Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Burn After Reading Route

The days surrounding my Christmases are usually not so jolly. In just the last four years alone, I have had my apartment burglarized, my car broken into, and this year, received a spiral fracture in my hand while running. I can only wish this injury occurred while traversing some epic trail run with tons of  what the kids call "vert." Unfortunately, it happened on the final loop of four around the waterfront in Portland. This is a loop I have run hundreds of times. Yet somehow, even though I saw the branch upon which I tried to hurdle, I tripped, fell over, had my fingers get caught in a railing on the way down, yanked back said fingers, and voila. Three fractures later I was looking at a very long time in a cast or at the very least surgery and pins. I was far from happy - pain, scraped knee, shoulder, and elbow aside.

Fast forward 72 hours, and I am not out of the woods, but even the best case scenario didn't have me where I am now. My hand is in a small splint and while bruised and swollen, it appears luck, fortune, and me possibly (and unwittingly) pulling my dislocated and broken finger back into place has allowed the bones in my hand to settle in an excellent position. I can type with both hands, albeit not very well. Then again, I couldn't type well before. So, there is a lot of upside here.

Rewind a little bit to a day or so ago when I was readying myself for the long haul. I was trying to be a trooper and keep a positive attitude. I was doing what I could to accept reality. So, I hunkered down and did my best to not do anything with my hands at all. This meant Netflix-watching. I needed something to cheer me up so I turned to the Coen Brothers Burn After Reading. If you haven't watched it, I would highly recommend it.

While watching it, I remembered when I saw it the first time how it seem that George Clooney's character, who "liked to get a run in" seemed to defy the geography of DC in his runs. This time I decided to see if his run actually was possible. So, like the girl who mapped out Rocky's 50k run during his training montage, I took the brief glimpses of George's run shown in the movie to see if he did indeed get his "five and a deuce" in the greater D.C. area where the movie is set.

First off, since we do not know the ending point of his run (the actual location where the house is shot was in New York,) I knew this would be an approximation. But even without that my first guess was that what was shown during the run would be far more than the five he supposedly ran. Ignoring, of course that "the odometer" was supposed to read 5.2, which wouldn't include where George actually would run, as you would see below (meaning, no car could drive where he runs on a few occasions.)  But I digress.

George's starting point is right south of the Lincoln Memorial shown in the photo below.

The next shot shows him running around the tidal basin with the Jefferson Memorial behind him.  From this angle it shows he is near where the Tidal Basin Paddle Boats are. The quickest way he could have gotten from position one to position two, with his back to the Jefferson Monument (assuming he didn't run an out and back but rather ran down Ohio Drive SW from Lincoln) means he has already ran 1.75 miles. It's also clearly different day in position two based on the weather but I am trying not to nitpick.

The next shot after this has George crossing the Key Bridge heading back from the Virginia side into Georgetown. I was impressed that they at least had the continuity right here in that George's shirt had a little more wetness on it. Of course, if he was already sporting a chest V of wetness after 1.75 miles, I would expect it drenched at 4.85. But points nonetheless. This was the biggest distance jump between shots, having George go back to Lincoln, over the bridge, down the well-worn path from runners, across Washington Blvd and the GW Parkway to join the Mt. Vernon Trail. I ran hundreds of miles on this trail and George picked a good running spot. He would head north past Teddy Roosevelt Island, into the Rosslyn portion of Arlington, and then turn right to where he was below.

In the penultimate shot, we have a far more wet George, just a tenth of a mile away, looking back over his shoulder at a trailing car. Only problem: the car is going down the wrong way of a one way street that, in my four years of living in the greater D.C area, I did not see a car waiting to come onto Canal Road.  But a car can indeed turn there, albeit illegally. (To the Coen's credit, at least they moved all the cars to be facing the right direction. Kudos!) Another problem with continuity is when a second later, the car continues up 35th St (from George's gaze) but in reality makes a sharp right onto Prospect Ave (shown in the film.)  But again, I am not trying to nitpick.

In the final shot, George watches his trailer leave, and then actually makes that same right hand turn himself onto Prospect. At this point he is 5.15 miles into his run. Seconds later, he appears outside of his destination.

I will have to admit, I was really surprised that the run could be exactly 5.2 miles. I doubt the Coen brothers care one bit about this but if you ended your run at 3350 Prospect St NW, you would have George's five and a deuce.

If you are so inclined, and want to go for this run along the route which seems most likely to get the 5.2 miles, go right ahead and click here.  Just don't (*spoiler alert*) shoot Brad Pitt in the head when you finish your jog.

It is also possible I have missed something in this retracing of George's steps but this being the internet, I am sure I will hear about it if I did.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Pigtails Flatass 50K Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 10; 26th Edition 
355.3 miles run; 16 miles biked; 800 meters swam in 2015 races
Race: Pigtails Flatass 50K
Place: Ravensdale, WA
Miles from home: 172
Weather: 40s; Overcast

I have now run two races with the word "Flat" in their name (the other being the Foot Traffic Flat Marathon.) Both were misleading.

I lightheartedly posted a meme poking fun at this race for having saying it was "completely flat" as it was quite clear that wasn't the case. A discussion erupted on my Facebook page where I was told I was not only wrong but had obviously tried to mislead my readers by using a skewed Y-Axis. Ignoring that it was mostly meant tongue-in-cheek, virtually any review I have given has used the same elevation profile from the same company, I stand by my assertion that while this was hardly a mountain race, it was anything but "completely flat". You know, because words have meanings.

A snafu that actually mattered, however, had to go with something that really had no personal effect on me. This race was set up so runners could decide around mile 21 if they wanted to run either a 50k or a marathon. If you didn't make it to that point before a certain time, you would be forced to take the marathon route. The website said this time would be "Around 5 hours or MAYBE LESS DEPENDING ON WEATHER." Both that time limit and the potential change were completely fine with all runners. If the weather was bad, you don't want volunteers needing to stay out there for hours extra for one or two runners. My best friend, however, having reached the turnoff around 4:15, was turned away saying that she hadn't met the cutoff.

Later, only after a series of personal inquiries was it told to me that the cutoff was supposed to be 3.5 hours and there had been a miscommunication between race director and volunteers. The previous year's weather had been harsh, facilitating an earlier closure. With bad weather, this area closing earlier than stated is totally understandable. However, this year, the weather was perfect, no such details of a closing happening early were conveyed to the runners, and as such my friend was robbed of a huge PR in the 50K. This might seem like small potatoes to some, but I think any runner would understand her frustration. If anything, my friend Shannon should rest easy knowing she can run 5 miles after being told her effort was for not and then going for another 2-3 miles on her own post-race to get in the miles she wanted to run that day. That takes some serious mental toughness.

I had a much easier go.


I am not sure exactly why I signed up for this race. I knew it would be next to no-frills, as are so many races here in the Pacific Northwest. Not that a race needs to have fireworks and bands but I have run my fair share of races that have the same feel as a training run but with a result people will know more immediately about. I have come to the realization that I like a little frills. But I signed up as it was inexpensive, a short drive from home (well, three is all relative) and I guess I just wanted to get in a long run where I wouldn't stop short if I was tired.

The race was named after the nickname of the RD which is something I always find curious. I know an athletic team that is comprised of any number of athletes who all compete under characteristics that are rather unique to the owner of the team. Like naming a race after yourself, I can't imagine having the hubris to do such a thing. Perhaps some would like to be a part of Team SeeDaneRun but I am not about to find out. I am not saying it is bad or good but it is assuredly something I wouldn't do.

When the time drew close for the race it showed in spite of a particularly wet and dreary time for us in this neck of the woods, we were going to be blessed with very nice weather. Given this break, I thought about switching to the marathon pre-race.  I hadn't had nice weather for a race in eons and wanted to take advantage of it. One drawback was I was not rested to run a fast marathon. Another drawback was a gentleman I had met last year in another similar low-frills race, Sean Celli, was also running the marathon and I knew his speed would make winning the race a difficulty. I am not going to lie and say I wasn't looking forward to the possibility of a "W."  So, I figured I would simply wait and see how the day unfolded.

A very low-key start with a bunch of people who already seemed to know who everyone else was  awaited me when I arrived. Tons of Marathon Maniacs were on-hand and lots of smiling faces. I recognized some and exchanged pleasantries and wished good luck to all. Then it was time to start.

The race began with a little halfmile-ish out-and-back to allow us to put in some extra distance. Apparently, this was done so that the race at the other end of the long out and back would stay within a certain city limits and only require one permit. Makes perfect sense to me. I participated in a 70.3 mile triathlon which had a hairpin turn at the Utah-Idaho border for this same reason. By the time we finished that little jog and got to the Cedar River Trail, Sean had already established a lead on me I assumed would be insurmountable.

For the next five miles, as the trail would bend and twist ever so slightly, I was basically alone. Sean had gotten out of sight and no one was running with me. It was going to be yet another "race" for me where I might as well be doing a solo training run. Fortunately, this trail was quite beautiful and for the time being my mind was on my surroundings.

We crossed over what I was guessing was the Cedar River numerous times and each crossing came with a new bridge. I love bridges. I speak about them often in my book 138,336 Feet to Pure Bliss (now on sale on Amazon Kindle for $2.52!) So even if I was alone, at least I had something to look forward to crossing.

At the first aid station around mile five, I pulled over for just a quick drink of water. I was wearing my Camelbak Circuit as the aid stations were sparse but didn't mind using the course resources which I had paid for. As I left the aid station, I looked back and was surprised to see two runners not too far behind me. I guess I wasn't going as fast as I thought.

Over the next few miles, the course went from small twists and turns to a long straightaway. I was fairly certain I saw Sean up ahead but man was he waaaay up ahead. Soon, thereafter, amidst the traffic on the nearby highway, I could also hear the footsteps of a runner behind me. Before too long he slid right on by. However, we were traveling very close to the same speed so he passed me very slowly. In order to make conversation, I commented on a few things about the race and the day. With his headphones on he didn't hear a thing I said. Or he was ignoring me, which was a possibility as well. I couldn't even figure out if he was running the marathon or the 50k.

Needing a little respite, I pulled over to use the bathroom quickly. I was able to make up the distance lost during my stoppage in no time at all. However, I then fell into an area where I was the exact same distance behind him no matter what little surge I tried. For about a mile or so we continued locked in this running dance. Finally, as he took the long way around a car blocking the passage (I almost Ferris Buellered myself through the backseat. Don't block intersections, people.) I made up some ground. Doing so added a little spurt to my running. As we came into the next aid station around the 12th mile, I was just a few feet behind him. He slowed to get some drinks at the aid station and more or less took up the whole area, probably assuming I wasn't right behind him. I had thought about stopping to get a drink but then decided not to jostle him for space. Instead, I would get it on the way back. Might as well make a move while I could and make it decisive (one of the key rules of racing, by the way.)

Soon thereafter I saw Sean coming back from turning around and knew I had to be close to the turnaround. Yet as I ran, it felt like it was forever away. Then I remembered that because of the extra mile we had run at the start, it wasn't a 13 mile turnaround but rather one at the 14th mile. This knowledge gave me another huge boost in my step. I had been under the impression I was running way slower than I had wished. There were few sign markings and no mile markers, so unless you knew the trail, you didn't know how far you had run. Granted I was using my Timex OneGPS+ but as per my usual I wasn't displaying the distance run. When Sean said it was just around the corner, I took off.

Heading Back:

In this short distance since the last aid station I had put a surprising gap between me and the guy behind me (David). What was extremely impressive about this guy was his size. If I had to guess he was easily 6'2'' and 215 lbs. There are very few people that size who can run the speed he was running. As he approached me, he seemed to be a little confused as to where the turn around was for the race. Behind me, across the street was a cone. I have no idea what it was there for but there it was nonetheless. He pointed to that cone and asked if that was the turning point. I pointed the direction down the trail I had just come from and said this was where he needed to go. This definitely could have been better marked. If not for Sean telling me earlier where to go, I easily could have made the same mistake.

I quickly passed a few other runners who were close behind me and realized I had a slightly larger cushion than I had thought. I saw Steve Walters, who calls himself the Marathon Freak and he deserves the name. He runs a ton of races every year and in some very good times. How he does so in the longest pair of Michigan Fab Four running shorts baffles me. He had PRd on this course last year, in the supposedly bad weather, so I was surprised he wasn't in front of me.

This time, when I hit the aid station from before, one of the volunteers and owner of The Balanced Athlete in Seattle area, Eric Sach, was kind enough to give me a glass of water from the self-serve aid stations. Leaving, I looked back and saw I had put more ground between me and my pursuers.

About a mile later I saw Shannon for the first time and I could tell she was well on her way to a new PR. Usually running ultras where there is so much climbing and such bad terrain that a time means nothing, she was treating herself to the rare runnable course. She told me I was only four minutes behind Sean which was a bit surprising. I forgot that four minutes looks like a lifetime on a race course. I bid her adieu and took off.

What to do with this new information? Should I try and pick it up and race Sean for the marathon? Could I catch him? Even if I did, would it be a decent time for the marathon? Until this point, 18 miles in, I had been running a 50k. As such, I was running a 50k pace, not a marathon pace. I did some math and realized my time would be less than stellar in the marathon. I don't like running less than stellar marathons. I am not here to collect medals and facebook attaboys for jobs not well done. I am here to race.

I began to pick up the pace and the cloudy skies opened up just enough to cover my Julbo sunglasses in droplets. Then just a few minutes later, the rain stopped and the sun came out.  It was still a touch chilly which means it was more or less the best race conditions in which I have raced in nearly two years. As I closed in on the aid station mentioned above where one chooses what race they would run, I decided it didn't matter how close I was to Sean. I had never won a 50k before, had come to run the 50k, and damn it, I was going to do both.

I took on this little 2.5 mile out and back with a renewed vigor. It was set on a slightly more graded slope than the previous few miles, and Y-Axis or not, I felt it.  But I was eager to take out this pace as hard as possible and leave no doubt when I headed back that those behind me had no chance to catch me. The day had turned gorgeous and there were plenty of walkers out on this trail. Shrouded by trees and going under more than few underpasses in tunnels, I was feeling my oats. I made the turn around and headed back. I now had at least a 15 minute lead on my next chaser and slapped them all high-five as I passed.

Back down to the final aid station, I grabbed a swig of Coke from one of the volunteers (Matt Hagen) who actually brought all of his own equipment out, including a space heater and a tent. A runner himself, I am sure Matt would have much rather been running than volunteering on such a nice day, so a special thanks to him and the other volunteers for being out there. (Ironically, when I posted this recap on Facebook, he took umbrage to it for some reason and unleashed a series of complaints about me for disparaging the race and its volunteers. I've been around people my whole lie and still don't understand them. Shrugs.gif) Now the only question was what would my time be.

To The Finish: 

I knew the aid station was about 5 miles to the finish but I didn't know which side of "about" that was. Did I have to run slightly over or under 5 miles? With 42 minutes to cover the distance and get under 4 hours, it was going to be close.

I spent the next five miles thinking about what it is like to win a race. I have won a few. Each time it was essentially because no one else had showed up who was faster than me. I know that seems to make perfect sense but what I mean is I am not elite. I can't look down the line and think "Yeah, I always have a chance." If some guy shows up who runs a 3:20 50k, I more or less have no shot. So winning overall and age group awards are nice but it is mostly just happenstance.

That said, in order to win, you still have to show up. You still have to cover the distance. You still have to race. When I got passed earlier in the race I could have said today was not my day. I could have been happy to just run out the string. But I wasn't pleased with that. I gathered myself and took back a commanding lead. Here, just a few more minutes (or maybe ten, again, who knows how many miles were left?) I would win a 50k for the first time ever.

I have read a great deal about what winning feels like. Often winners don't particularly enjoy it. They dislike losing far more than they enjoy winning and that is what drives them. I can sort of relate to that feeling. Barring a bear attack, I was going to cross the finish line first. If every other race I have won was the template, this victory was going to be done with little to no fanfare, no actually tape to break, and just a minute of self-satisfaction before getting in a car and driving away. If there was going to be pleasure derived it was going to be from inside. From my own personal satisfaction.

My spoils. Hope the IRS doesn't come collecting.
As I turned the final bend and saw the clock, I realized I was going to be well under four hours. If I had sprinted it would have been 3:54. Instead it was 3:55 and some change (not quite sure yet because lord forbid there be any way to find the results.) What pleased me most was how easy this 3:55 felt. I ran controlled and within myself. It could not have been any more of a glorified training run if it tried. Aside from the few signs someone had put out in the first few miles (and they were both cute and appreciated), I could have been out here on my own little Saturday morning run.

After a rather atrocious race last weekend in Dallas where I ran 13.1 miles at a 7:08 pace, it sure was nice to run 31.1 miles at a 7:34 pace. Winning the race just added some extra flavor to it.

Hopefully this race will help propel me forward to good things in 2016. I have, as always, lots of plans and after a rather "meh" year of racing in 2015, this was a nice way to end it all. Then again, there are ten days left and I may still find a 5k somewhere or something to remind me how slow I really am.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dallas Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 10; 25th Edition 
324.2 miles run; 16 miles biked; 800 meters swam in 2015 races
Race: Dallas Half Marathon
Place: Dallas, TX
Miles from home: 2015
Weather: 50s; Overcast; slight wind and rain

Since I ran the Run for the Diamonds in Berwick, PA on Thanksgiving, I have been throwing down some seriously high (for me) miles. Taking advantage of a rare long period of time at home, I didn't let the record deluge of rain in Portland the previous few days deter me. If you only run when it is sunny and you feel good, you won't wrong very often. So after 87 miles in 7 days, I took a three day break before this half-marathon in Dallas. I say break but flying, speaking, and driving all over kingdom come is hardly much of a break. But I was hoping it would be enough to help me have a decent hard training run at this race.

I spoke at the expo both days to share stories about my 52 Marathons in 2006. Was so nice to spend time with old friends and make new ones as well. Part of my presence there was to talk to runners about my recovery, how I physically should not be able to do what I do because of Gilbert's Syndrome, and spread the word about ASEA (a product I have been drinking since 2009.).  The Dallas Marathon was one of the 52 Marathons which has shaped my life and it has been a special race for me. I had a crazy experience in 2010 when I ran it again where I had to help a man with a head wound seconds before the race. Having strep throat during that race made it quite memorable as well especially given the time I ran the race in. So, given all the craziness which surrounded it previously, I was hoping for something a tad less eventful for this race. The weather forecast however said that would not be the case.

Fortunately, while a very heavy rain and wind poured down all night before the race it slowed to a near stop just minutes before we lined up for the race. I wasn't exactly feeling spry at this point but I wasn't feeling too bad. I mingled with the other runners, happening across a few here and there who I had known for many years. One, Jon Anders, I had met at this exact race in 2006 when I ran the 52.  Jon, a few years older than me, is one heck of a triathlete and his son is following in his footsteps.  I wished him good luck and moved to a different part of the corral.

First Five Miles:

Out of the gate I did my very best to stay to one side. Some young buck had been in front of me before the start, jumping up high and kicking his butt like he was getting ready for the high jump. The guy next to me smirked and said. "I am sure we will see him on the side of the road at the third mile, pulling shorts." I nodded in agreement. In order to stay away from the masses, I stayed out of the middle. Doing so in a race where there are turns or twists and not wanting to run long is hard, however.  I refuse to not run the tangents as a step over the race distance for the day is too far. We all got to cheat a little bit here and there in that regard as standing water in a variety of places made one or two of us have to leap onto the sidewalk and cut 14 inches off a corner.  Don't tell anyone.

Courtesy of MarathonFoto
I felt decent here in the first mile but it was definitely work. Even in the cool weather with a little bit of rain my entire body felt uncomfortably warm. All I was wearing was my ASEA singlet so it wasn't a matter of being overdressed. When the first mile went by about 40 seconds slower than it felt, I thought Uh oh. The second mile wasn't much better. The third was the same. Yeah, today was going to be petty awful.

As people began passing me in droves, I decided to duck in the bathroom shortly after the fourth mile.  This brief respite only pointed out how tired I was. My breath was ragged and I almost wanted to sit down in the portapotty and call it a day. But I bolted out of the door intent on muscling through the rest of this race. My stomach had other plans.

Less than a half of a mile later, it made its presence known by forcing me to the side of the road and emptying the contents inside of it onto the fine Dallas streets.  Fortunately, I hadn't eaten breakfast so it wasn't much of an art display. But there it was.  And I had eight more miles of this to go.  Ugh.

To Mile Eight:

I knew that the races hardest hills were done at roughly mile 7.5.  Even in my worst state, I can run welldownhill.  All I had to get was to get to that point. Right at mile 7, the young buck I had noticed hopping up and down in the corrals earlier, passed me. I laughed thinking that I hadn't been too far off in my assessment of  how his day was going to go. Unfortunately, right now, it was going better than mine. I decided to put an end to that and surged ahead.

As we made our way through one aid station after the 7th mile, I noticed three women running rather slowly in comparison to other runners.  As I pulled up to them to see if they were OK, I noticed they weren't wearing bib numbers. Apparently they were just out for their Sunday run. Doing so in the middle of the race seemed like a good place as any to get a few miles in.  Don't mind us, ladies.

Courtesy of MarathonFoto
There was also a relay event going on today which meant occasionally some runner would go flying by making you feel quite unhappy about how lucky they were to just be running 4 miles or so. This first happened around the Turtle Creek area, which was populated with some gorgeous homes. As I have often thought when running through cities with enormous house after enormous house: What in the HELL do you people do for employment?!

Approaching the final hill, which was punctuated by a right hand turn at the Grenada Theater, a scantily-clad female Santa went flying by. Figuring she was part of a relay (I personally think the Ho Ho Hoes would have been a great name) I wanted to see how long I could keep in step with someone going much shorter than me. Suddenly, a fire was lite inside me.

Finishing the Last Five

With Ms. Naughty cutting through the crowd, I followed just a few steps behind. I figured within a hundred yards or so she would leave me behind her. Instead, my pace stayed virtually the same. We crested the hill and she put just a smidgen of real estate betwixt us. But I wasn't faltering like I expected I would.  Before long, I saw a group of people who I had been running near before my bathroom and puke break. This spurred me even further as I felt I had new life. Where had this energy been at the start?

At mile 10 where the marathon runners split off from us I was shocked to see most of those I had been running went the longer route. Good for them! If they kept this pace they would all be running 3:05 marathons or under.  (I would later check the results and see that wasn't the case for any of them but they still ran solid times.) This however, left me virtually alone with the next half marathoner at least a hundred yards in front of me. Time to go get them.

Over the next three miles, I didn't let a steadily increasing rain or some gusting wind slow me from reeling in and quickly passing a few dozen runners. Two runners however, unknowingly, let me get fairly close to them but were running just fast enough I couldn't pass them. With one mile left, I had to decide if it was worth it to surge one last time. Why work harder to just get a slightly less majorly dissatisfying time? Well, because it is a race, that's why.  If you aren't hurting yourself, by putting on a bib number you have signed an unspoken agreement to give all you have.

As this one girl and guy inexplicably went wide on a long arcing turn to miss a water puddle, I splashed through. Wet shoes for five minutes are a fine trade-off to not run an extra ten yards.  Now, there were just a few more runners within catching distance. I threw down the gauntlet and decided I would pass them as well.
Courtesy of MarathonFoto

Coming in under the finish line in 1:33:25, it was good I didn't let off the throttle.  The one girl I had passed inthe last mile must have been sparked and nearly matched my 6:39 pace. Finishing right off my shoulder (a few seconds more than that behind me by chip time) it made for a nice finish picture. Well, for me at least.

I wasn't as impressed with this course and how it was set up as I had been in previous years.  Granted I was walling in a pity party for some of the race but some of the little things which made it great before were missing.  It was not a bad race by any means. And to the countless volunteers who stood out in the elements, my hat goes off to you entirely.

In looking p my lest than stellar results, I was a crestfallen. For the first time that I have ever seen, another "Dane" beat me. I reached out to this Dane and told him I hated him for ever and ever. We are now buddies.

What happened at the start of this race?  I have no real idea. Endurance sports have so many variables that it is difficult to understand when something goes wrong. It is even more hard to explain when everything goes right.  I tell the athletes I coach that you can dissect every race and workout until the end of time but often the answer is "Dunno." 

If I can take anything from this race it is how I was able to rally and dig deep. My time was over a minute slower per mile than my half marathon PR.  But I ran with the hand dealt to me, picked up the pieces of a crappy day and put together at least a decent puzzle.  That's really all we can do sometimes and that is just fine and dandy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Physiclo Resistance Training Wear Review


That is all I could think when I took the Physiclo training compression shorts for a run. I was Physiclo would affect me. I knew within steps.
originally thinking I would do ten miles in them to get a feel for how they worked. Almost immediately, however, I knew I was going to do a shorter run. I didn't need to run for an hour or more to find out how

So what is Physiclo? From their website:

PHYSICLO started out in 2013 as a project by a small group of medical students trying to find a way to help rehabilitate people who needed a "push" to reach that minimum baseline of healthy exercise. If it was difficult for people to suddenly adapt to an active lifestyle, then we wanted to bring the active lifestyle to them by building it into their clothes.

After talking with hundreds of potential customers, we decided to pivot our concept to creating functional fitness clothes to help athletes & runners train more efficiently. One of the main challenges with working out is not having enough time, so our answer was to make the most out of the time you have.

So that's great talk. What does it actually feel like to workout in? It feels like someone is kicking your butt but in a good way. The problem with trying out gear and drinks and nutrition is that for an athlete, you can feel good or bad on any day regardless of what new product you are wearing or eating. I experienced this in the Dallas Half marathon this weekend.  There was no rhyme or reason why I ran so poorly.  It just happened. As such, it is only over time that you can usually see what difference, if any, a product will make.  But with Physiclo, I could tell immediately. Taking the men's resistance shorts out for a run on a course I do approximately 70 times a year allows me to be able to measure my performance against the same run that I know by heart. I can tell when I am going to have a good or bad day barely a block or so into this run. When I wore the Physiclo I knew I was in for a tough day.

The shorts can best be described a weight vest for your legs.  A tight, compression weight vest at that. The shorts were a tad difficult to get on but that is in the design. Plus, well, I have pretty big quads. Or I am a fat ass who can't let go of the fact that he is no longer a 32 inch waist. One or the other. But once I got all situated, it was time for a test run. Without a doubt they were a little snug everywhere (and I do mean errwhere) but I had no problems with chafing during my first 5.25 miler. What I did have a little problem with was believing how much these puppies were making this normal workout so much harder. I realized the language above about making the most of the time you had wasn't just corporate jargon. They truly meant it.

As my run wore on, and I was getting ready to head home, the word at the start of this review came to mind. I can completely see runners using these to improve not only their running strength but core as well. Obstacle course racers and those crossfitters who like extra oomph when they are working out would love these. I would adore watching people try to do those really high box jumps in a pair of Physiclo. Once you have mastered these shorts, a pair of lycra or split-leg running shorts are going to be a dream. I liken it to my old swim team practices where we swam in jeans.  Take off wet denim and you suddenly feel like Michael Phelps.

But I did not wish to limit this to just one or two workouts so I wore the shorts over a few different types of runs over a few weeks time. Each workout completed felt like I had completed that workout and another third of another. I shook my head and realized I need to get these guys on the horn and become a spokes runner for them now before they head to Shark Tank and become millionaires.

Believe me athletes of all skill level, you want these in your arsenal. It can be our little secret.

Lance Hits the Trails

(Nowhere in this article am I going to say I think Lance should not be able to run trail or ultra races. Since I am putting this at the top, if you reply otherwise, I know I don't need to respond to you as you already have your opinions set.  Will save us both a lot of time.) 

Nearly three years ago I opined about Lance Armstrong and his transgressions. More or less, I felt he seemed like a rather sucky person overall and was the best of the best who were on drugs. Not a good guy and not one whose company I would enjoy but whether he apologized or not had little affect on me. His cheating, and the attitude that it didn't matter, however, affected many, like Lauren Fleshman

Well, Lance won a trail race this weekend and when it became known a few days before the race he would competing, more than few runners opined. There were some who were of the "he should be castrated" group. There were many more who tried to lay out a cogent argument why he should not be allowed to compete. Then there were many who called those who were passionate but also level-headed against Lance nothing but "haters" and told them to  "move on."  It is this last group that the vast majority of this article is written to.

*clears throat*

Get your head out of your ass.

Time and time again the arguments for Lance competing fall into three categories.
1. He helped do a great deal to fight cancer/he had cancer so his aggressive tendencies towards beating it should be forgiven elsewhere.
2. Everyone has problems and should be given a second chance.
3. We are all haters.

With regards to the first point, no one argues Lance obviously brought a great deal of publicity to the fight against cancer.  However, how much money he actually raised in the end seems to be debatable. But doing good doesn't give you carte blanche to do bad. Nor does it allow you to do purposeful bad, fight like a caged badger against those who try to expose you doing bad, and work your damndest to ruin the lives who dare go against you.

Of course, we all have problems and have things we would not like others to remember.  Whether second chances should be given is a point we are welcome to have logical disagreements about.  But I think we are on Lance's like 47th chance by now, don't you? This wasn't a whoopsie I have a broken tail light driving home on a country road. This was a driving a Hummer through the gift shop of a hospice care home, firing AK-47s, and throwing snarling rabid dogs containing syphilis at elderly people while cackling all the way. Once that was done, backing up to run over anyone still alive. Them lighting the place on fire.

No, we aren't haters. This is the point which drives me the most batty. Time and time again I see people arguing that Lance's actions didn't harm them so who cares. Ignoring the fact that his actions more or less harm us all, can you think of more horrific and myopic world view? "Well, letting that child rapist go free won't bother me as my children are grown!" Or "I live in Kansas, so it is perfectly fine with me if a hurricane destroys New Orleans!"

If you have never been near the top of your profession (be it real estate or plumbing or Olympic sport) the actions of those near the top might not bother you. But when people cheat in sports where there is a rather finite amount of money, attention, and accolades to go around, those who don't get them, but deserve them, can pretty much be screwed.

Heard of Alysia Montaño? Probably not unless you are hard core track fan.  But Alysia finished 5th in the 2012 London Olympics 800 meter when two Russians (who have recently been named in a WADA report about Russian doping allegations) surged passed her. A third doper from another country also passed Alysia. Well, it now looks like she will win an Olympic Medal because of these athletes being banned. At the very least, Montaño was denied the opportunity to stand on a medal stand, hear her national anthem be played, and feel good for her hard work.  At the worst, she lost money, prestige, a small bit of fame, and an entire life's worth of ongoing sponsorships, partnerships and the like which would have come from winning an Olympic medal.

The same thing stands true for Lance in this situation. Those who are of the "doesn't affect me" attitude are going against the same supposed tight-knit connection that trail and ultra-runners are supposed to have. If something egregiously bad is happening to your trail running BFF, isn't it supposed to also affect you?  Well, as I argued in my article about the fact that trailrunning and untrarunning is no more "pure" than any other sport, it seems to come down to whether you personally are affected. If not, throw your shoulders up and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Well, that's horrible and shame on you. Trail runners and ultrarunners who can make a living on their winnings are few and far between. But they exist. If you don't care about someone unscrupulously taking away their earning power, you are not much better than Lance systematically trying to destroy the lives of those who wanted to point out his doping regimen.

"He'd beat me either way!"
"I don't care about his past."
"Haaaa, I love seeing Lance get the haters blood pressure up. Go Lance!"

None of these people are even remotely close to understanding the problem. Forgiveness and redemption are ingrained in the American Comeback Story. I understand that. I am also not saying that Lance shouldn't be able to run. But the laissez-faire attitude toward those who could lose just the smallest window of opportunity to cash in on their talent is callous and short-sighted. Holding this opinion shows you don't think before you talk or you are incapable of hearing the impassioned pleas of those who will indeed be hurt by the cheater's actions and your attitude. I am not exactly sure which is worse.

But I do know you are wrong. It does affect you. If you are a person who competes, in any capacity, those who do so against the rules making it harder for you to do so legitimately. The ramifications of their actions might not seem to directly have an impact, but sooner or later, the trickle down effect of their dishonesty, cheating, and lack of morals will come home to roost. Just don't turn to those who you didn't care about for sympathy. 

They might say your loss doesn't bother them.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

VariDesk SoHo Review

I have previously reviewed a VariDesk standing desk about ay ear go on my website here.  As such I don't need to give you my background as to why I love the idea of standing desks so much.  Instead I can get right down to reviewing the VariDesk SoHo.

The previous desk I had was a tad more than I needed for just my laptop. So when I saw the new SoHo, I got in touch with VariDesk about their desk. Here is a quick video which can give you some detail about this slim sleek little number. If it looks simple, it is because it is. I pulled the desk out of the box, put it on my freestanding desk, pulled on the levers and was working within seconds.

Here is what VariDesk has to say:

The Soho is our smallest standing desk model, with just enough space for the mobile minimalist who needs a stand up desk that’s just the right size for their laptop or tablet and easy to move and manage. It’s a single, flat deck that’s 30" (76.2 cm) wide, and pops up or folds down in just seconds, making it a true sit stand desk. 

I've been using it now for a few weeks and absolutely love it. Because I sit and stand alternatively, I love how the desk is also blessed with a very low profile. When in the down position, the laptop is no more than two inches higher than it would be without it. That's some pretty posh stuff.

Now, while it is smidgen too bulky to be totally portable, I can easily see someone moving this from desk to desk in an office setting. It has 11 different settings that can fit just about every whim or height of person.  If you are a little taller like me, you can simply add some blosters to the feet of your desk or a little pad under you laptop. Problem solved.

The desk comes in priced around $175 which may seem a little steep for some.  But its sturdy design and cool innovation are worth the price. You get what you pay for in this world and if you want some quality, a few more bucks are worth it.

I could wax on poetic about the desk but it super plain, super simple and super awesome.  You are getting exactly what you see when you buy it and that is a darn good thing. Get one now and thank me for it later.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Running Times is Dead

I comment on this with no great happiness. Running Times, the "go-to source of information and inspiration for the dedicated, serious runner and fan of the sport" will no longer be published starting in 2016.

I have always enjoyed Running Times. Even when I was a newbie runner getting my 10k workout and latest semi-fluff piece in Runner's World, Running Times seem to me like the upper echelon. They talked about elite runners of whom I had never heard. They focused on cross country teams with elongated pieces on high schoolers with otherworldly talent. They introduced me to all those races which are run in kilometers. There were rankings of collegiate running teams who I had to google to even find out what state the college was located. Granted, some of the repeated columnists never caught my eye. I wondered how some contributors had columns as they seemed rather devoid of a good story to tell or a sense of perspective on their own talents. (One columnist repeatedly wrote like they were a far better runner than they were, never mentioning times or exact races for context. I came upon their results a few years later and thought: "Wait. This runner is bragging?) But you aren't going to like every article in every magazine. In fact, the ones which are so good are what keep you coming back.

Running Times once published an article of mine as well. This never blossomed into the full-time writing gig I hoped it would but it was still exciting to be recognized by a magazine for your accomplishments not only as a runner but as a writer. The article I wrote focused on recovering from running multiple marathons, (before the world really got marathon crazy) and allowed me to talk to some amazing athletes as well. My own expertise in the matter came from having just finished racing 52 marathons in 52 weekends. But the "before the world got marathon crazy" part might be the problem in why we are losing Running Times.

Look, I have no knowledge why exactly Running Times is closing shop. I have plenty of ideas, however. Over the past few years, for a multitude of reasons, I have often lamented that one of the best and worst things about running is that it is a participatory sport. It encourages people to do the opposite of so many other sports and actually join in. That is wonderful. We celebrate the last marathon finisher and laud accolades on those who get out and try. This is also fantastic. I am guessing this is also the demise of the magazine.

I recently came across a runner who was touting their accolades, including being a multiple Boston Marathon finisher. Say what you want about whether slower runners have "watered down" being called a marathoner (I see the logic behind both sides of the argument) but being a Boston finisher means something. If you are using it to sell yourself, well, then you are assuming people will guess it means you are qualified to run there. Well, this runner had indeed finished Boston: doing so in a time of 5:15 this year. This would work great for an 80 year old female. This runner, however, was not that but rather a healthy 29 year old male.  In addition, on this runner's personal website which was promoting possibly coaching and other services (a bit hard to tell exactly) they spoke about being a "California Marathon Series Bronze Medalist." That sounded impressive so I tried to figure out what it was. Well, it appears to be completely made up. Figment of this runner's media machine. I asked them about it in a tweet. They promptly removed it from their website without responding.

What in the sam hell does this have to do with Running Times ending its magazine? Well, this runner is not alone out there in this brave new running world. As more and more runners are treated like amazing athletes, the need to look up to anyone more accomplished or more learned, diminishes. I see on many occasions people with no real reason to be revered by their peers receiving unjust accolades and praise. You see people calling themselves "running experts" or certified in whatever to teach whatever else. Most of it appears to be without any real reason other than they have a flowery webpage and know how to call everything "epic." Believe me, I do not think I am the greatest purveyor of knowledge on running. One thing I have learned after racing 156 marathons and doing things no one else ever has is I barely know a damn thing about running. I truly believe the more you do and the faster you get the more you realize you really know nothing and must constantly be learning from everyone. But that doesn't sell training plans or blog posts or anything else. And if you can put together enough info to get you through a training run from the free blogs out there (and dear dog are there a lot of running blogs), why would you think you need to pay for a magazine?

And that has killed Running Times. This magazine pointed out that you are slow even when compared to the
69 year old grandmother of 17. Its articles talked about more than "5 Moves to Get Great Abs!" There were people with actual knowledge, learned from the best of the best who were trying to impart it upon you.  But one of the things which keeps adults from learning new things (like languages) is hubris. We don't like to admit we don't know what we are talking about. Reading Running Times was an exercise in admitting how slow and ignorant you were. Some columnists, like Roger Robinson (Kathrine Switzer's husband), are probably both faster AND smarter than you. This didn't bode well in the "I deserve everything and will complain loudly if I don't get it" social media world we live in.

But there have been some changes in the overall feel of the magazine lately. Running Times became a little more fluffier. Cover photos got a bit more glossy. It almost seemed like there were two Runner's World magazines. (As an aside, I enjoy Runner's World and think it definitely has its place as a runner's magazine in today's world. Considering it owned Running Times, I guess that place is at the top of the mountain now.) With these changes and the reasons I mentioned above, I am not surprised that the time has come for Running Times to move on. But I am still disappointed.

I can only hope that some other magazine will pick up the slack. Perhaps Runner's World will begin to include a little more of what Running Times had in it that made it so special. Maybe some other publication will rise from its ashes. Ultrarunning Magazine, while obviously focused on the longer race variety, has stepped up its game lately from just being race reports written by runners who couldn't exactly write. So has Trail Runner Magazine. But those magazines are far more of a niche in our sport. Same as Marathon & Beyond which, coincidentally (or maybe not) is also closing down its doors very soon. In any regard, whether there is any sort of change, losing Running Times is a big loss for runners out there, even those who never read a page of the magazine. Innovation and changes which have helped make running a sport for the masses have started with those who were inspired by those often covered within its pages.

Let's hope those looking for inspiration are able to find it elsewhere. Hopefully, they also won't mind maybe spending a few bucks to help those who know what they are talking about share it with them.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

FluidStance Level Review

Ever since I converted my desk to a standing one with two different VariDesk products, I had been looking for ways to keep my feet from aching. Nearly three years ago I had a really bad staph infection that put my running on hold and threatened my very foot itself. As such, since then, my foot always has a tendency to swell if I sit or stand too long. I need to be in motion for it to not feel like it is swelling like a balloon.

I had a nice pad to stand on but it just wasn’t enough.  Then I happened across the FluidStance Level.  I got in touch with the company and before long I had one under my feet.  It has rarely left my feet since then. (Disclaimer: I didn’t pay for the product but FluidStance never said I had to write a review for it anyway. As an extremely active man who also writes, my feeling is they had faith in their product and if I had something good to say, I would do so.)

Let's get to the review. From their web site:

The Level by FluidStance is a work platform that elicits subtle, constant movement below your feet to increase your range of motion and heart rate. Developed primarily as a tool for your immediate workspace, it can be used in common areas of both the home and office, or as a complement to a stand-up desk. The patent-pending design allows you to change the overall aesthetics via interchangeable top decks, floating bumpers, and base plates.

OK, that is what they have to say.  This is what I have to say.

First off, just check out this bad boy. It looks like an art deco surfboard. Totally sweet. And do looks matter? Well, yes they do.  It matters much more if it works but saying it is not a bonus to enjoy looking at what you use daily would be a lie. I do, in fact, enjoy looking at it. It is the closest I think we are ever coming to Marty McFly's Hoverboard (and on those damn wheeled things that calls themselves hoverboards are NOT hoverboards and should be banished to Dante's 8th ring of Hell.)

Second, you will use it every day because it is enjoyable to use. I figured it would be a once in a while sort of thing with me only using it on those days I want to rock out and spin and dip to some great music. But when my standing desk is up, I am using the FluidStance Level. When something which is marketed as being good for your health to use is actually fun to use, we can add another bonus points to the people at Fluidstance. Looks matter.

Third, because of this invariable constant use, the Levele better be sturdy. Without a doubt it is just that.  Moreoever, I thought there might be some chance of the Level scratch up my floors. Many months of use and no such ding has appeared.  And not from a lack of me spinning around like a damnable fool on it, either. 

Now, Some may balk at the price tag of the Level but as it appears to be a one-time purchase (no upgrades when the iPhone wants to put a bigger screen or what not) you can see it as something you are using for a long time. As such, it better be made well.  Which it is.  I can understand how some may find it out of their price range and that is the way with every product.  Are there similar products out there which cost less? Sure.  Are they better? I doubt it.

Fourth, I was surprised how I was actually a teensy bit sore from using the Level at first.  But it was a good sore.  More like I was tried than sore, actually.  Like another additional workout added into the day. Sure it is a small workout and after a few months, even standing on it for 8 hours would have you plateauing but that is the same of any exercise.  That is why I can run 250 miles in a month and gain weight. Should that be a downside of the Level and should they not mention its health benefits? Of course not! It is a wonderful side benefit of a pretty spectacular little device.

Fifth, I do not do rather sensitive things while I am working on the computer like precision Photoshop.  As such I cannot say if the little bit of motion from the FluidStance would be a hindrance. I know that I could type, use my mouse, and everything else without a problem. In addition, as I rarely am standing or sitting for too long (both cause me discomfort after a while) if I did need precision I would simply use my small downtime of sitting to do those tasks. Again, this is pure speculation as I had no problem doing anything I needed to do.

I think it is a great product. Sure it would be better if it cost less but what wouldn't be. If you are looking for a way to liven up your standing desk, add a little healthful benefits to your day, and look cool while you do it, I would highly recommend the FluidStance Level.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Run for the Diamonds Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 10; 24th Edition 
311.1 miles run; 16 miles biked; 800 meters swam in 2015 races
Race: Run for the Diamonds
Place: Berwick, PA
Miles from home: 2757
Weather: 50s; Dry; Sunny

Making a living that, in some part, incorporates running sounds wonderful. For the most part, it is.  However, when you are still in the "racing" part of your life, just running is not enough to keep the appetite whetted.  Nevertheless, with only so many weekends in the year, and a desire to experience as much as possible, in order to run all the races you would like you must accept that most of them will not be your "A" day. If you can swallow that pride, then you will be fine. Now, I haven't really been able to do that just yet. But I am working on it.

Fortunately, I knew that the Run for the Diamonds would not be a great race for me from the start. Having spent the most time home in quite some time, I have been putting in hard, longer miles. As such, I was aware this would be a very hard workout with an official time attached to it. More importantly, however, was experiencing this, little slice of racing heaven.

I have lamented often that the best and worst thing about running is how it is a participatory sport. So many people run and take part in races these days and their desire to do so is a wonderful one indeed.  With regards to knowing anything about the rich history of the sport, or its current stars, most runners draw a blank. When I mentioned I would be running this race to my running friends, 1 in 10 had even heard of it, let alone knew what it was all about. That is why I hope its inclusions in my newest book, which will detail the greatest races to run in North America, will help raise its profile to be included in every "must do" list for runners nationwide.

I will not get into too much of the history of the race as there already is a book dedicated to just that, but let's just say a race doesn't get run 106 times if they aren't doing something right. I will point out that the race is known for a couple of things, namely, the fact that the top runners are presented with diamond rings or necklaces and the big honking hill starting at mile two.

On the day before the race, I was given a course tour by the race directors. Couldn't have been more glad I accepted that as it ended up being not the course I thought it would be. Without a doubt there is a reason why so many who have run this race do better the second time they have run it.  Or, as so many do who are local enough to be afforded the opportunity, they run the course repeatedly on trial runs. In fact, the organizers put a few portapotties out at the start/finish a few weeks in advance so anyone running the race has a place to relieve themselves.  That sort of small town charm is pretty amazing.

As the dinner before the race wound down, I was scheduled to say a few words about some of my accomplishments and why I chose to be in Berwick for this particular race so far from where I live. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised to see friends I had known for years, run into people who knew high school teachers of mine when they were growing up, and make the acquaintance of more than a few people who I had only met through social media.  Always so nice to put a face and a voice to a name who you only see in race results.

First two miles:

This first two-mile stretch is the appetizer for the rest of the race.  Starting on the double-laned, tree-centered Market Street, runners slope slightly downhill through the main street heading out of downtown.  Then you slope ever-so-slightly uphill before turning right and leaving the friendly confines. One mile has passed and  you will not run a flat portion again for nearly seven miles.  The next mile winds you through a small cropping out neighborhood houses with a sizable crowd out cheering you on the lawns of their homes.  To your left you see a sprawling meadow with a few horses and a hill still high atop the Berwick Heights.  Above that, where you can't see just yet, is Berwick Heights and the hills you must climb.  You loop around, first to your right an then to your left and then the hills begin.

I ran the first two miles at a good but not great pace, hoping to average around a 6:25.  I was a little fast on the first mile and a little slow on the second one. It was difficult not to think too far ahead when I knew what was in store but I focused on the task at hand. More than a few runners had shot out in the first mile and were coming back into my sights. I think it would be great to have timing mats at the halfway point of this race to see how many people overestimated their ability to tackle these hills. A comparison of how much one died would be good incentive to not do it again once the memory of the pain has been erased by turkey and gravy and time.

To Mile 5:

If you read the history of the races and when it has been won or lost, it is rarely done at any other point than the middle miles. Even if you are not in contention for any sort of prize you can see why these miles here give most people the shivers.  First and foremost there is the hill for which the race is know. Second, there is the false summit of that hill, a small downhill and then a steep up again.  Following this you are treated to a screaming downhill to the point of the arrowhead (what the course resembles) before one last long but gradual uphill to the end of the 5th mile.

Many times in the previous years, the weather conditions for this race have been rather abysmal.  It is Thanksgiving in Central Pennsylvania. The old adage about having Halloween costumes designed to fit over snommobile suits makes us laugh because it is true. So for the temperature to be nearly 60 at race start (a late 10:30 a.m.) was obviously something different. I can only imagine trying to summit these big hills in slippery snowy conditions. However, with perfect footing, I have no excuse other than the 500 feet we climbed for an extremely slow mile. As the sun beat down and the smattering of fans with beer and other libations for runners cheered us on, I was simply trying to conserve energy as best as possible knowing this was not the only hill. As a journalist of the event as well, I was also doing my best to suck in the ambiance even as I sucked wind.

Throughout the first five miles I either stood pat with regards to where I was in the positioning of the race or passed people. Here and there a lone runner would streak by me which would only make me wonder if they started late.  But for the most part I felt I was running the course well, if not too particularly fast.

When we finally crested the 5th mile, I knew we at least had a little downhill running where I could feel like a half-decent runner. I find it so curious how different runners are and how we can excel at such different things. Time and time again I would have to work hard to keep up with someone on a flat or uphill only to fly by them like it was nothing when the course sloped down. Never ceases to amaze me how contrasting running styles can be from pair of shoes to pair of shoes.

Heading Home to the Diamonds:

While the well-intentioned folks along the course would repeatedly tell you the race was all downhill, they were incorrect or liars. However, for a brief period of time, there was a nice long downhill that those of us who are fortunate to run them well, could take advantage of.  Over this next mile I realized there was no way I was going to break an hour for my race as originally planned.  Yet, I knew if I threw a little of my back into it, I might not be much more than a minute over either. Being in that no-man's land of way off your initial goal but between two lesser-desired goals, of which neither will make you happy no matter how hard you run, is an uncomfortable place to be. You must decide how much pain and exhaustion you can handle even when you know the end result will still be rather unpleasing.  It is a balancing act and a bargain you have to make with your muscles and lungs. Throwing down my fastest mile of the race, I knew I just had three more miles before I could call it a day.

Of course there are a least three smallish uphill sections to contend with over the rest of the course: a small rise right before the 6th mile a screamer of a downhill at mile 7 before a quick down and up halfway betwixt that and mile 8 and an uphill climb right near the finish (positioned next to a graveyard.)  I saw at the mile 7 marker a camera set up on a tripod with a sign that said "Smile!" Not wishing to miss an opportunity, I leaned down into the camera with a cheesy grin masking my pain and exhaustion.  I only found out later that the camera is owned by the race director and my smiling mug was captured crystal clear.

Not soon thereafter, two women whom I had passed earlier, passed me in tandem. As we hit this mostly flat, but lightly uphill section before the turn onto the main drag to head home, I could see a battle brewing. As I have on other occasions, when my "A" race is out the window, I sometimes like to watch battles between other people. Racing is an awesome part of running. I enjoy the chess game that goes on as runners throw in surges and spurts and test the boundaries of those they are trailing or leading. As such, I decided to stay in contact with these ladies and see how their efforts played out.

Hitting the last mile I could see a solid effort would keep me in the 1:01 range but it would also give me a front row seat to watching these women battle. In addition, as we neared the finish, I could see that a third female, faltering slightly, was coming into the mix. Pushing myself, ignoring a desire to dry heave, I watched as one girl, wearing Penn State ribbons in her hair (so she was obviously my favorite) narrowed the gap. It came down to a sprint as this PSU fan nipped one runner by one second and the other by six.  I came in just a few more seconds behind, more than ready for this challenging race to be over and netted a 1:01:43 for this tough 9 miles. Finishing in 7th place in my age group I was a bit bummed I missed a diamond award plaque by two places (and about a minute).  Then I looked at the age group above and below me and realized I would have lost by much more in either of those groups.  So, you take what you can get!

Berwick is a town of roughly 10,000 people. I would say at least 3,000 were out on the streets cheering them on and another 1,000 were running the race. It is no great surprise that anyone running a race likes some crowd support. However, more than cheers warms my heart in this type of race. Seeing a small town continue to get behind a product that is 100% its own is an awesome feeling. This race used to be called the Berwick Marathon in spite of its distance not being quite 26.2 miles. While I am glad it doesn't have the incorrect moniker anymore the race does indeed deserve to have the town name in it because of how much it is a community event.  Runner after runner I spoke to was running their 12th, or 27th or 35th Diamond Run.  In fact, the overall female winner, Marina Orrson all of maybe 24 years old, told me this was the 7th time she had run the race.

But it is not just the locals who frequent the Run for the Diamonds.  A large contingency from Canada has made this race a regular pilgrimage for decades and for a time were the overall winners on many occasions. I was fortunate enough to get to spend a few minutes with a few of those Canadians including the incomparable Ed Whitlock. I would highly suggest you read up on this man and his unbelievable accomplishments.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the challenging hills in this race, one should definitely experience what it is like to race in this iconic event before your running days have passed you by. I cannot guarantee you will have the pristine, almost too warm weather we had this year but I can guarantee the local feel and flavor will warm your heart nonetheless.

You may also win a diamond.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why Runners Will Live Forever/Die Immediately in the Zombie Apocalypse

Even after watching the steaming pile of dung that was Fear the Walking Dead and realizing that after six years of The Walking Dead virtually none of the characters have learned how to not be incredibly stupid, I still love zombie stuff. I grew up just 69 miles north of Evans City where the original Night of the Living Dead was filmed. Horror and slasher movies were my bread and butter growing up. Either my parents were horrible at raising children or realized that I was smart enough to establish between ridiculous gore and real life. I am going with the latter.
Regardless, while there have been plenty of quizzes about how long one would last in the Zombie Apocalypse, I, of course, see most things through the prism of being a runner. Which is why I realized that runners would be either the absolute best or excruciatingly worst at surviving when all hell breaks loose. Let me delineate my reasons for each.

Why Runners Will Live Forever When Brain Munchers Come to Town

1. Long Distance is Our Thing

Over and over again we see talk about something being "four miles away" from something else in these zombie movies. Then it takes the protagonists like eleventy-billion years to get there. I hear four miles away and think: "OK, so half an hour, even if the footing is sloppy, and I'd be there."

Even if we are dealing with the fast zombies of World War Z, chances are most runners have the cardio to outlast these sprinters. As for the slow lumbering ones? Zombie, please. I've shuffled faster at the end of a 100 miler than these cretins. Runners would have no trouble at all staying ahead of the herd.

2. We'd Blend

Ever seen a runner after a marathon? We shuffle and moan like we are the living dead anyway. Until we get to a shower, we smell like them as well. Our stiff leggedness and natural aroma serve as perfect camouflage against the hordes of the undead.

3. Already Have the Gear

We have our Camelbaks, packaged food, filtration systems, body glide and everything else all lined up. Throw it in the sack and away we go. No need to worry if we have the proper provisions to make it to the next town, which is only 15 miles away anyway. (See point #1.)

4. Lay of the Land

Want to know fourteen different ways to get around town? Runners know them. In fact, we have also already ran down every dead end street and traversed all the lesser known side streets and alleys. We've been GPSing every one of our runs for years now.

Then again, just when I was thinking about how our badassery is umatched, I realized runners have some seriously fatal flaws which would turn us into zombie food rather quickly.

Why We Are Toast

1. No Runner Left Behind

If you are a runner worth your salt, you never drop the slowest runner. That means you have to keep going back for Janice in Accounting, even though she clearly doesn't GAF. (Thank you, John Oliver.) Backtracking means we are inevitably going to get cornered. If we just didn't care about anyone else (like the way triathletes do) we would be good.

2. We Can Be Whiny

Sure, we can run 100 miles. If the weather is right. And we don't chafe. And all our pre-mixed liquids are where we want them to be. And if I don't have my plantar plantar fasciitis flaring up. You know what guys, go on without me. I'm just going to lie down here and get eaten.

3. Depression

With no power grid, how can we upload our workouts to Strava? Will anyone know how epic our vert was up that mountain if we don't Instagram it? What's the point of having abs unless I can show them off to adoring friends?! I see no point in going on.

4. Obsession

You know that even in an intense lockdown situation where the need for absolute quiet is essential, we would be out there making sure to get in our five miler. That's what the schedule called for, geesh.  "If they chase me I will just use it as a fartlek. Of course my watching is beeping. I need to know my pace!"

Conclusion: Maybe we will last longer and maybe we will die sooner. I guess we should just be like Carl and stay in the damn house. Otherwise the walkers will smell our bloody nipples.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Race Gender Equality: Let The Women Run

Your uterus will fall out!

As many a runner knows, this was what many (men) back in the day used as an excuse for why women were not allowed to run distances greater than the 800 meters. We laugh at it now and like to point to that insane thought as a symbol of how far we have come as a society. Look at those silly people from days gone by! They don’t know what they are talking about! We are now so enlightened! 

Here’s the problem: no one actually believed that would happen.

OK, maybe somebody thought it was a possibility. But some people think we faked the moon landing, too. So you can see whether some people thought something was true is not a good proof that it was accepted as common knowledge. But the fact remains that reasons did exist in the minds of many which kept women from running (or voting or anything else for that matter) many decades ago. Virginia Slims aside, we have come a long way, baby. But there is still progress to be had.

This past summer took part in the US Mountain RacingChampionship.  (FYI, if you ever get a little too uppity in your running britches, take on some of the elite in the country at the sport. You will remember why your age group trophy at the Dog n Dash 5k sits prominently on your shelf.) At this race, not counting talent, there was something distinctly different between myself in the men’s race and those in the women’s, and it had nothing to do with chromosomes.  Here on this day, the men’s course consisted of three loops of a hard mountain trail; the women’s course had only two. Why the difference? According to the race website, this was done to mimic the world mountain running championships format in order to give the women the best chance to compete. I can definitely agree that something can be said for preparing for what you will race. But the time has long since passed for the distances run by women to equal those of men, up and down the board.

Now, I am not pretending to be any great champion for women’s rights. I do, however, do my best to fight what I see is injustice in any form it may take. Also, when I am not a member of the class being potentially slighted, I do my best not to speak on their behalf.  Sure I can extrapolate feelings, but it it is best to go to the source. In order to see what at least a sample size of women might think about this issue, it would be best to have them gathered in one place. Fortunately, I had the right group here in front of me on race day to test out my theories. So I reached out to a few competitors to ascertain the situation from their viewpoint.

Kimber Mattox, who took third place overall in the race, has had little experience in trail racing. In fact, these However, while she liked the “shorter distance just based on my running background, there is certainly no reason why the men's and women's race distances shouldn't be the same.” Whether this mean to shorten the men’s race or lengthen the women’s, Kimber felt there was no reason to have a difference between the genders.
championships were her first ever mountain race.

Nancy Hobbs, founder and executive director of All AmericanTrail Running Association, who took the women’s title for 50-54 said there is some precedence for change here.  The World Long Distance Championships are equal length for men and women -- they run the same race.” Furthermore, according to Hobbs, it is also extremely forward-thinking to have the men and women run in a separate races, so that they can be viewed individually by genders.  

Unfortunately, getting the same distance for men and women is no new battle. There have been more than a few groups who have lobbied the World Mountain Running Association to make the changes for quite some time now. Obviously, they have been so far unsuccessful.

Even those who were not directly competing, but who have a stake in the world of racing, fell in line with the idea that change needed to be made. Renee Metivier Baillie, the former track star who has two marathons under her belt (including a 2:27:17 debut in Chicago) has recently moved to Bend, Oregon to open a training business. On hand to watch and cheer for some of her own athletes, Baillie felt it was long past time for the change. She cited the problem starting all the way back in high school cross country where women often only run two miles to the men’s 5k (3.1 miles.)

All told, it is wonderful that there are differences between the genders. We are each other’s yin to the other’s yang. Pretending we are the same is folly. Yet, while we are different there shouldn’t be any need to handle women with kid gloves. They have shown, when given the chance, to be made of a tough stuff (Ronda Rousey, anyone?) It matters not whether that stuff is “tougher” than men.  It matters only that women have shown they can handle much more than they are often even allowed to attempt.

Of course, with the talk of gender inequality in pay, there is a silver lining in the sport here. At least on this day, women only have to run 66% as far as men to collect the same paycheck.   

That’s progress, right?


Since writing this, there has been some movement to make the distances equal.  There has also been some pushback as well. None other than Paula Radcliffe said "Equality actually means Equal Rights and Respect for every person on this earth. It does not mean we must make everything we do exactly the same as men in the name of equality. Many things we already do better. Leave them be." 

While I see her point, I disagree for the reasons listed  above.  For those who may not know, the 8K has long been the standard distance for the women’s course at the IAAF XC World Championships - the men run 12K. Last year things changes and men and women run a 10K course in the “senior” (20 and over) race, though the “junior” women will still run a 6K course. the men still run8K.

Now, I don't think the 12K is special. And women needn't have to move up to that distance to make things right.  Heck, there would be nothing wrong with dropping the men to 8K. 

But it should be the same.