Monday, December 31, 2012

Procrastination, or Scott Turow 25 Years Later

My bed-side table reading over the last 10 days was Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow. Others on this blog must have read this, but if not, I recommend it. The book was published in 1987. So here's a brief 25th anniversary review:

Great book. The story is an engaging who-done-it crime drama, and it is genuinely complex without being contrived. The conclusion in the final chapter was unexpected, but then again, I don't actually know what the conclusion is. There's a "Total Recall"-like quality, or maybe it's more like a Vizzini ("Princess Bride") game theory experiment. ("But it's so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy's? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.") We learn what happened, but we also learn that somebody smart enough could know that's what we would think happened so arranged things in order to mislead us, and we are left with the understanding that somebody else smart enough could know that we might suspect somebody smart enough of being so contriving so is misleading us him/herself. And conveniently there are two such smarties appropriately motivated. Who killed Carolyn Polhemus? I don't know.

SAT logic section: Turow is to Grisham as Le Carre is to Ludlum. The beauty of this book is that it is exciting without being fantastical. OK, maybe a little fantastical, because the idea of truly cold-blooded murder is to me inherently fantastical, and defense lawyer Alejandro Stern is a little too perfect. But there's none of this mob law firm or supreme court assassination stuff on which Grisham relies to make an otherwise second rate plot interesting. Presumed Innocent accurately describes small town petty corruption in politics and law enforcement. It accurately describes local court systems, prosecutors' offices, and bar associations. It accurately portrays the trial process in an intimate courtroom where the judges and lawyers know each other and have for decades. Out of that mundanity Turow comes up with a great tale of intrigue.

For a similar reason I like Le Carre. I don't know the intelligence world, but I can imagine that it is less James Bond/Jason Bourne and more data analysis. If you read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and think George Smiley's life is sexy you are either a ditch digger or a law professor -- for nobody else would 20 hours a day of reading documents on a card table in a dingy apartment be a promotion.

Another comparison: Turow reminds me of Eichenwald, the NY Times journalist who wrote an extraordinary series of books into corporate crime and tort over the 1990s. His best known may be The Informant, about the Archer Daniels Midland lysine price-fixing conspiracy, but I prefer the securities books, including Serpent on the Rock and Conspiracy of Fools. Eichenwald is (was?) an investigative journalist, not a novelist, but his real life stories unroll very much like Turow's novel.

There are others I'm now tempted to read. Any comments from the gallery on 1L (I did see the movie years ago) or Innocent (the latter of which the NY Times reviewed highly when it came out in 2011)?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Got lost today

Had a route planned, but found myself in Takoma Park MD with no clear idea how to return to the neighborhood. It was cold, breezy, and drizzly, and I found at least 6 miles of new road. Once I figured out where I was I beelined home for a total of 13. I seem somewhere along the way to have jammed a couple of toes, but no real complaints for the last long(ish) run of 2012.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Books for Christmas

Here's the list (not all were gifts from somebody else!):

R. Jay Magill Jr., Sincerity. Quoting from the jacket: "What do John Calvin, Sarah Palin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Bon Iver have in common? A preoccupation with sincerity. [This is a] beguiling tale of sincerity's theological past, its current emotional resonance, and the deep impact it has had on the Western soul." Looks quite promising.

Dave Barter, Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder. A collection of stories, essays, ride reports, what-have-you, about 10 years of amateur riding.

Tyler Hamilton & Daniel Coyle, The Secret Race: about doping in the TDF.

Andrew Ritchie, Major Taylor: biographical look at one of the early world-renowned bike racers, an African-American from Indianapolis named Marshall Taylor who dominated race circuits at the turn of the prior century.

William Bloch, The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel: an apparently (per the reviews) quite readable discussion of the real mathematical intrigue in this Borges short story.

Borges: Selected Non-Fictions. Not sure how much of these I've read, but the price was right.

Borges, Hurly Trans.: The Book of Sand and Shakespeare's Memory. Anybody know anything about these?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Great run

Not sure how it happened. My apocalypse-day run was so incredibly sour I felt like Ted in the previous post. "You mean I was in my peak fitness X weeks ago, and here I am two miles from home taking a walk break?"

Yesterday I left around noon. The breeze had quieted down from Saturday, when it was howling. The sun was out. It was tights and long-sleeve shirt weather, but no need for winter garb. I always iPod it in the winter, because I'm not concentrating on anything but enjoying myself.

I wound my way northeast to pick up Beach Drive at the Maryland line. From there I headed south on the Valley Trail, good rocky singletrack that follows Rock Creek toward town. Some was slick with the recent rain. Some was covered in thick leaves. There are areas of highly technical rock garden that either require walking or devil-may-care ankle endangerment. (I walked.) There are some hills as you climb and descend small bluffs over the creek. Occasionally the trail winds into the forest toward 16th Street before returning to creek-side. Total maybe 5 miles winding south before reaching the parking area at Beach Drive and Rock Creek Parkway.

From there the run returns home up the Tilden Street hill and Connecticut. I've done versions of this run dozens of times in recent years and always expect to pant my way up the final climbs, but yesterday for reasons I do not understand I was able to accelerate all the way home.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Airing of The Grievances . . .

Happy Festivus!!!

A month ago I was in peak (for me) form.  I ran 26 miles at a sub 8:30 pace.  I finished feeling strong.

Today was not a day for feats of strength.   After two days off and a three hour airplane ride, I went out for a nice and easy six miler.  Everything hurt.  My right ankle and calf were stiff.  My left hamstring and hip were angry.  I had trouble maintaining 10 minute miles.  When I stopped to stretch at the halfway point, I stretched my left calf and my hamstring went into spasm (along the sciatic nerve up into the hip).  Luckily that one let go, but everything aches.

Where did the form go?  The major things that hurt now were both present earlier in the Fall.  I rolled my ankle (lightly) just before the Staten Island Half.  My left leg/hip are a more curious production.  Back in March after the NYC Half, my left patellar tendon and quad were sore.  That problem has slowly worked its way from the front to the back of my leg as I've progressively worked out and adjusted to each iteration.  Both were minor annoyances during marathon training.  Now they scream at the beginning of each run, interfere with walking, and generally annoy the heck out of me.

Part of me thinks that this is just marathon recovery.  I need to let stuff heal.  Part of me thinks that letting stuff heal is what's causing everything to hurt so much.  Most of me thinks it's all mental.

Whatever it is, it's not unusual.  At Christmas, after a Fall marathon, I often feel old, slow and wiped out.  It doesn't usually worry me too much because I don't usually start running hard again until, maybe, a half marathon in April, or a sprint tri in May.  This year, with Rome looming in March, I'm a bit nervous.  It has occurred to me that if I'm going to log my usual four twenty milers before March 1, the first has to be in early January.  That's soon!!! Yikes!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Two near-term blog symposia

It's the end of 2012 and we are still alive. I propose two quick-and-easy blog symposia. Spencer may be too deep in beef and Malbec, but maybe some of our 2 or 3 (are there that many?) occasional readers/commenters will contribute:

1. What went right last year? Can everybody list three things? Five?

2. What's on tap for next year? "A" goals, so to speak. Big race? Big presentation? Tenure vote(!)?

Anybody volunteer to go first?

Friday, December 21, 2012

End of the World!

Well, it's the end of the world! I overslept and missed my morning workout window.  Maybe the Mayans were right. Or, maybe I'll be able to squeeze in a swim this afternoon . . .   Check in later to see if we're still here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New York Marathon Cancellation -- Denouement!

Okay, so NYRR has finally announced how they are going to handle the 40,000+ folks who had their marathon plans dashed by Superstorm Sandy.  I must say, the plan is perfectly reasonable, to wit:
All 2012 Marathoners may choose one of the following three options:
Option #1 - Refund. While NYRR has always had a no-refund policy for the Marathon, given these extraordinary circumstances, we are offering runners who were entered in the 2012 Marathon, and were unable to run due to the cancellation¹, the opportunity to obtain a full refund of their 2012 Marathon entry fee (excluding the $11 processing fee); OR
Option #2 – Guaranteed entry to the ING New York City Marathon for 2013, 2014, or 2015. Entrants in the 2012 Marathon who choose this option will be granted guaranteed entry to the Marathon for the year they choose. Runners will be required to pay all processing and entry fees at the time of application (in the given year), with fees maintained at the same rate as those paid in 2012; OR
Option #3 – Guaranteed entry to the NYC Half 2013. Entrants in the 2012 Marathon who choose this option will be granted guaranteed entry to the NYC Half 2013, to be run on March 17, 2013. Runners will be required to pay all processing and entry fees at the time of application. Availability will be limited.
I wonder why it took them so long to get there.

Now the question is, what option to choose?  There's no point in taking Option 1.  I love the NYC Half, but it's to close to the Rome Marathon for comfort.  So, the big question is do I want to run NYC in the Fall? Or do I want to run a smaller, maybe faster, race, or even take a break.  Maybe it's time to run Chicago??  What say the Runningprofs?

UPDATE:  I should note that what they have done is pretty much what was predicted here, three weeks ago.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Not saying this is healthy

I came across this guy in a break between exam questions. Chuck Engle has won 148 marathons. He has also won a marathon in each of the 50 states. And he has run nearly 300. And he's barely older than I am.

I dream of blogging

Yes, I actually did. Specifically, the dream was of a 24-hour relay around a high-school track that I ran with my brother S__. In the dream I was thinking how I would describe the event in a runningprofs post.

Having awoken, I'm now interested in putting on such an event. Maybe it sounds deadly boring, but you could throw a huge party in the infield, bring on sequential musical acts, each team could have its tent/pavilion at a certain spot around the perimeter, and you could contribute all proceeds to a worthy charity. If you allowed large enough teams, participants could even spend a normal day before showing up for their shift in the evening. Dean Karnazes would certainly show up to speak. This would be much easier to organize, and to participate in, than a RAGNAR event.

Further thought: this could be like a dance-off. Maybe somebody will donate a cool car, and the longest time continuously running wins the car.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Good holiday card greeting line

This landed in my inbox just now: "Run as if the Mayans were right."

Why Sometimes People Don't Take Law Profs Seriously

Exploring Civil Society through the Writings of Dr. Seuss – New York, NY

14th December 2012
New York Law School Law Review  and the New York Law School Racial Justice Project presents Exploring Civil Society through the Writings of Dr. Seuss on March 1, 2013.
This symposium will examine aspects of civil society that are reflected in a selection of Dr. Seuss™ books, including tolerance, punishment, equality, civil and human rights, land use and property rights, and corporate responsibility, with the help of a cross-disciplinary group of scholars from law, humanities, and philosophy who are recognized leaders in these fields. Each of the panels will address these topics as they relate to a specific Dr. Seuss title.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Is the World's #1 Tennis Player a Monopolist?

Novak Djokovic apparently has purchased the world's entire supply of donkey cheese.  Anybody see an antitrust problem?

Dan Empfield on Sally Jenkins on Lance Armstrong

Dan Empfield runs the website slowtwitch.com. He's as close to a Zone 2 philosopher as anybody I've read. This is well-said.

New book -- North of Hope

I got word of this new book written by my sister, coming out now or sometime soon. S__ left the military and business world and has been writing full time.

60 Days Later

Things are gradually calming down but running is not yet possible.  Physical therapy has the best toys.  My place has the powerplate show below.  I highly recommend it except when you come up from the squat and your head and jaw begin to vibrate uncomfortably.  Otherwise, lots of squats, lunges, single leg stability stuff, and those annoying crab walk with elastic bands.  The results are less pain (particularly when using foam roller) and increased strength, stability and range of motion.  I can even "run" across a street when the light changes without hobbling or screaming.  Still not there yet for real running which is insanely frustrating (especially given mild dry late fall).  Just glad I didn't do anything structural.  Followup visit to sports medicine guy this afternoon.  Unfortunately,I suspect I will just getting back on the road at the height of winter horribleness without a lot of time to gear up for Rome. 










                                                  







In the meantime, I have been biking to elliptical in a 2:1 ratio plus occasional pool work and core.  Or as the Zen Master would ask: "Can one train for a marathon without running?"

Saturday, December 15, 2012

South Brooklyn Runners

I'm still recovering from the Brooklyn Marathon so I haven't been running much.  In early October I turned my ankle a bit, but continued running.  After the last race, my calf tightened, my Achilles tendon got angry, and the ankle generally stiffened up.  I decided to rest it, and pretty much limited my running to the mile too and from the gym, where I swam and biked.

Last week I started up again, with a short run on Sunday, and three miles on the treadmill on Wednesday.  Friday, none of my usual buddies were available, so I decided to go to the South Brooklyn Runners meetup.  One of my pace buddies in the Marathon had said it was a good group, and I figured there'd be at lest one person who was about my speed.  It was great fun.  The pace was just right, around 9 minute miles.  We ran down to Brooklyn Bridge Park to see the newly opened Pier 5.  This is a huge addition to the park -- two new astro turf soccer fields with a view:


This will add tremendously to how the Park is used.  There aren't too many places to throw a frisbee or kick a ball around in our part of Brooklyn.  I assume that it will be used a lot for league play, but early n the morning and at odd times, I suspect it will provide some much needed open space.

Anyway, the run was fun.  So was the company.  As I train for Rome, I will run with these guys more often.  They do hill repeats and speed work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I can never force myself to do that on my own.  Look out Rome!!!


OK, so the industry is on hard times -- but is it all that bad?

I had a very tardy flight on Thursday and I couldn't sleep last night, so I've plowed about 1/2 way through Brian Tamahana's Failing Law Schools. Without much running going on in my life the past couple of weeks (my jog today in a sub-40-degree rain doesn't merit a post!), here's a dated discussion of what I've been able to stomach of what reads like an opportunistic expose of flaws in the market for legal education. I don't follow the myriad law professor blogs that are not about running, so I'm sure I'm repeating things that have been said before.

What's wrong with Tamahana's book? It's a little like watching Fox news -- this is largely sensationalism masquerading as reporting information. I'm grading exams, so I'm hung up on adverbs that mask a lack of knowledge: "probably," "likely," and so on. Tamahana uses a lot of that kind of phrasing. "This probably isn't the career path these students envisioned." (My example.)

Tamahana's book uses numbers casually -- even irresponsibly. The book switches from a discussion of debt averages to overall national debt figures -- student X from Y school owes on average Z thousand, with a national market for student loans in the A billions, reflecting B percent increases which outpaces inflation by C . . . . In so doing it creates vague impressions unrelated to real circumstances. ("Oh my goodness, this problem reaches into the billions!") The same goes for graphical depictions: they are scaled such that trend lines go up at 45 degree angles, making things look very grim, but it's just a question of scaling.

The book relies on proportions in places where absolute numbers might be more appropriate. Several times Tamahana repeats what is apparently normal advice that student load debt totals should never, never exceed starting salary, and monthly payments should never, never exceed 20% of monthly income. Both conclusions rely on incredibly ham-handed analyses. A better comparison for student debt load totals might be expected average salary over the course of the payment period -- and even that should be cost-of-living adjusted. Otherwise, my $35000 starting salary as a Ninth Circuit clerk (and even my $40000 starting salary one year later as a GS-12 in the Antitrust Division) put me far out of compliance -- and I was a state school grad in the years before super-inflationary tuition hikes. The 20% rule is even sillier, unless you assume that everyone should expect to live a lifestyle proportionate to his or her salary. If you instead assume a base cost of living that is unrelated to salary, higher-salary professions permit much greater proportions of monthly income to be spent on student loan repayment. In other words, groceries, car insurance, and rent cost the same whether I am employed by Teach for America, Judge Trott, or Skadden Arps.

Then there's the amazing logic that Yale law professors bear the fault for problems in the law school market, because (get this causal chain) most Yale law professors are progressives, progressives care about social justice, concern for social justice should lead to concern for access to education for the impecunious, and by raising tuition Yale caused everybody else to raise tuition also. Oh yeah -- and Yale professors can afford not to be paid as much as they are paid.

And there are actual errors. One not insignificant error relating to an important point caught my eye before I gave up and went back to grading exams. Pew Research apparently crunched some numbers and concluded that law school on average continued to be a sound investment over the course of a career. Pew relied on the opportunity cost ($32000 yearly -- the average salary for a young social science college grad) and the cost of law school tuition ($25000 yearly) in its calculation. Tamahana's analysis would add the cost of living in law school, arguing that the right number is closer to $300,000 than to Pew's $170,000. But of course that is double counting. Cost of living is covered by the salary the student would be earning if not in law school. If this were a passing point, I might say the argument was prejudiced by careless editors. But "is law school worth it" is the title of Chapter 11 -- and nearly doubling the assumed cost fundamentally changes the equation. (It causes me to doubt the other numbers, which I've already complained are thrown around so casually as to be misleading.)

Enough on this. Now I need to see how the rest of the class handled Debtor Inc.'s claims and defenses against Lock and Key lending.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Diluting its own brand

One of my theories of the cycle of industrial progress is that a brand is an asset that in the normal course is created and then destroyed. At some point the profits that can be earned by ceasing to invest in brand preservation become overwhelming and the owner rides the brand into the ground. Microsoft reached that tipping point when computing went mobile. I have a theory that Apple is at that point, investing more in efforts at enforcing its patents than in developing new ones. There may be exceptions to this cycle, like Coca Cola, although note that apart from its primary brand Coke does lots of business in subsidiary brands that come and go. This is so obvious a point that somebody must have written about it somewhere.

USA Triathlon may be on the down cycle. World Triathlon Corp. (Ironman), Challenge, Rev3, and others dominate the triathlon scene. All USA Triathlon offers is the "Team USA" brand, which -- given the lack of serious competitiveness of US triathletes -- isn't all that exciting to begin with.

Today I received an e-mail congratulating me on my qualification for the USA Triathlon mid-course national championships, next August in Milwaukee. How did I qualify? I finished in the top 33% age group at the Nation's Triathlon in DC this past September. The usual rule for qualification is top 10% a.g. at any USAT sanctioned race of international distance or longer, but USAT has a few "super-qualifier" events like the Nation's Triathlon.

What's silly about the super-qualifier designation is that massive city races aren't somehow more competitive than smaller events. That makes sense intuitively: there is a finite number of really fast people (top-enders); a much larger but still finite number of the middle-of-the-packers like us here at runningprofs; and a functionally infinite number of what you might call bucket-listers. If you throw a massive race, the number of top and even middling athletes doesn't change much vis-a-vis a smaller race, but the field is filled up with the bucket-listers. Another bit of intuition: a bucket-lister will pay big-city-race entry fees, partly because this is a one-time thing (which includes the recognition of the reality of complementary goods and services and the fact that a bucket-lister didn't blow her last three paychecks on a new Trek or a year's worth of coaching services), and partly because she wants people around the water cooler to have heard of her race. If a triathlete is racing several times a year and investing in complementary products and services, the $200 that Nation's Triathlon charges for the pleasure of swimming in the rather disgusting Potomac River is prohibitive, weeding out members of the already small group of top-enders.

Thus, I compete much better at the Marine Corps Marathon (same rule holds true for running) and Nation's Triathlon than at the California International Marathon or Columbia Triathlon. By way of specific example, at the Rock Hall International triathlon in June, I ran my fastest race by a full 3', but I did not crack the top 10% needed to qualify for nationals. (A similar effort, though not time, at the phenomenal Columbia Triathlon had me well out of the running.) At Nation's Triathlon, I was 6' off of my new PR and placed well into that top 10% -- although of course it turns out top 33% would have been good enough. Remarkably, some 150 or more finishers in my age group alone received the same e-mail that I did.

How can USAT justify this super-qualifier status? There must be large licensing fees involved in promising Nation's and some other races this status. Nation's can pass those fees on to somebody like me looking to buy his way into the Age Group National Championships, which partly explains the ridiculous entry fee. But when one shows up in Milwaukee, and the competition at Nationals is less impressive than the competition at a local race like the Columbia Triathlon, the excitement of racing against the top end of your age group will decrease rapidly. Already the Ironman championship events are far more prestigious than USAT championships, and World Triathlon Corp.'s 5150 Championships is at least on a par. I doubt there are very many years that USA Triathlon can ride its brand into the ground the way that it does.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Water running

New to this. 30 minutes today after a short swim. I think it felt great, but I'm not sure how it's supposed to feel.

More than one of you has recuperated from something recently. So, a few questions -- either based on your own experience or based on what you were told to try but didn't (because I'm pretty sure you have been instructed to run in the water. Has anybody ever not been instructed to run in the water?).

How to avoid these big silver dollar blisters on my feet? Wear old shoes in the water?

How deep of water should I be running in? The kiddie pool ranging from 3'6" to 4'3" seemed a little shallow at the shallow end. The other pool was more like 5', but I didn't try it.

How about cadence? It was tempting to go Chariots of Fire style, but should I be working at reaching my normal running cadence?

How much time running versus drills -- sideways running, one-leg running, and so on?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Movies and spy novels

Watched Ben Afleck's Argo last night. Highly recommended. I'm too young to remember anything about that era other than "thank god we have Reagan, the Iranians won't mess with us now" (recounted with deliberate irony), but this back-story of the other hostage crisis was both compelling and fun.

Maybe I liked it because I've been on a huge John Le Carre kick for a while now. It started when I read Tinker Tailor in preparation for the Gary Oldman remake of that movie. Read The Russia House while keeping my legs propped up in the hotel room last Saturday -- a nice reprieve from the end of the semester crunch. (I vaguely remember the Sean Connery movie with Michelle Pfeiffer as Katya. It came out when I was in high school. I need to watch that again.) Working through The Constant Gardner now. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is in the stack somewhere.

Another movie I'm excited about is Anna Karenina with the incomparable Keira Knightley. It's a coincidence that I started re-reading that book when I couldn't sleep on the red-eye back from Sacramento. A random thought: Tolstoy, more than any author I know, seems to understand exactly what is going on in my head. Norman Mailer in The Naked and the Dead pegged me as well. Back to Knightley: there's a little known, or little known in my usual circles, BBC version of Zhivago with Knightley as Lara. It's excellent. She's also the reason I became a Jane Austen fan for a while a few years back (Hollywood's Pride & Prejudice). So I'm assuming her playing Karenina, of whom Tolstoy writes, "[i]t was as if a surplus of something so overflowed her being that it expressed itself beyond her will, now in the brightness of her glance, now in her smile," will be an experience.

I'm not as excited about Skyfall, but I'll be seeing it soon, maybe tonight.

UPDATE: Finished The Constant Gardner last night. Spent today looking for aid work opportunities in Congo! Bravo John Le Carre. Still haven't caught Skyfall.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Notes on fun or interesting media

Jon Stewart, utterly brilliant, on the War on Christmas.

This may be a few weeks old. I was reading Adam Davidson (from NPR Planet Money) on book publisher mergers in the NY Times Magazine, when I found this quote: "[I]t's difficult to imagine how, in the digital world, publishers could ever monopolize the sale of written material. Even if there were only one house left, it would compete with every blogger and self-published e-book author."

Not sure whether to be uplifted or frightened that we at runningprofs represent the competitive check on monopoly conduct in publishing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Drip, Drip, Drip -- Argh!!!!


From the NYRRs.  I can't decide whether they've been taken over by zombies, or Bartles and Jaymes??

Today's communication regarding the tri-state NYRR 9+1 program was only to address the questions raised by members as to whether, despite cancellation, the 2012 Marathon would count towards 9+1. All eligible 9+1 runners who were registered will receive 1 credit and do not need to run another race in lieu of the marathon.

Decisions related to any other issues or questions are still pending and we will share additional information as soon as it becomes available. We remain committed to addressing all such matters as effectively and fairly as possible. Thanks for your continued patience and support.

Marathon Cancellation -- Drip, Drip, Drip

Okay, so here's the latest announcement:

 NYRR members as of January 2012 who entered the 2012 ING New York City Marathon will receive 9+1 race qualifying credit for their entry. Members should check their NYRR member profile starting December 11, 2012, to ensure that they’ve received the credit.

Hmm, so what do I read into that?  I guess I am not getting a guaranteed admit into the 2013 Marathon, or a refund??  This continues the pattern of giving out important information several weeks after it would be useful.   I happen have 7 races, if you count the Marathon, and, there are two more in December.  One this weekend, one next.  If I volunteer to rake leaves in Central Park after the 15K on December 15, I'll be all set.  If I'd known this three weeks ago, I'd have a bit more flexibility.  For folks who would have needed three or four races, the delay freezes them out . .

I'm Going to Stop Reading Articles About the Health Effects of Running

So I only take ibuprofen when I'm trying to knock out an "itis."  I'll take it for a few days, and then lay off for weeks.  Still, this article is troubling.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Race Entry Insurance

This is worth looking into for high dollar entry fees. I'm curious about the economics of it -- $7 per race, regardless of distance or entry fee? -- but I'm going to use it for future marathons and triathlons. Probably not for the Jingle Bell run.

NYC Marathon Cancellation -- Tea Leaves

So here's the latest missive from the folks at NYRR regarding the cancellation of the marathon:

We are carefully considering everyone's views and preferences, which are varied and extensive, and are working diligently with our insurers in the hope that we can provide the best response possible in as timely a manner as possible. Unfortunately, dealing with insurers takes time. We wish that this weren't the case, and we've been pressing our insurers to act quickly and responsibly. Rest assured that our focus, as always, is to serve our runners and community and to protect and enhance the positive impact and all the benefits of our great Marathon. We are working as fast as we can to reach solutions that will be best for our runners and partners, and we pledge to share those solutions with you as soon as possible.

As I mentioned before, I continue to wonder if the manner in which the cancellation occurred has given their insurance providers a reason to deny coverage. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Monsoon running

The start was utterly surreal. It was blowing and raining and I had the same conversation time and again: "what are you trying to do?" "I was going to try to do X, but now it's just run and get through it." The poor guys in the hand cycles were drenched through and facing 2+ hours of water spraying into their faces from the front wheels. The rest of us were in good moods as the pressure of doing something great, or great from our perspectives, washed away in the rain.

I didn't wear a watch and was oblivious to the time. The wind wasn't terrible early on, partly, I think, because we were a massive peloton. At mile 5 some guy told me we were 33:45 down, not a bad place from which to take a shot at the 3:00 goal. But then we hit the headwinds at mile 6 and it got tough. The first half of this course is rolling hills. It wasn't easy. I had no idea, but learned from the online results, that I was running just slower than 3:00:00 pace at the half.

I fell in with the 3:00 pace group for a while. I'm not religious about avoiding pace groups, but I don't seek them out, and this one snuck up on me. Nobody was carrying a big sign in that wind! It was a funny feeling, head down, seeing 30 pairs of legs moving in unison, everybody adopting everybody else's stride rate and length. I noted again just how fast this field is. After mile 20 I was running my fastest race ever and the crowds didn't let up. (There was a relay event, so this is a little misleading.) The second half is much much easier, a steady gradual downhill from Mile 17 to the end, and the wind let up a little.

I lost the group at Mile 22. I ducked in for a cup of water, looked up, and realized I would not likely close the gap. Somehow I kept moving without losing too much steam. The last four miles went around a 7:10 pace, turning my 6:52 average into a 6:56 for a finishing time of 3:01:11. The real joy came on the last 2 miles after turning onto L Street. Others and I fell into a supportive group exchanging "we're going" and "let's finish this thing" and "way to keep hammering" and "you look great girl" and goodness knows what else.

This makes a big PR but leaves my personal Chomalongma unconquered for one more year.

Interesting...men and four hours

CLICK Interesting where the peaks and troughs are.   ( Thank you to R Tritell for this link)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Does mother nature hate marathons?

Boston was 90 degrees. Big Sur was reportedly one of the worst condition days in 25 years. New York, well, no need to say more. I signed up for the California International Marathon intending to run downhill in perfect weather conditions and finally get the 3:00:00 monkey off of my back, but they are predicting 30 mph wind gusts -- from which direction nobody seems to agree -- and torrential rains.

Maybe video gamers are on to something after all?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Marathon Cancellation -- What's Next?

Okay, so they cancelled the NYC Marathon.  It was the right thing to do.  As a legal matter, they're probably entitled to take our money and not refund it.  I'm a contracts professor, excuse as a result of impossibility/force majeure, blah, blah, blah.  To the extent that folks relied on the statement on Tuesday that the marathon would be held, they might have some sort of a claim based on promissory estoppel.  Not me, though.  I did not change my travel plans.  I just slept in on Sunday morning.

Given their usual cancellation policy, I have generally assumed that they would give folks the option to get a refund, or to eat the registration fee and get a guaranteed entry into either the 2013 NYC Marathon or the 2013 NYC Half Marathon.  That way folks who had already qualified for the 2013 Marathon (by running 9 NYRR races) would still get something nice in return for their trouble.   Obviously, this would create some ripple effects.  Nobody would get into the Marathon by lottery next year, but they wouldn't lose much money, because the 2012 folks would end up paying twice.

There's some risk that this would still cause 2013 to be oversubscribed, but that would pretty easily be handled by giving folks the option to use the admit in 2014 and thereby space everybody out.  This isn't rocket science.

Today, the NYRR posted the following message on their website.  It's a lot like the message they posted last week:

We are still working through the many issues surrounding the cancelation of the Marathon and promise to update everyone as soon as we can. We know many of you are looking for information about our weekly races, and winter training. We would love to get back to talking about running – starting with Join the Voices 5M on Sunday and our Live Chat with Coach John on Wednesday, December 5. We look forward to your race comments and photos in the coming weeks – thanks for helping us to keep the conversation going.

Um, this is pretty lame.  I'm not quite sure what information they're going to have next week that they don't have this week.   In short the NYRR's rolling PR disaster continues. . .  

Rome

Okay, so I've started thinking about Rome.  I just got an e-mail saying I would indeed need to provide a certification from a doctor that I am fit to run.  Unfortunately my primary care doctor just moved to Phoenix, so this is going to be a bit of a process . . .

More importantly, I recently had to provide an abstract to Law and Society for a program on comparative consumer law, and I thought to myself, thought I, what time like the present to write an abstract for my Antitrust Marathon presentation.   Here's what I came up with:

Comparative Consumer Financial Protection -- The Allocation of Enforcement Power

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  One of the goals of the CFPB was to centralize regulatory over consumer financial products in a single agency.  The centralization of enforcement power was less complete, with prudential agencies retaining some enforcement power.  The first task of this paper will be to describe the balance of centralized and decentralized enforcement power within the CFPB.  The second task will be to compare the Dodd-Frank architecture to the enforcement structure used in other countries, both with regard to competition law and with regard to consumer protection (which are frequently handled by the same regulator).  An advantage of centralization is that a single agency is charged with consumer protection (financial or otherwise).  A concern is the enhanced possibility of capture created by a single regulator.  This paper will consider the balancing of these concerns in the US and EU. 

I had told Spencer that I would focus my remarks at the Antitrust Marathon on the CFPB's enforcement power, but any thoughts you all might have on the comparative angle would be most helpful.  

What are you all thinking about??

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Does it end at 50?

My various running and academic mentors -- co-bloggers included -- might argue otherwise. But a dour article on p. D6 of today's WSJ counsels that after age 50 running fast and far may be more stress than benefit. Running some is apparently a good thing. But running too hard apparently makes you age more quickly and overstresses the heart. One more source teaching "moderation, moderation."

As I stand here it's still drowned out by the Highlander theme song by Queen and the lure of a marathon starting line

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I pinched my plica

6 weeks out I finally got in to see my sports medicine guy.  I swear by Dr. N who is the former medical director for Chicago Marathon and a 2:30 marathoner back in the day.  After much poking, prodding, stretching and manipulating by various residents and fellows, he swoops in presses in a couple of key places and following my painful grimace announces that I pinched my plica, a membrane extending below the knee which is being pinched by the sharp edge of the patella.  "Almost missed that one," he says, "It's like when you bite the inside of your cheek, quite minor and easily fixed."  I am icing, doing a small manipulation of the kneecap a couple times a day and doing two weeks of PT and he claims I will be running well before the end of the year.  Even thinks there is a shot at a Rome Marathon if I am willing to do some crazy bike work when the weather gets lousy. 

James Bond Competition Enforcer?

At least this is the opinion of a very clever Marketplace.org story which argues that most Bond villains are attempting to monopolize a world market or the world itself, albeit in an implausible way. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Everything is Relative

At the gym this morning.   Still feeling good about 3:42 in the Brooklyn Marathon. Gave directions to a new member.  Chatted about running, marathon times, etc.  Guy does 2:30ish for the marathon 1:08 for the half. . .  Crawled back into my hole.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sowing is done. What will I reap next Sunday?

Last good workout today of this marathon training program -- 10 miles, supposed to be at marathon pace but for the second time this week several or more seconds per mile faster than I had planned. 35 degree temperatures and a flat stretch of the Mt. Vernon trail can't have hurt. It felt phenomenal.

I'm not going to get faster between now and Sunday, when we start in Folsom, California and run downhill 26.2 miles to Sacramento. Gotta stay loose, gotta keep from gaining weight, and gotta get excited, but not too excited.

Ted, whatever you did in both of your big fall races worked. Any thoughts would be most welcome.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving

I just thought I'd take a moment to note, as November draws to a close, that the blog is coming to the end of its most successful month ever, with nearly 900 page views late in the month (at least if I'm reading the data right).  It has been a tumultuous month for running, with Paul Ryan, Paula Broadwell and Hurricane Sandy.  Also, we've been doing lots of racing.  Whatever it is, here's to a happy Thanksgiving!


Graph of Blogger page views

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bethesda Turkey Chase

I first ran this in 2000 and set my 10K PR, which may still stand or may not (my memory is spotty and the times from that year are not online). I ran it again the next year, or maybe the year after. Finally made it back this year -- 10+ years later -- for the Bethesda Turkey Chase with P__.

P__ finished her first 10K at a very respectable pace! Faster, at least, than most of her workouts have been, despite this being a hilly course. I think she's happy, if that is represented by lying on the couch and groaning. (That's always my own response to a hard run, so I think I understand.)

My own goal was to run 1 mile at marathon pace, 1 mile at 1/2 marathon pace, and repeat three times. The last 0.2 would be open. I was that annoying guy slowing down and then passing people and then slowing down again. Something went wrong -- I didn't have a watch on, and when I finally saw the finish line clock I realized that I was overheating by about 20" per mile average, relative to goal. Ended up right at -- I would guess right over -- 40:00.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What are folks actually working on?

We rarely deal with the wRiting part of the blog?  I am curious what people are actually working on when they are not running or rehabbing.

To get the ball rolling, my main project is my co-authored article on "Antitrust's Democracy Deficit" with Harry First of NYU.  We are looking at the evolving nature of antitrust into a technocracy and critiquing it from the point of view of transparency and democratic accountability.  We contrast this trend in the US with the opposite trend in the EU where the modernization effort has empowered national competition authorities, national courts, and to a lesser extent private plaintiffs to make competition enforcement more transparent and closer to the people affected by it.  Finally, we look at the ideological underpinning of the movement towards  technocracy in the US and how many advocates are in fact arguing for a laissez faire approach to market regulation that cannot be justified by the text, intent, history or interpretation of the US antitrust statutes. 

We have presented this at a conference on the goals of antitrust at GW law school in October and will be publishing it in the Fordham Law Review.  Suddenly, the January 14th deadline for final manuscripts doesn't seem that far away.

I have too many other smaller projects and administrative reports due to even begin to summarize those but look forward to hearing about the big ticket items on your plate.  Plus there is grading looming on the horizon.

And before I forget, Happy Thanksgiving to all, even those bloggers in countries with different traditions this time of year.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Musical Delight

I have been diligently listening to all my music on my Ipod both while trying to make my endless deadlines and while working out at the gym until healed enough to resume running.  I am pretty close to having listened to every track at least once.  Apart from further proof of how OCD and running go hand in hand, I have both weeded out lots of loser tracks I have no interest and rediscovered music I had no idea I even owned. 

A rediscovered favorite is The Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin (and redone by Trent Renzor for the soundtrack of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).  This is berserker rock at its finest.

The other more newly discovered treasure is the version of the Ramone's song She Talks to Rainbows covered by Ronnie Spector.  This is on her 1999 EP produced by Joey Ramone.  Her beautiful, but worn, voice and accent are just perfect for this punk ballad (no other way to describe it).  Check it out!She Talks to Rainbows

Monday, November 19, 2012

Does Size Matter?

All of us here at runningprofs have done our share of big marathons -- New York, Chicago, Marine Corps, Dublin, and for one of us, (Max) Boston.  There's no substitute for the rush and the adrenaline of the start, and the pull you get from the steady line of runners.  

More recently, I've run a few smaller races.  Spencer and I ran the Hamptons Marathon in 2011 (300 or so).  This year I ran Brooklyn (500ish).  Both have been small races and great experiences.  There's something wonderful about wandering up to the start 30 minutes before the gun and still having time to stretch, use the port-o-john, check your bag and line up.   In the smaller field, there's something joyous about the conversation groups that form along the way as pace groups form and unform.  This is particularly nice in a marathon, where the pace is not so hard that you can't chat.  There's something spectacular about the conviviality at the finish as you have time to thank the folks who dragged you through the last hard miles, congratulate the folks who passed you and then cheered you at the end, and to cheer the folks you passed as they finished.  

A second question is what effect the size of the field has on your time.  In a big marathon there's often jockeying for running room from beginning to end -- a sharp turn here, a stutter step there.  These take a toll.  In a smaller race, it's easier to settle in, listen to your body and just run.  Yesterday, in the Brooklyn Marathon, even thought the course was 6 times around a hilly loop (with three times around a slightly less hilly loop), I felt like the familiarity of the course, the steadiness of the pace, and the pull of a small pace group made all the difference.

So which is better for a fast time, a big race or a small one?

Thoughts??  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Race Report -- Love them shoes!!

So, today was the second running of the Brooklyn Marathon.  I signed up for it while Sandy was raging outside, and I assumed (correctly, as it turns out) that that the NYC Marathon would be cancelled.

Instead of 47,000 runners, the Brooklyn Marathon was capped at 500.   The course was six full laps and three short laps of Prospect Park.  It was a perfect day.  Low 40s at the start, rising into the 50s.  I went out hard.  By halfway, it was clear I was going to set a PR or blow up.  I kept waiting for the wall, and it never came.  Usually I start to slow at mile 20.  I did slow some, but not much.  Even the last two miles were under 9 minutes.  I finished in 3:42.15 which was a PR by a little more than 10 minutes.  All in all, a good day, and a good finish to the season.

It is still a bit of a puzzler why I'm suddenly setting PRs.  I think part of it is that I've been running with better form.  Part of it is that I've been running with lighter minimal shoes.  Whatever it is, I'll take it.

UPDATE: Here's a link to some photos at the finish.  The guy in yellow and I kicked together for the last 100 yards. Thanks dude, whoever you are!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Am I the only one . . .

Who has a short window to capture the momentum required to head out for a hard workout? I planned my morning around heading out for tempo intervals at the track. I got waylaid on the way back from coffee. Now the excitement has diminished. I'm heading out now, but $10 says I get to the track, run a few laps hard, and end up going for a mid-distance run to fill up the time.

Once when I tried to become a golfer (don't say it) I had a great drive, or a great chip, or a great putt, or something -- and I complained to my playing partner, who was a golfer, that "I'd be good if I could just be consistent." He responded, "no, you are not consistent because you are not good."

Difference between being a professional and being a weekend warrior: the ability to get in the right frame of mind at will rather than hoping that the frame of mind occurs on its own with sufficient frequency actually to get something done. This most definitely extends to writing as well.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day 10K

Its a perfect time of year for road racing. It was 42 degrees and sunny with still air as we raced out and around Hains Point and back. I wouldn't say I ran fast, but I did run my second fastest ever 10K, despite this run's coming late in a higher-than-average-mileage week. So I'm sanguine about the result.

I love out-and-back races with fast fields. The lead pack must have been holding sub-5-minute miles. Even A__, whom I know to be a 35-minute-some 10K runner, was well out of contention for recognition this time.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Investigative reporting

I was inspired by the Runner's World take-down of Paul Ryan, so I thought I'd look into the NY Times report that Paula Broadwell taped part of her biography of David Petraeus while running 6-minute miles together in Afghanistan.

I've run a few 6-minute miles -- a very few -- so I was pretty sure an athletic late-30s woman and an athletic late-50s man would find it quite difficult to converse with any substance at that pace.

According to Athlinks, Paula Broadwell (assuming I have the right one -- the name and age fits) is indeed athletic, with at least one 1:36 1/2 marathon and a handful of mid-20s 5Ks and mid-40s 10Ks to her credit. David Petraeus doesn't just look it -- he is very athletic. In 2002 at age 49 he ran 1:03:46 in the Army 10-miler. That's serious speed. A reported 33-something 5 miler is also very respectable.

But neither of those sets of results suggests somebody who can run 6-minute miles, much less converse while holding a 6-minute pace. OK, so this isn't the expose of the decade, but it's my own little contribution to the marketplace of information.

UPDATE: I've had a short e-mail exchange with a "Senior Editor for Standards" at the New York Times. The characterization in the article comes from Broadwell's co-written biography. Here I quote him quoting the book:

"[Petraeus] had invited Broadwell to join him and his team for a run along the Potomac River. 'I'd earned varsity letters in cross-country and indoor and outdoor track and finished at the top of my class for athletics at West Point; I wanted to see if he could keep stride during an interview. Instead it became a test for me,' she wrote. He eventually increased the pace 'until the talk turned to heavy breathing, and we reached a 6-minute-per-mile pace. It was a signature Petraeus move. I think I passed the test, but I didn't bother to transcribe the interview.'"

The Times' characterization (relevant portion quoted below) was something quite different!

"She had unusual access, she noted in promotional appearances, taping many of her interviews for her book while running six-minute miles with Mr. Petraeus in the thin mountain air of the Afghan capital."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Looking for magic

I'm at that stage in the marathon prep. where putting on the shoes is less a thrill than a chore. Every run seems to have a purpose, and there's the stress of not hitting the target -- x minutes per mile for y miles with z rest -- and so on. I have to remind myself that there are times when I run because I love it.

This morning I went out for an easy 30 minutes. Man was I stiff. After shuffling up College to Mass. to 10th Street, I found the legs turning over a little faster when I hit the Monon Trail. When I turned left at 16th I realized I was committing myself to going longer than I had planned but at that moment I wasn't complaining. Running down 16th is no particular joy, but after 5 miles I turned left on the White River trail. The warm ground interacting with the cold air made for a low fog over the river and the grass and I had the trail to myself. (I thought of early late-fall mornings rowing on Lake Cayuga when the same effect resulted in eights moving silently and nearly invisibly, with only 8 heads emerging above the fog.) By the time I was on the home stretch I was 60 minutes in and feeling my lack of morning nutrition. I held on for a good finish down Mass. Ave.

9 miles wasn't in the plan, but sometimes you just have to go with it. Sure glad I did this morning.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

28 days later

Its been 28 days since I wrecked my knee and associated muscle groups at the Chicago Marathon.  I haven't run a step since then.  I have been doing 4 days a week at the gym of varying combinations of elliptical, bike, and pool work.  It all feels ok until I try anything with true weight bearing impact.  Someone really freaked me out on election night who in a well being way asked me "Do you think you will ever be able to run again?"  I sure hope so but plan to stick to the training, massage, and maybe even some accupuncture for another month or so and see if I can ramp up for at least the first half of our Rome jaunt.

In the meantime, I have been obsessing about the nightmare vision of the other 28 days given to us by Danny Boyle which included fast zombies.  If Boyle is right, I am doomed since I have no chance of outrunning the fast ones but should be easily able to avoid and evade the traditional slow shambling kind.  Also I am a little baffled by the growing prevalence of zombie runs where volunteer zombies try to grab you from the sand traps and shubbery where they are hiding on the assigned cross-country courses.

 

What does it mean for running?

Does four more years of Obama and certain partisan gridlock make running better, worse, or is it irrelevant?

I'm almost embarrassed to say this, but I did have a fear if Romney won: the DC-area Latter-Day Saints Temple is on my normal Sunday morning bike route. No idea where (or whether) Romney might have chosen to worship, but in case it was there I was concerned for motorcades interrupting a good ride. So in that sense this result removes at least the transaction costs of adjusting my routine.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Public Service Announcement -- Vote!

I know this is off topic for this blog, but, well, _run_, don't walk to your polling lace and VOTE!!

If you need help planning your running route to the appropriate polling place, here's a very useful (if slightly inappropriate) site.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Marathon of Relief 2012

Okay, so there was no Marathon on Sunday.  For what it's worth, it's not entirely a bad thing to wake up in the morning and _not_ have to run 26.2 miles. Instead, I decided to join the army of marathoners who were doing what they could to join in the relief efforts. Luckily a gang of Brooklyn Tri Club members had been working all week to put together a group to help out -- Marathon of Relief 2012.  They were organizing groups heading out to various places throughout the city, including a group that was going to run or bike to Coney Island.  A friend (Jeb Singer) and I ran a few miles beforehand and then met the group at Grand Army Plaza.   The group consisted of Brooklynites, and a fair number of out of towners who had come to run the marathon, but had stayed to help.


We ran through Prospect Park, and then down Ocean Parkway, basically retracing the route of the Brooklyn Half Marathon.  When we arrived at the Boardwalk we found it covered with sand and debris, but not by any means destroyed: 




Then we found our way to the volunteer station, where they were fully booked.


This did not come as a complete surprise.  It took two more sites before we found a center that needed help.  We were divided up into groups and sent door to door through Seagate, looking for folks who might need food and water.  We took blankets, MREs and water, and wandered off. 


What we found on this first foray was a lot of damage, but not many people in need of help.  The neighborhood was a series of blocks of one and two family houses with water but no electricity.  Most had evacuated, and many houses had work crews pumping out basements and pulling out debris.  We handed out a lot of water to work crews, but nobody we saw was in extremis.  They were happy to see us, though, and that made it worthwhile.  

After finishing our wander through Seagate, we started back for another tour of the volunteer sites to see what help was needed.   When we came to the Red Cross truck, they wanted "marathoners" to help carry food and water to the top floors of the blacked out NYCHA apartment buildings.  This was precisely the sort of work I'd hoped we would do.  We split into groups of 3-5, carrying water, self heating hot meals, bananas, snacks, and blankets.  The apartment buildings were 14-16 stories each.  Apparently the city does not require emergency lighting in the stairwells or hallways of its own buildings.  Walking into each building was surreal.  As soon as the door closed behind you, the stairwells were pitch black.  Each group had a few flashlights, so we stayed together, and worked our way up the stairs in the dark.  We walked to the top floor, and then worked our way down.  On each floor we would knock on doors and announce ourselves as Red Cross.  On almost every floor there were one or two families stuck in their apartments for one reason or another.  Some were diabetic, some on walkers, some just hunkered down and waiting for the power to come back on.  Again, all were happy for the help, and many were truly in need.  We took down the names and apartment numbers of those who appeared to be in trouble, and gave those to the police at the end of each run.  We managed to complete three buildings before dark.  

There's nothing particularly unique about this story, marathoners and non-marathoners were pitching in all over the city.  Each of our contributions was only a small drop in the bucket.  But at the end of the day, I'm glad the marathon was cancelled, so that we could all turn our personal resources to the recovery effort.  



Saturday, November 3, 2012

Prospect Park 5K

Okay, so the NYC Marathon was cancelled, and I'm all tapered with no place to go.  There was really only one appropriate response.  The Prospect Park Alliance and Prospect Park Track Club (my club) were sponsoring a 5K in Prospect Park this morning.  I had to run it.  So I put on warm clothes ran three miles to the start and found an overflow crowd of marathoners making lemonade. The race was so full that they'd run out of chips, and were just handing out bibs in return for a donation to the park of $30.  It was now a fun run for most of us.  They also changed the distance from 5K to 3.375 (a full loop of the park).  Nobody cared.  This was the first event in Prospect Park since the hurricane.  The proceeds were to go to restoring the Park.  Pretty much everybody was from the area surrounding the Park.  It was an old fashioned community race with about 1000 people.  It was a perfect way to blow off steam.  I went out hard, held on for dear life, and, according to my GPS, held a 7:10 pace.  If Nike+ is to be believed I came within a few seconds of breaking my 5K PR from 2001.  I'm not sure where these times are coming from.  It must be the shoes.

Marathon Cancellation

Okay, so the NYC Marathon has been cancelled.  The NYT alert bleeped on my I-phone just as I was driving out of New Haven to go home and figure out (1) how to get to the expo; (2) how to get to the start; and (3) how to get home from Manhattan.  None of these adventures was looking to be easy, and I was a bit stressed.  I had just taught a makeup class, and ended up spending about half an hour afterwards chatting with some students (some runners) about the issue.  They generally took the view, as I did, that if the race was on, the thing to do was to run it.  We all wondered if the city was going to be able to pull it off.

When I got the message, I had mixed feelings.  I'm really well trained this year, and the taper has gone well, so I had hopes for a good result.  On the other hand, I felt tremendous relief at having all the uncertainties about the next couple of days resolved.  Even under the best of circumstances the expo and trip to Staten Island are a bit of an ordeal.  Not having to worry about that was a relief.  I was completely comfortable with the decision to cancel.  My main aggravation was that the decision was not made earlier.  The delay created a PR nightmare, but it also had real costs, and Mary Wittenberg deserves, I think, a fair amount of criticism here.  I'm lucky.  I live in New York, I didn't make major travel plans or move heaven and earth to get to NY to run.  I also signed up for another Marathon near my home.  Not everyone has that luxury.  For folks who needed to travel, delaying the decision ramped up their costs substantially (and their anger).  Even for me, the delay had costs. I'm now training for a marathon in two weeks.  If I'd known on Tuesday that the race was cancelled, I would not have tapered.  Now I need to revamp my training schedule in a way that makes fairly little sense: taper down, ramp up, retaper.   Oh well.  I'll live.  Tomorrow, I'll try to find something useful I can do to help with the recovery.

Now, there are still some interesting questions hanging out there.  One thing that I found particularly troubling about the announcement was the reason given.  It seems to me that there are a number of legitimate reasons to cancel the marathon: (1) the logistics were proving so difficult (or at least uncertain) that it was not clear that they would be able to put on a safe quality event; (2) the effort to put on the event would divert resources from or otherwise disrupt recovery.  As of the time of cancellation, both of those explanations were in play.  Both would require the NYRR to acknowledge that the damage caused by Sandy was worse than expected, but there's no dishonor in that.  Similarly, if neither of these were true, and they had the ability to pull it off without disrupting the recovery, they could have doubled down.  Neither was the explanation given.  The explanation was that the Marathon had become "divisive" rather than "unifying."  This, in a word, is blaming the critics without responding to the criticism.  If the goal is to heal the divisiveness, blame shifting is not the way to do it.

I was prepared to forgive this as a statement made in the heat of the moment, but today I got an e-mail from NYRR announcing the race's cancellation.  This is the explanatory paragraph:

The decision was made after it became increasingly apparent that the people of our city and the surrounding tri-state area were still struggling to recover from the damage wrought by the recent extreme weather conditions. That struggle, fueled by the resulting extensive and growing media coverage antagonistic to the marathon and its participants, created conditions that raised concern for the safety of both those working to produce the event and its participants. While holding the race would not have required diverting resources from the recovery effort, it became clear that the apparent widespread perception to the contrary had become the source of controversy and division. Neither NYRR nor the City could allow a controversy over the marathon to result in a dangerous situation or to distract attention from all the critically important work that is being done to help New York City recover from the storm. 


First of all, it is incoherent.  I'm not sure what is meant by saying that the "struggle [to recover]," was "fueled by the resulting extensive and growing media coverage antagonistic to the marathon and its participants."  Second, it basically says that the race was killed by a bunch of potentially violent whiners.  If your goal is healing, then that is not a constructive thing to even suggest.  Lots of things get said on social media.  It seems to me, either you are able to put on a quality positive event at an acceptable cost or you're not.  You don't blame your audience.  You accept the fact that a casualty of Sandy is this year's marathon and you move on.

I don't think that this is going to harm the race in the long term.  Other Marathons have suffered from weather induced bad days.  Boston boiled its participants last year.  Chicago boiled its participants a few years back, and then cancelled mid-race.  People will still come to Boston and Chicago to race.  Next year's race will be doubly significant after this year's cancellation.  I do think that Mary Wittenberg deserves some very serious criticism, both for her lack of judgment and her communication skills.  I find myself wondering what Fred Lebo would have done under similar circumstances.  I wonder who the new face of New York running will be . . .
   


Friday, November 2, 2012

Worst race expo ever

As the reader knows, I really liked the Hot Chocolate 15K a lot.  Interesting distance, nice time of year, really good swag, and of course hot chocolate from Ghiradelli.  I had signed up some weeks ago long before I got hurt at the Chicago marathon.  So I am not running but at least wanted the winter technical running jacket with hoodie.

In past years, the packet pick up was in Union Station which was a short cab ride each way with easy bus options as well.  For whatever reason, they moved the expo to a tent in the parking lot between Soldier Field and McCormick Place.  So I schlepped over there in the car this afternoon only to find a 90 minute wait to get into to register and then get the goodies.  Apparently the wait was between 2-3 hours this morning.  I was never seen anything like this ever for any race or a bigger waste of time.  At least they didn't have the nerve to charge me for parking since I obviously didn't stick around.

That is one race we can scratch off for future years.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NYC Marathon -- A Puzzle

As I write this, the NYC Marathon has become a bit of a political football.  Mayor Bloomberg and the folks at NYRR have announced that the marathon is on, but they still haven't exactly told anybody what the course is, and it is not entirely clear how they plan to get everyone to the start.  I will admit that this came as a bit of a surprise. During the hurricane itself, I actually registered for the Brooklyn Marathon (November 18), on the assumption that the NYC Marathon simply would not happen.

 I am as ready to go as I've ever been.  I've done my 3 twenty milers, a nineteen miler, an Olympic Tri, and a Half Marathon in the run up.  I set a PR in the Half, so I'm feeling pretty excited.  That's the plus side.  So thank you Mayor Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg for doing everything possible to make sure that my training doesn't go to waste. . .

On the minus side, well, New York City was decimated by the storm of the century four days ago, and is still shoveling out.  Everybody I know who isn't a runner thinks it's a scandal that resources are going to be diverted from the recovery to the Marathon.  I don't disagree.  I'm feeling like a bit of a pariah for planning to run anyway.  I see the point.  The subways aren't running and there's no power in lower Manhattan.  Lots of people are  really in difficult circumstances.  At best, on this view the Marathon is bread and circuses.

On the other hand, if they pull it off, it will be a truly moving experience to run through the five boroughs less than one week after the hurricane as a show of the city's pluck and resilience.

So, what to do?  Should I _not_ run as an act of protest?  I must say that this thought has not seriously crossed my mind.  I understand the criticism.  I think the better course might have been to postpone by a week.  But if the marathon is going forward, a boycott seems even worse.  All of the resources will be spent, and if the marathon is a flop, the city does not even get the benefit of a civic bounce.  So, logistics, weather and body permitting, I'll be out there Sunday, showing support for a remarkable city.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The First Tycoon

This is a great biography of the man who was both the steam ship captain for Gibbons of Ogden v. Gibbons fame and arguably the first private monopolist in the United States.   Provides a lot of information and support for the popular hatred of both public and private monopoly prior to the Gilded age that produced the Sherman Act and ammunition against those who seek to minimize the significance of Section 2 of the Sherman Act versus cartel enforcement.

Make my first a Half

So my road to recovery wouldn't have kickstarted without putting something into the calendar, so quietly a few weeks ago I signed up for the Oxford Half...knowing it was too far for me so soon, but thinking it was something to build to, and a distance I wouldn't try to blast like times of old, or if it was a 10k.   I hadn't run the distance in training without many many stops for walkies..and I intended to have to do just the same, and not to wear a watch or look at ancient clock tower spires even.   So there I was, super excited, but trying to be super chilled, queuing up interminably in the freezing temperatures, to hand in my kitbag and pin on my first running number in three years!   The race was started by Sir Roger Bannister, and I moseyed in near the 2.20 pacers, adamant that I would finish the course, or drop out, but either way emerge injury free.   Since my fitness running-wise is low, I didn't have a hard time keeping my ego in check as the quick bunch at the front flew off, but gradually as we passed through the Mini and MG plant, and sidled down Iffley Road past the track where Roger B broke the 4 minute mile, I noticed I was passing the 2.15s and then 2.10s.   We turned through Christ Church meadow, and onto the towpath, where I shouted "Go CITY, full pressure!" to my rowing Eight, looking sweet as they plowed through the Gut, absent me in the Stroke seat for once.   By now I was with the 1.55s and feeling the pain in my feet, but all over, not just the PF.   An unwelcome but gradual two mile uphill to the Finish and then I crossed with 1.50.27 on my chip.    My slowest half by 20 minutes, but probably my most jubilant one, after so much time off with chronic injury.   And I emerged unscathed, proud and only slightly put off by a freezing two hour outdoor wait for kitbags....dangerous to do that to 4000 runners!   So, while the PF is still there, and I am now taping and resuming physio, maybe this old Oxford road will indeed lead to Roma in March.   

NYC on or off?

We Eurolanders have of course been watching stormy Sandy on the East Coast, from the comfort of our living rooms...but amid the reports, sincere concern for friends there, and mild bemusement at the over-hysteria that CNN and Fox try to whip up, one was surprised to see the second story on BBC news this morning being concern about the thousands of foreign runners who would normally be boarding flights to NYC this week to run with Ted.    The UK is a running nation of sorts...but that was an odd one!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A poll question

Calendar tells me Ted has 9 days until the NY Marathon. (Fingers are crossed here for that one.)

What to do preparation-wise as time starts winding down? This is something I've never figured out. Need to keep moving to keep from tightening -- and fattening! -- up. Can't move too much if you are worried about wearing out. (Dumbest pre-marathon plan ever? I and P__ spent the day walking in Boston the day prior to the marathon in 2011. But spending that day lying in my hotel bed in 2012 wasn't much better.) Short jogs every other day? A little mild speed work? Please -- do tell!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Get ready for Antitrust Marathon V: When in Rome

Invites for the March 18th Rome Antitrust Marathon will be going out sometime next week.  Be sure to register for the actual race as well if you are so inclined.  Regardless, be ready to discuss Pubic and Private Enforcement at Italian Competition Authority and carbo load with Phil and me as two of your co-hosts on Sunday evening the 17th at the conference dinner regardless of how much running you do earlier that day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Funny sort of run yesterday

My plan was to run the long way to the car dealer to pick up the car with the winter tires on. I got up, went through my pre-long-run ritual of gels, caffeine, and liquids, and headed out the door. Then the thunder started rolling. I'm not afraid of a little run in a storm in a place other than the Rocky Mountains, but I'm not inclined to start running just when the storm is arriving.

I headed home and puttered around the condo to wait it out. A little home repair work, got started on the next step in the tiling project, and so on. The thunder and lightning stopped, so I started the ritual again. More calories, more water, more caffeine. Was lacing up the shoes when the sky opened up.

Same story two more times. I finally made it out at noon after four times preparing and standing down. Ended up with a nice 16-miler and a moderate car shop bill, with instructions to return soon for the rear brakes.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

2 Weeks later

Turns out having your Fibia drop down from the patella and having all the associated muscle groups go out of whack is even less fun than I originally thought.  Two weeks later I can walk ok but not run.  Going down stairs is still dicey and bending down on my left leg is still not a very good idea.  Treatment so far consists of chiropractic care about once a week, painful massage therapy as often as I can stand it, plus long soaks in the hot tub while stretching as often as I can find the time.  It seems the muscle damage was far worse than the joint damage but eventually all subject to rehab.  Yesterday I managed a not-painful 16 minutes on the elliptical set on an incline to focus on the gluts rather than quads.  The dreaded pool "running" is next.  This completely shreds my fall racing schedule but hopefully leaves me time to prepare for Rome or at least the first half.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Airline code-share pricing

An amusing discovery today when buying a ticket to Chicago for tomorrow's "Brands, Competition and the Law" conference at the Loyola-Chicago Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies:

United and US Airways offer the same flights at the same price, operated on United Express equipment. I could just pick which airline I preferred but it made not a whit of difference with regard to when or how I will fly (same times, same planes, same check-in counters). I went with US Airways just in case there is a bonus of some sort paid to the booking airline; my idea was to protect the one carrier still flying non-stop from Indianapolis to National.

You could buy the same itinerary on the same airplanes with United as the named airline going one way and US Airways as the named airline going the other. Once again, it matters not to the traveler, who still checks in at the United counter on both ends. But it costs $7 more for the trip if you have the dual-branded ticket. The $7 price difference held across at least two itineraries (I didn't look further).

I wonder why?

1. It's hard to think of a clearer example of perfect competition than two airlines both selling exactly the same flights on the same website; it would be difficult for either airline to realize a price premium on the basis of a brand unless the buyers were not utility maximizing. But that should hold for the dual-branded flights as well. That suggests that brand differences may be relevant for an uninformed or non-utility-maximizing group of infra-marginal consumers.

2. That should hold also for the dual-branded flights, though. The only difference I can see with dual branding is the greater likelihood of consumer confusion -- thus the possibility of a behavioral exploitation strategy at play.

3. It could be a screw up -- the sub-optimal conduct is on the part of the sellers, or their computer systems.

4. I wonder if it is a contract term? Perhaps there is a non-discriminatory rate term in the code-share agreements that is drafted badly enough to create a loophole for a dual-branded flight. (Even if so, that still means somebody is trying to benefit from a behavioral exploitation strategy, or is him/herself messing up the pricing.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wittenberg, NYRR and NYC Marathon

There is a long article in today's NY Times on Mary Wittenberg, CEO of the New York Road Runners, which boasts as its marquee event the New York Marathon. All in all it's not entirely flattering. Wittenberg comes across as someone with her heart in the right place who has probably overreached. The NY Marathon is huge -- even in comparison to its already large size 10 years ago, and it is expensive -- 3 times its cost 10 years ago. Putting it in perspective, the $250 entry fee for the NY Marathon exceeds the entry fee for an Ironman 70.3, which is comparably marketed but costs substantially more (on a per athlete basis) to run and almost certainly to insure.

One thing the article doesn't say is that Wittenberg has doubled the size of the NYRR enterprise during a period of dramatic growth of running and marathoning generally. Running is historically cyclical. A person running a business during an build cycle should put in place mechanisms to handle the inevitable decline. I'm intrigued, for example, that major city marathons like Boston and Marine Corps are not prohibitively expensive. Boston may not fill up on the first day of registration, but at $150 or so it will fill up. (Marine Corps costs less than $100, and it does fill up quickly -- 30,000 runners sign up in single-digit hours. Of course, MCM has the massive competitive advantage of limited opportunity cost in engaging labor.) I learned to my amazement that the London Marathon still charges an entry fee of 35 pounds; googling "London Marathon entry" demonstrates that running it is a scarce opportunity indeed. Those races will thrive even as fewer runners seek to race. But can New York maintain 50,000 runners at a cost of $250 per person? My bet is no. I wonder how NYRR will handle the change.

8K Today

It's been a dream of mine to share race day with P__, attending in a capacity other than hauling me home. Today we ran the Race for a Cause 8K in Arlington VA. It was my second time on the course, on a nearly identical day to last year and I ran within 3 seconds or so of my time from last year. P__ ran as well, her first 8K (so a PR!) and arguably her best ever run of any distance. After a few back-slaps at the end, I jogged back down the course and enjoyed finishing a second time with P__. Next month we are scheduled to run the Veteran's Day 10K, and in early December the Jingle All the Way 8K. I can't wait!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lance -- Again

Two articles on Lance in today's NY Times. The first is a rather painful-to-read summary of the doping agency report concluding Lance was the ringleader of a sophisticated -- and forceful -- doping program surrounding his two TdF teams. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not, but it's depressing, and I lean toward true.

The second is a discussion of his luke-warm reception in triathlon. I've discussed that here before. The article includes interviews with a handful of pro triathletes and coaches who support his exclusion from sanctioned events. Statements in those interviews contain a certain subtextual discomfort with the painful fact that a top cyclist, even when he's far too old to race on his bike, is better than a top triathlete in his prime. Of course, it's easy to clothe any such complaint in worries about triathlon's remaining a clean sport.

Just had this thought as I stood here: assume Lance is/was a doper. Is his success in triathlon problematic because he is/was dirty, or is it problematic because of his high profile regardless of doping? It seems that to the extent triathlon is a "clean" sport (which is debatable anyway -- Ironman titles have been stripped before) it is primarily a function of triathlon's low profile rather than a function of triathletes' inherent morality. Introduce mass public appeal and the sponsorship dollars that come with it and you bring about overwhelming incentives to cheat. (Having written that, it seems more obvious than profound.)