Friday, August 31, 2012

Too precious not to post

This short blurb about a recursive search for a missing tourist. Has a Total Recall-like quality.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pros versus Age Groupers

Everybody in the Ironman intelligentsia is in an uproar about Kendra Lee, an age grouper who won the women's race outright at Ironman Canada last weekend. Lee beat the nearest woman pro by 90" or so. This is rare but not unheard of. Recently, Dave Scott's son raced as an amateur and won a half-Ironman outright by seconds over the second place finisher (a pro male). (Dave Scott is the father of Ironman -- the original great and still, to my lights, the best ever.)

A few underappreciated facts about Ironman racing:
1. Ironman races are two races run at the same time. The pros start at 6:45, the amateurs at 7:00.
2. Amateurs are not eligible for prize money.
3. The amateur race is huge (2000+) and usually has a mass start. The pro race is small (~50) and, of course, has a mass start.
4. The pros get special bike racking and special nutritional support.
5. The difference between the normal pro and the normal amateur is huge. Think Kobe Bryant versus your law school basketball league.

How much credit does Lee get for beating the top female pro? There's the simple answer, which says fastest over the course wins, and the other things are variables that are easily washed out by the infinite variables over a nearly 10-hour race. The fuller answer has to account for the possible advantages of taking the pro start versus the amateur start.

Some contend the pros can't be asked to compete against top-level amateurs who aren't starting next to them. I argue that it does not matter that the second place (pro) woman believed she was winning when in fact she was losing to an amateur she couldn't see. First, Lee suffered the same infirmity -- she had no better idea where the second place athlete was relative to her. (You can't see the runners 15 minutes -- 2 miles, at their pace -- ahead.) Realistically, amateurs don't have people providing intelligence on their competitors, and I assume Lee did not. Second, 90" is a major differential at that speed. If you figure the strategic race does not begin until the second half of the run leg, the pro would need to run 7-8" per mile faster than she did at the end of a grueling day. I say not likely.

I also argue that pros have a huge advantage over amateurs. The special treatment is real: dealing with a crowded bike rack, rolling a bike in and out of a crowded transition (which Lee dealt with -- as a top woman, she's still behind hundreds of men), and fighting for scraps at overwhelmed aid stations slows you down. The starting crush in the swim, which doesn't spread out for at least 1000 meters, and re-occurs at every turn, is not just stressful enough to kill a couple of fit athletes every year but it definitely slows you down. A possible countervailing benefit is drafting in the water. Done right that is very effective. It's hard -- impossible? -- to do it right in an amateur pack. By contrast, the pros -- with their small start waves -- are able to latch on to a faster swimmer and gain a huge advantage in the water. It's no accident that the pro field is tightly compacted emerging from the swim.

Amateurs have similar crowd problems on the bike. Until the field spreads out 30 or more miles in, passing one competitor can mean passing a line of 15 competitors, because drafting rules make it impossible to fold into a line if two cyclists are separated by less than 25 feet or so (as I learned in Louisville in 2010). The pros are far ahead of that madding crowd. One might respond that nearly all Ironman bike courses are loop courses (tough to find 112 miles of good road without taking over an Interstate), so pros have to deal with lapping the amateurs. While that is so, the age groupers getting lapped are easy for the pros to pass -- and they've spread out by then as well.

I join the "fastest wins" crowd in my view of Lee's success. She's not eligible for prize money, but it's pretty cool that you can come from nowhere with plenty of hard work and get your name in lights.

Monday, August 27, 2012


I run on the treadmill under three different circumstances. First is winter, when it may be unsafe to run outside (though that's a rare phenomenon); second is summer, when the air gets so thick I can't breathe and am soaked through just checking the mail; and third is when I have a particular paced interval-style workout and it's easier to head to the gym than to the track. My biggest worry in treadmill running is grossing out the other gym patrons with my habit of extreme sweating. Yesterday, with reasons two and three both in play, I ran 4 x 1 mile watching an old John Wayne movie without any sound.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New Entry?

Delta pulled its non-stop from Indianapolis to Washington National. That was predictable; it acquired the route when it bought Northwest, and Indianapolis was never integral to Delta's route system. My first few tickets this year on now-monopolist U.S. Airways exceeded $400, 33% higher than what I had been accustomed to in a duopoly market.

Then I saw some non-stops advertised by United. They weren't price competitive; United wanted $381, my US Airways flight was back down to a not-too-far-from-normal $333.

Today the United flights are not listed (I'm looking on Orbitz), but U.S. Airways is charging well less than $300.

Perhaps bolstering my view that this is a negotiation between United and U.S. Airways, there was a United Airlines 747 on the ground in Indianapolis yesterday when I flew out. That might be (slight exaggeration here) the first passenger 747 ever to taxi to a gate in Indianapolis. More likely, of course, a plane from Chicago to Paris needed hydraulic fluid.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A New runing buddy

J, the husband of one of my childhood friends, has moved with his wife back from the burbs to a house about 1 1/2 miles for me.  He is at least one step above me as a runner and at least a couple of steps ahead of me as a biker.  But we are already planning some weekend and early morning runs so I can show him my favorite routes and he can begin his new urban routines.  Saturday morning is 8-10 going north along the lake.  Should be fun.  The real question is whether he will talk me into one of his 200 mile group relay races.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

a nice run

Had a nice run yesterday morning from my Mass Ave condo in Indy, north along the Monon Trail and back. Goal was just to run, and I did in fact run.

Today the goal is miles on the track. Heat is returning, temporarily I hope. I expect this will be less nice.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Forgot about that half marathon coming up

Kind of forgot that I have the Chicago Half Marathon coming up on September 8th.  Its a good race through Jackson Park, Hyde Park, the University of Chicago and Lake Shore Drive on the South Side.  Its also my only sub 2 hour marathon (followed by a 7 miler back downtown so I could complete my 20 mile training run for the real marathon that year). 

But this year, I am focusing on Rome in March and not concentrating on my long runs.  So yesterday I took the old adage seriously that if you can run 10, you can run a half marathon.

So I ran a gentle 10 miles plus in mid 60 degree weather at slow marathon pace through the streets of the northwest side ending at Wilson and the Chicago river and meandered my way home.  On the way back discovered a beautiful little trail I had never seen before on the east side of the Chicago river between Montrose and Irving Park.  It runs just outside the lot line and backyard fences of some homes and is a mini prairie that grows a little too wild and dense for easy running.  But a great discovery and a short stretch where you would have idea you were in the middle of a city and just a block from commercial streets.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Long races

I'm watching athletes' progress in Ironman Mt. Tremblant, where my buddy D__ and sometime training partners M__ and B__ are racing. Initially, that looks to be the destination race of the decade, with perfect weather, reportedly great course conditions, and relative ease of access -- drivable from the mid-Atlantic.

I'm intrigued to see, once again, that long triathlon is a runner's sport. Some great swimmers were easily eclipsed by faster cyclists -- 1 mph differential on the bike translates to nearly 20 minutes over 112 miles. But the guys (and I suppose gals, but I'm watching guys) who get off the bike and run well -- not fast, but well -- are passing the cyclists.

I'm also intrigued that once again the older age groups are so much faster than the younger. If you're halfway through the run in 8 hours, you're 9th in the 35-39 age group but 5th in the 25-29 age group. Betting now that the differential gets more dramatic when the final results are in. I noticed this in Boulder -- a whole lot of really fast young guys right up until the end of the first lap on the run, and then a big field of young guys walking. This reality seems to me to be of a kind with the observation in the prior paragraph. Young guys can go hard, but it takes patience to go long. Or put another way, and reversing what Greg Bennett once said ("I'm not slow enough to race Ironman"): "only slow guys can race all day." (B__ is in the late-20s age group and he is proving to be the exception -- he's getting faster as he goes.)

Friday, August 17, 2012


Family matters, house chores, and final class prep are keeping me from racing at the USAT Age Group National Championships in Burlington, Vermont, tomorrow. I expect to have the opportunity next year, but this is somewhat bitter, as on January 1 I am aging out of the most competitive age group in triathlon, into one that is only marginally less competitive -- a la Spencer's post regarding his 10K. As my buddy D__ points out, everybody who has been beating me is aging up as well. So maybe or maybe not good from a competitive standpoint, but it is too bad that I won't have raced a championship event in my competitive prime, that word employed here quite loosely. The other bitter pill is that this makes three race entry fees I've now donated to the triathlon gods in 2012, two of them to the evil empire of World Triathlon (Ironman) Corp.

Instead I'll run both the Olympic/international distance and the sprint distance at the famously challenging Luray triathlon, a 90 minute drive from home. I began this post in order to make fun of the cover from the race brochure. Is it me, or is one guy heading out to start his bike leg without a helmet?

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Olympic Marathon

Finally finished watching the full race fast forwarding through the commercials).

The positives.  A brilliant (in the full British sense) move by the winner at mile 23 who caught 'em, passed 'em, and broke 'em all in a 4:42 24th mile.  After that, it was basically over as he stretched the lead over Kiprui and the third place runner ended up almost a full minute behind. Liked Kiprovitch finding a Ugandan flag and carrying it the last 100 meters showing pride, but not arrogance, that he had the space to do it.  Great back story for a dedicated runner emerging out of poverty and hardship.  Great sportsmanship between all the top 50 finishers who came in within 2:20 on a hot and muggy day. Another thumbs up to Meb Keflezighi of the US who ran a great tactical race to finish fourth at age 37 and was happy about his performance in the interviews afterwards.

The negatives.  A crappy course designed for aerial tv shots and not the runners.  Too many tight turns, too many 180s.  and cobblestones?  Crappy coverage.  They missed the surge at mile 23, missed all of Meb's moves from back of the pack to 4th.  Decent British announcer, wish I could say the same about the American.  I also believe it was pool coverage so it may not be NBC's fault but the aerial shots were incomprehensible, there were too many random shots from the cycles of the pavement where the only sound was the cycle engines, and too many misses of key events.  I guess Ryan Hall could have used a coach after all.

Biggest negative of all, no entrance to the Olympic stadium and final lap.  Its too cool to pass up for a few pretty post card shots that had already been overdone for the past two weeks.

First Race of the Year as a M 55-59

I forgot that I changed age brackets in July.  So now I am the youngest of the M 55-59 set rather than the oldest of the M 50-54 group.  I put my new status to the test on Sunday in the inaugural Chicago 10K.  Great running weather for mid-August, about 65 degrees at the 8 AM start.  Race logistics fine but not spectacular.  Easy packet pickup.  Nice technical running shirt.  Good start location in the corner of Grant Park downtown.  Easy to get cabs to and from the race. 

About 1800 runners on the sidewalk and lakefront paths but not too crowded.  Simple out and back running south along the lakefront path with one curlicue.  I think this is the first time I got a medal for a 10K.

Finished about 3 minutes over my pr but one minute under my time at a different 10K race last year at this time.  Finished in about the top quarter overall and 7th in my new age group (out of 17).  I checked my prior division and my time would have put me 11th out of 50 some runners. 

My main take away is that as the age brackets creep up the remaining runners are more serious and better than the group below them.  Just fewer of us.  My other take away is that I have to figure out how to stop walking through water stops, but that is an old issue for me.  All in all, a nice day's work following watching the end of the Olympic marathon as I was getting dressed for the race.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Track to Marathon

In honor of the Olympics I ran a 2-mile track race on Friday night. It was hard and I was slow, but I needed the wake-up call. Followed it up with a call to my coach. The plan is to get serious about running again and to target a couple of marathons coming up. Las Vegas, Dec. 2, will likely be this year's attempt at a PR.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ocean run SoCal style

I went to the post-annual meeting (PAM) of the ABA Antitrust Section in a bad mood.  My plantar fasciatis has come back albeit in mild form plus I have lots of other little issues that is making ramping up mileage problematic.  But after a 24 hour pity party and a plane ride to LA I felt a lot better as the cab pulled into the Terranea resort 20 miles south of LAX.  Its a beautiful resort on the grounds of the old Marineland which I had visited as a kid.  Dolphin shows and whales have long been replaced by Spanish style architecture and great facilities. 

The PAM is an interesting but not taxing meeting.  Presentations from agency heads, some Section meetings, the editorial meeting the Antitrust Law Journal, a dinner on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, and a fair amount of free time. 

So one day, I iced down, taped up, and hit the shoulder of what I think is PCH 1 for just under an hour run.  While the rest of California broiled in 100+ heat, the coast was cool in both the mornings and the evenings and delightful for a run.  Beautiful views of the ocean, a nice lighthouse about a mile outside the resort, luxurious homes to fantasize about owning or visiting.  No way to runon the beach which was not continuous and was all rocky where accessible from the highway.  The only drawback?  2 hours of tennis in hte much hotter afternoon sun later that day.

Next day, took advantage of the resort thing and went to the very nice workout space in the spa.  Great equipment, no annoying throbbing techno music like so many city clubs, and even an outdoor stationary bike on the patio with an ocean view.  Did my mini tri of bike, precor, and then pool and then cleaned up, checked out, and rode back through strip mall land to the airport. 

Nice place to visit, but....

Tomorrow is my first real race of the season, the Chicago 10K and figuring how to combine lots of pool work, low impact elliptical and long runs to get me ready for half-marathon after Labor Day.  Must remember to remember to tape Olympic marathon.

Friday, August 10, 2012


After the GMU law and economics program in Estes Park I stuck around in Boulder for a week, finishing with the Boulder 70.3 (half-ironman) triathlon last Sunday.

Boulder is a ridiculous town. If you'll forgive the analogy, it's exciting in the way that Angelina Jolie or Hugh Jackman are attractive. All are caricatures of real life that are exciting from afar but when actually encountered (I can speak here for Boulder and not for Angie or Hugh) are so unrealistic as to be frightening. I was on vacation and spent my mornings in coffee shops and my afternoons riding, running, or walking around. Other people were living real life and did much the same thing.

Overheard while sitting at one coffee shop (conversation between two tall fit women): "You running in Leadville again today?" "No, I've been up there the last five weekends; running Leadville [the 100-miler] this year. By the way, congratulations on Hard Rock [the world's hardest 100-miler]."

At Amante's, a different coffee shop that is the hangout of the local triathlon professionals and the jumping off point for workouts, I saw several bikes that came near to out-valuing my car. I succumbed to the culture a little bit and ended up with a new frame for my triathlon bike. It was a lot cheaper than the complete bike I nearly bought.

At the starting line: the age group field in Boulder looks like the elite field at any other race I've run. One guy I floated next to before the swim start had qualified for, and competed in, 13 Kona (World Championship) Ironman races. My finishing time, modest though it was, would have placed me 8th in my age group in Lawrence, Kansas, the other race I had scheduled (but bagged) this year. In Boulder I was 25th.

Re: the race. I did much wrong. I did not train for speed this year, and it turns out the half-iron distance is more like the international distance (1.5K/40K/10K) than it is like the iron distance. I have not been in the water since my last triathlon in early June. I had no idea how fast to run, proved by my running the second lap of my half marathon more than a minute/mile faster than the first.

A note to Gunther re: international diplomacy: If you're going to flip a guy off when passing him on the bike (not sure what I did to you to bring that about), probably better make sure that pass sticks. And certainly don't get caught walking 3 miles into the run.

Coming home: I like a good road trip. But wow is that a long way to come back after a long few weeks away.