18 Weeks Out

So here I am, 18 weeks out from the New York City Marathon (NYCM) and its time to make a decision regarding my training. Will I shoot for the moon again, or take a more earth bound course? Mega miles, or miles and speed? The eternal debate in Sean’s world of running, and one I want to resolve, at least for this training cycle, today.


Here’s the state of play: Generally, I feel good. My body feels recovered from the Vermont shit show. I’ve gotten in some ok mileage. Not everything I hoped for, but not abysmal, either. I’m coming into this cycle in ok shape and uninjured, which is better than I can say for any other training cycle.


Now it’s decision time.


When I initially started roughing out my training plan for New York, I was hoping to use the Pftizinger 55-70 plan. But as time got closer, it has become apparent that running that kind of mileage just wasn’t realistic based on both my base fitness and overbooked life. So, reluctantly, I’ve decided to scale things back to the more reasonable, but still ambitious, up to 55 Pfitzinger plan. That plan starts this week. Some might say this is still too much (SMT?) but if Vermont taught me anything, its that I need more miles to run the type of marathon I want to run. Going with the up to 55 program should, hopefully, allow me to have enough recovery time to some some real speed work without risking injury.


Of course, NYCM isn’t my only event of the year. In between now and then I have the New York City Triathlon, and the Presidential Traverse, both of which are pretty daunting events of their own. Yet both are certainly open acts to the main event – a sub four hour marathon come November. I’ll be working in some specific work outs for those events as well, including biking, swimming and interminable stair climbing, but NYC is the goal, and running is the name of the game.


Curious to see how this works out? I will of course be tracking it all in the weekly totals posts. Stay tuned for updates on how many miles I’ve run and how many books I’ve read. You’ll be riveted, I’m sure.

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Totals for the week ending 6.28.2015

Run Miles for the week: 34.1 in 5:25:29
Run Miles for the year: 732.8
Projected total miles for the year: 1494.3
Weekly/Daily averages to reach 2015 run miles 48.3/6.9
Run Streak: 0
Number of runs that were one stupid mile: n/a
Days until I beat my old run streak: n/a
Prospect Park loops for the week: 2
Prospect Park loops for the year: 45
Bike Miles for the week: 54.9 in 4:18:03
Bike Miles for the year 359.7
Projected total bike miles 729.4
Weekly/Daily averages to reach 2015 bike miles 62.6/8.9
Swim Yards for the week: 0
Total Swim Yards for the year: 4700
Body weight work 00:00:00
Total Exercise Time 9:43:00
Average Weight 180
Books Finished: 1 (Natural Born Heros, Chris McDuggal)
Books by Women 0
Total books for the year 27
Total books by women 12
Percentage of total books read which were written by women 44%
Books per week to reach 52 1

Notes: This weekend got all kinds of ganked up wit travel and family obligations, but the rest of the week went incredibly well. Things are looking up. Now, I need to be a model consistency over the next 18 weeks. Tune in next week to see if I screwed it all up (again). 


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Friday Inspiration: Western States Orginal

The grand daddy of American ultra races, the Western States 100, is this weekend. Irunfar has extensive coverage planned, which I’ll be following religiously. I’d love to see Rob Krar and Alex Varner do well, but its a long race, and there are a lot of talented runners out there. Should be a good race.

In honor of Western, here’s a video with Gordy Ainsleigh, the first person to ever run the course (when it was still a horse race). This guy is a total inspiration.

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Milo: Brains versus Brawn

Classic’s professor Tom Stevenson has written a fascinating piece* parsing the ancient sources for a true record of how many Olympic wins Milo had – was it six… or seven? The whole article is worth a read, if ancient history is your thing, but this part from the introduction really stuck with me:

[Milo] became a famous symbol of brute strength, viz. a symbol of ‘brawn’ rather than ‘brains’. In this guise he appeared regularly in stories about the limits of physical strength, especially in comparison to athletic achievement. Writer like to dwell upon his human frailty in spite of his athletic prowess, and on his unflattering death.

As I read more of the ancient sources on Milo, this is becoming more clear to me.

As Cicero said:

What cry can be more contemptible than that of Milo of Croton? When he had grown old, he saw some athletes training on the track, looked at his own arms, wept and said these indeed are now dead.’ Not so, you idiot. It is you who are dead, for your nobility came not from yourself but from your trunk and arms. (Sen. 9:27)

When I wrote my post on representations of Milo in art, I think I was guessing at part of this – that Milo was in part a cautionary tale about hubris —  but I didn’t know the literature enough to see how he was both praised for his strength, and, perhaps, found wanting in intelligence.

I find it interesting that in modern mainstream fitness culture, it’s the story of the calf, not the wolves, that has gain resonance.

More on this, I’m sure, as I develop the classical resources on Milo page.

Painting by Joseph-Benoit Suvee

Painting by Joseph-Benoit Suvee

*Dr. Stevenson has been kind enough to correspond with me about this article and send me a more recent version published in the journal Nikephoros. If and when that version goes online, I’ll link to it.


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The BQ(Q) – Jana T

Jana runs with my club, Prospect Park Track Club, though we’ve never gotten a chance to run together. I hope I get to see her at this year’s club championships and thank her for this awesome contribution to the project. Lots of good stuff in here, thanks Jana!

Name: Jana T

Sex: Female

Age (at the time of first BQ): 23

Height (at the time of first BQ):  5’6

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 110lbs

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? Tell us a little about the race.
I ran my first BQ in the New York City Marathon 2013.  It was my first marathon ever, so I had no idea what to expect.  I had a rough idea of a time goal between 3:15 and 3:30, but was not sure how I would do.  I passed through the half marathon mark in ~1:32 which was very close to my half marathon PR at the time.  At that point, I knew that I had made a big mistake in my pacing.  I paid for my mistake in the second half of the race when my legs got heavy, I felt nauseous, and I even had to walk a few steps.  I trudged in to the finish line with an average pace of 11 minutes each for the final two miles! I finished the race in a respectable 3:26:43, but knew that it was not as well as I could have done due to my awful pacing.  However, I was still happy and proud of myself for finishing my first marathon.
I saw my friend Robin at the finish line.  She screamed that we both had qualified for Boston. I had not been thinking about the idea of running the Boston marathon, but since I had qualified decided that I should run Boston.  I do not recommend that another person run their marathon the way I ran NYC in 2013.  Since then, my marathon planning and pacing has much improved. I finished the 2015 Boston marathon in 3:15:16. I think I can be faster next time I race the marathon.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?

I had been running for 11 years when I ran my first BQ.

I started running at age 12. I was inspired to become a runner after watching my dad run the 2001 ING New York City Marathon, and I started running shortly afterwards. I began by alternating between walking and running for 30 minutes on the treadmill each night while watching Everybody Loves Raymond on T.V.

Two years later, I joined my high school team (Scarsdale High School) I started out as the slowest freshman on the team….but my competitive attitude helped me make varsity and later become the fastest female distance runner on the team.

I ran D1 Cross Country and Track at Fordham University.  College training was higher weekly mileage, very time consuming, and more structured than I was used to in high school.  I stuck to it for four years, but it was not for me.  I’m happy I did it though, because I learned so much from my teammates who were MUCH more intense than I was.  From college running, I learned how to really push myself during workouts, how to listen to my body and avoid injury—how much training is too much, etc., and the basic components of an effective training plan.

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
No idea. Some runners are data oriented mileage calculators.  That has never been my style.

I do believe that people should be running for many years before attempting their first marathon and especially before going for a BQ.   It is not impossible with a low lifetime mileage, but I think having a higher lifetime mileage helps to run a fast time.

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
No idea…see above answer.

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
I ran three half marathons that year in addition to running the marathon that year. I found that running half marathons is really great during marathon training. If you are going to do long runs, you might as well do some of them in a race. Also—it is really easy to PR in the half when you are in the middle of marathon training.

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?
My training plan/philosophy is pretty basic. During marathon training, I do speed work twice a week—usually Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a long run on Saturdays. What I find to be most effective for speed work is tempo runs of between 3-9 miles (depending on the week). I begin with shorter tempos earlier in the training cycle, and build up to the 9 mile ones towards the end.

I strongly believe in long runs that are long. So many people only go up to 18-20 miles for their longest long run. Then when they get to the marathon, they are not ready and hit the wall. I like going at least as high as 24 miles for my longest.  All together, I like to do four or five runs of a distance 20 miles or longer in the marathon training cycle.  I try to run these at 8 minute pace or faster, but some of the long runs end up being slower.  Long runs are my dress rehearsal for the race. They give me the confidence to conquer the distance and the pace that I will need to do on race day.

On my remaining days during the week, I just run—usually between 5-8 miles each day, depending on the day. Those regular run days are pretty relaxed and I don’t have a goal for their distance or pace.

Rest and recovery is just as important to my training as the actual running is. I usually run 5 days a week and have two rest days while I am marathon training.  After I finish the marathon, I will take some time off to recover mentally and physically. This can be 1-2 months of rest time with very little running.

I’m fairly strict with my diet during marathon training.  Absolutely no candy, dessert food or greasy snack food such as potato chips.  I try to eat a little of each food group and get 8 hours of sleep each night. All of that helps my body to feel ready to do the training.

I have always been very independent with my running.  I am not one to follow a canned training plan word for word.  However, I am a very hard worker and can tolerate more pain while training and racing than other people.

I have a true passion for long distance running which propels me to do the training.  If you love something, you will do it well.  The marathon distance can feel very natural for me.  I dream about running all the time, and then wake up and run in Prospect Park before work. I once dreamed that I ran two marathons in a row.

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?
I wasn’t able to run with a club for NYCM 2013. I was living in Westchester at the time and working in Manhattan, so long commutes made it hard to go to workouts with any club.
Now I live in Park Slope and work in Carroll Gardens.  It is amazing having a short commute. Running with Prospect Park Track Club has improved my times so much! The difference between running alone and running with others who are working on the same goals is huge.

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
I indoor rock climb two times a week during marathon training cycles.  It seems to help with core strength and overall fitness. It also helps to give my body a break from running once in a while.  On days that I climb, I don’t run at all, or I do just a very short warm up run of 1-2 miles.  I hope to be a runner for my entire life, so I’m very careful to give my body rest, variety in training, and not too much running mileage.

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how?
Yes—see above in question 7

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?
Running is not an exact science. Go into your training with a purpose and plan, but don’t be a slave to any training plan.

Run with people who are similar pace as you, or slightly faster. They will help push you during workouts and especially long runs.

Listen to your body and you will know what it needs.  Don’t run with injuries. If you run on a slight injury, it will become a major one.

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Alfred Williams – Poet, Factory Worker, Classicist

Alfred Williams (1877-1930)

Author of Life in a Railway Factory, Williams taught himself Greek and Latin while working full time in a factory.

William’s left school at 11 to work at a farm laborer, before becoming a steamhammer operator at age 14. He worked in that factory for the next twenty four years and also found time to translate Ovid, Pindar, Sappho, Plato and Horace, as well as write Life in a Railway Factory, and scores of poetry.


Here’s Mary Beard on this amazing gentleman:

[Williams] taught himself Greek and Latin partly by chalking up his irregular verbs on the casing of his forge.

Needless to say, this was a little trick which (however innocent) didn’t appeal to the foreman. To stop Williams using the side of his forge as an aide memoire, he had it covered with oil. Even this didn’t stop Williams. As his first biographer explained, “With characteristic determination Alf. dared to clean off the oil thoroughly – in his own time of course, for he was always careful to avoid placing a weapon in the hand of his oppressor – and rewrote the Greek.

Williams remains a bit of a cult figure. There’s a website devoted to him and Life in a Railway Factory is available for free.

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Milo in the News

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed a lot more people are getting to this website by searching some variation of “Milo and the bull”, Milo and the calf”, Milo of Croton”, etc.

I wasn’t sure why it was happening. Perhaps final papers in freshman intro to classics class were due? Was Milo mentioned on a crossfit blog? Everyone suddenly clamouring for knowledge on greek mythic heroes?

I really had no idea until I got about 2/3rd of the way through Christopher McDougall’s new book, Natural Born Heroes  and then it was obvious.

I believe that’s a kid, Mr. McDougall, not a calf. Still, you got the idea.

McDougall’s new book (which I’ll write a full review of soon) is a wide ranging (probably too wide ranging) look at fitness, both ancient and modern, tied together by the narrative of a group of British officers and Greek resistance fighters who battled the Nazi’s on Crete. The book is a bit of a hodgepodge, but a good read. And it goes into some detail on the Milo myths.

Hence, I believe, the rise in traffic here from the term.

So, if you got here because you want to know more about Milo of Croton, I suggest you check out the resource page I’ve developed which collects the classical sources and provided links to the posts here that reference Milo. And while you’re at it, read some of the Aurelius quotes. No one ever reads those.

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