Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Wrap Up

I understand when people have had a not-so-great year and they declare loudly to all who will hear that they are soooooo over this year and ready for the next one to begin. In reality, however, many years are similar.  Some you beat cancer in and some you don't. Some you find the love of your life and some you get divorced.  But the pressure to make THIS YEAR the BEST is ridiculous.  For reasons I can't even recall, nine years ago I was interviewed in the Washington Post about finding someone special for a kiss on New Year's Eve.  I said then what I said now: New Year's Eve is vastly over-rated with far too much pressure.

The same goes with looking back at the past year.  I like doing it. We all like doing it. We like lists.We like Top Tens.We want things in a neat bow. They rarely are.

All told, I was quite pleased with how 2013 went because I made it through the year and virtually everyone I cared about in the world made it through the year as well. That's a pretty good year in my book.

Running-wise (and the only reason why 95% of you care what my opinion on anything is) I had a good year as well. Not a great year, per se but a good one.  Here are some of the things I will remember in no particular order.

* I had my plans to run across the Panama Canal thwarted because of incorrect information provided and horrible planning on my part.

 * I skied for the first time in my life and did it at the beginning of a winter triathlon. I ended up being the fastest trail runner on the day which is just hilarious given my love of road running.

* This year ended up having the most miles in a year for me (~2500) since 2008, when at no time did I feel like I was running that much or that far at all.

* My running and everything was put on hold for a bit when I contracted a nasty little staph infection in my foot which made it difficult to sleep, let alone walk, or even think about running. Fortunately, I am mostly recovered from that but know I have to be ever vigilant.

* I set a new half-marathon PR on a day when I was not really expecting much in the speed department at all at the Mt. Nebo Half Marathon.

*The Dane to Davenport was a success as I ran 165 miles in 3 days before hitting the Quad Cities Marathon the next day.

* With little to no cycling in the previous 6 months, I was able to have a solid showing at the National Duathlon Championship race and qualify for the world championships.

* My second book continued to sell well and received good reviews while readers continued to like my 52 Marathons in 52 weekends story.

* I finally realized the movie about my 202 mile solo running of the American Odyssey Relay would come to fruition at the start of 2014.

I have no major plans for 2014 in the sense that others want to hear about how long I will be running and from what point in the country to the other I plan on traversing. This year has a focus on returning to speed and trying to leave the long-distance stage running behind for a year or two. I continue to wish to try new races and distances but would love a few more cracks at setting a nice fat PR in the marathon.  It has been four years since I really tried with any sincerity and I think the time is right.

I think that, for the most part, if 2014 looks a lot like 2013, I will be a happy camper. I could do without any staph infections or similar injuries but hey, I haven't had a bike crash since 2012!

Here's wishing you the best in 2014 and I do hope your running. racing and life dreams do come true.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Seattle Locks Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 29th Edition 
1 mile skied, 2750 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 444.55 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Seattle Locks Marathon
Place: Seattle, WA
Miles from home: 180
Weather: 40-50s; Cloudy; Slightly humid

The full name of this race is the Seattle Locks Fat Ass Marathon. The “Fat Ass” portion of the name denotes, amongst runners, a very low-key affair, usually.   Recently, I was speaking to someone who was new to running.  They mentioned most of the marathons they had completed in were smaller events.  “You know, like 2000 marathoners or so.”  I laughed because even in my relatively short time of running marathons, the marathoning world has changed drastically.

When I ran 52 Marathons on consecutive weeks in 2006, there were ~300 marathons in the United States. A good 50 or so of those took place over two weekends in October. Finding a marathon to run every week was half of the challenge of doing what I did.  When my hand was forced to create my own marathon in the penultimate weekend of the year I went out of my way to make it as “real” a marathon as possible. Chip timing, course certification and the works, even though it was 105.5 laps around a high school track in my hometown. We had a 6-hour time limit.  Originally the plan was for five hours but a friend who is an amputee had thought about competing and I wanted to make sure they had enough time.

But today, there are probably twice the number of marathons out there, at least. The number of runners doing all kinds of events continues to grow and grow. The stigma attached to not even thinking about running a marathon unless it takes you less than four hours is gone. The definition of “running” a marathon has changed. Oodles of races are popping up that cater to those who like to complete 26.2 miles as often as possible, many times with as little training as possible. I say this not to denigrate anyone. I say this to say that the term “Fat-Ass” almost has to be thrown away. So many marathons fall into this running for fun only category that is it losing its meaning a bit.

This particular race was put on by Steve Walters, a Portland Oregon runner who probably directs no less than about 10 of these types of races a year. Often the races have better aid station variety than many marathons out there with thousands of dollars of a budget. Steve puts together good events, knows he has an audience of repeat offenders to fill out his ranks and often has waiting lists to get into his races.   His finishers’ medals are low-tech but neat. The awards are a bit sparse but that is fine. One’s body still gets the benefit of the run even if they don’t get a shiny bauble to display on the shelf. However, this race really fell into that category of low-key.  In fact, it was one of the more challenging races I have done for that specific fact.

Runners knew well in advance there would be potentially no aid stations on this course. Yep, none.  Maybe there would be one station at the halfway point because runners would come back there to finish, but don’t count on it.  Runners knew they should carry their own liquid with them as they weren’t getting any on the course. It was truly a do-it-yourself-er.

In addition, the course was not closed. Other pedestrians would be out “getting in the way” of us runners as we tried to have ourselves a merry ole time. Moreover, with a twice out-and-back course, part of each loop was through the middle of Seattle, with no stoppages for traffic lights or anything of that variety. If you hit a red light, well, you had to wait.  It would be, essentially, a long-run with a time at the end.

Personally, I wanted to just cap off what would be a 74-mile week and close out my 2013 with another marathon.  My 147th lifetime marathon, but only my 9th in the past two years.  So much of that sentence would make 25 year old Dane laugh and laugh. I had no idea whom the competition was, really what the course was like or anything else.  I knew it would be fairly decent weather (if even a touch warm) and a chance to check out a part of a town I had never seen.  That was good enough for me.  So I threw best bud Shannon in the car and we went up to Seattle to run a marathon.

Race Morning:

We were told in the days leading up to the race that there were some slight changes in our favor.  There would be an aid station at the start and half way point as well as one at the turn-around of the this 6.55 mile out and back course. As such, the fact I forgot to bring a water bottle was not a concern. Well, the fact that I forgot one is a concern because I have only been doing this sort of thing for a decade now and am wondering if I am getting dumber.  But the end result was that I needn’t be concerned.

The weather was cool (but not cold) and therefore I decided to eschew carrying any bottle with me at all. I hoped I wouldn’t pay for this too badly. I was dressed like it was a fall day; half the others were dressed like it was the Snowpocalypse. Glad to see my growing up in NW PA hasn’t been beaten out of me by the two warmest winters I have ever spent in my entire life here in Portland.

Which goes back to my laughter at 2,000 people being a small race.  More than half the marathons I have
Photo Credits: Ross Comer
run have had fewer than 500 finishers. But things are changing.  There were over 150 people signed up for this low-key, no-frills, carry-your-own-damn-aid race. Shannon pointed out that the registration fee ($0) definitely helped swell those numbers.  Nevertheless, oodles of people, in all different shapes and sizes and colors of clothing were here ready to compete. My all-black attire had me looking like the bad guy in an old western but it’s slimming and I am still carrying some of my baby weight.

The clock was counted down by Steve and away we went.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Thinking While Running

Put yourself in a position to get asked many of the same type of question and you better come up with a variety of different answers, lest you become ornery (learn how to pronounce that here) and not fun to talk to. In addition, repeatedly hearing the same question and its follow-ups allows you to surmise the reasons behind it. If you are any  good at piecing this together, you can answer all those questions at once and make the person asking you the question think about their reasons for doing so in the first place.

This seems to be a pretty heady way to approach being asked a simple question. Believe me, I am not that heady. My point is being in front of people means people are going to ask you tons of questions. Like, who are you and why should I care? I enjoy hearing the questions, often hoping to hear one which presents a new wrinkle.  More often than not, however, I know what is coming. That said, sometimes I surprise myself with my answers.

"What do you think about when you are running?" is one of the top questions I get when people learn how far I run. I have come up with many answers, all true, but one day it hit me to turn it around.

"What do you think about when you aren't running?"

This often gives people a little bit of pause. I know they are trying to think that one's mind must always be engaged or distracted in order to get through many miles of running. But there is also this air that comes with the question that unless I am thinking of something while I am running, I am wasting valuable time.

The things is, very few, if any, of our thoughts each day are groundbreaking. Most of them are rather subconscious reactions to the stimulus around us. We barely even think for the most part. It is not as if  those that aren't running are finding the cure for cancer when they are watching Dancing With the Stars.

You see, when I am running, I am often thinking about many things.  Often I think about next to nothing. This does not mean my mind is idle. It means I am concentrating on what I am doing. I am listening to my body. I am paying attention to aches and pains. I am learning more about my form moving through space and how unbelievably different one can feel from one day to the next on the exact same route.

I am not saying I am some great thinker. But I do get many of the ideas for articles I want to write or things I want to do when I am out on a run. I can catalog the day, put things into order, and make decisions for later. Or I can simply get clarity.

And sometimes I don't think a damn thing other than "It feels so good to be able to be out here doing this."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Live Ultimate Run Quarter Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 28th Edition 
1 mile skied, 2750 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 418.35 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Live Ultimate Run Quarter Marathon
Place: Miami Beach, FL
Miles from home: 3257
Weather: 70s; Sunny;Windy; HUMID

My original plan for the Live Ultimate Run was to be a running concierge for Swirlgear, the women’s running apparel company I was working with this weekend.  However, the runner I was supposed to be a concierge to was unable to make the run last minute. As such, I was left with a bit of a quandary.  I wasn’t really ready to “race” a quarter-marathon race but was a bit aimless in my goal.

My friend Hannah mentioned I could help pace her if I wanted to.  Actually, she asked if she could pace off of me which I found funny since presently most of her short distance PRs are faster than mine. I told her I would hold on the best I could but I probably would be staring at her back before too long.

Race morning:

Lots of changes in travel plans in the days before the race had me needing to book last minute accommodations. As such, you can imagine the pickens were slim.  Even though the race would be taking place on the far southern end of South Beach, I was staying way out by the airport. I tried to allow myself enough time to not only navigate through notoriously difficult Miami traffic but also find parking on the equally notorious sparse parking area of Miami Beach.  This was all made much more difficult by me thinking I was out smarting traffic by taking some surface streets that had me facing construction with no visible exit strategy.  Luckily, I navigated my way through all of that to only get stymied by a drawbridge letting some early morning vessel go by. It was really looking like I might not even make the race at all.

Finally through the bridge, I took a gamble on a parking garage that was the closest to the start of the race but very likely filled to the brim. Miraculously I found a spot and soon found my way to the start with minutes to spare.

I found Hannah at the start and while others were worrying about a stiff breeze blowing off of the Atlantic, I was worried about the humidity. “You are sweating already,” a runner said. Check back in a mile if you want to see a waterfall, I thought.

Local fast runner, Bryan Huberty, one of the RDs of the race, was also handling emcee duties.  While I chided him later there is a reason they hire people to do these things, you could tell he was earnest in wanting everyone to enjoy his town.  Before more than a few minutes passed, the countdown to zero happened and we were off.

Mile 1:

Almost immediately I was swallowed up in a group of runners. This quarter marathon grouping also included runners in the 5k, so it was hard not to get swept up in speed you couldn’t possibly maintain for half of a half of a marathon. This mile took runners from the tippytip of South Beach down the infamous Ocean Drive on South Beach. Some major road repairs were going on all over South Beach but this mile was fairly decent. Other sections of town looked like a war zone and I can only imagine the traffic that snarls through them on a regular beach day.  But right now I was only thinking about the river of sweat running down my back.

Hannah mentioned she wanted to go out in about 6:10 or so.  I could see she was going to be much faster than that and bid her adieu. I passed in 6:12; she in 6:01 or so. Bye bye Hannah!

Mile 2:

I am not saying this mile was improperly marked.  I am saying it felt like the longest damn mile of my life. Most of this feeling came from watching the 5k runners in front of me turning around and heading back toward the finish.  Realizing how nice it would be to be done in 18-19 minutes instead of 40-45, I was rather chagrined.  Right after the turnaround for the 5k I heard a pair of feet and a woman slipped by me rather effortlessly. Suddenly we were alone.

Up ahead I could see Hannah pulling away and I could see one, count ‘em, ONE other runner. Man, I was getting crushed. I was just now hoping to finish in the top 10.

Mile 3:

As we turned off of Washington Ave, and in front of the Miami Beach High School , I realized I had run this same stretch in many different races.  But when you only have a thin spit of land to run races on you are
bound to utilize a lot of the same real estate.  I looked to my left as we made a right angle turn and could see a handful of runners not too far behind me.  As my miles began to drop to the high 6s, I expected all of them to be passing me soon.

A right hand turn had runners passing behind the Miami Beach Golf Club.  The female runner in front of me had put some distance in between us but not a sizeable margin. I heard footsteps from behind and was more than surprised when a runner much larger than me appeared. I am not the fastest guy in the world but when it comes to 6’1’’ 180+ pound guys, I don’t usually have a lot of competition.  I figured he would pass on by.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Operation Jack Northwest 6-Hour Run Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 27th Edition 
1 mile skied, 2750 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 411.8 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Operation Jack Northwest 6-Hour Run
Place: Tigard, OR
Miles from home: 14 miles
Weather: Teens-20s; Sunny;Windy; Brrr

A short drive in the morning from my loft to the race, while picking up bestie Shannon to go run around in the cold meant I not only got to sleep in my own bed, I did not have to get up at 4 a.m. to get to the start. Those are rare treats for me I do not unappreciate. (Yup, I made up that word.)

Of course, in the four years of the running of this event (last year's recap) it had never been anywhere close to this cold. It wasn't exactly freezing - it was actually well-below. (Didn't think I was going that way, did you?) But we knew the sun was supposed to shine the entire day and about 85% of each of the barely under one-mile loops would be in that sunlight. (The RD says they were .94; I say they were .96)

In addition, lest anyone think the course was flat, here's a look at the elevation profile of each loop. Not a lot gained or lost per loop, but the ups and downs add up over time (to the tune of 5,600 feet of change for me personally.) Also, for those who felt they were constantly turning left, there were actually 7 left hand turns and 4 right-hand turns of note per loop. If stats you want, I gots them!

With a starting temperature around 19 (and the "feels like" hovering around zero) 52 hardy souls ventured out in support of both burning off some calories and raising money to fight autism, as the race funds would go to Operation Jack, an organization started by my buddy Sam.

My personal goal was to get a 50k in and anything else would be icing on the cake. I paid special attention to the first 20 miles as I wanted to keep them on a nice clip, but after that it would just be running hard when I felt good.

First 20 miles: 2:33:01 (7:09, 7:20, 7:09, 7:26, 7:09, 7:14, 7:12, 7:25, 7:13, 7:16
                                        7:32, 7:02, 7:28, 7:11, 7:14, 7:14, 7:13, 7:21, 7:21, 7:17, 7:25) 

The first 3 loops were probably the best of the day for me. I was in the lead and was enjoying that there weren't that many others to run around.  I like to run as completely zonked out as possible when doing these timed runs (of which I have done more than a few) but one cannot do that if there are other runners to be aware of around you. At the beginning of the fourth lap, I hopped into a portapotty and one runner passed me by. I would spend the next many laps running well within sight of this runner (Keith.)

The day did not exactly warm up as much as it got less brutally cold. On the northwest corner of the loop, which stayed in shade most of the day, a fierce wind would whip up. Almost everywhere else on the loop it was not present but knowing you would be diving into the teeth of this brute each lap was not ideal.

Somewhere in the middle laps a fella I had met at a race a few years ago (Jon) went flying by me. I wasn't sure what method Jon was using but he was sure sprinting a few laps whenever he wanted to (case in point: I had the fastest one-loop run of anyone but Jon in 7:02; Jon ran a 6:33!) However, I routinely found myself catching and passing him. I assumed he was taking long breaks to replenish. The thing is, in ultras, it has been empirically proven that great distances can be covered in short periods of time by periodically resting. You might not win or set a course record but it is all but guaranteed you will do well.

Another bathroom break in the first 20 miles meant I was well-hydrated but gripping body parts in chilly weather is fun for no one. As I passed Shannon one time, she handed me two electrolyte pills.  I had been drinking every three miles or so but mostly just water. Actually, ice water, as it was freezing in the cups the poor volunteers were pouring our drinks into, but at least I was drinking. It is easy to forget to hydrate in races where hydration is so readily available. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Oregon Turkeython Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 26th Edition 
1 mile skied, 2750 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 374.3 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Oregon Turkeython
Place: Tigard, OR
Miles from home: 14 miles
Weather: 40s; Sunny

It has been over two years since I ran a 10k race. However, the last two times I have run one, I set a new PR (even on the course that was waaaaay long.) Since that run,  I have gone the ultra distance way with my 350 mile running of the Oregon Coast and my Dane to Davenport this past fall.  Needless to say, I was not in "sprinters shape" and there would be no PR on this race day.  However, the way to get into that sort of PR shape, is to simply go out and get some. So, even though I knew it would hurt oodles, I decided to take on the Turkeython put on by the local Uberthons group.

The course had something I very much like: loops.  It also had a few things I definitely do not like: hills and crowded runspaces. And because it was 4 loops of a 1.55 mile loop, you would get those hills and crowds for, well, at least the last 3 loops! But Tootie and Natalie always taught me to take the good and take the bad.

Loop 1: 9:36

As the race was run with hundreds of runners but on a relatively narrow runway (just one lane of traffic around a mall) there were waves sent out once every ten seconds or so.  As always I almost always line up a few rows back from the start.  Not many but a few.  Why? Because I am not the fastest guy there and I know it.  When I see people crowd the front who are just going to basically get trampled I want to offer them kindly advice to get the heck out of the way.  It is annoying and dangerous. But I was a bit too chilly this morning so I decided to simply side step them and move in front.   When the big ole bell rang for us to start, I was somewhere in the top 15 runners or so.

We immediately went around a bend and down the biggest downhill of the course. A right angle turn has up immediately going up hill.  Soon there after we had a nice long straightaway which would afford you the next chance to get into a rhythm. It was mildly uphill but nothing like the big ole beast right around the first mile of every loop.

After this it was basically some twists and turns through a parking lot or on the road surrounding the mall then on the way to finish the first loop. Hardly scenic but I could not have cared less. I was running hard and barely breathing. I also knew we had to do these hills three more times.

Loop 2: 10:12

I tightened up a pinch on this loop and felt a little twang of disagreeing-with-what-I-was-doing in my hamstring.  So I decided to ease the throttle a bit and remember I wasn't going to be a hero today.  I was astounded at how many people were keeping ridiculously fast clips.  I always have been and always will be jealous of those blessed with lost of fast-twitch muscles fibers.

As we got near the end of the second loop I heard the quick pitter-patter of short legs.  A little sprite of a girl zipped by me. Some man presumably her father, said something akin to "100 more yards!"  Then I realized that most of the people in front of me were running the 5k.

Doesn't matter: they were still fast.

Loop 3: 10:12

I knew this would be the toughest loop. Right when I started it a youngster appeared by my side.  We would spend the vast majority of then ext two laps pacing each other. Also, this is where the lanes were getting very crowded. Lots of families and people running with friends were doing so maybe three or more abreast.  It was a little dicey to say the least.

On the backend of this loop a car who must have been REALLY eager to get in line for the Black Friday sales the next day, decided to cut in front of me and my young companion.  I had to put a hand out on his chest to make sure he didn't become roadkill.   Almost stopped my race right there to go kick in this guy's fender.

Coming through here I was surprised that I ran the exact same time as I had on the previous loop.  I just needed to run 10:00 for the final loop to get a nice sub40 10k time. Shouldn't bee too hard.

Loop 4: 10:02

Unfortunately, it was harder than I hoped.  Part of that was my legs and lungs not responding the way I had hoped and the other part was the thickening crowds on each lap. Even with all of this I would have at least snuck in under 40 if not for the very last few meters. Each lap had a little split for the 5k and 10k runners to go on each side. It was a tight fit right on a corner.  As I rounded in full sprint, I almost trampled some poor lady who was realizing she was heading down the wrong corral.  My spinning pirouette would have made Baryshnikov proud but that stoppage kept me from sneaking in under my desired time.

Having said that, a 40:02 while hardly speedy, was enough to garner my an age group win. With this being the Oregon Age Group Championship race for the 10k, that means the guy with no fast twitch muscle fibers actually is a state champion in a sprint for a year. Well, how about that.

As I have always said, you can only race who shows up.

As with the Oregon Half Marathon I ran put on by the Uberthons people, the medals for this race were just resoundingly nice.  I have raced and won a 50 miler that had a smaller meal than this beast here. Dang.

Another cool thing about the day was my best friend Shannon setting a new 10k PR just a month after she set a 100k PR.  Now that is range, people!  Here's hoping you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Remember that the fourth Thursday in November is not the only time to take stock of what you have and be thankful.

Never a bad idea to do a little of it each day.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Want Less Muscle Fatigue? Run 200 Miles.

The above is the title of an article I just read and I concur.

In 2010, I ran the American Odyssey Relay, a 202 mile race from Gettysburg, PA to Washington, D.C. Normally meant for teams of 6-12, I eschewed the relay idea and did it all by myself.  I finished it in just a hair over 50 hours. Sixteen days after that I ran a challenging half marathon, at elevation, into some tough winds and took 3rd overall.

I tell you this because of an article I read in Runner's World magazine online. It is not exactly new (it came out in July) but it is one many may not have seen.  Basically, studies conducted on the 205-mile Tor des Geants in Italy found that the 200 mile finishers damaged their bodies less with smaller amounts of inflammation than runners they looked at who ran 50 and 100 mile races.

This, of course (and please read this) does not take into account/realizes it is impossible to decipher MANY factors. For example, we have no idea which 50 or 100 mile races they were looking at for their sample in comparison. Even so, the same 50 or 100 mile race can have vastly different times from year to year, even for the same runners.  So, acknowledging that there are a great deal of caveats in this, I have to say that "the Tor des Geants athletes’ muscle damage and inflammation levels  (are) “much lower” than control subjects" is not something I am surprised about at all. When the researches attribute this to a slower pace and short cat naps, I have to say I have empirically tried it and proven it works.

To begin, my 100 mile finish of the Graveyard 100 last year left me with a respectable 21:55 finish and 12th place overall. There were also three places (miles 44, 65 and 87) where I stopped for a lengthy period of time and in the most cases, napped. At the end of the race, whilst feeling quite tuckered, I felt not nearly as decimated as one might expect from running 100 miles on pavement. (I also incorporated eating full cheeseburgers and other tactical things which work just peachy for me, but that's another story.)

The next weekend I ran a 5k in Georgia, on a course that measured long in a decent time of 19:27. That is hardly a blistering time but remove the extra portions and I went 18:xx on a hilly route just 6 days after finishing a 100 miler. Moreover, the reason I ran the 100 miler the way I did was to prepare for my 350 up the Oregon Coast.

During those 7 days of running along Highway 101, I also fit in hard running, supplemented by small breaks. Even though virtually every day had me doing other duties, like meeting with school kids for speeches or conducting interviews, I was able to get up each day and slog forward at a slower but comfortable pace. All of the above I  the way I did because of knowledge I acquired running the 202 miler.

With no real blueprint training plan out there on how to run 202 miles, I had to invent one.  It was one that constantly changed and had to be manipulated to deal with all the changes that occurred during the run. However, short rests ever 35 miles or so, while acknowledging I would be running at a MUCH slower pace than usual is how I smashed every single expectation I had for myself during the American Odyssey Relay. I took it easy in the beginning, mincing along, especially since the first 1/3 f the race comprised virtually all of the uphill. Then I had more speed and endurance as time went on and was running very quickly when I came out of my rests. Hindsight is 20/20 but all the events I have done since then have shown I utilize breaks very well and come out of them often like a new fresh runner.

What the article does not address is while there might not be a muscle fatigue as great as in other races of shorter distances, these types of runs can leave one with an empty core. What I mean by that is in the three superultras I have done (the 202, the 350 miles in Oregon and the 165 miles over three days with a marathon to boot at the end Dane to Davenport) while the measurable damage may be less, there is this deep-seated exhaustion which permeates through the whole body for weeks and sometimes months. You might have a body which can handle more than expected but you don't have the energy or desire to do much of anything.

Furthermore, according to the article:

"This shows, the researchers note, “that the amount of neuromuscular fatigue is not necessarily correlated to the difficulty of the event (duration and/or elevation).”

Again, this makes complete sense to me.  It is not necessarily the event itself which caused pain and exhaustion but how hard you attack the course. Which is why whenever well-meaning friends and fans tell me a half-marathon will be nothing for me, given what I have accomplished, I tell them anything will hurt if you run it hard enough. In addition, while many are running multiple marathons in one year, I have been told by those in the know, the reason mine stands out is because I was running at, or faster than, my previous capacity throughout the year. (Evidenced by a new PR in the 42nd weekend of the year.) Like all of the above, I got stronger as the day/week/year went on.

So, obviously, running 200 miles isn't for everyone, but chances are something of a similar, but shorter variety, could be yours if you simply re-evaluate your race pace and learn what your body can handle.

(As an aside, the film about my running of the 202 mile American Odyssey Relay is now available for purchase!)

Friday, November 22, 2013

An Updated Look at Cross-Training

The following is an older post I decided to update with some additions at the end:

 I am often asked how much, if any, cross-training I do in my normal routine. For the past few years, the answer was easy: slim to none.

During my 52 Marathons in 2006, I went to the gym a total of two2 times. The entire year. I was deathly afraid of an overuse injury from the gym that I simply did not go. I mean, there were other things keeping me busy that year as well but the fear of of derailing an entire year's worth of marathons by pulling a hammy doing squats kept me out of the gym. Obviously, I could have found ways to minimalize injury but I just decided avoidance was best.

In the past few years I have tried fitting in some other activities here and there but mostly, when I want to exercise, I go for a run. It is just so damn easy and convenient. Put on the shoes and go. Sure, I do some trail running here and there, which to some extent is a type of cross-training but other sports and activities have had to be pushed to the backburner. This has become increasingly true as I now make a living as a runner (so to speak.) When your paycheck relies on your legs, you can't go will-nilly repelling down a cliff or go paragliding on a whim. ( I miss those days.)

Even when I have tried to incorporate some of my old lifestyle (pre-running) back into my current life, I have met with some resistance. For example, I tried to get back into boxing last summer but after just one workout where I too quickly tried to start hitting the heavy bag, I was left with some serious aches and pains that made me swear it off for a while. I know the reason: I had simply come back too fast and too hard. But by the time I had healed I was back into my running routine. No more boxing that summer. Too bad. I have a mean hook.

However, this summer is different I have the USAT National Aquathlon Championships rapidly approaching on August 2nd. and while I was able to win my first and only triathlon on basically no prior swimming at all (report here.) I cannot possibly think I can race at this level just on muscle memory and skills learned 15 years ago.

So back into the pool I have gone. More so than any other sport I have played, it is amazing how quickly you can lose swimming shape. Fortunately, I have been keeping in good shape for the past few years and that I have always been pretty natural as a swimmer. Although I recently was reminded how awful my form was, even in my prime, when my high school swim coach for my senior year found me on facebook and teased me about it. Of course, he then wrote back "But you kept winning. Was hard to get you to change!" And apparently, I raced like Pre in the pool, even if I don't on the track. For example, in districts my senior year, I went out like a bat out of hell and even though I was seeded 5th, was able to make the eventual champion chase me down and beat me but both of us broke the previous district record in doing so.

Which brings me back to the chlorinated track, so to speak. This would mark my 5th workout in about 3 weeks in the pool. While the first few were all about getting my sea legs in me. I felt I could push it a little harder today. Still (surprisingly) reeling from my hill workout yesterday I was feeling a little pain in my left abdominal region and my back. Hoping it is just the hill workout and subsequent ab workout after it I still played it smart and dialed down the intensity.

That said, I was quite pleased to go out and do 5 x 500 yard swims on 7:04, 7:13, 7:04, 7:08 and 6:56 with about 30 seconds rest in between each one. For the runners reading this, that probably means squat. For the swimmers, they probably are thinking "And you call yourself a swimmer?!" But I will have to beg a little forgiveness as I get back into the pool mode.

I at least have done a low 5 minute 500 yard at one time. Sure it was 16 years ago but i felt this was a step in the right direction. And when I don't feel like I could have run 5 miles worth a damn today I was glad to know I could still get a pretty intense workout in the pool and rest my weary legs (because Lord know I never kick, right Coach Ague?)

Besides, how am I supposed to take advice from a guy who let me wear a Jimmy Buffet t-shirt for a photo-op?

And hey CJ and Jon. Remember how we revered the guys as gods whose 9-year-old record we broke? Well, we have now held it for nearly twice as long. Now go get in the pool, both of you. I have no doubt your strokes are as deteriorated as mine!


I wrote the above over four years ago. Since that time I have had two bad bike crashes messing up both shoulders (2009 and 2012). I have tried to take my cross-training to different directions but I always come back to running.  Even when I cycled a bit to compete in a couple of Ironman 70.3s, it was barely more than a handful of times. While I have gotten to the pool more frequently, it is still a bit of a hassle.  Running is just so much easier to go and do.

However, as I have finished running a few of my more challenging long-distance running adventures including the solo running of the American Odyssey 202 mile race, the 350 mile run along the coast of Oregon and this Fall's Dane to Davenport, I have decided to once again try to supplement my running. November will be, I am guessing, the least amount of miles I have run in six months. I have once again started going to the pool and once again been boxing. I even have gone to the gym in what has to be the first time in five years.  My legs had been giving me some problems that I don't think running alone was going to fix.  So I decided to try something new to make them better.

That's just it about exercise and life. You never know it all and when you think you do, something changes. I am always learning and experimenting. I do stand by my feeling I have held for a long time that the best way to become a better runner is to run better. Seems simple but it is true.  Now, sometimes, "running better" means to take time off from running. Rest, recover, get stronger. Sometimes it means to charge full-force into the breach.  It is a constant give and take. Like life.

Anyone who tells you they have all the answers about how to get better is simply trying to sell you something. Don't buy it. I have run 146 marathons in my life and I know I do not know everything.  But I do know I am always doing what I can to figure out what works best for me.

You should too.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Response to Chad Stafko's Article that Runners Need to Get Over Themselves

OK, you wrote an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal (online). Get over it.

In case you missed it, the apparently (and unsurprisingly jowly), Chad Stafko, wrote an article about runners getting over themselves.  I saw it and immediately knew runners would (mostly rightfully) get upset upon reading the piece. But I wanted to read it with an open mind and see if he had any valid points.  I looked hard and I found a few.

Without a doubt, there are runners out there who run specifically to get attention.  They want the medals and the accolades and the facebook pictures to post. Granted, they are far outnumbered by those who do not seek to only run for attention and not the other way around as Mr. Stafko tries to concede in his “OK, I know, this isn't the case for all runners” ending. 

But here’s the thing, Mr. Stafko.  Let’s say that these people are only about getting attention through running. They somehow need to be reaffirmed by their friends and family because of some need or desire to feel like they have achieved.  Let’s say this is the one and only reason they are out there running. The ONLY thing they want is that bumper sticker to show off their running prowess.  In this scenario I am taking your diatribe and amplifying it to the nth degree. There can be nothing else in their intentions except the wanton need for the pat on the back. To which, I say, so?

What a splendid way to be narcissistic! Bettering their own health by being active. Lowering the cost of health care by doing their part not to be sick. Taking up less space and consuming less natural resources by exercising solely by locomotion. And that is the WORST case scenario!

What is a slightly better case scenario? Maybe these people are overcoming an addiction and this is how they deal with those cravings.  Maybe they are trying to put behind them the loss of a loved one and this is the way they cope. Perhaps they are trying to inspire others to chase their own dreams and leave behind the naysayers who don’t believe they can do things on their own.

You ask “Why would someone want to get up at 5 a.m. and run 10 miles adorned with fluorescent tape to avoid being struck by someone who has the good sense to use a car for a 10-mile journey?” which misses the point on so many levels.
1.    I hate getting up at 5 a.m. to go for a run. I avoid it at all costs. I run in the afternoon or the evening.  Or whenever.
2.    Nevertheless, some people have to run then as that is when they can fit it into their life with a job, children, etc.
3.    Regardless of what time they are running it is not to get from Point A to Point B in the quickest way possible or they would take the car. Instead, the “journey” has a multitude of actual reasons other than traversing the distance.

Look, obviously, I like running.  But I didn’t always. Football is my favorite sport.  I boxed Golden Gloves.  I played rugby in college. You know, all those real man sports. Then I begrudgingly took up running.  Didn’t like it right away. Actually, I loathed it. Then I realized how freeing and wonderful it is.  I found a niche.  I travelled the world.  And now I get to use my sport to better people directly and indirectly.

You say it is easy to spot the runners? Perhaps. They are often the ones with grey hair and wrinkled skin from years of exploring the world outdoors. They are the heavy ones who used to be much heavier.  They are the thin ones, the muscular ones, the old and the young, the people who are living life vicariously through themselves. In other words, they are everyone.

I’d mail you a copy of my book so you could see what I mean but apparently reading about running is the equivalent to masturbation. One thing we definitely need less in this world is people reading. Egads!

Here’s the thing: the only thing runners really need to get over is the next hill. Come join us, Chad.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Santa Barbara International Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 25th Edition 
1 mile skied, 2750 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 368.1 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Santa Barbara International Half Marathon
Place: Santa Barbara, CA
Miles from home: 943 miles
Weather: 50-60s; Sunny

I have run either the Marathon or 13.1 distance at Santa Barbara four of the past five years only missing in 2011 when I was contractually obligated to be elsewhere. I don't run the race because it is easy (it is not.) I run it because the race it well-run, honors our Veterans, and, well, is a nice place to be in November.

One of the few complaints I have is the elevation profile given by the website. It is a tad misleading to the average joe. Which is why I am showing you here what you can expect to run when you take on the half marathon. Like Tucker and Dale, you are in for a doozy of a day.

As you can see, you have a few hills to contend with and I will break them down for you in my recap of this race. In addition, what would make this a different race than usual for me would that I would be carrying a US Flag to honor our Vets.  I have carried the flag once before, on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and knew what I had in store for me. I only wish I had constructed my flagpole a little better.

Race Morning: 

The morning of the race I was fortunate enough to have my friend and fellow Team Beef member, Carin, pick me up at my hotel and take me to the start of the race. We got there with just enough time to hit the bathrooms and get ready for the race to start. Carin was hoping for a sub-2 hour half and it was her comment earlier about looking at the elevation profile and thinking it was a "flat" race that prompted me to mention it above.

Moments before the start of this race, I realized that the two pieces of thin flagpole that were simply slung together in the middle were probably not sturdy enough to survive the race. I ran over to a friend who I knew had some tape on him and seconds before I lined up, I had Old Glory seemingly ready to go.

First Three Miles: 6:22, 6:49, 6:32

All I hoped to do on this day was to run strong, show support for our Veterans and survive what might be my last race of 2013. I also wanted to stay out of as many people's way as possible.  As such, I would stay off to the side of the race course, not running the tangents and keeping my flapping flag out of the face of my competitors. When the first three miles went by in a rather surprising time, I thought perhaps I had a chance of breaking my flag-running PR set back in 2011 at the aforementioned race in Chicago. Given the fact I was facing even more technical problems with my flag was very impressive as well.  I had not pulled the zip ties connected to the grommets of the flag to the pole tight enough and it was continually sliding.  Right before the end of the third mile, after simply trying to push the flag back into position and move forward, I grabbed the nub of the zip tie I had not cut off and pulled it as tight as possible with my teeth. It finally seemed to work.

Luckily, these first three miles are simple to run with just a little bit of elevation change. After the first 2.5 miles run on city streets, you pop onto a bicycle path which, if just for a half of a mile or so, technically leaves Santa Barbara and into Goleta (thank you, Google maps!)

To the 10k: 7:14, 7:03, 7:16

I have said it before and someday I will learn why, but bicycle paths always wear me out.  Today was no different. Even though I had solved my flag problems and could concentrate my energy on running, I soon found I had little energy to run with.  Knowing there were a series of hills coming up at miles 6-8, I felt if I was feeling tired right now, I had better slow it down a touch.  Here and there a runner would pass me and compliment me on running with the flag.  It always seemed to come along right when I was feeling the most weary and I would perk right up.  I had learned from the previous time running with the flag to add a cloth handle of some sort to the pole as my sweaty hand would make it rather difficult to hold. In addition, if the handle was too thin, I would exhaust my hand trying to hold it tightly. Even having tried to solve this problem, I nonetheless, had to switch hands every once in a while as my shoulder would start to burn.

Nevertheless, the bike path running would continue until mile 5.5 when we would finally jump out onto the city streets again.  I felt a little stronger here and did my best to take in fluids. It was a gorgeous day but already far too hot for a heavy sweater like myself. A few spectators had made it out to the bike paths (although very few left the comforts of their own homes to step outside and cheer.  This is a big point of contention with me. If I had a race go by my front yard, I would be out cheering people on like crazy.  In fact, I have. Often.)

A slightly slower 6th mile had me hoping I had saved some energy for the hills.

Onto Mile 10: 7:30, 7:07, 6:36, 7:31

Coming out of the neighborhood, we made a sharp right and immediately began a climb.  So many remember the final hill's climb from previous years they tend to forget about the two rises and drops during these next few miles.  As we began the climb up the first of two roller coaster hills in a mile or so, the wind which always seems to be every-present in Santa Barbara varying only in severity, picked up a touch.  My flag whipped back and forth and looked rather elegant.  It made that wonderful snapping noise that flags make in wind and it actually made it sound like a runner was right on my heels. The wind also damn near bent the skinny flag pole in half and I had to start carrying it with two hands to keep it from snapping. Ruh-roh. Seven more miles of this might get a touch tiring.

As my pace slowed here and there, fighting the wind and the hills with no arms to pump, a runner would pass me occasionally.  All had kind words to say whether it was about my effort or the flag. One gentleman said something, looked at me and said, "You're THAT guy!"  I agreed with him knowing full well what he met (I had spoken to him briefly at the expo) but didn't have much of a witty comeback other than "Yep, I am that guy."  As he pulled away he just said "52.  Wow."

Running down a hill, I can usually make up time on virtually anyone.  But my legs were simply exhausted and sore.  Not used to this happening so early into a race, I just decided that the difference between a 1:29 and a 1:31 or whatever was not worth looking bad holding the flag.  It is amazing how much straighter and truer you run when you are carrying your nation's colors. I am not sure I would consider myself an enormous patriot but as much as is wrong with our country, I do love it.  I love those who serve and protect us and allow, as I say, goof-offs like myself to play around on weekends knowing we are about as safe as is possible in a dangerous world.

Back up another hill and then down another, the crowds grew a little more dense. I would hear clapping as I passed and would raise the flag as high as I could. The clapping and cheering got louder and it urged me forward. As we passed under an overpass, I heard the feet of a female runner approaching me. It is always interesting how not only the footfalls but the breaths of women differ so much from men.  Perhaps I have just run a lot of races but they are so distinctly different.  It reminded me of me running this marathon back in 2010 when I was joined by a woman running the full and decided to help pace her into a time she was hoping to get. However, this time I didn't have the energy to do much more than hold onto this girl's coattails.

I knew there was one more small rise before a nice long downhill.  I put my head down and pushed. Making up some ground on a few runners and passing a few who had been in front of me left me feeling vindicated and knowing I had run the course the best way possible until now. This trip down Los Positas Road left us mostly in the shade. This was good because I needed a break from the penetrating sun.  It was bad because, and I think I am remembering meteorology correctly, air travels from high pressure to low pressure so it was rushing out of the shadow of the colder darker air to the sunnier drier air to the right of us. All that means was my flag was a flying. Again, it became a two-hand affair and all momentum was lost.
Credit: Simon Ibsen
Then there was Cliff Drive.

Heading home: 8:06, 7:06, 6:51, :53 

As I made my way down this last bit of hill, one runner said as I passed him "I am just going to try to hang with you."  I told he was welcome to do so but chances are he would pass me on the next monster of a climb.  I think, however, he was just wishfully thinking as he soon fell out of sight.

This marks the fourth time I have run Cliff Drive in this race and it never gets an easier. At least knowing it is there helps keep the "Will this EVER end?" thoughts out of my mind. As I pushed hard up the hill, my friend Chase, a Maintenance Officer at the Arizona Army National Guard came up beside me. I told him I would love to run with him but I didn't have the energy to keep up.  Chase ran this race last year on a wonky ankle so bettering his time today was huge on his list. He ran a stellar time, beating me by over a minute in these last three miles.

When you finally reach the top of this beast, you are almost in the clear.  You do a quick little snake of right turn left turn and then one tiny little hill awaits you.  I hate this damn hill.  But then you turn and within seconds are treated to a glorious view of the ocean and a long gradual downhill to the finish. Even more glorious is the last mile is adorned with flag after flag, put out to honor our veterans by the local ROTC.  Members are there to hand a small flag to every runner who wants one and I can't imagine anyone turning them down.  As I ran by I heard of them say "I am guessing he doesn't need this."

As the course flattens, you head toward Santa Barbara City College and finish on their track.  I had made a reference to the fact that I disliked how the course zig-zagged a little before entering the track a few years ago in my race report here and I readied myself for that twisting.  Much to my delighted surprised, that portion was removed and just a lap on the track remained. I am not saying that I caused it but I am taking credit for it in my head anyway.

Onto the track I went and proudly raised the flag as high as I could. Two guys behind me saw this as an opportunity to pass me in the last 10 yards and I can't really begrudge them of it.  A race is a race until you cross the finish.  However, knowing I had a little more ornamentation on me, I decided to not try to push it to the finish with them, potentially poking out an eye.

All told, a solid effort on the day with a time of 1:32:57 and 77th overall is what I netted. I had more than a few friends run very solid times on this course which just impresses me to no end. It is not the most difficult course out there but it is not easy.  To run well on this means you really do like to climb some hills.  But no matter how tired I got, I knew what I was doing was a cakewalk compared to what our soldiers went through in combat and what many of them go through after returning home. This was my miniscule attempt at trying to say thank you to all of them.

So, thank you, Veterans.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Terrible Boston Marathon Halloween Costume (and Getting Over It)

So some young girl went and did something stupid.  Then a group of people went and did something far worse and illegal.

In case you missed it, Alicia Ann Lynch dressed up as a wounded Boston Marathon runner. Tasteless and tacky. Then "the internet" attacked her en force in a way that should be reserved for people who have actually done pretty heinous things. They sent her and her family death threats. They found nude pictures of her and posted them online. The vitriol got so bad that she apparently lost her job over the incident and deactivated all her social media accounts before pleading with people to leave her family out of it and let her take the heat.

Here's the thing about being young and dumb - it's allowed.  In fact, every one of us were both at one point and many are still the latter. Raise your hand if you haven't done something probably considered tasteless and stupid once in your life. I am guessing few if any of you have probably moved your hand from the mouse or keypad.

But being young and dumb doesn't give others the right to do many of the things listed above in an act of supposed retaliation. Believe me, as a human with compassion, I was definitely taken aback by the hubris of the girl.  As a runner, I thought about tweeting something along the lines of "You are an idiot." I was very affected by the attacks at the Boston Marathon as I penned in a post that even Boston Magazine picked up. However, I am more affected by the stupidity and heinous acts of members of our own Congress. You know, people who can shape legislation? People who are not 22 years old and are supposed to have out best interests at heart and seem to rarely do so.

Yet in spite of my feelings about the stupidity of Ms Lynch's costume I would have never thought about going to lengths many did in trying to "shame" her.  In fact, I have often felt that "shaming" is one of those terms which is so overused these days (like "bullying") that it is on the verge of having no meaning anymore. Having said that, when you send death threats, post private information and generally try to mess with someone's life, that is an actionable offense. (I know. I have dealt with a couple of idiots who feel their "anonymity" is protecting them when they have tried to say lies about me. Guess what?  It won't.)

These internet vigilantes think the have done some service when that is hardly the case. They will go back to their lives the next day and not even care about the carnage they left behind them. It is one thing to call the person a racist or tacky person or anything else on the lines of free speech. But to actually try to cause irreparable harm to a person and their reputation is pure lunacy. In fact, as I mentioned, while Ms. Lynch was stupid, she did nothing illegal. Those retaliating against her have indeed. The thing about free speech is that when you protect it, you protect it most for the people who have polar opposite viewpoints (Yes, even the racist, ignorant, slovenly, slack-jawed bigot of a mother who dressed her 7 year old as a member of the KKK.)

More so, if the incident she unwisely chose to mock has shown us anything, it is that violent, angry responses are exactly what caused the bombing in the first place and they are not the answer. Fortunately for Ms. Lynch, the rapid speed with which news is digested in today's world will mean she is a forgotten sidenote by next week. Hopefully she can learn a little about what to do in the future. But moreover, hopefully others will learn that their reactions were far worse and did zero to solve the problem.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Live Ultimate Run / Partnership with Swirlgear

This December I will be getting a guaranteed PR at the Live Ultimate Run in South Beach. How do I know that? Because I will be running a race distance I have never done: the quarter-marathon. A little quirky perhaps but really so are most race distances to begin with when you get right down to it. Either way, instant personal best. Near the beach. In the winter. As my gift to you, I have finangled a code, "TRAVEL10" to get you 10% off your registration. 
You're welcome. Now go use it!

Also, I am very happy to be working at this event with a company called Swirlgear. From their own tagline, this is a “specialty women's running apparel brand that celebrates the individual spirit of active, discerning and motivated women.” 

Now, why in the sam hell am I working with a company that makes women's running apparel? Well, it goes to the fact that I have been championing women’s involvement in running for as long as I have been donning running shoes. In fact, I dedicate an entire chapter in my book 138,336 Feet to Pure Bliss to how women have not only helped create the running world we live in today, but have kept it from stagnating and regressing. Many of the innovations and changes we take for granted in the races we participate in exist due in large part to the inclusion of women in our sport. 

As such, working with a company such as Swirlgear which is about creating new and exciting products to support this demographic while not charging an arm and a leg to do so, is a no-brainer. I have seen their products at expos nationwide and on runners out and about while running. More importantly, I have dealt with the people who are involved with moving this company forward and they are where this partnership begins. 

This is why we are going to create a contest for the Live Ultimate Run in South Beach in which one winner will get the VIP treatment during this race (I think they should call it the "Dash with Dane" but chances are they will come up with a better name.) As their own personal running concierge, I will help pace them from start to finish, providing funny anecdotes, advice and maybe even a little bit of my residual sweat (which I am apologizing for in advance.) In addition, this lucky winner is going to be totally decked out in Swirlgear apparel. Dang! I can think of few better places to get your sweat on than South Beach in December while rockin' some new duds. 

But hold tight loyal readers! Even if you don't get selected as the grand prize winner, I have also been able to work with Swirlgear to get you a 10% off code as well.  Like above, it is "TRAVEL10" and this will knock 10% off your purchases at their website.  Guess what has two thumbs and will like that deal?  You! (Unless of course you have one or less thumbs in which case you will still like that deal. Also, I am sorry about your thumbs.)

So, register for the race, pay attention to Swirlgear's website and social media to find out how to be the lucky winner and then get ready for an awesome personal best in a fantastic place while your friends are freezing back home! 

Let's take out talents to South Beach.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Too Young to Run?

A few weekends ago I was in Boise for the City of Trees Half Marathon.  There, a local girl, Emma Strommen was about to take on one of her numerous half-marathon finishes. She ended up running a 2:17 at the tender age of seven.  Then about a week or so ago a 6 year old ran a half marathon in slightly over 3 hours (2:47 for those scoring at home, or even if you are alone.)  Then this past weekend at the Javelina Jundred in Arizona, not only did Colby Wentlandt, age 12 run his THIRD 100 mile race, (finishing juuuuust under the wire in 29:49) but a young girl named Teegan Redden finished the 100k.  Teegan is 8.


As with every time a young person does something of tremendous difficulty, the two sides come out with ideas of how young is too young to push their limits. My definitive, all-encompassing answer to this which will settle all bets is:

It depends.

That is not a cop out.  It really and truly depends on too many factors to adequately address the over-arching question without hedging the answer so much that one needn't bother opening their mouth. I mean, is it that much worse to have kids running long distances at age 10 or have them playing in sports that force them to be on constant travel teams when they are the same age.  How about gymnastics? A sport so tough on the female body that it suppresses them actually going through puberty because of restrictions on diet, weight etc.  That's better? But every Olympics, for a solid week, we are subjected to yet another assortment of high flying pixies who are only hoping they don't slip and fall at the wrong time and become a meme.  Right, McKayla?
What I found most telling about this last instance was hearing the usual boo birds coming out of the woodwork who were, once again, far removed from the actual incident. (In a seemingly unrelated but hang-with-me-a-second note, if you are a football fan, you saw how last weekend Dez Bryant of the Cowboys was given all sorts of hell for a seeming tirade in front of his QB, Tony Romo.  Well, film just released show that not only was Bryant not being a prima donna, he was actually all kinds of excited and positive. Yet, people no where near the situation had no problem voicing their opinions.  See how I brought that back around?  Thanks for sticking with me.) However, I was there and with ample time on my hands, I decided to watch and observe.

As there are differing opinions on whether this kind of running is good for the physical health of a young developing child,  I decided to focus on the other parts I could observe. I was most curious if these runners looked like they wanted to be out there doing this.  In other words, were they being pushed to do this by parents who were living their dreams through their children (and oft-heard lament.) Obviously they were going to be receiving all kinds of accolades and positive reinforcement from the impressed runners there so seeing if they were just happy when they passed through the masses would not be enough.

Credit: Caleb Wilson fortclinch100.com
As luck would have it, I was positioned in a place, writing on my laptop, that allowed me to be in direct view of both Teegan and Colby when they came in from their respective loops. After the cheers from the crowd, both were quickly out of view and being tended to by their crew or loved ones. They seemed content, relaxed and happy. There were zero signs of lack of desire, no external pressing from their families to push forward and just a general, underlying ease about them both.

Obviously this is hardly a double blind study by a certified social psychologist but I have a pretty firm grasp on human behavior. These kids were absolutely stoked to be out here doing this. They were being taken care of well, they were enjoying pushing their limits and they had obviously done the training necessary to complete these tasks. If they are doing harm to their bodies, it truly hasn't shown. It can't possibly be any more harmful than being fat and lazy. I heard one person say that allowing them to run was "woefully irresponsible, bordering on child abuse." Ironically, the person saying this is, let's say, overweight. I wonder if being overweight is more or less woefully irresponsible than allowing children to push their boundaries.

I posted something the other day on Facebook about how the vast majority of people have no problem being vehemently in favor for or against something of which they have little to no understanding of.  This confuses me to no end. This instance of young children running is a perfect example. I do not have the answer as to what is too young. I also know enough not to impose my wants/desires on others, especially when I am no where near involved enough with each circumstance to know the specifics.

Remember, there was a time not too long ago when women were considered too frail by many to be able to run longer than 800 meters around the track. Women didn't run a marathon in the Olympics until 1984. NINETEEN FRICKING EIGHTY-FOUR. Citing one study over another saying this may damage developing bodies is hogwash. There are plenty of studies that say I should have no knees after doing 52 Marathons in 52 weekends (or 202 miles straight. Or 350 miles in one week.) Look at the picture above. These kids were happy. These kids are healthy. These kids are hopefully the fit ones who will be taking care of our old butts in the future.

So, when is it too young to run? I will tell you. In the womb. 

There you just have to swim.