Friday, March 30, 2012

The Best Deal in Road Racing

I headed downtown to the Cherry Blossom 10 mile expo for a break this afternoon. This is my third year running the CB10 and it's far and away my favorite race. First, it costs $40 to enter. That's not the cheapest race -- there are $5 DC Road Runners Club events all year, and even the "bread runs," for which entry is a loaf of bread. But for the money . . .

The shirts (this year's pictured) are genuinely artistic -- my (now 3) CB10 t-shirts -- short sleeve, cotton -- are my favorite t-shirts, bar none. (Even more than my runningprofs t!) The organization is as good as any race I've run -- and that includes the Marine Corps Marathon, with a many-thousands-strong well-disciplined labor force. The course is phenomenal. You run along the Potomac, across Memorial Bridge, out to Haines Point, past the Kennedy Center, with a start and finish at the Washington Monument. In a normal year you run by seemingly endless groves of cherry blossoms (this year the blooms are mostly gone). And it's almost entirely flat. The competition is incredible. They bring in a world class elite field and there are thousands of serious recreational runners competing. The timing is ideal. It's the best time of year to run in DC and two weeks before the Boston Marathon. I could go on.

The race is on Sunday. I won't be running very fast this year, but I am definitely looking forward to it.

Running with friends

Spencer and I had agreed to meet at 6:45 in the lobby of the Marriott, where he is staying for the Antitrust Section Spring Meeting. I rolled in a minute or two late and found him there with Harry. The three of us had a sunrise start, down 14th and around the Washington Monument. From the western side we caught a view of the sun breaking the horizon behind it. We continued to the Tidal Basin, where to my surprise there were some cherry blossoms in bloom. We turned back not long after the Jefferson Memorial; Harry headed back toward the mall and Spencer and I crossed the road to Haines Point. Going out the eastern shore we had a view over into the small boat harbor, waterfront commercial area, and the military housing. We crossed at the south end of the golf course to the western shore, where we looked over the Potomac with views of National Airport, Air Force Memorial, and Chrystal City. Whole groves remained in late bloom on that side of Haines Point. We finished by heading up 15th and crossing back to 14th and the hotel. Spencer and I calculated somewhere in the range of 8 miles altogether. I run for a lot of reasons, but the opportunity for a morning like this one ranks very high on, if not at the very top of, the list.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Long Run

Today was the peak of the Boston Marathon build. After a real roller coaster of a training season, I was thrilled to move through 23.5 miles without an obvious hitch. (I've never run that far in marathon training before.) Our loop started at the Roosevelt Island parking lot, crossed the Key Bridge, went up the western border of the District through Bethesda (the point of highest altitude) on the Capital Crescent Trail, headed east -- under Wisconsin and over Connecticut to Rock Creek, turned back down along Beach Drive and the Rock Creek Parkway trail, continued south past the Kennedy Center, crossed the river at Memorial Bridge and finished with a mile to the north along the Virginia side of the Potomac. It was simply marvelous. Water fountains every 3-5 miles, plenty of terrain variation, and nearly all the running was on bike trail or on roads that on weekends are closed to cars. Cherry Blossom Festival fireworks serenaded me crossing Memorial Bridge toward the end. Weather was 55 degrees and moist, but no longer raining.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead

This was one of the teeshirts available in day glo orange and green at the health and fitness expo for the Shamrock Shuffle 8K, my first race of the year tomorrow morning.  (It is also is the fourth studio album by American death metal band Skinless).  My other favorite read "Pain is just weakness leaving your body".

Not my favorite race or my favorite expo because of the location of both.  The expo is at Navy Pier which is a nightmare getting in and out of.  I am used to these things being a festival of commerce but this one wasn't even that interesting from a consumption stand point.  Other than picking up my teeshirt, I bought some bodyglide and was out in under an hour which meant the parking was free.

The race itself duplicates the start and finish of the Chicago Marathon and the unofficial start of the running and training season.  40,000 people register, many are sober at race time.  But it is easy to get there by subway cab or a quick ride from a family member so not too bad.  Plus they seed so I am in the C coral so at least 30,000 runners will be behind me.  It will be a good post-surgery test and motivation to build on what I expect will be a fairly awful time.


Judge Kozinski and probably his opinion in Syufy Enterprises (theater merger, prevented government effort to block) needs no introduction. I had never noticed this closing line before. His use of the f-word cannot be an accident.

"In a free enterprise system decisions such as these should be made by market actors responding to market forces, not by government bureaucrats pursuing their notions of how the market should operate. Personal initiative, not government control, is the fountainhead of progress in a capitalist economy."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Today's Smoothie

I'm back on a daily smoothie kick. My recipe reflects some combination of what's going bad and thus needs to be consumed and what I read in some magazine is good for me. Today I realized I had achieved truly silly:

Frozen broccoli
Frozen blueberries
Frozen pineapple
Fresh banana
Chia seeds
Hemp protein powder
Fat-free greek yogurt
Emergen-C vitamin powder
Fat-free milk
Coconut water
Egg white (from a carton)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NYC Half

So this Sunday was the New York City Half.  I have mixed feelings about this race.  It unquestionably has the best course of any of the NYRR half marathons (except maybe Brooklyn), but it also symbolizes everything that I don't like about running races since 2008.

First, the course:  It consists of a lap of Central Park, a triumphal run down the canyon of Seventh Avenue, through Times Square, a right turn on 42nd Street to the West Side Highway, and then a straight shot to the Battery on the West Side Highway.  I ran it two years ago, and there wasn't a single piece of the course that wasn't a pleasure.  For the last mile or so, you could see the Tribeca Bridge (mile 13) looming in the distance, and I just found myself running faster and faster to the finish.   This year they modified the course, cutting a mile out of the Park, and running through the Battery Tunnel, and finishing at South Street Seaport.  I didn't like the changes too much.  Running through the tunnel was sort of fun, but at the end of the race it was a bit disorienting.   Still, it was a great running tour of NYC.

Second, what's wrong with it:  Well, the lottery, for one thing.  I fondly remember the days when one could decide on Saturday that one was going to run a half on Sunday, show up in the morning, register, and run the race with 2000 of your closest friends.   Now you have to register months in advance, and there's only a 50% chance of even getting in.  Next, the price.  The race costs over $100.  That's more expensive, hour for hour, than skiing. . .  Anything that is more expensive than skiing is too darned expensive.  Finally, 15,000 people.  I got to the start faster in the NYC marathon than I did in the Half.  My number put me more than half way up in the field, and it too, me more than 10 minutes to get to the start.  The crowd never let up.  I was passing people and stutter stepping for a clear path the whole way.

Okay, enough complaining.  I had a really good race.  I'm not in the best shape of my career.  I've been training consistently, but my weight has gotten a bit out of control over the winter, and that certainly affected my time in the short races I've run in the last month or so. So given that caveat, it was a good day.  I went out fast, perhaps a bit too fast.  I ran 8:12 the first mile, then 7:50 (up Cat Hill), then 7:30 (around the back of the Park).  I slowed a bit running up the back hill, and then settled into 8:10 miles the rest of the way.  My heart rate and pace pretty much locked in.  My form held, and most of the way, I was passing people.  I went into the race hoping to go under 1:50.  So I was quite pleased when I came in at 1:46.59.  Before the year is out, I'd like to get my half marathon pace under 8 minutes, but all things considered, for a race in March, I'm pretty happy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Had to get it down before it evaporated

In life unlike running there are no objective measures. In running like life one day's loss or victory is not objectively a loss or a victory because it is ephemeral, it says nothing about the next day. So in neither is winning or losing both objective and lasting. The winner is the indomitable contender who does not see losing as losing or winning as winning but as just another day. A day and a good day are the same thing because the bad day makes the next better but the good day is good in itself (but also bad because it makes the previous and the next worse). The winner may be the one with the most days or the most good days or the most bad days (because we have established those are the same thing). The only loser is the one with no days.* Time to run, time to race, time to publish, time to put the ribs on the barbecue, time even to watch good TV, join me, because it turns out in the end we all win.

*This is not logically necessary, but it seemed to work as a negative pregnant. Must consider it further.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


These are the new version of a type of foldable Sony headphones I have been using for years.  The new model is a disaster, worse in every feature.  Harder to use with a running hat, a cord with an extender that is too short without the extender and too long with it, larger more uncomfortable ear pieces.  And its not just me.  My daughter tried them once and went back to the old model.  Sadly, I had simply wore out the old ones and now in search of a new product.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Brief Recap

Yesterday I listed several things I knew would happen between that post and now. All did but one -- I had no contented metro ride home after today's race. Try as I might I can't put a brave face on it.

First 5K went nearly exactly the same as last year (a race that remains my personal best half marathon) -- 6:28 first mile, 20:07 at the 5K. By mile 4 I knew I wasn't going to maintain that speed. Came through the 10K mark at 41:30 and 10 miles at 1:07:40 -- by now 2:40 behind last year's pace. D__, with whom I was running, kept moving strong and I let him go early on. M__, whom I know from track workouts, came by at mile 12, and I said "cheer for me at the end." (There's a painful parallel to an old junior high school cross country experience I may relate later.) I finished with a 1:28:52.

I knew a PR was a stretch, but I thought a bad race would still be a 1:27. This is the frustration with mid-distance and shorter races -- a few minutes variation really matters. (By contrast, if I show up for a marathon wanting to run 2:59, and I run 3:03, I'm still pretty happy.)

Duke's coach, whose name I won't try to spell, said about that team's first-round loss to Lehigh that basketball is a great sport because of the incredible highs and the incredible lows. 2010 was a tough year in which I failed to finish 2 events and missed my goal by several minutes in my 2 marathons. Last year all the dominos seemed to fall my way, with the exception of a disappointing finish in Boston. This year, well, maybe it's good to remember that improving is non-linear and really hard work.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rating the Emmanuel Adminsistration for Runners

Put aside the high deficit, the appalling state of public schools, and the desperate search for revenues without raising taxes and let's focus on the important things.  How did the new administration in Chicago deal with winter running?

1) Clearing the running paths.     N/A

No real idea.  It barely snowed this winter.  The one time it did, everything was cleared within 24 hours.

2) Turning on the drinking fountains.     A-

Most fountains already on, everything supposed will be turned on by next weekend and the Shamrock Shuffle.

3) Opening the Bathrooms.   To bet determined.

Usually timed to coincide with opening of beaches on Memorial Day.

4) Traffic and Park management during Races.    B+

Seems like usual number of races.  First big test is Shamrock Shuffle on March 25 when roughly same number of runner as Chicago Marathon (40,000 plus) tackle an 8K course based on beginning and end of actual marathon in downtown Chicago.

5) No Favoritism toward Bikers over Runners     A-

No sign of late Daley administration obsession with establishing badly designed and executed bike lanes on inappropriate streets.  Real test are the night out rides when thousands block streets in annoying protest of no discernible real issue and appalling lack of common sense and safety by riders.

6) Will Rahm Run?        N/A

Wonder if Hizzoner will appear in one or more road races during the coming summer and fall.  But no indication that he will follow former Illinois jogger-in-chief Rod Blajoyovich whose jogging runs will be limited to the federal correction facility in Colorado for some years to come.

Heart in the teeth

Tomorrow is the second race of the year and the first one that matters. The National Half is the strongest signal of marathon fitness before the marathons come in April. So geez I'd like to do well. A few thoughts that swirled through my head while heading to packet pickup, randomized and recounted in the stream of consciousness:

Is it "ironic" to wear a Jingle All the Way 8K t-shirt to the packet pickup for a half or full marathon? Because I felt a little like a hipster, in a kind of "I'm too cool to take this seriously" frame of mind.

The promoter Rock and Roll, with primary sponsor PF Chang's, is now in charge of this race. As you'd expect, it feels commodified. Last year it was poorly run, but at least it was quaint. Do you have to be the McDonalds of marathons to produce a good race? (Actually, PF Chang's is a good analog, isn't it?) This brings to mind the Lande/Averitt/Kirkwood line of articles on consumer choice. Also Stucke/Grunes on diversity as an antitrust goal.

Should have worn my compression socks today. It hasn't been a high mileage week, but it has been a lot-of-time-on-my-feet week. My legs feel a little used. Just put the socks on this afternoon. They are helping. Must remember to wear them to and in Boston next month.

Here's what I know will happen between now and tomorrow noon: (1) I will be jumpy and unable to concentrate, which will make work difficult; (2) I will pick at my food even though I want to consume calories; (3) I will crab at P__ if she dares to recommend we do something that requires me to move very much; (4) I will wish halfway through the race that I could quit, and come up with all kinds of reasons why quitting would really be a demonstration of my being smart rather than weakness; (5) no matter how the race goes, I will be satisfied while metroing home, then frustrated once I recover at just how much better it could have gone.

I won't want to go to bed tonight. Race-day-eve I fear sleep, because it removes the conscious time before race morning, when I have to be really anxious, and then hurt for 85 minutes or so. This must be what it is like to know you are reporting for jail, or military duty, the next day. (Sleep is worthless the night prior anyway. I would guess 3 hours total.)

D__'s workout, which I joined on Thursday, of 2x3 miles at "threshold" (10 mile or so) pace, was a confidence builder. But I hope I can recover by tomorrow morning!

Does this kind of self-induced stress keep one young or make one old?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

First Time Out

Got out for a slow, hot humid 5K late yesterday afternoon. Other having to adjust to a record 81 degrees, felt good, nothing bad happened, and nice to actually be able to breathe for a change. 

I also thoroughly enjoyed my first ever in ASICS DS Trainers.  They are halfway between the Kinvaras I race in and the Brooks Ghost I train in during the winter.  Little more structure and cushioning than the Kinvaras with an imperceptibly higher heel to toe drop.  Nice little weight shoe without being totally minimalist.  Nothing like breaking in a new pair.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DC Triathlon Canceled

I received this announcement today. Too bad, kind of, but it's an expensive race and it was coming at an inconvenient time.

I'm intrigued by two things. First is the permit requirement for such a race. I am told NPS permitting is the bane of hosting races in this region. I imagine permits are required for nearly all races, but the federal government has market power state and local governments lack, so perhaps permitting is more of a headache here than elsewhere. I think it stands to reason.

Second is the insistence on holding to the March 28 date for refunds or transfers. Do they really mean that if I don't tell them I want a refund by then they will keep my money and not hold the race? I would need to reexamine the agreement I signed, but I'd be a lot surprised if I agreed to pay for a race that is not being held, or agreed to be held to their schedule for changing even if they fail to hold the race. An analogy are those gift cards that used to expire or devalue with time, before that contract term was prohibited: has my entry fee become a gift card that must be honored?

On an entirely different note, I'm thinking of hanging up triathlon for a while. These things are hugely expensive, take huge amounts of time to prepare for, and take up at least the whole day for a small race -- three whole days for a big effort -- before you take into account traveling. Meanwhile, you can find a good local half marathon, show up the day of, and be home in time for brunch. Of course, I have several planned races this year before I can execute on this new life plan. If those go well I would bet I change my tune.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Reading, Writing, no Running

So I am on the shelf for a week or two as I recuperate from some long planned minor out patient surgery that should ultimately massively increase my oxygen intake for future runs.  But for the moment, I am home on spring break as our freakishly warm and snowless winter winds down.  Using the opportunity to finish a 5,000 essay for a festricht in honor of Bill Kovacic to be published in Concurrence and read The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America.  This is terrific book about the growth of modern branding and retailing in America and the forces that led to the passage of the price discrimination laws.  It is leading em to eventually trying to write something that is at least faint hearted praise for the Robinson-Patman Act which is  basically a generational equity argument that it allows progress toward greater efficiency in a gradual way that the change does not destroy the immediate economic and social order.  I hope this is an argument that makes sense in the internet and superstore era as it was in the early chain stores versus the mom and pop grocers.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

MCM 2012 Registration

Right here, right now. Sure to fill up by tomorrow. One of these days I'll have enough of being behaviorally exploited by big city races and their 8-months-in-advance registration policies, get off the cycle, and start living run to run, but this year, well, I'm signed up once again.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tom Rosch Limbaugh

This is not about running, or even writing, though it does call to mind comments by Kovacic about other commissioners -- so it might be about reading. Here (excerpted from an article by Reuters) is the latest lob over the transom by the soon to be outgoing Comm'r Rosch at the FTC:

"Last summer, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a task force to look at the issue, which included the FTC and CFTC as well as several other government agencies.

That task force has "done nothing but sit on its hands," said Thomas Rosch, a Republican commissioner at the FTC.

"It has been nothing except a charade designed to let the public know, or at least think, that we're doing something about it (gasoline prices). I don't think we're doing anything about it," Rosch said at a hearing."

As I was trying to divine how Rush Limbaugh could possibly have gotten to the point of the comments he recently made about the Georgetown law student, I concluded that some combination of needing to outdo himself show after show and living in an echo chamber was the best explanation. By contrast, I too frequently see over-the-top commentary by Rosch, implicitly or explicitly criticizing staff at his own agency, and I don't think he has an excuse.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Outsprinted him!

After D__ wore me out on a long run yesterday and talked me off the ledge re going to the track today, I made today's run a super casual 5-or-so mile run down Mass past AU law school, up Western to Chevy Chase Circle, and back home through the 'hood. Easy runs are daydream time.

So for this one, I was running behind Micheal Wardian at the Rocky Raccoon 100 in Texas. We were entering an aid station at mile 90. He went in for food and drink and I sprinted past. The last 10 miles went in around 65 minutes. (At one point it was 62 minutes, but that was too silly even for a daydream.). Wardian passed me again with 1/2 mile to go. But he didn't take off, so I knew he was toasted. We entered the high school stadium where they have the finish line (no idea if that's true!) and he got caught up high-fiving spectators. He was surprised when I caught him with 200 to go, or so, and I nipped him at the line Quentin Cassiday style.

Next time I will report on my daydream of publishing in the HLJ. Or maybe it will be Yale.

Polar plunge

Ran by the boat house at North Avenue yesterday with my running group and saw lots of tents but no people.  Seemed odd for this time of year and too early for any glitzy social event like beach polo or some of the other can't miss gatherings later in the season.  Then this morning in the car drove by and saw hundreds of folks, buses, vans, trolley cars, and a sign "Chicago Polar Plunge" a fund raiser for the Special Olympics where folks dash in and out of Lake Michigan and then into those tents to avoid hypothermia.  And they say marathoners are crazy?