Sunday, February 27, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
There are three problems with the continuing viability of the faculty team. First, we keep getting older and the students on average do not. Second, a shockingly large number of students in law student seem to played college ball, other varsity sports and/or elite high school ball. The faculty does have a visitor from practice who played college ball at Princeton at the beginning of time but the students have players from Loyola, Grinell, Princeton and Wake Forest from the recent past. Finally, you can't teach height and I have been singularly unsuccessful in convincing my colleagues to recruit for both publication and above average height.
We do have going for us the intimidation factor, the fact that most students have had no time play for over a year, our ability to threaten dire academic consequences, a dean referee who cheats outrageously for us, and the daughter of a different dean who is the starting point guard for the Loyola women's team. Plus for the first time my daughter will be joining me in the back court a mere three weeks since her season as a starter for her high schools freshman team.
The sweet part is that the students mostly just want to hang out with us and go out for a beer afterwards.
Do you guys have anything similar? And if you are either tall or good can you join us next year?
Friday, February 25, 2011
The old man woke every day in the dark. He loaded his gear in the boat. He drank coffee from condensed milk cans. Even after 84 days "[h]is hope and his confidence had never gone. But now they were freshening as when the breeze rises." When he was fishing, he kept his lines "straighter than anyone did, so that at each level in the darkness of the stream there would be a bait waiting exactly where he wished it to be for any fish that swam there."
The old man would make a great runner. A change of props and he's not launching a skiff into the Gulf Stream. He's following a trail deep into the woods or toeing the line at a race. After 84 days this one might be his, or it might not. But although his legs are weary "his eyes . . . [a]re the same color as the sea and [a]re cheerful and undefeated."
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The best I could come up was "The Map of Laps" or "The School of Pools". I hope you can do better. Hoping to teach a decent class and then do an outdoor run before the sleet and freezing rain begins later tonight. Back to the trial of miles.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I have some old yoga tapes by Brian Kest, yogi to the stars, on one of which he says "strength builds in increments. Flexibility builds in increments. If you don't like where you are, that's OK." (I haven't watched the tapes in years. My ability to quote Kest now is a little scary.) When I used to use the tapes, I didn't understand what he meant. I always assumed he was saying it's OK to be less than fit. But I'm slowly figuring him out.
There is no end to Hollywood depictions of success. They tend to involve somebody deciding, early in the film, "I want to succeed" and investing 90 minutes preparing. Then in the last 15 minutes, voila, the person succeeds. The movie "The Pelican Brief," about a prodigy lawyer who, through painstaking research, uncovered the plot to kill two Supreme Court justices, annoyed me. The painstaking research scenes involve a few depictions of an exceedingly attractive Julia Roberts sitting alone in dark library stacks working by lamplight on her laptop, a few musty Supreme Court reporters open on the desk. (I've spent a few late nights alone with a laptop and a Supreme Court reporter, and it ain't pretty.) One terrible TV series depicting fantasized lives of elite gymnasts brought this home to me. In one 45-minute show, the gymnasts started by performing horribly. They were chastised by their coach, who said they would lose the attention of the Olympic selection committee. The gymnasts had a meeting and decided to do better. And then, amid a soundtrack of soul-thrilling music, at the next practice they excelled, really showing the world what they were made of.
Some depictions are better than others. I recommend the movie "Four Minutes" about Roger Bannister's quest to run the four-minute mile. The movie is fairly slow, which really is the point. The training part of the movie should be boring. Building to an excellent result is pure drudgery. And it's an incremental process. Rarely (never?) is there a "make or break" moment in training, or in life.
Today I need to run. It's chilly outside, and I'm a little tired, so I'd like to skip. Then, we have a faculty brown-bag on an environmental law topic. It's not my field, and I have some interesting reading to do on a bankruptcy matter (keep the jokes to yourself!). But my running goals include a three-hour marathon. My career goals include being "a good colleague" and "a scholar." Today's contributions to those goals will be miniscule, but it's an incremental process. Or at least I think so.
In this recent Track and Field News article, Salazar discusses the disappointment of Alan Webb, the prodigy miler who has been working to maintain his competitive form. Webb had a couple of down races recently and was displeased. Salazar, who coaches Webb, was philosophical. He explained that athletes train for the big races, and the interstitial events are part of the process. So long as you hit the benchmarks, the fact that any one race is not your best possible race is irrelevant.
Nassim Taleb in "Fooled by Randomness" employs tales from securities trading to teach life lessons. One cannot, Taleb argues, invest in the financial markets with any certainty of success. Short-term success is failure that hasn't yet come to pass. The only proven successful strategy is that of maximizing your chances for success while minimizing your chances for failure, and his lesson is that faith in the process is more important than any one observation of the outcome.
Taleb then generalizes. Success in life, he argues, is a question of how it is lived rather than what is achieved. If he is right about investing -- that certain success is an impossible goal -- then even a strategy of maximizing your chances may lead to failure. But he wouldn't define it as that. He would argue it's not failure to do everything right, but for the ball nonetheless to fail to clear the net.
So we set our training schedule, or our life plan, with long term goals and intermediate benchmarks. At each step we strive to be the best we can at that time. That we aren't currently peaking (while others may be) does not suggest we aren't on track.
Monday, February 21, 2011
What is missing so far are the real long runs. My first real race of the year is the Lakefront 10 miler in mid-April. Suddenly that doesn't seem that far away.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
What has slipped is my conditioning. My weight is up. My speed is down. My hips are tight. Worse yet, I don't know what I'm aiming for, so my intensity is down. My current thinking is shorter tris in the spring and summer, followed by the NY Marathon in the Fall (or maybe the Hamptons Marathon with Spencer, depending on how the training is going). Even with the sore heel, I can manage a 10K, though the results might not be pretty. So, maybe that's a plan. Grumble, grumble.
Friday, February 18, 2011
The temperature was predicted to hit 70 degrees. I took the newly rebuilt Gunnar out Beach Drive to Tuckerman, Glen to South Glen, Query Mill to Esworthy to River Road, about 25 miles west of town. I followed River back to the town of Potomac; Falls Road to Macarthur Blvd., and Arizona to Nebraska to Albemarle, then back home. A beautiful 55 miles. The bank clock at Macarthur and Arizona read 77 degrees.
Quick switch of the shoes and stumble through the neighborhood for 30 minutes. If I had my way I'd find somewhere flat, but the word is the run in St. George, Utah, this May will be anything but. I had been patting myself on the back for early season fitness, but wow, was today hard.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The only problem was that today's episode wasn't nearly long enough for my morning run. It was 52 outside and I was finally back in shorts. The other problem was that the running path was mostly mud so I hit the streets for a hour long tour of the north west side. After Planet Money, I switched to Tubular Bells Part I (better known as the theme from The Exorcist), some metal, and then back to some other NPR podcasts. (see earlier parenthetical on nerdiness). A most excellent morning.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
I'll be honest: I hated running for the first 25 years of my life. Running was something to be endured, something that—at its very best—only “built character,” induced vomiting, and seemed to be the price of admission for a starting slot on sports teams. From middle school through high school—over ten separate school and club sports seasons—I never once completed a run of two miles or more without (a) stopping; (b) throwing up; and (c) walking until I felt human again.
In high school our conditioning runs were of the out-and-back variety; they typically wove through the neighborhood for a mile or so, then headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway to whichever mile marker most closely corresponded to our coaches’ then-current Sadism Index ™. With the help of America’s Running Routes, I now learn that our six-mile variant climbed almost 1000 feet before the turnaround. But when I say “our,” I really mean “their.” For all I know, there were circus acrobats, a brass band, and an all-you-can-eat buffet waiting at the turnarounds; I never once saw any of them. Even the four-mile run—just a single 400-foot, one-mile climb up the Parkway—was beyond my capabilities. It became something of a joke: my friends told me they’d pick me up on their way back down, provided I was finished being sick.
Let’s fast-forward a bit. We’ll skim through college, where I got my exercise primarily by playing basketball and lifting weights. We’ll sneak a peak at law school, where I discovered that even the Stairmaster™ and the rowing machine were better than putting one foot in front of the other.
When I arrived at the law firm in September of 199_, pretty much the first thing I noticed was C____. I’d met her the previous summer, but she had been involved in a serious relationship at the time, and I quickly realized that I needed to stay as far away from her as possible. After sharing an elevator on the first day of work, I decided it was time to do a little research. By 6:00 P.M. that same day, I’d figured out that there was no one else in the picture. The coast was clear for me to screw this one up like so many before!
We began hanging out together in large groups (and by “hanging out together,” I mean occupying opposite sides of the same 500 square feet or so of space at the usual firm haunts). A couple of weeks after I started work, C invited me to a celebratory birthday lunch for her legal assistant J___. We went to the best Chicken Fried Steak Place (yes, it is a proper noun) in downtown Houston, which seemed a bit odd, given how fit and food-conscious I knew J to be.
When I asked him about the choice, he told me that he’d lost sixty pounds, and that this was the first time in over a year he’d felt he could indulge in an old favorite without falling back into old habits. When I asked him how he’d done it, J told me it had just been diet and exercise, and that he really owed his success to taking up running.
This of course led me into my well-rehearsed diatribe on running and how They Couldn’t Make Me Do It Ever Again. Imagine George H.W. Bush and broccoli, but with ten times more vehemence. Now you’re getting close to just how emphatically I insisted that I would never run again unless someone was chasing me with a knife.
Later that same Friday night, a bunch of us went out to a bar. C was there, as was J. Around 9:30 or so, C announced to the world that she was leaving. I recall making a rather pathetic attempt to get her to stay, but she said she couldn’t, because she was training for the Houston Marathon and had to run three three-mile loops around Memorial Park the next morning.
Maybe it was the combination of alcohol and love. Maybe I had a deathwish. Whatever the explanation, the next words that popped out of my mouth were, “Cool. I’d love to go with you.” At this point, my life turned into a stereotypical laugh-tracked sitcom. J was standing just a few feet away, and he immediately piped up with, “But Paul, you told me you were never going to MNMMMPH” as I stomped on his toe to shut him up. Sometime in the next three seconds or so, partial sanity returned, and I told C “I don’t think I could do anywhere close to nine miles, but I could probably make one loop with you.” C told me to meet her at 8:00 at the park.
The careful reader will recall that my distance running had historically followed a particular pattern: stop, throw up, walk. Unfortunately, that fateful first Saturday run was no exception. I made it a mile-and-a-half at C’s 8:15 pace, then renewed my old traditions.
I tried to make C leave me and finish her run. I also tried to disappear, to kill myself by sheer force of will alone, and to be the first homo sapiens ever whose visible embarrassment went right past “red” into infrared. But I couldn’t manage any of it; and she and I walked the most humbling mile-and-a-half of my life back to the cars.
This could not stand.
But that’s a story for another time.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Obviously we have very different kids at very different stages of life but if your kids (or someone else's) asked you the same question, what would you include?
Saturday, February 12, 2011
For logistics I will be staying with friends who are fortunate enough to have a home in Sag Harbor and will drive me to the starting line. Not sure how it will feel without 40,000 people milling around for hours in advance. Looking forward to Ted running with me for up to the first 20 miles. Welcome any one else who is free Saturday September 24, 2011. And thanks to my associate dean for arranging a marathon (I mean research) leave for the fall.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Second, I'm curious about his statement that running an Ironman changed his life. He suddenly felt as if he could do anything.
That's certainly the view of the uninformed about endurance sports. "If you run a marathon, you can do anything!" I've never felt that way. When I finished my first marathon, all I wanted to do was drink a beer. After recovering a little, I know I wanted to run faster the next time, but "anything"? Hardly.
When does an athletic accomplishment qualify as life-changing? You know, so you can get the tattoo and not feel foolish a decade later. This one seems like it might do it. I've previously mentioned RAAM. But I doubt it. Short of inducing post-traumatic stress disorder, I think you pretty much wake up a week later and realize if you don't get back out jogging again, you're going to end up out of shape.
On the other hand, maybe I'll try walking up the street for a double espresso. That may bring it back.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I'm not saying these questions keep me up at night --it's really only something I end up thinking about during my "racing season," such as it is. Then I again embark on the semi-annual struggle to find a training partner (I usually fail). Then I again come to terms with the fact that, even in races with over 10,000 participants, I'll sort of end up running by myself -- too fast (by far) for the dilettantes, too slow (by far) for the real runners.
If one is the loneliest number, 8:00 is the loneliest pace for a half-marathoner.
I will say this, though -- on race day, my thin pace cohort is as physiologically diverse as any. Running an ocular regression, I see no clear "majority type" among those few who run at my race pace. You get fast kids on their way up. You get fast late-middle-agers on their way down. You even get the occasional prodigy (I was passed late by an 8-year-old during an April half last year) or medical miracle (two years ago, at mile 12 I finally passed my Race Nemesis (TM), a woman who probably voted for Eisenhower. Twice.). You get folks who look like Runners, and folks who look like Krispy Kremes with Optional Piston Attachments (TM). You get the occasional obvious multisporter -- lanky swimmers or rail-thin shaved-leg cyclists who need to log miles-on-feet in advance of their next half-Ironman. And you get a few of me.
But what am I, exactly? According to my orthopedist, it's simple: I am a Person-Whose-Physiology-Is-Completely-Unsuited-to-Distance-Running. At 5'11", 200 lbs, it's hard to argue with that. But I'm also a semi-serious runner who runs 50% for the fitness, 25% for the extra doughnuts, and 25% for the challenge of getting stronger, faster and better. I'll probably never hold a 7:30 pace over 13 miles, but a big part of me lives for that unattainable goal.
I just wish I had more people to share it with.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Here is where I pass judgment: that's not fair. I felt pretty bad heading out for two runs yesterday while P__ stayed home. It bothers me every time vacation means a couple of days after a race somewhere. Nobody is innocent. But I think there's a balance, and unless the article is overstating it, this guy is on the wrong side.
To be clear, nobody blogging here is unwilling to ditch the next morning's workout in order to catch a late movie, or to stay for dessert after a nice dinner out. Right?
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Not at this gym. It appears populated entirely by people of both genders who are models and train for ironmen competitions. While this provides a certain amount of motivation to actually go there, it is kind of embarrassing to be one of the older, more out of shape and less attractive people there. Even the one law professor I have run into there is better looking and significantly faster than I am.
On the other hand I do get a 30 minute free pilates session and a free year if I can persuade Loyola to sgn up for a corporate account.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
I saw one plant, a big clump-of-grass style bush, coated in ice. The ice had formed around the stalks in a straw-like formation, and it became sufficiently robust to support itself. So the plant maintained its perfect shape.
Cars sit really low on their springs when caked in ice. Mine looks like the Arizona police describe cars in police reports when trying to support probable cause for drug busts. Or at least they did when I was clerking.
A couple of cars were coated in ice, but for the windshields and front side windows. Oh yeah, and the grills and bumpers, which were not only ice-free but were broken up pretty badly. Somebody regretted driving to work that day.
People are really friendly in a storm. It's much like it was (1) the day after Obama was elected, and (2) on September 11, 2001.
I walked into work today. Twice. To quote Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman," "big, big mistake. Huge." I'm in one piece, but I now owe karma several groin pulls and bruised rear ends.
Riding the bike on the trainer is much more fun when it's not the only way you can get a cardiovascular workout. After 1:45 I couldn't stand Lisbeth Salander's scowl any more.
Gotta say, this isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I think I even get to fly home tomorrow.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
But I do agree with the notion of rest and recovery in endurance sports, so I'm following Mark Allen's advice in putting together my calendar -- sort of. Here are the "A" races: the Boston Marathon (April 18), the Vineman Triathlon (July 30), and some as-yet-undecided ultra-run in October. I'd like to PR in the first two, and for the third, finish at a distance at which I have not succeeded in the past (thus, necessarily a PR). I'm then filling in the interstices with shorter-term goals, which are smaller events. Except for one: today I send in my registration for the Big Wild Ride 1200K in Alaska. I'll attempt that with my brother, an experienced ultra-cyclist. It's not a race so much as it is a long bike tour with little down-time.