The Hungry Fighter

I’m currently reading the Sports Gene by David Epstein, a fascinating book which, in addressing how genetics affects sports performance, ends up raising interesting, and challenging, questions about gender and race.  I may write more about those topics later but this morning I was reading about the dominance of Kenyan runners at endurance events and was struck by this quote from Peter Matthews, a track and field statistician:

“In these days of computer games, sedentary pursuits, and driving our children to school- it is the ‘hungry’ fighter or the poor peasant who has the endurance background, and the incentive to work on it, who makes the top distance runner.”

The Long Run – The City Slicker In Nature

I have spent my entire adult life living in urban environments.  In those years, I’ve spent very little time in nature.  I spend most of my time pounding the pavement of the streets of New York.

New York City is my home, and the urban landscape is where I am most comfortable.  I love the feel of the city – the crowded streets, the bustling parks, the sky scrapers, and the street art.  I love dodging cars on my bike, and running the crowded loop in Prospect Park.  But recently, I’ve felt myself pulled more towards the natural environment.  I can’t really explain why.  Perhaps its because in the last couple of years I’ve been lucky enough to spend a couple of weekends a year here in Vermont, running, hiking and cross country skiing in Stowe.  Perhaps it’s because of the pull of outdoor rock climbing, or perhaps it’s got something to do with getting old.  I don’t know.

Whatever the reason, yesterday’s thirteen miler through Stowe wet my appetite for more miles in nature.  I started off the run with Bernie G, who knows the roads of Stowe much better than I.  He guided me through four miles of rolling hills, corn fields, and a golf course at a respectable 8:30 pace.  We split up at the Stowe Farmer’s market, where I saw E and eyed the delicious strawberry rhubarb pie she was buying.  Then I headed off on to finish the run solo on the Stowe Recreational path.

8:30 had been a little ambitious for the first four, so I took it down a notch for the rest of the run, dodging kids on bikes and following the West Branch Little River to the rec path terminus.  Along the way, I gazed up at mount Mansfield, watched the river roll by, and checked out the local hippie art.  All while listening to the Hood Internet.

I am even starting to appreciate hippie art.

I am even starting to appreciate hippie art.

From the rec path terminus, I circled back past the farmer’s market, through town and up to the house finishing 13.1 miles in 2:04:30 for an average pace of 9:31.  Not bad.  Not great, but not bad.  All in all, a wonderful way to spend a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

For a true trail runner, my run on a rec path today would be a joke.  But for a city slicker like me, it felt like the fucking Appalachian trail.  I loved it.  I want more.  The legs are a little sore, and it’s raining, but I’d still like to get out there, get in some miles, and spend more time in the woods before I return to the asphalt and concrete of my usual daily run.

 

The Return of the Training Totals

The statistics page for this website makes clear that no one cares about my weekly training totals.*  That’s ok, if I was in this for the hit count I’d be posting about sideboobs and Miley Cyrus, not ultrarunning and ancient cultures. 

Anyway, for the seven or eight of you who care how I spent my time this week, I present the return of the weekly training totals.

This is the first week in a long, long time where I felt like I actually did some running.  Its nice when work is slow.  The only run that was of any quality was yesterday’s 13 miler.  But heh, miles are miles. 

This week, I’m on “vacation” meaning I am not in the office, and hopefully I will only be working occasionally.  I’m looking for my first fifty miles week in months, plus some hiking time.  Shit, maybe even some swimming.  We’ll see.

The Numbers.

 

Total Exercise Time ~ 6:15
Run 32.6 in 5:05:10
Bike 15.1 in 1:15:44

* even less people read the occasional stoic pieces.  Those too will continue.  Its my website and I’ll bore you if I want to.

Race Autopsy – The Brooklyn Half Marathon

I ran an actual honest to god race a couple of weeks ago.  It hurt, but in a good way.  It wasn’t the best race of my life, but it was better than expected.

In the last couple of years, the Brooklyn Half Marathon has gone from a sleepy outer borough race with a few thousand participants to a huge, twenty thousand strong, spectacle.  The Brooklyn renaissance raises all ships, including New York Road Runners which made a huge effort to promote this race, and its part in bringing business to Coney Island.  Along with the size of the race, New York Road Runners has changed the course of the race — but don’t worry, it’s still kind of dull.  This year, the race started on Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue, ran down Washington to Empire Boulevard, over to Flatbush Avenue, up the Flatbush hill to Grand Army Plaza, a loop around the Plaza, back down Flatbush, then a loop through Prospect Park and out Ocean Parkway to Coney Island where you finished with a hundred yard section of the newly rebuilt board walk.

I have run every inch of this course before, some of it many times.  I’ve done hundreds of runs through Grand Army Plaza, and thousands of miles in Prospect Park.  This was my home turf.  I wanted to do well.  But what is “well” for a guy who has struggled all winter to get in the miles?  When I work up at five thirty in the morning, I wasn’t sure.  And when the gun went off at seven a.m., I didn’t have much of a race plan.  A friend from my running club asked me what my goal was at the start – I said I hadn’t a clue. I knew I’d take it easy through the first couple of miles, see how I was feeling in the park, and take it from there.  Not very well thought out, I know.

A bad photograph of the start.

A bad photograph of the start.

Those first miles were easy and peaceful. I cruised along at about an eight minute pace.  Though the New York Marathon brings out crowds in the hundreds of thousands, I think all total there were probably about a thousand spectators for this race.  That was fine with me.  fewer people screaming meant I wasn’t feeling as pushed by the crowd to pick up the pace.

It was easy to run my own race, not worrying about the splits. I tried to run by effort and enjoy the small pleasure of running through my neighborhood with twenty thousand other people.  Soon, we were at the six mile mark and I was hearing some cheers from my teammates in the Prospect Park Track Club.  I looked down at my watch, did some quick math, and thought, if I can keep the pace right around eight minutes, I might just PR.

So that’s what I set out to do.  I broke the race down into small bit. I told myself to hold the pace for just the next five minutes, the next half mile, the next mile, getting stride by stride closer to the finish.  It hurt, but I tried to keep at it.

Unfortunately, willpower didn’t make up for under training and I let the pace creep up a little bit closer to 8:30 at the end.  I crossed the line in 1:47:11, forty six seconds shy of a P.R.

Oh well.

This was actually a better performance than I was expecting.  My fitness isn’t as bad as I thought.  There is still hope for a fall marathon PR.  Now the real work begins (again).  I know where I stand and I know where I need to go.  Time to execute.

 

Postscript – After the race I went to bachelor party that started at one p.m. and went until three in the morning.  For those keep track at home, that’s a 22 hour day.  One hour and forty seven minutes of it spent running; fourteen hours spent carousing.  Needless to say, I felt like death the next day. 

“The Community”: Cult or Spiritual Seekers?

I’ve long been interested in the out edges of the running community – ultra runners, streak runners, and mega-mileage runners are all areas of the sport I’ve written about frequently.  A fascination with those willing to take the sport to the edge coupled with a lifelong interest in new religious movements* has lead me to a years long investigation into a group of runners and spiritual seekers known as the Community or Divine Madness.

Over the years I’ve had the chance to speak with ex-members of the group, and have done quite a bit of research online.  I thought I’d read just about everything written about them.  And then last night while googling around, I came across this article by Daniel Glick which appeared in Women Outside.  For today’s reader, Glick’s article seems prescient.  Written in 1999, it predates the tragic death of Mark Heineman, but it includes detailed discussions of the accusations of cult-like behavior which would follow the group for years to come.

As in most articles, Marc, “Yo” Tizer does not come off well.  At best, he appears to be a misguided guru, at worst, he’s a manipulative, abusive cult leader.  While most of what I have heard from ex-members of the group is deeply critical of Tizer, I’ll give Glick credit for finding members, and ex-members, who were willing to stand up for the man.

If you’re interested in the Community, this is well worth a read and as always, I am looking to learn more. If you have any information about Divine Madness, the Community, Marc “Yo” Tizer, or any of the other members or former members, please get in touch at miloandthecalf at gmail

*or cults, depending on your view of the group.

Training Totals – Week Ending 1/20/2013

Overview:  Try again, fail again, fail better.  Limited temporal resources spread thin over a bunch of shit that needs to get done.  Still, I ran, did bodyweight work, and climbed.  It could have been worse.

Numbers

  For the Week For the Year
Total Exercise Time ~5:30:00 ~12:00:00
Average Weight 171 171
Run 22 in 3:27:36 54.8 in 8:26:40
Prospect Park Loops 1 7/365 (358 to go)
Push Ups 2 sessions:

S1: 14 18 14 14 14

S2: 14 18 14 14 10

174
Pull Ups 1 session – 5, 3, 3, 2, 2 34
Dip 1 session – 3 8
Squat 1 session – 35 65
Handstand ~00:15:00 ~00:15:00
Pistol ~00:15:00 ~00:15:00
Flexibility and Balance ~00:15:00 ~00:30:00
Climbing 1:30:00 1:30:00
Hebrew 0 0

 

Training Totals – Week Ending 1/13/2013

Overview:  We’re finally settling in to the new place, and I feel like I am finally settling in to a workout routine.  It isn’t perfect yet, but it’s a start.  Running wise, I’m finally starting to get out there regularly again, the weekly mileage isn’t there yet, but it will be soon.  The little mini-goal I’ve set is to get a running streak going and keep it until I’m on pace for 2,000 miles for the year.

I did the bodyweight baseline tests last week.  This week I’ll start the strength and skill training in earnest.

Hebrew was another goose egg . That will change this week.

Oh yeah, and I’m really excited to hit the heavy bag in the gym a little bit.

Numbers

  For the Week For the Year
Total Exercise Time ~5:00:00 ~6:30:00
Run 22.8 in 3:28:21 38.3 in 5:49:46
Prospect Park Loops 3 6/365 (359 to go)
Push Ups 1 session – 30 30
Pull Ups 2 sessions – S1:6/5; S2: 8 19
Dips 1 session – 5 5
Squat 1 session – 30 30
Handstand 0 0
Pistol 0 0
Flexibility and Balance ~00:15:00 `00:15:00
Hebrew 0 0

2013 Goals – Running

Although it is much maligned in the modern world, I’m still a big fan of the New Years resolution.  The new year is a chance to start again, to imagine a better version of yourself, try to try, even if you fail.

This year I’m starting off with running goals which can be accomplished through work and time on the roads and are not dependent on a good race day performance.  I’ll admit that in the back of my mind I am already thinking about 5k and marathon PRs, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  For now I want to focus on what I can control – my dedication to the sport.  With that in mind here are the goals.

Finally reach the 2,000 mile threshold.  Maybe it is because of how much time I spend on running ahead, but the 2,000 mile a year threshold has come to represent commitment (and health) to me.  Two years ago, I chased the 2k number late in the year and ended up sidelined by injury.  Last year was a total disaster and I didn’t even run a thousand miles.  But this year, for the first time in forever, I’m starting the year healthy and relatively fit.  If I stay consistent, there is no reason I can’t hit the 2,000 mile mark.

Complete 365 loops of Prospect Park.  The longer I am at the running game, the clearer it becomes that the key to success is consistency.  Better to run thirty miles a week for six months injury free than fifty miles for a month and get hurt.  In the past, I’ve had success with running streaks, but for me, a daily streak is just asking to get hurt.  Inspired by Anton Krupicka’s  goal from a couple fo years ago to average a climb of Green Mountain everyday, I’m setting the more modest goal of completing 365 loops of Prospect Park. To count, a loop has to be the longer 3.3 loop.  This is the goal I am most excited about. I love the park, and I am looking forward to spending even more time in it.

Make a weekly “work out” a regular part of my running.  If I want a BQ only running easy miles is not going to cut it.  Whether it be a tempo run, hills, a fartlek, or whatever, I need to make something harder a regular part of my running.  “Work outs” might not happen every week, but they need to happen more often than they are now.

I’ve made at least two of these goals before and failed because of injury, or life, or whatever, to reach them. But that doesn’t mean I won’t get there this year. I’m looking forward to running in the New Year. I hope you are too.

What do you think, Sam?

The BQ(Q) – Bob D

Name:  Bob (Subdood on Running Ahead)

Sex: Male

Age (at the time of first BQ): 47

Height: 5’9″

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 149

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.
A little over 2 months ago at the Twin Cities Marathon, Oct. 7, 2012. I ran it in 3:21:34 — needed a 3:25.
This was my 3rd marathon (all 3 at Twin Cities), but 16 years elapsed between the second and third. (History: I ran Twin Cities the first time in 1994 in exactly 3:11:00, one minute off of the BQ time for a then 29-yr-old. I tried again in 1996; my goal was sub-3:00. I over-trained, got severe leg cramps at mile 24, and struggled to finish in 3:44. I was sure that was my last marathon.) I got back into running after reading “Born to Run” by Scott McDougall. I ran a half-marathon in January 2012 and felt good. Then, I received an e-mail suggesting I run the TC marathon as part of Team JDRF to raise money for Type 1 diabetes research (my wife and 6-yr-old son both have type 1). So I signed up and started training. The race itself was very much as I planned it out ahead of time — 7:30 pace for 20 miles, then hang onto 8:00 pace as much as I could after that. I walked at every water stop and drank Powerade, took 3 or 4 gel packs, and stopped for 2 bathroom breaks. I felt like I had a faster run in me, but I really didn’t want to risk leg cramps, or other issues. One very memorable moment during the race: a 20-something guy caught up to me and asked about my Team JDRF shirt. I told him about my wife and son. He thanked me and said, “We’ll beat this disease,” then he pointed to the insulin pump clipped to his shorts … and left me behind.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?
I had been running consistently for a little over a year when I BQ’d. I ran cross-country in Jr High and High School — it’s now been over 36 years since I attended the first info session as a 7th-grader. I never lived up to my potential — I ran a 5:35 mile at the age of 11, but was only average in high school. Tennis was my primary sport in high school, and I played tennis in the summer, so I never put in enough miles over the summer to really be a factor in cross-country. I did some sporadic running for fitness over the years since, but have been more of a tennis player than a runner until recently.

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?
No idea — maybe 3000 miles? 5000 miles? 

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?
About 1500 miles.

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?
Eight, including 3 halfs, three or four 5ks, and a 25k trail race.

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?
Hal Higdon, intermediate (level 2?). I stuck to it rigidly. I think it helped me psychologically to use a “canned program,” knowing that many others used it successfully. My prior “self-designed” plans involved running as fast as I could as often and as far as I could.

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach? 
No, I did almost exclusively solo runs, although I really enjoyed running with some old buddies during a reunion event. One of the guys was training for a marathon, and he needed to run an 18-miler during the reunion weekend. He asked if anyone wanted to join him, and two of us did. We had a great time. It may have been what inspired me to take up running more consistently and to train for races.

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?
Early on, yes, then just running for last 2 months before marathon. My cross-training would typically be a very fast circuit of exercises (burpees, pullups, pushups, situps), maybe 15-20 minutes worth, before my run. 

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?
Yes. Tempo runs, intervals, hills, all as specified in the Higdon program. One workout that I would do more of next time is to run the last 25% of a long run at faster than my goal marathon pace. (Not sure if that was in the Higdon plan, or if I read about it somewhere else and tried it out during one of the 20-milers.)

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of you working towards a BQ?
Nothing profound here about pain and/or perseverance. I enjoy running so much more now than I used to — if it was about perseverance and/or overcoming pain, I probably would’ve given up quickly. However, running for a cause helped me stay consistent with my training. I created a Crowdrise site to raise money, and I posted updates about my training, and about my son’s issues with type 1 diabetes. I didn’t want to let all of the donors down by not running and finishing the marathon. I mainly wanted to finish the race without injury or incident — the BQ happened without me obsessing about it. Of course, as the race approached, it became a goal to BQ, since it seemed within reach. It’s true that it’s easier as you get older. In fact, I now think I am capable of someday beating my PR of 3:11, despite the fact I did that when I was 29 and I am now 47.  I am armed with so much more knowledge about how to train, and I still have a lot to learn.
Another thing — During my training, I became a big fan of Gu and ClifShots and PowerBar gels. I would take them during my long runs, at the prescribed times (15 minutes before, every 45 minutes during, etc.). They seemed to help with the training. However, something I read AFTER the marathon was that I should avoid using these gels regularly during training — that the goal is to train the body to store and use glycogen more efficiently, and that overusing the gels during training runs defeats this adaptive response. I will use gels much less in training for my next marathon. Maybe every once in a while so that my body doesn’t reject them during an actual race.

A Plan for the Holidays

Eighty hour works weeks, buying a condo, traveling for the holidays. Excuses, excuses, excuses.  E-fucking-nough.  I’ve got to get a regular running and studying routine going, and its got to happen now.  To help that along I’m taking a page from Runners World and doing a little holiday streak challenge.  I’m committing to running and studying Hebrew everyday* from Thanksgiving to New Years Day.

I’ve had a lot of success, and some failure, with run streaks in the past.  When I first got semi-serious about running I developed a run streak which lasted a little over 100 days.  During that streak I set PRs at every distance.  Eventually, I got a nasty case of the flu and ended the streak.  Next time I started a streak, I stubbornly ran while injured just so I could keep the dumb streak alive.  That was stupid and hindered my performance for quite some time.

With this little streak, I’m hoping to find some middle ground.  Since the streak has a set end date, I don’t anticipate injury being an issue.  If it is, I’ll stop.  The point of this is to get back in the swing of running regularly, not to end up injured again.  I’ve been smart and cautious with my training for a while.  Now I think it is time to take it up a notch, to start banking consistent miles, so that I come out stronger and faster in the spring.

The Hebrew study is a more clean cut case of just getting my lazy ass to focus.  Its way past time to make studying a habit and a priority.  There’s really no physical or intellectual downside to studying everyday.  It’s not like I’m going to hurt my brain or something.  I’m just going to have to find the time.  I say it is important to me, now it is time to prove it.

It’s going to be a busy 41 days.   I’m looking forward to it.

Anyone else out there interested in doing a holiday streak? Join me, it’ll be fun.!

*For running, the minimum will be three miles.  For Hebrew, I’ll be studying for at least fifteen minutes everyday, but the total time of study must average out to a half-hour a day over the period of the challenge.  Got that, dork?