Sunday, September 28, 2014

How a Sub-2 Hour Marathon Will Happen

(N.B. Nike is now trying to do this very thing, here, three years after I wrote this article in their Sub-2 Project.  Read more here.)

In case you missed it, the men’s world record in the marathon fell (again) at the Berlin Marathon. The time for Kenyan runner Dennis Kimetto?  2:02:57. For the math-declined, that’s a 4:41 minute mile average.

As runners, we sometimes throw around numbers and times of elite runners without the proper weight attached to them.  The most wonderful thing about running is that everyone can do it. Unfortunately, because everyone can, sometimes the otherworldlieness of the elites can be lost. Therefore, I am going to state that pace again just to reiterate how amazing it is. Four minutes and forty-one seconds per mile. On average. For twenty-six point two miles in a friggin’ row.

Non-runners cannot fathom how fast that is. For non-runners, a marathon itself is unbelievable. For slower runners, a 3:10 marathon is just as unbelievable as a 2:10 marathon.  For faster runners, sometimes we get caught up in the accolades of winning an age group or even a race here and there and think our talents are just slightly below the elites. But one thing I learned as my own personal marathon time went under three hours and eventually hit 2:49 was that the faster I run, the slower I realize I am. My PR is now 46 minutes slower than the world record. In my fastest marathon ever, I would have been about three feet in front of mile 19 when Kimetto crossed the finish. Egads.

I used to love the fact that my personal best started with a “2” because I could joke that I was still in the same hour as the world record. However, I don’t think I will be able to say that for very much longer.

In spite of what many (including those who have forgotten more than I know about running) have said leading into this race, I have zero doubt that a sub-2 hour marathon will happen.  I also think it will happen in the next decade to fifteen years. Let me give you a few reasons why.

1.    Records fall when psychological barriers are eliminated.  If you have never beaten your brother playing basketball, that fact gets in your head. Trying to best him will get progressively harder the more often you lose, even if everything else (e.g., skill levels) stay constant. With running, if you have never beaten a runner who also happens to hold a world record, chances are you will convince yourself you can never run that fast. However, there are so many new faces and younger runners taking on the marathon, most do not have that years-long defeat streak to say, Haile Gebrselassie.  As such, the mind-game defeating them before they get to the starting line is not there.

2.    Records fall in bunches. Part of the reason for records falling constantly is a herd mentality of training. The African dominance in running as of the past twenty years is due in part to the fact that the cogs of the machine are interchangeable. Whoever wins, wins. There are no great hopes pinned to the chest of a few runners like Ryan Hall or Dathan Ritzenhein in the United States. Going back to my first point, if someone you know you can run and train with on a daily basis is breaking records, then you think you can do the

3.    Science and technology continue to allow humans to get the absolute best out of their performance.  Included in this is the undeniable fact that some athletes may be illegally enhancing their performance.  Although what is or should be legal is a gray area. For example, why LASIK is legal in baseball but not steroids when both are artificial means of enhancing performance is something that sticks in my craw. With running, you can sleep in an oxygen tent to increase the oxygen- carrying capacity of your blood (very akin to blood doping differing mainly only in that the latter increases the amount of red blood cells in your blood) with no repercussions. But that is another article. My point is that we continue to learn more about how to train, rest, recover and train harder as each passing day goes by. There is no reason to believe this won’t continue.

I will readily admit that 173 more seconds is a lot of time to drop.  However, Kimetto’s record was 26 seconds faster than the previous world record. Yes, it would take six more efforts of someone bettering the world record by the same mark in order for the marathon to be under two hours. But it is not out of a reasonable realm of possibility to think this speed will continue. The world record has fallen by 62 seconds in the last 6 years. It has gone down by 41 seconds in just the past three years. Granted, it is entirely possible the record will go through a drought like it did most recently from 1988 to 1998 when no one broke lowered the mark at all.  But when Ronaldo da Costa finally did take down Belayneh Dinsamo world record he did so by a full 45 seconds.

Someone running a marathon under two hours would have to do so no slower than 4:34.57 per mile. That’s nearly 7 seconds per mile faster than the world record set in Berlin today. When you go into the tenths and hundredth of a second one is usually talking about a 100-yard dash. We have to do that for the sprints because the human body reaches a maximum speed and it soon becomes obvious that times will need to be measured in smaller and smaller increments. Until we don’t.

When Usain Bolt broke the 100 meter world record (way back in 2009) he did so by beating the current
world record by a full tenth of a second.  When your race is only 9+ seconds long, one tenth of a second is a lot of time (It has taken 31 years for the record to go down just two tenths of a second prior to Bolt.) Until Bolt came along many thought we might have to go into thousandths of a second to differentiate between new world records.  Bolt has shown that every time humans think that we have gone as high, fast or hard as possible, someone will show you that you haven’t seen anything yet. Apropos of nothing, Bolt's record was also set in Berlin. Hmmm.

As the world becomes more globally connected, massive amounts of the population have potential access to the rest of what we take for granted. Who knows how many potential Einsteins or Michael Jordans have been lost to war or famine in places where the basics of life are not so basic. There are undoubtedly untapped riches in the field of athletics as well. One of those kids, or one of the people they help push, will someday take down the two hour barrier.

And I am guessing they will do so at the Berlin Marathon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Third Portland Summer in the Books

Since it is officially fall I can say, with all due apologies to Green Day, summer has come and passed. My third full summer in Portland is now over. 

When I first thought about moving to PDX back in 2010, I had misgivings. You always hear about how rainy and dreary it is. Months and months of gloom are only punctuated by perhaps a few weeks of sunny weather hear and there.  As someone who hates to race in the sun, I still love to run and live in it. So I decided to scout the area out by planning a few gigs in the area to both run and check out the scenery (re: weather.)

Every trip here produced fantastic weather. But my local friends always said "Yeah, don't get used to this." or "This is a fluke. It will rain tomorrow." Fortunately, after nearly four decades on Earth I have learned that most people have their head firmly up their ass. So when the time came to finally make the jump, I ignored their warnings. I was Portland bound.

I am not exactly sure if I am breaking some Portland code by telling you this but the weather here is absolutely fantastic. Sure, it rains but to speak like a 14 year old girl, it doesn't rain rain. But you don't need to believe me. Check out this nifty website that allows you to check different cities annual rainfall against each other.  Time and time again, Portland has fewer inches of rain than its supposed other cities.  Yeah, it has more gray days than some might like and the rain lingers during the winter, but having grown up in NW Pennsylvania, I will take some cold rainy weather over frosty, icy, horrific snow any day of the week.  In fact, Erie, PA was the snowiest city in America last winter and that is just some 40 miles away from where I grew up. I'll take the rain.

Today, in Portland, it rained a little bit and then has been grey most of the day (N.B. Because I can't decide if I want to go with "gray" or "grey" I am deciding to use the both.) Then I heard on the news that it was the rainiest day in Portland since June. June! But if you ask my friends, Portland is a mucky land of dreariness and wet. OK, fine. All I know is that for running, I have picked one awesome city.

Then again, most cities are awesome for running. When runners learn I live in Portland, they say, almost without fail "Well, that's a great city for running." It is. But so was Salt Lake City, my last home. Before that, I lived right outside of Washington D.C., in Arlington, VA.  That area is so wonderful for running that I credit it with kindling my interest in the sport.

The more I travel the more I realize how much virtually every place is wonderful for running. This realization has finally brought me to the point that I want other runners to know how much awesome is out there as well. Within the next few weeks, I am going to be unveiling a partnership with an awesome company which will help me further every runner's knowledge of the great places to run in America (and hopefully the world.) 

Stay tuned for more information!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Karhu Fast5 Fulcrum Review

Full Disclosure: I am a Karhu-sponsored athlete so you can take this review (as you should with anything) with a gain of salt. Then again, if you have read anything I have written you would know I pull no punches in any of my reviews. In addition, I am working with the companies I work with because their products are phenomenal. So naturally those products will almost always be great. Finally, I think I once said something mean about a girl in 5th grade that wasn't true. (I said "full disclosure".)

I excitedly received my Karhu Fast5 Fulcrum the other day. I say excitedly because while receiving new shoes in the mail is akin to Chrismahanukwanzakah for runners, lately my inability to not run without pain has dampened my spirits. However, after my 150th marathon last week, wherein on little training I eked out a decent, I am once again excited to lace up my shoes.

Sliding into the Fast5 was like sliding into every other Karhu shoe. It just felt nice. It didn't feel overly-techy or too frilly. What I have loved about Karhu shoes from the get-go of working with them is the shoes have this je ne sais quoi. You lace them up and you think "Now, that's a shoe."

My first run in the Fast5 was my Bridge Run in Portland which, while on all road, features more than a few ups and downs. As this run is mostly on city streets with some right-angle turns here and there, you get plenty of feel for the shoe and how it will respond. Taking a shoe out on a soft buttery trail or something where you won't get the real-feel for it doesn't make much sense. You have to test a shoe where you plan on using it.

The Fast5 did not disappoint in that or any subsequent runs (admittingly there have only been three total.)  I did push them through some quick intervals around the Mt. Tabor Reservoir and also through some half trail/half sidewalk loops of Laurelhurst Park. In other words, I took these shoes through everything that you would normally run them through. The open air messh upper breathed as well as other Karhu shoes and the padded heel protected me (a heel striker) from some of the roots, stones or debris on the streets.

I would not necessarily race in them even though they are far from heavy (coming in at 10.4 ounces) but if I did I am sure there would be no problem. That said, the Fast5 are more of a neutral training shoe, providing good cushioning and a stable platform. But I can see me putting many good training miles in with them and being extremely happy.

Checkout more info about the shoe itself and get yourself a pair from Krhu's website here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Tunnel Lite Marathon Recap (and a quick look back at 149 others)

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 9; 14th Edition 
191.3 miles run in 2014 races
Race: The Tunnel Lite Marathon
Place: North Bend, WA
Miles from home: 186 miles
Weather: 40-60s; bright sunshine

3933 miles of marathons. That's the number of miles in 150 separate 26.22 milers (amazing how much those .22 add up when you multiply them by 150.) That is also the number of miles of marathons I have run.  More or less.

I learned long ago that milestones like this are rather arbitrary. It all depends on how you decide to count things. First of all, I ran the Green Bay Marathon in 2012 when they black flagged it in heat. I finished it, walking the last 5k as we were told it was canceled. Upon completion, I received a text message with my time. After some thought, I realized it shouldn't count as a marathon. In January, I ran the fastest marathon distance around a cruise ship ever recorded. But that didn't really count either. Yet both of those count or don't count because of a set of rules I decided upon. Then again, everything only counts based on a set of rules we decide upon, if you think about it.

The Tunnel Lite Marathon was, however, not even going to be what I considered my 150th marathon.  That was going to be in two weeks in Huntsville, Utah. Then I partially tore my Achilles tendon about five weeks ago. The reason I chose the Huntsville Marathon was because I knew it would suit my strengths (downhill running) and was run partially on the same course I have set a personal best on twice previously. Go with what you are best at, right? But as I was planning on using Huntsville to set a new PR, which the torn Achilles threw out the window, I decided I needed at least a warm up race.  The Tunnel Lite Marathon popped into my head.

First and foremost, I love how the name of the race is "The" Tunnel Lite Marathon. Like how the band called "Eagles" does not have "The" in front of it but "The Edge" of the band U2 does. I can honestly tell you that kept my mind preoccupied for at least a mile yesterday as I ran this race.

Honestly, this won't be much of a recap of the event itself.  If you want to know more about this race, you can look at my Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon recap here (notice there is no "The" at the start of its name.)  It is the exact same course just run at a different time of year.  The main difference between the two is that, historically, this race is cooler. It wasn't that much cooler for us this year but I am sure I will touch on that.

My goals for this race were to simply run as hard as I can and make sure the Achilles didn't injure more. Note well, if I had thought I would injure myself running this race, I never would have started. I can guarantee that virtually every one reading this does not have any race so important that they must injure themselves to start and/or finish it. I have zero problem not running or finishing a race if it will be detrimental to my health.  But I had a feeling I was good to go in this race.

I hoped to get a Boston qualifier as my minimum time goal with an outside chance of going sub-3. Given I toed the line at the heaviest I have ever run a marathon (I don't know the exact weight but for it was much higher than ideal for a fast marathon attempt), I knew that might be tough. The cool 45 degree starting temperature before the tunnel was helpful. I had recently looked back at my race history and realized it had been about two straight years of racing for me where the temperature for the race was either at or higher than expected for that day of the year. I hate racing in the heat.

In addition, I have had a tough time with running in general lately.  I finished my 350 mile run up the Oregon Coast about two years ago.  My running after that was fine but slowish, as expected while I recovered. Then I crashed my bike in a training ride for the Boise 70.3.  Since then, my running has taken a nosedive. A litany of injuries, all seemingly stemming from that bike crash stymied progress. Only a new personal best in the Mt. Nebo half marathon (on a day when I could have easily chopped 3 more minutes if I was in actual good running shape) has been a shining moment in my running.  Since that crash I have only run 11 marathons and only 3 of those were Boston Qualifying times. Two of them were on this course. (Spoiler alert.)

When I crossed the line in 7th place overall in a time of 3:06:58, I was quite happy. I achieved a Boston Qualifying time for the tenth straight year. The time was 17 minutes slower than my personal best but I had no major complaints. I hadn't run anything close to a long training run in three months. The weather, while cool at the start, came from a cloudless sky.  The course was mostly shaded but when it wasn't the sun beat down. In the last 6 or 7 miles, it was baking. I was covered in salt by the time I finished (thanks for the picture, sign and support, Shannon!)

This recap also won't be too much of a look back at the 150 marathons I have run, either. I did that for my first 100 in my second book and I am not quite ready for another retrospective. I also see this as the springboard to getting healthy, strong and fast (for me) again anyway. So I am looking forward, not back.  But I will look at some stats, as I do love them so.

First, 150 marathons is fine.  There are a fair number of  people have "completed" more marathons than that.  However, what I am most proud of is few people have run faster for 150 marathons or give as much effort into each and every one of them, especially at my size (6'1'' 180ish pounds.)
* For the 150 marathons I have run, I have averaged a 3:17:52.  That number includes two Leadville Marathons (5:17:41 and 4:45:30) as well as one Pikes Peak Marathon (6:41:53).  Those three marathons alone sway the entire average by two minutes and forty-eight seconds!
* Seventy-one of the 150 marathons have been Boston Qualifiers and that includes the first 38 in 2006 when I ran 52 in one year, which were not BQs.
* 132 of the 150 marathons have been under 3:30.  Most of the ones which have not were caused by ridiculous courses, illness or something completely out of my control.
* From 2007 to 2009, 31 of the 33 Marathons I ran were Boston Qualifiers. (Ended, not surprisingly, by another bike crash.)

 * I have run every time from 2:58 to 3:31, at least once.  That means I have a 2:58, 2:59, 3:00, 3:01...etc.  Many times I go out for a specific time and I can't tell you how hard that can be to hit a random 3:17 or whatever. If I get a 2:50, 2:52, 2:54 and 2:57 I will have every time from 2:49 to 3:31. I am missing some below 3:30 but I hope to never run that slow again.

All in all, the times are just fine to look at and I would happily bore you with details of every single race. But no one really cares in the grand scheme of things. I barely care. I like looking at numbers and playing with them. I like pushing my body and seeing what is possible. It has not been fun to run marathons the past few years because I haven't been close to the shape I know I can run them in. I totally understand why elite runners basically give up racing once they lose their top end speed.  If you could run a 2:10 marathon, running a 2:55 must feel simply awful. That is why I have so much respect for those pouring their heart into their 4, 5 and 6 hour marathon finishes. It is also why I absolutely don't get those who don't pour their heart into their finishes and jog along snapping pictures during a race. They are abusing or neglecting the gift they have which many wish they could.

As I sit on the cusp of my next marathon, I have no idea if I will run 200 total let alone another 150. Ten years ago I was one month away from my third, and what I thought would be my last, marathon. Who knows what the future holds. All I know is that it will hold me giving all I have every day to be a better runner, person, and juggler.

I know I can juggle 6 balls if I put my mind to it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Jared Lorenzen: Please Don't Pass on the Steak

I don't know exactly how long this blog is going to be.  It could almost be a tweet the point is so simple.  But I have to go further with it.

I am reading an article in ESPN The Magazine about Jared Lorenzen.  If you don't know who that is, he is the amazingly talented former QB for the Kentucky Wildcats.  He also played most of his career in the neighborhood of 300 lbs. That is not a typo.

The most recently made headlines again earlier this year when the day after the SuperBowl he appeared in some Arena Football League game for the Northern Kentucky River Monsters. Wearing a "jersey" and "shoulder pads" that looked like second skin and his son's pee wee football pads, Lorenzen danced deftly around defenders, bowled others over and zipped the ball with the same record breaking skills he showed in the SEC.

The article, which I literally put down mid-paragraph to write this blog, is about his struggles with weight loss. In particular, one group of sentence made me lose my gourd.

"He is trying to get past the chomp-chomp-chomp phase. He orders a lot of salads. He's cut back on the steaks in favor of grilled chicken and sushi...And Sometimes, on the way home, that $5 Little Caesars pizza calls his name."

I am not even going to go into how a Little Ceasars pizza is far from bad, unless you consume the whole damn thing yourself. What made me blow my top was the "cutting back on steaks in favor of chicken" line. (My knowledge on sushi is limited but I do know it contains a lot more calories than people think it does. Check this out.)  When I read that line about chicken, however, I feel I understand what scientists trying to talk to religious people who believe the world is 6,000 years old feel.  How is red meat still getting the bad rep? There are 29 cuts of beef that are leaner than skinless chicken thigh. LEANER. SKINLESS.  

Why is it that facts and science and truth still cannot seem to beat out myths, rumors and misinformation? I spoke in another blog recently about how Eating Meat is the New (and Old) Eating Healthful about many of these problems with untruths. It seems the battle to educate people is never ever going to be won. But I will continue to fight it.

As I said in a blog about proteins over carbs, all people, especially runners, need a healthful does of all things. But without a doubt, the more carbs I eat and the less protein, the heavier I get and the more bloated I am. The body turns carbs into sugars, and when that is not burned off by the body, it is converted into fat. However, even after you realize this and go for the proteins, there is absolutely zero reason to choose any sort of chicken over steak, at least when it comes down to a nutritional argument.  You can have a taste preference, sure, bu in the case of someone, like Jared, who is struggling with weight gain, don't think that chicken is a healthier way to lose weight.

So, Jared, I can't possibly know your struggle or what other problems you are going through and I do not pretend to.  I do, however, know that eating less steak and more chicken is not the answer.

I will be in your neck of the woods at the end of this month to run the Evansville Half Marathon. This is my open invitation to take you, my treat, to the steakhouse of your choosing. Heck, I played  a little wide receiver in high school.  Maybe after we eat, if you toned down that cannon of an arm, you could throw me a few passes.

 In either case, keep eating beef and good luck in your weight loss quest.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Say Goodbye to Badwater. Say Goodbye, My Baby

And like that, Badwater is no more. Or at least what made it Badwater in the first place.

In a coincidental turn of events, I recently wrote a review of a book on Badwater and have exchanged a few emails with its author since then. In addition, Badwater has always been on my absolute must do list. (The race is actually in a book I am writing.)  Now, because of the Death Valley National Park’s most recent ruling, it looks like that will never happen, at least in the way which Badwater has been run for decades.

I will admit I haven’t read the ridiculousness that is this decree by the DVNP in its entirety. I haven’t done so mainly because of statements like the following, which show me logic, reason, and actually caring about the health and well-being of people, is not the cause of the new permitting regulations:

“One of the past permitted running events, the Badwater Ultra-marathon, takes place in July. Visitors have questioned why the park allows running events to take place during the hottest time of the summer, when they are advised not to engage in outdoor physical activity. By permitting events to take place during summer months, the park has provided a mixed message to park visitors and other users.”

Ignoring that they don’t know that “ultramarathon” is not hyphenated, is the utter ludicrous notion that some visitors have asked why some people can do something and they cannot. Well, because that is how permitting for events, genetics, the law, power, prestige, and about 8 billion other things work in the world we live in. Some people can do some things and others cannot. If that basic fact isn’t enough of an explanation, how about the fact the average visitor is an overweight person who had no idea what it takes with regards to years of highly regimented training specifically designed to get them through the hot dry blast furnace that is Death Valley in July?  Plus, why does the DVNP all of a sudden care about the wishes of a few people who may say "But hey! Why can't *I* do that?!"  Also, why now the sudden concern for the well-being of runners? The race has been run, with a large amount of publicity, for decades. It hasn't been a secret. This paragraph in and of itself is so insipid it is hard for me to go on. But I will try.

The repeated clash between national park people and runners is nothing new.  You can look at the JFK 50 mile race and its caps on participants or virtually any other race (or simply an organized run) which use park lands, for that matter. At some point in virtually all of those races there has either been a threat of a shutdown of an event or an actual shutdown. I don’t know what it is about park rangers but more than a fair share of them can really come off as dicks. They have control over a very small part of real estate but it is complete and total control. As is such with anyone who has power over something finite and limited, they tend to act out of proportion to the actual importance of their job.

For example, I recently ran a race called the Lake of Death Relay. We were told that our entry fee covered our park entrance fee (which it did.)  But when I rolled up to the entrance, a park ranger stopped me. I said to him “We are here for the Lake of Death Relay” expecting him to ask me for a name for verification. All he did was shake his head saying “No.” He said nothing more. I looked at him and paused, not knowing what "No." meant. So I said “Yes, I am here for that.” His reply was that he didn’t know what I was talking about. So, I started to explain the situation and he said I was the 7th person who went through here saying that the same to him. Now I guess the head shaking was more “No, you still have to pay” and not “No, I don’t know what you are talking about” as he said it was. Obviously at a stalemate, I reached for my wallet to pay the fare. As I was doing so, he said “You can pay it or pay the $269 fine” (or whatever it was.)  At no point did I say I wasn’t going to pay or show any belligerence toward the man. I was obviously taking the money out of my wallet. It was 7 a.m. I wasn’t awake enough to be belligerent. But he held the keys to my enjoyment for the day and he would be damned if he wasn’t going to be an ass about it. This is exactly what it appears the DVNP is doing.

Yes, as runners we sometimes have a holier-than-thou attitude about open spaces and our desired use of them. We are often told to get over ourselves. To this day I can’t see a finely-tailored golf course in the middle of scrub grass or highways and not be bummed I can’t run on it (legally.) However, I know for an absolute fact that runners respect their surroundings more than virtually anyone else and if a race is held in some forest or park, chances are very high it will be cleaner when the runners leave than it was when they got there.

This new permitting issue does not seem to take into account certain things like the economic impact runners have. Death Valley is an interesting place and the locals there that supply travelers have a nice monopoly given the lack of amenities. However, if no one is coming through, the monopoly doesn’t mean a darn thing. I doubt it was too uncommon for someone to walk into a store and say, very Ron Swanson-esque: “I’d like to buy all the ice you have.” You don’t think they are going to feel a massive impact from 200 less runners and their crews with a voracious appetite for food, drink, ice, and lodging? I wonder how the purveyors of these goods feel about a massive chunk of their livelihood being taken from them. But perhaps these locals don’t like the runners. This is entirely possible even though I can’t think of a single reason why.

Other things mentioned in the DVNP decree revolve around items like people properly relieving themselves in the desert or night time events only being permitted during a full moon phase. I am guessing the latter is because a clear night will provide ample lighting. However what happens if the sky gets a little cloudy? Are they pulling the permit and canceling the event? Or are they just being pedantic about rules they just created for no reason?  (The paragraph on bathroom etiquette and the use of “personal portable toilet products” whatever the hell that is, is just as annoying as everything else.)

This year’s Badwater course already had to be changed because of new DVNP rules. Chances are great that those who operate Badwater (AdventureCORPS) will adapt again to these new changes and find a way around all the sad “reasoning” put forth by the DVNP in their Manifesto. Yet the problem is when something like this occurs, it is hard not to picture people who had things taken from them as a child are using their powers now to take things back that others might want to borrow for a small period of time. The bullied have become the bullies.

Everything about this permitting issue just makes you sit back and wonder. If there were legitimate reasons for limiting the use of Death Valley, most would understand. Runners are logical assessors of reason, given they are by and large amongst the most intelligent, wealthy, successful subset of the population. But when actions by the DVNP smack of nothing but just wanting to see how many hoops you can make someone jump through to do the activity they want to do, it is infuriating. 

Unlike many other long distance events, such as marathons, where virtually no prior experience is required to traverse the distance, getting into Badwater is like a job application. Your average Suzy Homemaker and Joe Six-Pack isn’t going to lose a bet on New Year’s Day and run Badwater six months later. The people who take on this endeavor are the ones who can actually handle it. Why stop those who are most adept to taking on a challenge, from trying to challenge themselves?

As it stands, things change. Some will always say the “old way” of Badwater will be harder than the new (when you had to also go to the top of Mt Whitney to finish.) I say running the Boston Marathon when it started at noon is definitely more difficult than now when it starts at 10 am. Does it diminish the accomplishment of either?  No.

But the mere fact that people who want to run 135 miles beginning in the hottest place on Earth are finding the hardest thing about the endeavor is dealing with people wearing silly straight brimmed hats is pretty telling of the way things are in the world today.

Let's hope we can fight this and change it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hey Runners: Stop Stretching

Right now.
It is a horrible idea.

(N.B. throughout this article, I am referring to static stretching and stretching that approaches the limit of a muscle's extension, before a major effort. Light, active "stretching" which more or less mimics the actions you plan on doing is a different thing.)

We have been told for years to stretch before running.  As runners gather around before a run they sometimes nervously stretch. God forbid that they be caught doing nothing. People will think they aren't a real runner. (Sort of like the person coming in to the finish line at a 6 minute sprint when their overall pace will be 11 minutes.We can do the math. It's cool that you are slower.) Before a race, as the nervous energy kick in, people start doing stretches they haven't done in a decade. They push against poles and vehicles. They grab their leg and pull their shoe up to their quad. They more or less are not only not doing anything beneficial but they are probably doing a great deal of harm. (I cannot tell you how much I hate this stretch, if only because anytime I did a news story the photographer would ask me to do that for the pictures. I used to oblige. Now I tell them to take a shot of me running.)

But what do I know? I haven't stretched since the year began 19xx. My 150th marathon is in 10 days and the only injuries I have had stem from bicycle crashes. Go right ahead and ignore me. However, ignoring science might be a bad thing. What science? Oh, you know, basically all of it. Read this fella's blog for all kinds of sciency stuff.  He echoes or is saying many of the things I have said for years.

Why am I telling you this? Because my goal has not been about getting people to run. Motivating people for brief periods of time for specific goals is fairly easy.  My goal is to keep people running. The best way to keep someone doing something is to make it enjoyable and make it safe for them o do.  If they are injured, they are not going to want to run. Plain and simple. (This also goes to the point of streak running but that is another day's article.)

So many runners continue to think that flexibility is the key to being a good runner. They are wrong. For our sport the key is to keep everything going in a forward motion. Our need for lateral motion is very little, even for trail runners.The most efficient runners, especially as the distance gets longer are those who exerted the least effort to maintain a pace. Those runners are often the stiffest or ate least not all that flexible.

Knee injuries, almost never caused by running, are however often caused when the ligaments are loose and allow the knee to slide and grind. Guess how ligaments get loose. Go ahead. I'll wait. (It's in the title of this article.)

Yet people continue to stretch. They also continue to smoke/chew tobacco and drink alcohol in spite of the overwhelming evidence for how bad those things are for the human body, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. However, I hope this will help drive home the point that stretching is not only overrated but detrimental to your success as a long-term, healthy endurance runners. (Same as ice baths. Again, another article.)

So stay tight, warm-up appropriately before your running with some light jogging or other aerobic activity, and leave the stretching for the Armstrongs. (Google it, you damn millennials.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Disturbing Case of Abuse Survivor (and Current Prisoner) Wendy Maldonado

I recently watched the HBO documentary "Every F***ing Day of My Life). I had heard of the case of Wendy Maldonado previously but didn’t know the full details. Now that I know more it is heart wrenching to me and I decided I needed to do what I can to remedy the situation.

Normally this website is devoted to things of the exercise and health nature. However, I don’t think pleading the case of Wendy Maldonado is that far out of the usual scope as it pertains to her mental health and well-being. As such, I hope you will take the time to read this and do what you can to help free Wendy from prison.

You can read so much more about what happened to Wendy and her family on their own website here but allow me to give you the pertinent details. For nearly 20 years, Wendy was beaten, cowered and abused by her husband.  Her four children, all boys, were also frequent recipients of the sadistic beatings. Often driven out to the forest and told she had “ten seconds to convince me not to kill you”, Wendy finally snapped.

With no question, Wendy’s actions were brutal. She and her oldest son, Randy (himself the most frequent recipient of the beatings handed down to the children) slipped into Wendy’s husband’s room and quickly bludgeoned him with both a hammer and an axe. I share these gory details as I do not wish to be said to be sugarcoating or hiding anything. Wendy’s husband (who I refuse to give a first name to because any person who does such acts shouldn’t even be called human) later died at the hospital. The only reasons he made it to a hospital in the first place is because Wendy immediately called 911 to report what she had done. When the 911 dispatcher asked her “Did he try to hurt you or anything?” Wendy responded:

“Every f***ing day of my life.”

Wendy pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 120 months (10 years) in prison; Randy pleaded guilty to second degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 75 months (six years and three months), which was reduced to 65 months (five years and five months) because he already served time. In spite of the fact that the court recognized this was “the worst case of domestic violence any of us has seen," it was noted that state law left the Judge with no flexibility in sentencing. Oregon statutes allow deadly force only against an immediate threat of serious injury.

In the interest of disclosure, in my former life, I was going down the path of a district attorney.  I am definitely one who sees things from “that side of the fence.”  However, I am absolutely baffled how the prosecution in this case sought to put Wendy and her son behind bars. Obviously their actions were awful. However, as the court even said, it is obvious they were done as reactions to a systematic beating and defiling of human life at the hands of Wendy’s husband. How they could not think they were always in an immediate threat of serious injury is beyond me.  How deputy district attorney Linda Wingenbach could say at sentencing that with regard to Wendy’s statement of her life being in danger “every f***ing day” could be an exaggeration leaves me stunned. How many days a week is an appropriate amount of not- exaggeration? Four? Two? Twice a month?

I know I am coming to this entire episode very late in the game but with Wendy still not to be released until, at the earliest, March 7, 2016, there is still time to seek clemency from Oregon’s governor. Granted, Oregon’s governor has only granted one clemency and that was to an inmate who didn't want his help, convicted killer Gary Haugen. Kitzhaber does not want Haugen executed on his watch. While possibly admirable, possibly simply politically minded, Wendy Maldonado’s clemency should be the second he grants.

It saddens me that this petition (which I just signed) is still 11,000 signatures short of the 20,000 needed to get this petition in front of the Governor. With so many people gladly clicking on “like” on Facebook for the most mundane things, or pouring ice over their heads in support of funding to combat a disease, here is a chance to actually make a difference, directly, in the life of another human being.

Think of Wendy Maldonado. Beaten, broken, threatened with murder on a frequent basis. Wearing dentures for years because her own teeth had been repeatedly knocked out. Covering holes in the walls of her home where her head had been using as a battering ram with the drawings her children made. Fearing the next strangulation will leave her dead and her children completely vulnerable. Finally, one evening, she sees a chance to gnaw her own leg off in order to escape the bear trap of her life and get her children out as well. Still covered in bruises and lacerations from her latest strangulation/beating she finally does that gnawing.

Now imagine Wendy Maldonado as your own mother. You are the beaten children cowering in the corner, sleeping with shoes on in case you need to flee. Finally, your mother saves you from death. Should she be still sitting in prison?