Monday, June 30, 2014

Rethinking Everything . . .

Knock on wood, I am in a very good mood this Monday about the weekend workouts.  It cannot overcome my anger about Hobby Lobby, but for the purpose of this post, I'll change the subject.  As I mentioned, I ran 8 miles with light speed work on Friday.  Saturday I did 30 miles at a moderate level on the bike in Prospect Park. Sunday, M__, J__ and I went for a 12 mile run at a steady 10 minute pace, and today I feel fine after a spin and swim.  I'm not sure what's going on, but the tightness in my left hip has let go, and I'm even walking barefoot without pain.  The suddenness of this makes me want to analyze what is going on.  Here are the three things I've changed in the last two weeks: (1) I did two bike workouts on an actual bike, instead of a spin bike; (2) I switched shoes to the NB 980s which have a lower heel drop and wider forefoot; and (3) I buckled down and did 75+ crunches on the the balance ball and 2 minutes of plank as part of my stretching. Thoughts?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rethinking Track Workouts

Went to the 6:45 running group meetup this morning for the first time in ages.  Only one taker, speedy G__ who was headed to the track.  I agreed to run him to Red Hook, with a plan to continue my slow run from there.  Got to the track, and thought, well, what the heck, why not run one 440??  Instead of my usual approach to 4x440 -- run like a madman and suffer at the end -- an approach that usually produces 90 second or slightly faster laps, and the desire to throw up.  I decided to do what everyone always says you're supposed to do -- run at your aspirational 5K pace.  That produces a 105 second lap (7 minute pace).  That was hard, but not uncomfortable.  I did 3.  Felt like I could have done more, resumed my slow run home along he waterfront, and called it a day.  This was another good workout on the crawl back to running health. Knock on wood . . . Tomorrow is another bike day, and then with any luck a long run!!

In other championship sporting news

In case you missed it--800 meter specialist Alysia Montano competed in the USA Track and Field Championships yesterday while 34 weeks pregnant. While mainstream media coverage is focused on the fact that she competed at all, I can't get over the fact that she ran a 2:32. Sure she was dead last in her heat, but 5 min/mile pace at almost full term? That just underscores the genetic gift(s) possessed by elite athletes!

Trying to understand the futbol thing

P__ reports that her federal agency employees took the day off yesterday to watch the US lose at soccer.

I am intrigued by the educated urbanite reaction to the World Cup.  It may be that this many people simply enjoy watching soccer.  I propose it is something slightly different.

Taking the day off to watch a World Cup game is a signal of one's being smart, urban, and worldly.  It is akin to conspicuous shopping at Whole Foods, carrying yoga mats, driving a Car2Go car-share smart car, and scoffing at Justice Thomas without actually first reading his opinions.

The closest analogy that comes to mind is the Alabama -- or Auburn -- partisan, who  (I believe) gains substantially less from watching an American football game, which is little more than a forum to consume bad beer and Doritos, than he/she does from signalling membership in a group. 

No offense to the true fans among us.  I know you exist.  I just don't think you number nearly enough to shut down business in the capital of the free world.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Chet the Jet

Every so often I read about some athletic endeavor too ridiculous to keep to myself.  While investigating "Spiz," the high-calorie energy drink fueling Jason "The Hammer" Lane in his Trans America bike race (yes, that's another one worth reporting one day), I came across this report on Chet "The Jet" Blanton.

"Chet Blanton set the record of doing 27 Triathlons in one year including one "Double Deca" Triathlon (48 mile swim, 2,240 mile bike, and 524 mile run). He completed this continuous race in 28 days and 6 hours. Chet holds the record for doing the most triathlons in one year (27). Read more about this extraordinary athlete."

I doubt the assertion that 27 triathlons in a year is a record -- Guinness gives it to Bart Hackley, with 123 -- but I am intrigued by the double-deca-triathlon.  That's 20x iron-distance, or nearly one month of full time triathlon.

Max "Fuzzy Bunny" H__ hereby quits.

Spencer, from Rome

(Posted by request.)

Finishing my teaching at the Loyola Rome Center in Monte Mario, the large hill up from the Vatican across the river from downtown Rome.  Its a quiet hilly neighborhood.  Haven't been here for 9 years which was the last time I taught in the program.  Best improvement?  The running and biking path next to my hotel which parallels the commuter train.  It runs about 2 plus miles up the hill and a little less down the hill ending at the Valle Aurelia train and metro station.  It cuts through the back of several pleasant upper middle class neighborhoods and saves me from having to take my life in my hands running on or across streets and Roman traffic and drivers.  There are some playgrounds, a couple of porta-potties and some water spigots.  My favorite sight so far is the little shack down the hill just past the end of the path and the beginning of a park where a little old lady tends her chickens, geese and goats in the back yard of her shack.  Beginning to branch out into some of the areas on the sides and beyond the path itself.  Tough work on the hills so I tend to run up hill first.  An hour doing hills in the heat has been plenty so far.

Two more days of teaching and running and then we head for the weekend to Cinqua Terra and then a few days in nice cool flat Dublin.  Hoping to recreate a good chunk of the marathon route there in between touring and drinking. 

Now back to the exciting conclusion of my 1 credit 2 weeks intro to the World Trade Organization.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Road Bike v. Spin Bike

Met the Brooklyn Tri-Club for the Tuesday morning bike workout.  Took my road bike rather than my tri-bike for a bunch of reasons: (1) tri-bike has a flat; (2) didn't feel like fixing the flat; (3) have a slight concern that the tri-saddle has been aggravating my hamstring/glute issues; (4) really didn't feel like fixing the flat.  Anyway, I always forget how great it feels to ride a bike that fits properly. Spin bikes never do. Also, the need to balance evens out the pedal stroke and everything else.  I did about 30 or so miles in Prospect Park, not too fast in a big friendly group. I was on the bike for two hours, and finished feeling great.  Heel is looser, hips are looser, hamstring is less sore, adductor is less sore.

I usually think of biking and spinning as pretty direct substitutes, but now I'm not so sure.

Monday, June 23, 2014

MRI report

I don't meet with my doctor until Monday, but I finally got my hot little hands on my radiology report. Findings: "Mild degenerative changes are present in the midfoot." I would be willing to guess that mild degenerative changes are also present in my other foot. They were present in my knee too when I dealt with that injury. The MRI report also notes a small amount of fluid in the first MTP joint and within the first and third intermetatarsal bursa--I imagine that's where my pain is coming from. We'll see what can be done about that, but having dealt with this for a while, I'm even more sure that this is a form or gait (or footwear) issue. I need a good PT who is going to explore every angle of this, but I've done that twice in the past 18 months and it requires a significant investment of time. Since neither attempt has been successful, I'm not into just jumping into to something.

Thoughts from the peanut gallery? I see the doctor in a week, but he probably won't have much interest in my case unless it's surgical.

Longish Run

So, after my disappointing attempt at a ten miler last week, interrupted by a strained adductor and shamefaced ride home on a Citibike, I was anxious to actually finish the run this week.  I met C Sunday morning, and we agreed to a course that would never leave me too far from home if disaster struck.  We ran down to Red Hook, back behind Ikea (where there is a hidden and largely undiscovered waterfront park), back along the water through Brooklyn Bridge Park, through Vinegar Hill, up the steps in Fort Green Park and home.  The good news is, no disaster.  Instead of pushing the pace enthusiastically, as I did last week, I was careful to keep the pace between 9:30 an 10ish per mile.  I paid attention to form, and felt good enough that when we finished about a half mile short, there was no doubt about throwing a loop to bring the mileage up to 10 miles.  I even had enough left for a mild kick at the end.   The better news is that today I'm feeling none the worse for wear.  Did a spin class, 10 minutes on the treadmill, and then 30 minutes on the elliptical, and my legs feel looser than they have in a while.  One thing that may have helped was a shoe change.  I went back to the NB 980s that I abandoned before the Brooklyn Half because of calf soreness.  This time the calf tolerated the smaller heel drop, and everything else about my form benefitted.  Knock on wood, this is all good news . . .

Back on (the) Track

The difference between "running" and "training" has for me been defined by whether I visit the track on a weekly basis.  Arriving at the track provides a mental shift that says "you are here to run."  Minimizing variables, it is a good fitness gauge.  And the track facilitates steady improvement in things like speed and form.

I've been away from the track for a long, long time.  Starting three weeks ago I've been going back

Track work starts with a two-mile time trial, run as if it were a race.  Two miles is short enough to minimize variables but long enough to gauge fitness.   (A mature runner can find a flat 5K race and accomplish the same goal.)  Ideally one would perform one of these trials every spring and every fall.

The two-mile time trial provides a marker for the absolute level of fitness, reflected by the VDOT number.  That absolute fitness level then tells one what paces to run for various training distances and helps to predict the pace one might expect to run in an upcoming race.

Here is the VDOT calculator.  You enter your distance and your time and press "compute."  My 12:20 2-mile TT gives me a 50.6 VDOT.  Now I consult Jack Daniels' (not that Jack Daniels -- this one!) running pace charts. (The preceding link is to a Runners' World article reporting more or less the same thing I am reporting here and drawn from Jack Daniels' book and many free internet resources.) I learn that at a 50.6 VDOT I am at the fitness level that might produce a 20' 5K, a 40:30 10K, and a 3:08 marathon.  (Some interpolation required to produce those numbers.) None of those surprise me based on recent years' experience.

From the 50.6 VDOT I also learn my "tempo," "interval," and "easy" paces.  In his book Jack Daniels offers a tad more granularity than does the RW article.  Again interpolating, my "tempo" pace is somewhere around 6:44/mile.  At the track each week I run distances of 800m, 1 kilometer, 1 mile, 2 miles, up to 20' steady.  All distances are run at tempo pace.  (Different distances to keep things interesting.)  1' rest between intervals.  The biggest mental hurdle to these workouts is that they are not that hard.  I am confident I could run three or four miles well faster than a 6:44 pace with 1' rest -- I just ran 2 at a 6:10 pace, after all -- but the common and naive mistake is to see the track as a place to prove oneself instead of to improve oneself.  (Just made up that catchy coach's slogan.)

At some point the assignment at the track changes and I will move to running shorter and faster with more rest.  That is where "interval pace" comes in.  I'm not there yet.

With regard to race-time predictions, perhaps needless to say, predictions based on the VDOT does not mean one can run any of those races tomorrow.  It does mean that with training for the particular distance those are the times one might anticipate.

Of course, it is not that simple.  Because with training one not just acquires the ability to cover the distance but one also improves absolute fitness level.  Quoting a commenter on the Runners' World article linked above,

"Nice &simple explanation. but after 6 weeks shall we again go for test and find new vdot and work on those numbers every time?"

Bingo.  Maybe the next test is actually a (flat and not windy) 5K or 8K, because one will have the training to make those distances meaningful predictors.  This will probably happen organically if one includes a series of B races built into a training program for the big fall marathon.

Another way of looking at this is to say the VDOT does not predict a future race at all.  It predicts a current race.  For a future race one needs to understand the pace of VDOT improvement, which presumably starts fast and levels off as one approaches maximum possible fitness.  (I assume none of us at RP are approaching our biological capacity, so with steady training our improvement will probably be pretty constant.)  A Runners' World forum relates observed improvements between 0.7/6 weeks and 1.5/6 weeks.  Taking the more conservative of those and starting from my 50.6 VDOT reported above, I might hope to realize a VDOT of 52 while training for a September 1/2 marathon, for a predicted finish time in the 1:28 range.  That sounds about right -- and not too bad of a goal!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Solstice

Celebrated the summer solstice with a sunrise (5:25 am) run to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge with the SBRC gang.  Beautiful morning light.  Adductor is not fully healed, but it didn't hurt either.  Did a total of about 5 miles, then went home and took a long nap. . .

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Continuing the topic of European sports, Christoph Strasser of Austria continued the northern European streak in the Race Across AMerica (cycling), reaching Annapolis at 8:23 this morning after 7 days, 15 hours and 56 minutes on the road.  His average pace (inclusive of the very few stops he made)?  16.42 mph.  That's right -- a very respectable pace for a club century, done back to back to back 30.2 times.


This makes Strasser 2014 the fastest ever for RAAM (beating his own record from last year) and the third fastest human to cross the country by bicycle.  First and second place go to Haldeman and Penseyres by tandem in 1987, though not as part of RAAM.  (Thanks to S_ for pointing this one out.)

Thought piece:

Winners of RAAM in recent years are from these countries:  Austria, Switzerland, and Slovenia.  The last finisher from a different country?  2003 (Allen Larsen, US).  The fifth country to produce a winner (once) is Lichtenstein.  Why?

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Encouraged by my DC runs, I set out on a 10 mile run with C.  I felt great setting out.  We set a medium fast pace going out, and settled in at a sub 9 minute mile.  My heart rate was fine, it all felt smooth, until, on the way down the backside of the Williamsburg bridge, a muscle on the inside of my right thigh cramped hard . . . The same muscle cramped at the end of the last run in DC, but I was able to finish off the run.  This time it hurt more, and I had a lot farther to go to get home.  Grumble, grumble.  I hobbled to our Gatorade stop hydrated, stretched, and tried to head out again. No dice.  Oh well.  Happily, there was a Citibike stand nearby, so I sent C on his way and rode home.  It was frustrating, but I'm not super worried.  The cramp is frustrating, but again, it's in the big part of a large muscle, and will heal.   Oy!!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Do you buy race photos?

I usually buy a couple of 4x6s for L's wall of race photos at her office.  This time there were a couple of pix that were download only or download or poster size for $177 which was ridiculous.  So I bought 2 and downloaded one.  The download doesn't appear copyable or pasteable but will playing with it plus it was twice the price of the prints (which are scannable).  Not happy.

Why Soccer is Different in the US

1) Its soccer, not futbol or the beautiful game

2) Although we are one of only 6 countries to appear in the last 7 world cups, we have won only 4 games out of 24 played

3) Our own coach says its "not realistic" that the US team can win the tournament in Brazil (true but unusually forthright and not cliche for a US coach of anything)

4) The US was the team people in the other countries in the tournament are most rooting to lose (Iran was second) and

5) and to try to sell World Cup people in the US claim its "hockey on grass" (BTW how is that going to help?)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

7.5 with Ted

Last Sunday Ted and I headed out from the Westin, south on 14th, around the Tidal Basin, back north along Constitution to the Lincoln Memorial, across Memorial Bridge to the Mt. Vernon bike trail, south to the 14th Street bridge, past the T. Roosevelt Memorial, and back up 14th Street to the Westin.

Temperatures were comfortable and the sun was rising while we ran.  Conversation was as runningprofs conversations generally are -- part running, part professing, part panting -- and the running was superb.  Both of us felt good -- recovered -- and it was easy to daydream about coming races.

We talked run form.  We see it the same way but Ted sees it better:  the foot strike is not a forefoot encounter but a slide across the ground from front to back.  The midfoot can hit without crashing on the arch.  I tried it.  It felt good.  It even felt as if I was stretching out my Achilles tendon and heel each time I encountered the ground.

Ted got a few pix.  Maybe we'll see them here at RP blog soon.

That's RP blog run #2 for me for 2014.  Chicago Marathon is out there for a third, unless we get together before then.

UPDATE:  Should have checked the blog before posting!  Ted beat me to it. Now you have both perspectives.

DC Run With Max

Max was kind enough to schlep down to the Westin early on Sunday morning for a run on the Mall.  Becky had hoped to join us but her daughter had other ideas.  Gotta say, the run was an all around victory.  I love running in DC especially before it gets too hot.  The temperature was cool, and we ran down fourteenth street to the tidal basin  around the back, through the FDR memorial, which is one of my favorites, then past the Lincoln Memorial, over the Memorial Bridge, back along Memorial Parkway to the Fourteenth Street Bridge and home.  Seven miles and change, averaging a 9:30 pace.  My heel behaved, and my calf behaved.  Max kept the pace steady and reasonable.  It was a real confidence builder. Thanks Max!!  Indeed, the really good news is that I was able to run Monday (6.4)(Mall), Tuesday (4ish) (Capitol Hill) and today (4)(Rock Creek Park).  I haven't run 4 days in a row in many months.  I will take a couple of days off, but I'm beginning to feel like a runner again!!

Me running slowly Saturday sidewise

Monday, June 9, 2014


Ran the Michelob Ultra Chicago 13.1 on Saturday.  Many nice things about the race but a disappointing outcome.  First positive, package pick up.  At my favorite running store on the way to work.  Took a grand total of five minutes.  Second, nice shirt with normal colors and design and sizing actually approximately correct. 

Third, great course.  Started at South Shore Community Center at 70th and Shouth Shore Drive.  Its the south end of the bike path 14 miles from my apartment about 2 plus miles past Hyde Park.  Its a part of the park that is particularly beautiful and an area where I don't usually run except when L. drives me there and I run one way back to the north side.  Course winded through Jackson Park and then north on lake front path to about 37th street and straight back.

Fourth, easy street parking, public transportation and many shuttle buses.  Well organized, easy in and out no matter where you are coming from as long as you start early enough for 7 AM start.  Always funny to see people running toward start area as we are heading out on first mile.

Fifth, nice staging area.  plenty of room for gear check, porta potties, stretching, milling, etc.  Not surprising because start is grounds of former country club with now public 9 hole golf course.

Sixth, many corrals with staged start.  Each corrals were a bit cramped but nice staged starts with 2:30 between each corral's start.  Maybe I would have felt differently if I had been in "H" rather than "A".

The only downsides were the weather, the enormous kind of stupid medal, and my disappointing performance.  Its was mid-high 60s at start, a lot of sun, and not much shade.  (Sunday morning's high 50s would have been perfect) Probably low 70s by the end which I just wasn't ready for psychologically or physically.  Instead of starting slow and trying for a negative split, I decided to try for good times for the first half and just hang on as it got hotter.  First 2 miles were sub-9 and then settled it to low mid 9s.  I was fine until 9-10 and then it got a little ugly.  Finished in a disappointing 2:10 which all can I say is a PKSPR (post kidney stones PR).  On the brighter side, my dodgy calves, tendons, and feet all held up ok.  But it's been a tough 48 recovery period much more akin to a full marathon.

Have to ponder the take aways as I head into summer training and the eventual heat and humidity of Chicago July and August.  But signing up for two of the three summer halves later today and hope to do better.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Canadian Privacy Legislation

Occasionally somebody passes a law that makes my life markedly better.  Occasionally.

In the US, the TCPA (comprehensive report by the LUC Consumer Antitrust Institute) did that until a combination of loopholes and limited enforcement seems to have rendered it basically useless (my opinion, based on anecdotal experience from spending holidays working from home).

Re: loopholes, according to the FTC:

4. What types of calls are not covered by the National Do Not Call Registry?

The do not call provisions do not cover calls from political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors, or companies with which a consumer has an existing business relationship. 

Canada has enacted new anti-spam legislation.  I just received this e-mail from a car dealer I had pinged a year or so ago:
Due to the new Privacy act legislation and to respect your privacy, we need your consent to keep our communications going with you as a valued customer. You, as a consumer, have the option to opt in or out.
Please permit us to reach out to you electronically by clicking on the link below.

I say "bravo."  A complete reset of all of my half-baked opt-in decisions.  Too bad (1) I only have one relationship of which I am aware with a Canadian merchant, and (2) this particular auto dealer may have been the least annoying I've ever interacted with.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Unamerican sports

Mexico plays Bosnia in a friendly in Solider Field before 60,000 fans (55,000 rooting for Mexico).

The French Open is going on and the Giro D'Italia just finished.

What does this all mean?

It means that I am getting increasingly psyched for my ultimate un-American sports summer where I will be watching some combination of the World Cup, Wimbledon, and the Tour de France.

Can't wait.