Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter Base

The above freezing temperatures for the past few days and the threat of major blizzards (see Paul's post) have led me outdoors most of the last few days. As a result I run longer since I can't use treadmills for anything other than speed work and relatively short distances before I get bored out of my mind. Plus if my mind completely wanders and I stop running for some reason, outdoors I don't get hurled into a concrete wall or the piece of equipment directly behind me. On the plus side, I also have been maintaining a 20-25 mile weekly base for the past month or so which a bit above average for me during the winter. Hopefully, this will be helpful as I start real training in the spring.

And remember folks, registration for the Chicago Marathon begins tomorrow February 1st! First come, first served until they hit their ceiling which is something above 40,000. I expect to run the Hamptons Marathon on September 24th but may register for Chicago as a low cost option in case I change my mind and wish to be jostled by thousands of faster and slower runners for the first several miles.

Please Don't Move That Pencil. . .

Early yesterday afternoon, I (briefly) contemplated a pre-Storm-Of-The-Century outdoor run pushing my bundled-up three-year-old in a jogging stroller we've owned since the Clinton Administration. Later, after sanity reasserted itself and I got onto the treadmill , I got to thinking about the biggest, most important questions in all of running: (1) How many extra calories, if any, do you burn while pushing a jogging stroller anyway? (2) How much grade do you need to input on a treadmill to simulate a given flat-land outdoor pace accurately? and (3) Just how accurate are treadmill calorie counts, anyway?

Of course, my usual treadmill run consists primarily of a decidedly dissonant combination of "things I do to distract myself from any contemplation of the time elapsed or distance run" and "things I do to parse and analyze time and distance data in every imaginable way while running." Thus, I'm often a particularly schizophrenic combination of assiduously looking away from the display (I find that duct tape works very well, though the gym manager isn't happy when he sees me walking in with a roll), and assiduously peeking then performing long division in my head to obtain net pace, calories per hour, calories per minute, and calories per mile. And no, rounding to the nearest tenth is not acceptable.

It's not "obsessive-compulsive." It's "intensely curious."

Sunday, January 30, 2011


While reading in today's NY Times about the remarkable events unfolding in Egypt (god bless those people!), my eye was diverted by the headline "A Marathon on Ice." On January 16, 17 people ran a half or full marathon on Antarctica. This is not the primary Antarctic marathon (the Antarctic Ice Marathon), which is further south and marketed to runner-tourists, but a small event open mostly to members of the local research community. The winner came in at 3:16, which is pretty quick for running on snow, and the first woman was a runner from Eagle River, Alaska, a bedroom community of my home town.

Spencer was looking for a small, but interesting, race . . . .

Saturday, January 29, 2011

. . . and my bed was so warm

This was the e-mail last night from the RD:

"The race is still ON!

We don’t plan to let a few inches of snow deter us. Given the conditions, each runner is asked to carefully consider their own situation and act responsibility. The towpath is covered with 4 to 6 inches of snow, ice and slush. It is slippery and wet. Temperatures will be below freezing at the start of the race and are only forecasted to reach a high in the forties all day. Our timer ran the entire course this afternoon and it was very challenging. At the start the hard freeze tonight will make the course slippery but you may be able to run on top of the snow. Once the temperatures rise the snow will become soft and more challenging. Watch for the slush bogs especially on the lower part of the course from milepost 6 to the turn around. There are a few down tree limbs but you can maneuver around them. BE CAREFUL, if you are not accustomed to this type of course be careful not to turn your ankles in the ruts. If you like a challenge, come on out. The course is not for the faint hearted. Hats, gloves, thermal shirts, and leggings will keep you warm. Bring dry clothing for after the race. You can keep your dry clothing in your car; we also offer bag check near the start / finish, but we are not responsible for lost items."

I half thought the conditions might work to my advantage, because I do enjoy running off-road. But this was all the excuse it took to sleep in this morning, instead!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Snow Outside

It's a sloppy mess here in DC. My assignment for today is 20 minutes at 10K pace, which will probably require a treadmill to avoid hurting myself. Tomorrow is the Cloud Snapple Half Marathon, heading south from Carderock along the C&O Canal towpath to Chain Bridge and then back. Certainly this weather relieves any stress about the need for a PR. And it does make for a lovely sight out of my home office window.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Above Freezing

On Saturday I did 6 miles with a small running group through the streets of downtown Chicago. It was about 6 degrees temperature and about 4 below wind chill. The side walks were too icy so we carefully picked our way through side streets of what was once public housing and now luxury single family homes and condos.

On Tuesday, it was the first day above freezing since well before New Years Day. I did 8 miles on the lakefront path down to Navy Pier and back. Like most winter days, the path had been mostly plowed and salted. I only hope likely new mayor Emanuel keeps up this lovely tradition. However, the curve at Oak Street shown below remains a frozen tundra requiring gingerly baby steps until I could get to the clear side walk part around the corner for the final stretch heading south. Forgot how much I like winter running when its not sub zero.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Runner's Confession

Three weeks ago, I ran on a treadmill. In a hotel basement. Seven miles. Two days in a row. In San Franscisco. In fifty-degree weather. Worse, I told acquaintances I met in the elevator that I was going to "work out" rather than "run," deliberately intimating that I chose the hotel gym because it offered exercise opportunities that the Great Outdoors did not. It was pretty darned close to an outright lie.

I'm not proud that I gave in to the fear I felt listening to fifteen years of running only on plain and prairie tell me that I'd never make it past the first hilly mile. I'm not proud that I missed out on a chance to see new parts of a great American city with a runner's special intimacy.

And now the endless treadmill miles of the deep Midwestern winter mock me with every slightly-cushioned, somehow indefinably too-mechanical step.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Running with a Partner

In December I got an e-mail from a guy who I know through another guy, who told the first guy that he and I run about the same pace -- 1 minute difference in marathons in the last year, and 17 seconds difference over 10 miles -- and have the same goal in Boston. So B__ and I have gotten together for our Sunday long runs for the past several weeks. B__ drives down to Rock Creek Park and I jog over from my house. Because I know the area I design the route, which is always some combination of hilly trails and closed roads (we have weekend road closures in Rock Creek Park). Yesterday we ran a figure 8, heading south through the park to Tilden Street, which we followed up to Connecticut and into the Van Ness neighborhood. Tilden is a good climb, and we had a second one on Davenport Street when we returned to the park, reaching the car after 52 minutes. I watered at his car and we headed out for the top of the 8. The last 15 minutes returning south along Oregon Avenue was supposed to be relaxing, but the trail was hillier than I had recalled. I would have run the 90 minutes alone, but I doubt I would have been playing king of the hill by myself, and it's that kind of thing that I hope is making us faster.

Cooking Not Running

Friday was cold and we were hosting a dinner party so I spent the day indoors prepping and then preparing a three course dinner for our guests. I thoroughly enjoyed my gastronomic marathon but quickly realized how painfully slow I am in comparison to professional cooks who prepare dozens to hundreds of dinner each evening. Nonetheless, the rustic carmelized onion and gruyere cheese tart, the Salade Lyonnaise (with egg!), and coq au vin all came out great and I learned another secret. If you serve your guests enough good champagne and keep them waiting long enough, they will be very appreciative when the food is served. From a running stand point, probably not carby enough though...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My autographed copy of Again to Carthage

I have slowly working my way through Again to Carthage, liking it but not loving it the way I did Once a Runner. I bring it with me on trains, buses, and while waiting for other folks to show up at meetings. I happened to have it with me at the Cubs Convention this past weekend at the Hilton Hotel downtown (originally known as the Stevens Hotel because it was built by John Paul Stevens's father).

The Cubs Convention is a festival of merch, kitsch, and fan geekiness where there are three days of dealers selling stuff, panels where players and management talk about stuff and take questions, and autograph sessions. The official autograph sessions are for free but have long lines but various unofficial booths have retired stars signing stuff for either charitable donations or simply fees split between the dealers and the ex-players. I passed on paid autographs from Fergie Jenkins, Dave Kingman, and Gaylord Perry and stood in line with the crowds for some current and retired Cubs players of lesser renown.

Most of the other fans/dealers had with them calendars, head shots, bats, helmets and other sports memorabilia for the players to sign which would then probably be sold on ebay or at flea markets. I had Again to Carthage. So now I have an autographed copy of a pretty good about running signed by Cubs shortstop Ivan DeJesus (from the 1980s) and current Cubs prospect Darwin Barney. The question is have I increased or decreased the value of the book?

Saturday, January 15, 2011


My colleague Peter says being competitive is a question of who shows up. If fast runners are there the rest of us fight for the scraps. Today they weren't. I ran even, but modest, splits over the JFK 20K in DC, good enough for third. I've never done that before.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Running Bum?

I've spent much of my life dreaming of being a bum. During my sophomore year of college I thought long and hard about spending my semester tuition on a jeep and driving to Colorado to beg a job scrubbing toilets and ski. (I like to remember being much closer to doing that than in reality I was. Dad wouldn't have taken that news well, at all. Advice to those with college-age kids: I'd be a happier person now if I had.)

I flirted with kayaking bum-hood over a few years when I paddled frequently with the Peter Pan of eastern kayakers, a 60-something man who stands straighter than most 30-year-olds, still runs the Great Falls of the Potomac, and as far as I can tell has never worked anywhere but the river. I'd cut out of work at four to catch a good river level, spend weekends on Maryland and West Virginia rivers, and occasionally travel further chasing the rain.

The closest I got to bum-hood was as a climbing bum. I learned to climb from a girlfriend in Idaho and my first new friend when I moved to D.C. was a climber. She and I, and then my roommate and others as well, followed the modern climber's progression from the gym to outdoor bolted routes to multi-pitch traditional routes, climbing rock from Mexico to Canada and New York to California. I bought a pickup with a cap just so I could keep a mattress and my climbing gear always at the ready. After one week at Camp 4 in Yosemite I thought seriously of never returning to the real world.

Now I wonder about being a running bum. I would live on rice and oatmeal, sleep in a tent or RV, and run through forests, over mountains, across rivers, along waterways, on the shoulder of lonely highways. I would read philosophy when the legs were sore, sleep when it was dark (unless the moon was bright and I could run!). I'd start out with 15 pairs of running shoes, enough to last 5 years or longer, and quit when it wasn't fun anymore.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Small Marathons

The smallest marathon I have run was Madison in 2008. Maybe 1000 full marathoners and another 1000 plus half marathoners with a separate start time. Not entirely surprisingly, it was also my PR as I could simply start running at my pace from the get go and not be trapped by 20,000 plus fellow hackers. If I do this again, I think I want to find another small race somewhere picturesque, well supported, and really small. I have heard good, but mixed, things about the Hamptons Marathon in late September. I have also heard good things about Des Moines but I suspect that it somewhat bigger and in Des Moines. Any other good suggestions?

Saturday, January 8, 2011


That's how many miles I ran in 2010. Most years I log between 800-1200. 2010 was the year I completed my New Year's resolution of NOT training for/running a marathon. I have made no such resolution for 2011. Bring it on.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Golden Gate

So Spencer and I are both in San Francisco for the AALS Annual Meeting.  Neither of us had any sessions yesterday afternoon, so we decided to satisfy a mutual ambition to run across the Golden Gate Bridge.  We're both behind on our training, so we took a cab to Fort Mason (or thereabouts), and ran from there.  Here are some photos:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


We have no end to good hills in Rock Creek Park just down the street from my house. Last Sunday I found a new stretch of bike trail along Military Road that climbs rather brutally from the creek up to the top of the hill where one finds the Glover Road entrance to the park. So today I followed Military to Glover Road and into the park, ran past the stables on Glover Road and turned left to Ross Drive, which takes one down to the park police headquarters and into the valley where the creek runs. I then followed the aforementioned bike trail back west along Military to Oregon Avenue, where I turned left and crossed Military to Glover Road again. A loop on Ridge Road to Glover Road and back to Ridge dropped me at Grant Road, which descends steeply down to Broad Branch and meets Davenport, a steep hill back up to Linnean. Linnean returned me to Nevada, crossing Nebraska and, voila, Military. Probably 45 minutes all told.

Le Maillot Jaune

In trolling the internet for evidence of my influence (it's third-year review time) I looked up my name in Google Books, which I decided is a step less cheesy than simply googling myself. I pop up in many caselaw reporters, which is no surprise for someone who paid off the student loans by litigating. Law journals apparently are not in Google's library. Two caselaw reporters are different from others: I was both a defendant and a decedent in the late 1890s (not really, obviously). I found myself (yes, this one actually me) thanked in a 1998 book by an old mathematical writing professor of mine from college (I just ordered that book). But the best was the first couple of pages from Chapter 9 of a novel, "Short Change," by Patricia Smiley (Penguin USA 2007). Max Huffman is the new beau of someone named Venus, and the action opens with Venus purchasing new cycling shorts to keep up with Max, who "thinks he's some kind of Lance friggin' Armstrong training for the Tour de France." And although Venus' friend says to get rid of Max, Venus thinks he "could be [her] maillot jaune."

I am definitely bringing this to the attention of the tenure committee.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A worthy cause

One of my colleagues in the law school running just turned me to a most worthy cause called Back on My Feet.

BOMF is a nonprofit organization that promotes the self-sufficiency of homeless populations by engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem. They do not provide food or shelter, but instead provide a community that embraces equality, respect, discipline, teamwork and leadership. The organization consists of much more than just running: members participate in a comprehensive program that offers connections to job training, employment and housing. Those benefits are earned by maintaining 90 percent attendance at the morning runs three days a week for the six to nine month program.

I just signed up as a volunteer, have my orientation next week, and my first run with the group the following Saturday. Help spread the word about what they do if you can. It's pretty awesome and BOMF is already is a number of cities besides Chicago. If we do the Ragnar relay, I hope we can do some fund raising on their behalf.

Some Geeky Talk about Running Shoes

Over the past ten years I must have run in just about every major brand of running shoe available except Nike. I try to avoid Nike for the same reasons I try to avoid Microsoft in software (dislike of market power) but it's a lot easier in running shoes because of greater choice and less network effects. I started with some ungodly heavy but way cushy New Balance (first marathon), tried Asiics very briefly, had some success with Saucony Triumph until they changed the design on me, stuck with different model Sauconys for a while (my two fastest marathons), then discovered that I didn't really need a stability shoe anymore.

Once in the cushioned neutral I went for a combo of cush and lightness recognizing that physics makes this a trade off. Surprisingly Underarmour made a nice mid price shoe that did the trick for my last two marathons but now they don't seem to make it (and no stores carry their other models for me to try). Pearl Izumis rubbed me the wrong way (literally).

Now I alternate between a pair of Saucony Rides and Brooks Ghosts and like them both for different reasons. Is it too much to ask for a cushioned neutral shoe that isn't tilted forward for under $100?

Sunday, January 2, 2011


I ran the Leesburg Rotary 10K on New Year's Day. My wife and her mother ran the associated 4K. The races wind through Ida Lee and Morven parks in Leesburg, Virginia, a historic town 40 miles west of DC. The races have the feel of high school cross-country meets -- you start down (and finish up) a hill, which is a large unkempt lawn, and run on a mix of dirt road, paved road and jeep trails. It's a hilly course, not a PR race (as if any January 1 race would be). I did beat my 2007 time by nearly five minutes, which I'll take, and I flirted with (though I did not achieve) a top-10 finish.

In the gymnasium after the race they served bagels, cookies, bananas and coffee, as any good race should. The room was full of kids who came for the 4K, a few of whom must have run the 10K as well. Watching those kids I remembered that this was our summer family event when I was young. I ran with Dad starting at about age 6; within a few years my older sister and younger brother both had joined us. We ran many of the local 10Ks in Anchorage in the very early 1980s, Mom getting us started and cheering at the end and Dad out running, helping to keep us moving forward. Many of those races started and finished on the park strip in Anchorage, a large lawn between 9th and 10th running west to east across downtown.

Nostalgia aside, let's hope a January 1 race gets the year off on the correct foot. The big goal for the first half of the year is a marathon PR, and I have 3 months and 16 days to get ready.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Last Run of the Year: International Edition

December 29, 2010 found me in Barcelona for our last full day in town. Our 20th anniversary trip to Madrid and Barcelona got delayed and then rerouted because of snow and airport conditions in Heathrow and JFK. So four days in each of Madrid and Barcelona became 6 days in Barcelona with travels on December 24th and 31st.

Most of the days were cool but not cold with too much to do to go for a long run so I worked out at the Mandarin Oriental (hey, you don't rough it on your 20th anniversary trip). But the 29th it was sunny and close to 60 and Laura and Jordan were anxious to go shopping and to a museum that I didn't care about.

Instead, I went for a long beachfront Mediterranean run in the Barceloneta area created for the 1992 Olympics. My last run of the year and in shorts no less! Hopefully I can say the same about my first outdoor run of the year on Thursday with Ted in SF.

The next day we drove around Catalonia and the 31st was a very long travel day but we got home before 9 PM and were asleep by 10. A typical News Year's eve for the Waller-Matalon clan!

Happy New Year.