, although can't recall, which should tell you something) so I'm not interested in limping across another finish line. For everything but the 100, that's done. I'd like to go a bit faster, in the meantime. If I can't race it, I'm not interested.

--I should say, also, that I'm enjoying this quite a bit. I'm not fast enough for people that make socks to give me free things, so this is really all that matters.

--I've done a few harder runs which make me thing this is all working pretty well.