Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Thrilling Conclusion to the Marathon Murders Series

Survival of the Fittest

Evolutionary Biology legal theorist Thomas Horton joins the team as they track the Apex Predator who narrowly eluded them in Rome.  It's a Darwinian struggle for survival in the Second City but who is stalking whom?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Les montagnes miserables

Not sure why I titled it in French, but Les Mis popped into my mind.

The Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend every year is the Mountains of Misery ride outside of Blacksburg Virginia. It's become a big event, with 600 or so starters. Most ride 100 miles from the Newport Recreation Center over three "category 1" climbs, finishing at the Mountain Lakes Lodge -- the setting for the movie Dirty Dancing. Maybe 100 people choose the 200 kilometer option, which replaces one of the three climbs on the century with a long loop containing two others. (Category 1, by the way, is the top grade in a ranking system used to determine difficulty of climbs for bike racing. It literally means that a driver would need to shift his Peugot into first gear to make the climb.) Of the four climbs on the 200K, the first three are manageable. The fourth, which makes up the last three miles of the ride, breaks you. Some bring flip-flops intending to walk. I heard of one poor guy who was (literally) reduced to tears on the road. I have yet to make it without stepping off of my bike.

Yesterday was my third tour of the mountains around Blacksburg. It gets better every year.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Marathon Murders

Running on Roosevelt Island (DC) was both super beautiful and so isolated that it was a little creepy.  But it inspired the following ideas.

The Marathon Murders

Someone is killing the great marathon runners of the world.  Only law professor and elite amateur marathoner Max (Ironman) Huffman has found the clues to put together the connections and stop the killing before the next great world marathon in Berlin.  This time its not whether he will finish the race, but whether he will even make it to the starting line.

Run, Run, as Fast as You Can

A routine morning run on Roosevelt Island turns out to uncover not one, but two murders. Law professor and amateur distance runner Spencer Waller uncovers a fiendish plot and competition between not one, but two, serial killers who are now hot on his trail.

The P.R. Murders

Bankruptcy law maven and triathlete Ted Janger has the run of his life in the Hamptons marathon where he refuses to run away from a secret that has haunted him since he started as a law professor twenty years ago.  It's the race of a lifetime and a personal best, but will it be fast enough?

The Final Marathon

Ted, Max, and Spencer team up in Rome for what is supposed to be Spencer's last marathon.  But murder intervenes and each is now on their own trying to stop the one person who ties them all together and who so far has run rings around them.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Standing Desk

I've been reading a little about the benefits of standing versus sitting. Apparently this is well known in the occupational therapy community. I'm trying to convert to working standing up. My s-i-l A__ has done this recently. Here is my attempt in my home office. That's a table on top of my desk and a music stand with the iPad on the left.

No surprise, my legs feel it. I have to concentrate on posture or my lower back feels it. I do find myself fidgeting around to make the position comfortable. Concentration seems easier -- perhaps because nervous energy is used in my maintaining my posture rather than through my mind's wandering? Verdict after two hours? So far so good.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Some humble pie at a phenomenal race

I don't remember when or why I signed up for the Columbia Triathlon this year, but I was signed up, and I had nothing else going on yesterday, so I went and I ran it. After a few fairly competitive finishes at DC races, I had begun thinking I was, well, fairly competitive. I learned instead the DC races are neither as hard nor as competitive as is a three-decades-old event in rural Maryland with an international following.

This race in Ellicott City, Maryland, is the marquis event of the Columbia Triathlon Association, which also puts on the little-known Chesapeakeman iron-distance triathlon and the hugely popular Eagleman 70.3 (which Ted ran a few years back, beating Pat Tillman's time from a few years before that). The race attracts a highly credentialed pro field and is a target race for hundreds of talented regional athletes. It's on a beautiful, shaded, well-maintained course that is also massively hilly.

Long story short, I did fine, I was very pleased with my effort, I was only slightly less pleased with my time, and I was nowhere near competitive either overall or in my age group!

If you're going to be in the area in mid-May and have the triathlon bug, put this on your calendar. I'll be back next year. With a little more hill training under my belt.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Running the World

A rare three time zone week with runs in Chicago, DC, and the UK.  Let the Games begin!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Brooklyn Half Marathon: It Must Have Been The Shoes

This morning I ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon.  I didn't expect much. I've been nursing a sore quad since running the NYC Half in March, and my goal was to finish under 1:50.  It was a perfect day.  The temperature was in the mid to high 50s at the start, and rose into the 60s. It was sunny and clear, but there was plenty of shade on the course.   The course was super crowded for the first few miles, and both my shoes came untied in miles 1-2, leading to much cursing and swearing at Spencer (see below).  Then things settled down, and the splits started to get faster.  The Brooklyn Half is front loaded with two trips up a pretty big hill in Prospect Park, and then a long flat run out to Coney Island. After a disastrous 9 minute first mile, I settled into a just sub 8 minute pace, and held it the whole way.  The big surprise was that when I started to slow a bit in the last couple of miles, I just picked up the clock speed without too much trouble.   The final result was 1:45.31.  This isn't a PR, but it's definitely on the good side of my Half Marathon times, 90 seconds faster than the NYC Half, and my best since 2009.  Best of all, I ran steady but slightly negative 5K splits.  That's very unusual for me.

Credit goes, I think, in the end, to Spencer (see above).  Here, and elsewhere, he has been singing the praises of the Saucony Kinvaras.  After picking up my race number yesterday, I happened to walk right by the Super Runner's Store.  What could I do but buy a new pair of shoes? I took Spencer (and the sales clerk)'s suggestion, and bought the Kinvaras.  I don't usually race on a brand new pair of shoes, but all of my other shoes are way past their prime, so I figured it was worth a try.  Aside from the lacing issues (see above), I love those shoes.  I've always stayed away from "performance" shoes because, I'm a "large frame" runner, and I was afraid I'd need more cushioning, but the balance of low heel displacement, wide forefoot, and dense but not too stiff cushioning was just perfect.  Thanks Spencer!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Running with (from) climate change: Item (the last)

The final change that I can think of from our freakishly warm winter has manifested itself.  Whirly gigs.  There is some scientific name for the little helicopter seed pods that drop from the trees that descend in a spinning spiral to the ground to the delight of young and old alike.  Usually they start in late May/early June.  This year they are long since down on the ground, the sidewalks and the running paths.

This has me worried for several reasons including the inevitable regression to the mean.  We are likely to endure a hideous winter interfering with my attempt to train for the March Rome marathon which of course would have been quite doable this past "winter."  My current plan involves lots of gym time and cross training in January and February and a concerted effort to give faculty workshops in warm weather schools in February so I can do my long runs on those campuses.  So if the reader knows anyone who is interested in hearing about "Antitrust's Democracy Deficit early next year please let me know.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Miles up, weight down

Happens every spring.  The 4-5 milers become 6-7 milers.  Weight begins to drop accordingly and ends up at bottom of my 5 pound fluctuation range rather than the middle/top of the range.  Magic!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Little Biking

It's time to recover from running a lot, so I'm doing two things going forward into the summer months: running less and biking more. Yesterday I joined D__ for 14 hours riding from Frederick, Maryland, to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, East Berlin, Pennsylvania, and many places in between. Turning the pedals is harder work than I remember it's being!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Biblical Triathlon

Ironman St. George was run last weekend for the third and final time. I had a friend, normally a mid-10-hour ironman triathlete, who finished in the mid-12-hour range. Everybody's finish time was incredibly slow: the pro winners were ~35 minutes (men) and ~45 minutes (women) slower than 2011. Apparently a wind kicked up just after the start; 5' waves and whitecaps formed on the swim, and people were being blown off the road on the bike. The good news is the temperature was finally reasonable.

So in the three years of IMSG: 2010 was bitterly cold; 2011 was ferociously hot; and 2012 was dangerously stormy. They've canceled the full distance race in 2013 and beyond, apparently fearing locusts and whatever else.

I'm more intrigued by the cancellation. World Triathlon Corp., the Ironman company, has been able to establish races and sell them out with impunity. St. George never filled up and every year the conditions prevented a reasonable percentage of the entrants from even starting. The race had a few things going against it: a hard course; an early season schedule (making training difficult); and what proved to be consistently difficult conditions (we can call those indicia of race "quality"). WTC has been raising entry fees as well. It appears WTC finally found the point of consumer intolerance to increased quality-adjusted price of IM entry.

One more data point possibly relating to WTC's feeling its way around the equilibrium point: two triathlons scheduled for this year in DC -- the DC Triathlon, a WTC 5150 series event, and the National Harbor 70.3, a WTC half IM -- have been canceled. Washington Sport and Event Management promoted both under license from (or some similar contractual relationship with) WTC. WSEM may have its own problems; I read that it also sold its marquee event, the Nations Triathlon, to Competitor Group, the Rock and Roll Marathon people. But I wonder if WTC's contract terms were too onerous for the 5150 and 70.3 events to survive, another example of WTC overpricing the market. (Consider that WSEM did not sell those races, but simply canceled them.) With the huge base of highly pecuniary consumers (er, competitors) in DC, if you can't put on a triathlon here, it's not clear where you can put one on.

I've been intrigued for a few years that a number of promoters are taking WTC on at its own game. One example is Rev3, with its line of iron- and 1/2 iron-distance triathlons, charging lower prices and offering comparable or better schedules and locations. Others have differentiated and are pulling away marginal consumers who would prefer (for example) to do their triathlons off-road (XTerra) or to skip the swim (duathlon). But for its recognizable brand, all WTC offers for your $650+ entry fee is a chance to go to the world championships in Kona, and that doesn't mean much to most of us. So the market is becoming saturated and consumers are becoming savvy. Considering that long-course triathlon got big in the early 90s, that's 20 years of market dominance before going the way of Microsoft.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Running with the Bloggers

Nice 10K or so with Ted Janger who was in town for a major law school reunion, the kind that if it was a marriage would be celebrated with silver.  Picked him and a law school buddy up at their hotel off Michigan Avenue ran along the lake to the Field Museum and back dodging about 5000 walkers and runners out for a 5K in memory of fallen police and fire fighters.  Nice to realize that not all U-C law grads think markets are magic.

Next RRR run the ALI in DC May 19-22.  Come one, come all.  Actually that would be you Max.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

In Chiro We Trust

It has been a real struggle of late with my normal short mid-week runs.  A 20 minute trip to the chiropractor has me back on the straight and narrow.  I had quads, gluts, knees, diaphragm, and assorted other body parts out of alignment which were also working at cross-purposes.  Blocks, heat, and some gentle adjustment had me back together again for a most pleasant and reasonably fast 10K.  Probably my best run since the 8 miler in DC with Max.

With brings to mind, who are your medical pros for tune up work?  I am not talking MDs for emergencies and injuries but the tune ups and adjustments but optimize our daily grind.  Is it chiropractors? massage therapists? yoga instructors? others?  all of the above?  Who keeps you road worthy and why?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Eddy-hopping the California Coast

They pick you up on a bus in Carmel at the ungodly hour of 3:30 am. That's the only thing ungodly that you experience that day.

The start line festival is a hoot. You lie on the pavement drinking coffee and eating a banana. The port-o-johns are more than sufficient for the crowds. The temperatures are comfortable and the banter among running legends Bart Yasso and Jeff Galloway is genuinely funny. After the anthem they release doves. Only in California.

The first five miles descending out of the redwoods go quickly. The wind hits while crossing the seaside pastures between miles 6 and 10. It is brutal. There is a technique of whitewater paddling called eddy-hopping, whereby you can ascend a river by moving from the protection of one rock to that of another. You can do the same running in a headwind. Follow one guy. Sprint across the lane and up a few yards to the next guy. It doesn't work behind anyone too small. If you are lucky you can get a pace line going, swapping leads with a few of like paces. That doesn't last long, though. Someone sees greener pastures or refuses to take a pull.

By mile 9 you see it coming: the ascent to Hurricane Point. The fog is too thick to see the road, but the hill emerges above the fog. It's not the hardest climb in marathon -- the Pike's Peak marathon comes to mind -- but it's the hardest you remember doing. By mile 10 you are into it. The upside is that it blocks the wind. But at mile 11 you leave the shelter of the mountain and the wind is back. Plow upwind and uphill until mile 12. Then drop like a stone in the sun to Bixby Canyon and the most marvelous bridge crossing imaginable.

The grand piano is amplified over the bridge. He's on Greensleeves when you cross, not quite Chariots of Fire but still enough to make you tear up. Though it's been foggy and windy, too, so maybe you are imagining it.

From here the temperatures warm somewhat. The hills do not let up, but they are rollers, not mountains. The waves and jagged rocks are constantly in view. You've been at this part in a run before. The hurt is coming. You remember a particularly strong workout. "It's just like it was when I hit beach drive on that run with 12 miles to go." You take another gel and keep moving.

At mile 20 you reach the Carmel Highlands. More hills. But what did you expect. You pass the rental house at mile 22. The next four miles contain no surprises, but they aren't easy. The final hill at mile 25 is salt in the wounds. It would be a major climb on any other race. And the descent on the other side is hell on shredded legs. But at the bottom you see the bridge and the sign warning drivers of a stoplight. You know the finish is before that light. Maybe 1/2 mile to go. Maybe less.

No sprinting. But finish strong. That makes 15 marathons and 23 times over the distance in race conditions. This was the best.