Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Serious Training Question

This weekend I have my 20 miler and then taper down to the big day on 9/24. On the weekend of 9/11, I am supposed to do 12 miles. However, I am also registered for the Chicago Half-marathon down in Hyde Park/Jackson Park. Its a pretty course, usually a fast one, and the only one where you finish underneath a giant gold statute of the winged goddess of Victory (Nike) from the 1893 World's Fair. Any down side to tacking on a little extra distance and probably running a little harder than I might otherwise do on a 12 mile taper run on my own? What does our blog's reader have to say?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hanging with the Tri-Guys

It must say something that our new mayor finished the sprint Triathlon in 1:36. While Rahm was doing his thing along the lakefront downtown, I had my wife drive me 14 miles straight south to the former South Shore Country Club so I could run home to the north side. About six miles into my run, I hit the turn around point for the triathlon run and the first elite wave of runners. The top guys all blew by me as did a few of the women. The rest I could hang with until I was driven off the course closer to the finish. Then I had to do all kinds of detours and curlicues to get back on the lakefront on the other side of the bike transition area. And finally another 4.5 miles home all in the face of a pretty stiff head wind. All in all, a pretty good day and a sub-ten minute pace even with a bathroom break and too many water stops. Next up a Labor Day weekend 20 miler and taper down to 9/24 in the Hamptons.

A Worthwhile Experiment

I tried something new for my first bankruptcy class today. I wrote the word "bankrupt(cy)" on the board, and asked the students to write down the first word that came to their minds. I called roll (that's not new for the first day) and asked them to report their word. One student wrote them all on the board. It was a great exercise. The words more or less provided the context for the entire remaining 65 minutes of class.

One surprise: there were about 30 students relating words that basically amounted to "broke" (20 actual "broke"s). There was only one "deadbeat." I am sure it would not have come out that way when I first taught related subjects in 2005.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Did I Bounce?

We left Valdez by bicycle on Sunday night at 6 pm, headed north along the Richardson Highway toward Glenallen. The ride was to take us to Fairbanks, then south to Anchorage, stopping in Talkeetna, covering 750 miles in 90 hours or less. (More on these perhaps pointless -- but that's really the point, isn't it -- endeavors at the Randonneurs USA website.) S__ and I were two of 29 starters.

It was a magical ride through the canyon past Bridleveil Falls (Alaska's version); Horsetail Falls; Worthington Glacier; and countless unnamed rivulets and mini-glaciers. After 30 miles we topped Thompson Pass, descending quickly to the first "control" (check-point) at Tsaina and into the late-summers-eve half light. The next 40 miles were rolling hills and false-flats as we headed toward Tonsina Lodge, where the proprietors were staging a late-night buffet just for the riders. S__ and I traded places with a pace-line that we never quite joined, sometimes moving ahead, sometimes falling behind.

I remember seeing the highway marker for mile 63, which signaled 16 miles to Tonsina. I hit a few small pot-holes and realized I needed a brighter lamp, and I fumbled for a few seconds with the switch. I have an impressionistic picture of flying, twisting right-ward. And then at some point a motorcyclist asked me where I was, and I didn't know. S__ filled in the gaps: my wheel hit a rock and separated from the fork; the fork hit the ground; and I went over. S__, riding in my draft, rode over me and the bike before crashing himself. Somehow in the lost minutes he dressed me in warm clothes and we waited a half hour before others came by to assist.

So that was it for our grand bike tour of east-central Alaska to close out the summer. I now join Spencer in the ranks of "aren't I too old to be falling off of my bike"?

The End of Summer

Forget the calendar. Summer ended yesterday. And its a good thing. After one last gasp of 90s and humidity summer gave up the ghost. Temps in the low 70s no humidity to speak of. I ran 9 bringing me to a total of 31 for the week since I had to do my long run on Monday instead of Sunday. I didn't need to stop every mile and a half for water, didn't chafe, didn't have 3 pounds of sweat on my shirt, and my training time dropped by nearly a minute per mile. Still doing slight negative splits. All mild signs of hope... and fall.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Racing to Relax

Looking back over the past few months of posts, it appears that I'm the only (semi-) regular contributor who uses these electronic pages primarily as a confessional. Maybe it's because I'm the only contributor whose relationship with running is more dysfunctional than my parents' was back in 1979. Wait, did I say that out loud? Add "unnecessary self-disclosure" to my list of blogging sins.

In any event, I've recently figured out something rather important: I have to be training for something. But it's not precisely like one might think. A few years back, the lack of an event in my future would have been a recipe for couch potato soup. But now I've swung too far in the other direction. If I am not actively training for something, my pattern is now "run 7 miles as fast as I can every day." But if I'm training for something, I tend to be able to follow a schedule that includes not only intervals, hills, and tempo runs, but also weights and rest days.

Does anyone else race to relax?

To that end, I'm considering the St. Louis Rock & Roll Half on October 23, the Indianapolis Monumental Half on November 5, or the somewhat less popular Valparaiso 13.1 on November 12. Anyone want to join me?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Vacation Running Part Deux

Liked Alaska a lot but didn't get to run on land. It was pouring in Juneau and we had only a short stop in Ketchikan. Could have run in Skagway but instead went a nice hike with my daughter. What qualifies as a moderate hike on the maps and guides there seemed reasonably tough for us flatlanders but it was great to get out into some real woods and lakes with my daughter for a couple of hours. Did manage to get in about 18 miles on treadmills over 3 days while the boat gently rocked in the swell. A very odd feeling. Not back on dry land with an 18 miler waiting for me either tonight or first thing tomorrow.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reality TV

I had this idea for a reality TV show: "Who Wants to be an Ironman?" (The name would have to be changed; I think there was a show with a similar name recently.) Why Ironman? There are harder events (ultras) and more mainstream events (marathons). Ironman racing seems to be the perfect combination of the two -- marathons may be too common to draw an audience, and ultras may be too fringe. Frankly, the show would unabashedly free-ride off of the investment by Ironman Corp. in a sexy brand.

Here's the idea:

Find 5-10 participants, from diverse backgrounds and with diverse expectations of success. Some would be true neophytes, who might or might not be able to accomplish the goal of finishing a full iron-distance triathlon. Some would be competitors, who have a shot at qualifying for the IM World Championships in Kona. Some would be selected just for their good looks or interesting life stories.

Find a coach to put together individualized programs for the participants, with enough overlap that you can overlap for at least one workout per week and preparatory races.

Film workouts, post-workout gatherings at a bar (or to perpetuate the Ironman myth -- and it is a myth -- smoothie stands).

Coach would "certify" participants for each intermediate race, so we might see attrition if Joe or Sally is not sufficiently prepared for the group marathon; group olympic-distance triathlon; group 1/2 iron; group century ride.

There would be some combination of crabbing about the other participants -- "I can't believe he couldn't get himself to bed on time to keep up with the group today. I'm not sure Andre is committed to the program" -- and mutual support -- "I didn't think Sharon was going to make it, but she's become an amazing athlete!" There might be love interest as some of the participants are seen sharing rides to early morning workouts. There would be plenty of opportunity for fit people to wear tight clothes and sweat in front of a national audience (which, the more I think about it, is precisely what Ironman Corp. is selling anyway -- Baywatch for adults).

And there would be drama. The top contenders would race each other across the line, hopefully one of them qualifying for Kona and another not. The middle-of-the-pack crowd would either improve or not. The neophytes would either finish, dropping to their knees and proclaiming that their lives were changed, or not, crying as they are removed from the course suffering from exhaustion or having missed one of the time cut-offs.

I think it would sell. So much so that I talked to a television producer, who agreed. He agreed so much that, he explained, he was currently planning to produce just such a show starting this October. I think it will be on the Discovery Channel. And my days as a television creative consultant are now concluded.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Just Running

Spencer has the big race for the year in front of him. Mine is behind me. I got out for a run for the first time this month last Friday, and again on Sunday. My goal was to enjoy myself. Actually, I'm just slightly more ambitious than that. On Friday I wanted to see how it would be to run moderately aggressively for an hour on my forefeet. Answer: imagine running uphill for an hour. It took two days before my calves would permit me to walk down stairs straight. On Sunday I wanted to practice landing midfoot and leveling my hips (which tend to tip forward -- I run sway-back). Today I think I'll run because it's nice out and I want to. I hope to run tomorrow morning because I have a long drive and it would feel good. And so on.

This is a luxury. I've had a good racing year, defined as being better than last year, and all I have left (that I care much about) is a marathon in October, which I will run but I may or may not try to run fast. That means starting in September I need to get in some track work, some long runs, some tempo runs -- but not now. Now I just run, or not, depending how I feel. God do I ever love this sport.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Improvising the Vacation Run

Seattle. High 50s. Delightful alternative to the hot humid soup of Chicago. Problem is juggling runs around family obligations and starting tomorrow the cruise schedule. Making things worse, forgetting our passports so no excursion or run on Victoria Island. Fortunately no passport needed to go from Seattle to Alaska. Got in 5 plus mile around part of Lake Union today. Doing 12 miler tomorrow on shore of Elliott Bay before getting on boat. After that we will see. But have to do my 18 miler within a day of when I get home.

My vacation reading? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Madame Bovary; and Kenneth Davidson's Reality Ignored.

Some good reads

I'm cramming to get my pleasure reading (defined to include true bedside-table reading and reading that has a professional advancement benefit but is hard to fit in during the semester) done before the start of the semester. Three recent books to recommend:

Christopher Buckley, Supreme Courtship. This one is old news; I think it came out in 2008 or so. The premise is that the president, who doesn't really want to be president but was the right man at the right time and consented, has had two utterly unimpeachable Court nominees "Borked", one on the amusing basis of a junior-high-school-newspaper review of To Kill A Mockingbird, in which he said the story dragged on at times (thus was seen as having racist tendencies, or whatever). President Vanderdamp thus picks Pepper Cartwright, a smart, sassy, likable, and apparently highly attractive television judge, to fill the vacancy. The first part of the book is devoted to her confirmation hearings, during which she demonstrates disinterest in the job, no inclination to seek to appease the opposing forces in the Senate, and extraordinary quickness of wit. The exchange with the hostile committee members, which occupies Chapter 11 and 12 of the book, represents the heights of political satire. In one early exchange, the committee chairman, Senator Mitchell, refers to Cartwright's judicial record. She responds, "'I brought with me my whole judicial record.' She placed boxed sets of [her television show] Courtroom Six DVDs on the [table]." Antitrust law get a nod; Cartwright corrects one senator "on the actual wording of Leegin . . . ." And Cartwright silences the normally non-plussed Committee Chair Dexter Mitchell, who had asked the president for the nomination himself, by saying: "'It would take somebody with bigger cojones than I have to ask for this. It's not the sort of job anyone would solicit outright. Is it?'"

The book continues with the first of Cartwright's terms on the bench. It remains fresh and funny to the end. It's an easy read for a rainy Saturday, and I highly recommend it.

Tim Wu, The Master Switch. Spencer has reviewed this book and appropriately given it two thumbs up, so I won't say much -- but to say that it's an extraordinary lesson in the history of hi-tech industrial policy in the US. I'm learning backstories to cases I teach in class. I'm learning more about state of information regulation than I believed could be reduced to a single volume. And I'm enjoying every chapter. I might complain that Wu is advancing an agenda (with which I happen largely to agree), but he is being careful to offer arguments supporting contrary views. An amazing book.

Kathryn Schulz, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. Schulz is a journalist who has studied the history and psychology of reaching wrong conclusions. Her thesis seems to be that we are destined to be wrong, even most of the time; we should not be embarrassed to be wrong, but recognize it as a natural state of affairs; and only by being wrong can we actually advance as a civilization. The book is a back-door entry into innovation theory, although Schulz doesn't so pitch it. She notes that cultures that don't allow experimentation, which usually produces false starts and dead ends but occasionally produces amazing break-throughs, ultimately stagnate and whither away. So "wrongness" is a synonym for "diversity" and "competition." Again, highly recommended.

Later, a report on some Kindle reading -- Freidman's Capitalism and Freedom is the current selection.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An Inspired Tour

I talked my buddy D__ into playing hooky with me yesterday and sneaking out on the bikes for a low-traffic day on roads in northwest Virginia and northeast West Virginia. We followed cues for a ride sponsored by the DC Randonneurs, leaving Middletown, Virginia, at about 6:30 a.m. and reaching the West Virginia border sometime around 10. We rode through apple orchards, where I noticed a few trees' fruit ripe and being picked but most still green; remote burgs where cell service was nonexistent; state parks and National Forests. The routing was inspired -- consistently high-quality road surfaces, non-stop excellent views, and a meal stop at a lovely cafe in the town of Lost River. (Having spent countless weekends in West Virginia when I first moved to DC, I never have seen Lost River, and it is a gem.) We crossed two ridges in the George Washington National Forest through Miller's Gap and Wolf Gap to re-enter Virginia, and took a tour northward through the Shenandoah Valley returning to Middletown.

D__ road exceedingly well and strongly. I'm either just not that strong or still feeling the race the other weekend, but that didn't keep me from appreciating what we had. The day was a winner.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Instead of Running

I went to Lollapalooza this weekend. Plus it was too hot and humid to run with the tempting forecast of high 60s for Monday morning for my 16 miler past where Lolla was held. So instead on Day One, I walked my daughter and her friend into the park and then off we went our mostly separate ways. First stop, Kids These Days, a jazz infused hip-hop band with the son of one of my faculty colleagues as the trumpet player (plus a music scholarship to college next year). Great energy, really liked their medley of Its a Man's World (James Brown) and Summertime (Porgy and Bess). Stop two The Kills on the South Main Stage. Then after dinner, back for an incredibly dull half with Coldplay but a surprisingly interesting set with Rat-a-Tat, two guys each with synthesizers and guitars and no vocals. Then off to the pre-arranged meeting point to meet Jordan and her friend.

Day Two, came after dinner mostly for the pickup. Listened for maybe 10 minutes to Eminen and then thoroughly enjoyed the last 30 minutes of My Morning Jacket.

Day Three stayed home to write and pack for Alaska trip.

Next year? If I go at all, going VIP for covered seating, lounge to wait in, free drinks, and the use of an air conditioned toilets. Should have realized this was the efficient thing to do once I learned that was how Jim Langenfeld, our law and economics adjunct, was attending.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Last Saturday was a wildest dreams kind of day. On a superlative day in wine country, California, I dropped an hour twenty two off of my personal best for the iron distance with a final time of 10:26. I would say it's the first time I've actually "competed" in an iron-distance triathlon. Picture is me coming into the finish.

Red Eye Relay

This post is from my colleague, Peter:

As Max noted earlier this week, our law school running club entered a seven-person team in the 100-mile Red Eye Relay held on the hilly roads north of Bloomington, Indiana last weekend. Each team member ran three legs (21 total) and total mileage per runner ranged from 11-19.5 miles. We had two faculty members and five students—one 2L, three 3Ls, and one part-time student starting his fourth year. With four women and three men, we were an “Open Mixed” team. Our adventure began at 6 PM on Saturday under sunny skies with temperatures in the low 90s. Fourteen hours and twelve minutes later, the sun was up again, the temperature was around 80 degrees, and we finished. That time was good enough for first place in the twelve-team Open Mixed category and 18th out of 62 teams overall.

For me, the race was an unqualified success on every level. Most importantly, everyone had fun together. One thing I found strange about law school when I attended, and still do now, is its solitary nature. Grading curves, published class rankings, and grades determined entirely on individual performance with no group component can’t help but interfere with the kind of camaraderie that ties students to each other and to their law school. This race gave the students a chance to see their classmates, some of whom they didn’t know very well, as teammates who needed their support while struggling to climb a 6% grade hill at 2 AM and who provided support in return when it was their turn to suffer. My school could use more of that.

Extending that team dynamic to faculty members is also valuable, at least in my opinion. In my classes, I try—with limited success—to encourage students to talk with me outside class about the course material and the practice of law in general. Most students resist, but often if I can get them to do it once they become more comfortable and return with more questions. Creating those initial out-of-class contacts between faculty and students is one of the reasons why I created our running club and why I’ve work so hard to recruit other faculty members to participate in events like the Red Eye Relay. (Thanks Max!) While I can see how some faculty might grow uneasy at the prospect of spending ~18 hours straight with a group of students, it really wasn’t a problem. Were there a few long silences as we traversed the countryside overnight? Sure, but we survived them. We spent most of our time talking about family, life, running, food, law school, working as a lawyer, etc. I particularly enjoyed getting to know one student who I’d never met before, but who will take federal income tax from me this fall. I’m curious whether she will be one of the students who talks with me about the course outside of class. If my hopes for the running club are valid, she should.

Finally, it goes without saying that winning our category was nice. But I usually place within my age group and it is not unheard of for me to win, so that alone wasn’t enough to make the event special. Winning with a team of people who don’t often place or win, and who were genuinely excited about their success, did.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A One Way Run

Schedule called for a 15 miler. Weather report called for more hot and steamy. I was tired of loops in the three directions possible from my apartment. Solution? A one way 15 miler up the lakefront to Winnetka and then took the commuter train back to the city and a bus home. It was my first run past the Bahai Temple and I discovered a bike/running path that begins in Evanston and parallels the commuter train tracks all the way to Lake Forest some 30 miles from the city. Next time, I may take the train up to the path and go all the way and train back home just for some variety.

Downside of Saturday's run? Didn't check train schedule and had to wait almost 50 minutes on the platform making it nearly hours door to door. But there was a 7-11 across the street from the station where I refueled while I waited. Not sure how I can continue to do these long runs unless the weather breaks a bit.