Book Review: Sternbergh’s Shovel Ready


Shovel Ready
Adam Sternbergh

A crime novel set in post-apocalyptic New York City featuring a hit man with a heart of gold as the hero.

New York has been hit with a dirty bomb, and most of the city has fled, or now lives their entire lives jacked into virtual reality. Except our hero, who lives in Jersey and kills people. Except when he teams up with a group of misfits to take on the powers that be and protect a young girl.

A mix of the clever and the trite, this book is by turns clever, and too loose with the corny jokes and crime novel clichés. Still, I enjoyed it for the dark confectionery ride it is. If you have a tolerance for a certain level of crime novel cliché, you’ll probably enjoy it too.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

 

Book Review: Miller’s Song of Achilles


The Song of Achilles
Madeline Miller

If you’ve read the Iliad (and you really should read the Iliad) you know the basic outlines of Achilles life and, if you really paid attention, you remember Patroclus, his friend and consort whose death finally brings Achilles out of his moping to wage war on the Trojans.

Miller’s book, a retelling of sorts of the life of Achilles takes as its central idea that Achilles and Patroclus were not just friends, but lovers, and she then reinterprets all the events of their lives based on this fact. In a reworking of one of the central plot points of the Iliad, for instance, Achilles isn’t upset because he lost a slave girl he wanted to rape, rather he is upset because he was protecting said slave girl (and using her as a beard of sorts).

This kind of “shipping” (to borrow a term from science fiction fan fiction) is common. Too often, it’s also poorly done. But here, Miller knows her original sources intimately (she has an MA in classics after all), and gracefully re-reads them to tell her story. I found myself not only impressed with the ingenuity of her reworking of the well known stories of the life of Achilles, but also genuinely moved by the love story she develops between Achilles and Patroclus.

A clever book, a joy to read, especially if, like me, you’re a bit obsessed with the Homeric epics.

Recommended.

Kurshan’s If All The Seas Were Ink

If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir

 Ilana Kurshan

This book has been making the rounds among many of my friends and family and people’s reactions are so stark, and so diametrically opposed. There are those who love this book, who relate to its extreme bookishness, to the authors attempts to come to grips with her life through a deep reading of, centrally, the Talmud, but also through her reading of other, non-religious texts.

Then there are others who see the book as emotionally distant, the work of a someone unable, or unwilling, to address her emotional life head on, and who rather mediates all her relationships through text.

I fall into the first camp.

If all the Seas Were Ink is a memoir of the years Ilana Kurshan spent as part of Daf Yomi, the “largest book club in the world’ in which thousand of (mostly) Jews read single page of the Talmud, every day, for a little more than seven years. Kurshan’s reading of the Talmud is the through line in the book, while around it she struggles with a divorce, dating, meeting a new man, and having children. She contemplates love, Judaism and motherhood all the through the prism of Torah and literature.

To some people (i.e. ME) this is irresistible. To others, it’s all perhaps a bit much. You probably won’t know what camp you fall into until you read it yourself.

Recommended.

Goodell’s The Water Will Come

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World
Jeff Goodell

We all know the world is warming, we all know this will change the way we live. Goodell’s book doesn’t break any ground there, but what is does do is give us a very terrifying, very sobering, look at what exactly our hotter, wetter, future will look like. He does this by visiting cities across the globe who are likely to be drastically affected (or perhaps even destroyed) by a warming planet and rising oceans.

Goodell is a journalist, and he wisely focuses here on the human side of this story, the people who will be hurt, the people who profited, the people who will be hurt, and the people trying to do something about it. As always, is seems, the poorest places will be hit the hardest with multiple countries in South Asia facing dire consequences. But America will not be immune. Miami is in serious trouble; in New York it isn’t looking much better.

All in all its a sobering, dark read. But there is some room for hope, New York, for one, is at least taking the crisis seriously, and while it still isn’t clear if enough is being done, or even what the right thing is, the sooner more people face the problem the better are our chances to surviving.

 

Recommended.

 

* If you don’t know that, you should stop reading this little review and go open a newspaper.

How Michael Pearlman Qualified for the Boston Marathon

Name: Michael Pearlman

Sex: Male

Age (at the time of first BQ): 45

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

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 137

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? Colfax Marathon (Denver)

Tell us a little about the race. This was my second time running this marathon. The previous year I had been running fairly strong until Mile 21, when I hit the wall and blew up in the final 5 miles to finish in 3:33. Weather was cooler the second year, with almost no wind. This time I was familiar with the course and had focused on finishing my long runs strong, running faster for the final few miles. This seemed to work as I didn’t fall apart in the final 10k this time, plus I was motivated by the realization at mile 21 that I had a chance to BQ.

Interestingly, I had a calf issue flare up about two weeks before the race, so I was super cautious during my taper and even skipped my final long run. To my amazement, I managed a 13-minute PR and a BQ.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ?  11 years

Did you run in college or high school? No

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ? 5,000

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? 900

Approximately how many races did you run in that year? 4

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was? Yes, Masters Marathon program from Brad Hudson’s “Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon”

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach? No

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how? Not really. I swam the day after my long runs to aid in recovery but did not actively attempt any significant cross training.

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? Yes. Hudson’s Master’s program included some speed work and intervals, most of which I did on a treadmill.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? This was only my 3rd road marathon and I really didn’t expect to BQ, but I think a combination of factors worked in my favor. I was familiar with the course, the race conditions were favorable and I worked at improving my speed. The important thing to realize is that everyone is different. In my case, I never ran more than 40 miles a week during training and I ran 4 days a week at most. This allowed my body time to both adapt and recover and I was injury free during my training. If you are focused on quality runs I believe that can benefit you more than just quantity and junk miles. Learn about your body, and what works for you particularly if you are over 40 because you don’t recover as quickly.

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John C’s Story of Qualifying for the Boston Marathon

Name: John C

Sex: Male

Age (at the time of first BQ): 47

Height (at the time of first BQ):  5’11

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 154

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? Jacksonville Marathon

Tell us a little about the race. Perfect weather day in 2017—prior year 2016 was super hot/humid and disaster for me. Course is flat out and back and relatively small race. Met folks on the course from various parts of US who came to the race for BQ or NYCQ attempts.

Had trained for 3:20 goal, 3:15 stretch goal, and weather/luck/fitness helped me run 3:13:xx

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? 3.5 years

Did you run in college or high school? No

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ? 4000

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? 2059–1455 of that in the final 6 months

Approximately how many races did you run in that year? 4; 1 slow marathon, 1 half, 15k and 5 mile

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was? no

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach? Yes

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how? Lots of extra Pre-hab type exercise work and PT during last 3 months to support training volume and recovery.

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? Coach is a Daniels program coach, so very typical of Daniels programs in last 3-4 months (2 workouts per week + long weekend run) but lots of creativity to keep it interesting and work around my work travel and family stuff.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? Like others in this age bracket, I had experience as an athlete in HS/college but a big gap when I started work/family. College rowing was my first/only exposure to endurance work. So I was a very low odometer runner when I started in mid-40s. Most of process for me has been about volume or base building (and getting leaner). Trying to add volume safely and avoid injury, learning my recovery rhythms, how to eat better and getting enough good sleep to support training and recovery at higher workloads. Learning that monthly and yearly work is more important than weekly mileage for my goals was important too. Also, while obvious to most, I took a long time to learn how to take my easy days easy enough, so I could properly stress myself in workouts and recover/adapt.

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The Boston Qualifier Questionnaire — Derick

Name: Derick

Sex: Male

Age (at the time of first BQ): 29

Height (at the time of first BQ): 5’11”

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 153

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? Kiawah Island

Tell us a little about the race. Pancake flat course with half marathoners splitting off at mile 9. 50° and 100% humidity at the start approaching 60° by the finish. Just one other guy with me after the split. Ran together until he started slowing at the half. Seemed like everyone was falling apart on the 2nd half as I was passing everyone I saw. Struggled hard with quad pain last 7 miles, but managed to maintain pace for the most part.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? 15 years, on and off, 5 continuous

Did you run in college or high school? Yes

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ? 13000

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ? 1870

Approximately how many races did you run in that year? 19

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was? no

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach? Yes

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how? Yes. My quads were what always failed on my late in the marathon. After a couple of PRs that spring I had a foot injury. After a few weeks off, I only ran about 25miles/week that summer and biked heavily. Didn’t start increasing mileage until September after nearly breaking the half PR I set before the injury.

Did speed work play a role in your training? If so, how? Yeah, that was one of my only runs during the summer.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ? I had planned on running a marathon the previous December, but bailed late. Started hitting 60 mile weeks and ran 3 20 milers. Had some huge PRs in 8-15K races along the way.

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