A subprime extended analogy

Imagine that for some reason the Bolder Boulder 10K — which I will be running for the first time on Memorial Day — fronted me 200 race bibs for this year’s event, and told me that they wanted $10,000 ($50 per bib) in return. Recognizing that the homeless and low-income population of Boulder is an untapped and eager market for this race — there’s a lot of free food and a free T-shirt involved, after all — I canvass the downtown area and offer to give race bibs away for $5 each, along with any EBT cards with a balance of between $25 and $50 (I might throw in a pint of vodka to sweeten the deal). I am able to very rapidly hawk all 2,000 numbers, giving me about $1,000 in cash and a pile of EBT cards. I have no idea if these have any value and I don’t check because I don’t care.

The reason I don’t care is simple: I’m on the hook for ten grand to the Bolder Boulder, but that is about to become someone else’s problem. Through a process of possibly illegal but complicated forgery, I manage to make the 200 EBT cards look like Whole Foods gift cards with a value of $250 each, and I offer these to people around Whole Foods stores and on Craigslist for $50 in cash, explaining that I have a gripe against the company and want no part of any of their nasty-tasting, overpriced garbage and homeopathic woo-woo. In the fine print of the agreement, which is written in Sanskrit, I have each “gift card” buyer sign for my personal tax records, it says that they also owe the Bolder Boulder 10K $50 in the form of a mandatory charitable donation to the Bolder Boulder 10K itself. It also says that the gift cards are only good in Whole Foods stores that open on or after January 1, 2020. No problem. Continue reading “A subprime extended analogy”

Yeah, but show me a *big* name in running who’s doped!

The No True Scotsman logical fallacy remains a dominant theme in professional track and field (and many other sports). It doesn’t matter who gets flagged for a positive doping test or how often such things happen; the typical track fan is somehow able to dismiss each case as an outlier. When the scandals start happening at increasingly shorter intervals, people can somehow pretend they never even heard about the previous one.

Ben Johnson in 1984? Oh, well, everyone already *knew* he was on ‘roids but he was an exception.
Carl Lewis? Well, he just got a warning for a low-grade stimulant, not a suspension.
Flo-Jo? No evidence.
Dieter Baumann? Well, his toothpaste story has a ring of truth to it.
Linford Christie? Old and trying to hang on. What a douche anyway.
Merlene Ottey? Gimme a break, she was like 45 when she retired.
Dennis Mitchell? LOL! Funny story about the booze and the women.
Marion Jones? Hey, at least she admitted it on Oprah, unlike others.
Mary Slaney? Eh, she was probably clean for a while when she was younger.
Regina Jacobs? No one liked her anyway.
Bernard Lagat? His “B” sample cleared him, moron.
Donovan Bailey? Didn’t he have some weird disease> Plus he’s Jamaican and everyone there but Usain Bolt is dirty.
Yohan Blake? Wasn’t he like 18 though?
Justin Gatlin? Hell, he served his time and at least has the balls to be out there now.
LaShawn Merritt? I *knew* you couldn’t trust ExtenZe!
Rita Jeptoo? Damn Italian agents must have corrupted her. Good thing we have so many Africans to root for.

The insane thing is that, whenever the topic of PEDs comes up, the apologists are often the first people to scream that a particular athlete who hasn’t been caught is as dirty as they come. They bellow that Paula Radcliffe’s vocal anti-drug stance reeks of doth-protest-too-much bullshit, and when someone points a finger at Salazar’s group, they insist that their neighbors, Schumacher’s stable, are much more likely to cheat. When the body count inevitably piles up, they shake their heads at the “rogues” who pissed all over their coaches’ and teammates’ trust.

But I get it. The sport at the top level remains a fundamentally clean one. I mean, this isn’t pro football, for fuck’s sake, or bodybuilding, or cycling, or weight lifting, or baseball, or Nordic skiing, or wrestling, or triathlon. Running and in particular distance running has little in common with these sports. In fact, most cross-country athletes make the honor roll and the dean’s list in college.

Plyo Boxes

In an attempt to regain a certain “spring to my step” which seems to have dissipated with my battling of injuries over the last few years, I decided to get back to some bounding and jumping drills. As part of this little experiment I thought it might be nice to get some plyometric boxes. These can be rather expensive though, and being somewhat of a cheap bastard when it comes to things like this, I decided to build some. I am by no means an expert with tools but I have managed to build a few things over the years and I figured with the assistance of a friend who is an expert with tools involving wood, this shouldn’t take too long nor cost too much.

I decided to build three boxes of 4″, 8″, and 16″ height and 2’x2′ square. By stacking them I could get 4″ increments from 4″ to 28″. To keep them from separating I figured I could latch them together. 3/4″ plywood is plenty strong, especially when glued and screwed together, so that would be the body material. It turns out this takes a little more than one 4’x8′ sheet of plywood but I had an old treadmill deck sitting in the basement which would make up the shortfall (3/4″ MDF). So it was off to the lumber yard.  The sheet was about $40 plus another $8 for a box of wood screws. From there we went to my buddy’s shop and spent a few hours cutting, drilling, and assembling the units.

Fortunately, I had some left over exterior grade poly, so the boxes got two coats. Now I needed something to prevent slippage. I ordered something called “gymnastic rubber” from an online place but it turned out to be very flimsy. Even at 1/4″ thickness it could easily be torn with just your fingers. I returned it and wound up with a couple of 2’x6′ yoga mats ($9 each, on sale due to discontinued colors-oh the horror). The “gymnastic rubber” weighed a mere 1.3 ounces per square foot. The yoga mats are over 1/4 pound per square foot and should hold up nicely. These were cut into 2’x2′ squares and glued onto the top and bottom surfaces of each box. I had some acoustical sealant laying around which is like caulk that never fully dries, it stays rubbery, so I used that.

Then the latches. It seems you can’t buy decent latches at the local home improvement store. The ones I finally grabbed are made by GateHouse and came with perhaps the cheapest screws I have ever seen. The phillips head slot will strip out with only modest torque.  I replaced them with some beefier units I had (3/4″ #8 as I recall).

OK, so the whole thing was less than $100 (not counting supplies on hand) and in total took the better part of a day. The set weighs over 80 pounds. Here’s a pic:

We’ll see if they work.


You’re not in Boulder anymore

So yesterday afternoon I decided to incorporate a visit to my parents’ house into my run. It was in the single digits, and they have an energetic 1 1/2-year-old Golden retriever named Izzy who needs exercise every day regardless of the weather, no aspects of which she finds daunting regardless of the opinions of her humans. My parents are always happy to let me run her around for a while and I’m always happy to oblige. I figured that I’d hang out there for a while afterward and get some work done using their reliable Wi-Fi connection, so I packed my laptop and cell phone into a backpack, dressed as best I could for the weather, and made the two-mile trek from my place to theirs.

Once there, I farted around for a few minutes to warm up, then took Izzy out for three miles or so. I spent the rest of the afternoon writing training schedules, putting the finishing touches on an article about the Olympic Marathon Trials that had taken place the day before, and harassing putative running fans on the Internet, and along the way prepared and consumed some pasta and broccoli, putting the leftovers in a tupperware container. I had the equivalent of a social engagement at 8:30 and then, calling Ohio from my parents’ place, took part in a radio show on WXUT at about 11 p.m. I then took Izzy out into the now-2-degree-Fahrenheit evening for one last excretory salvo before packing all of my stuff up again and heading back toward home.

It was about 12:30 a.m. I’d had a productive day as a freelancer on multiple fronts and the radio show had been fun, so I was on a high even if the mercury in local thermometers wasn’t.

Benign enough, right? Well, it was all a set-up for a brief and annoying comic interlude. Continue reading “You’re not in Boulder anymore”

To the BRC guy I saw doing a road fartlek this morning (North Boulder)

(Yeah, I’m posting in Craigslist Rants & Raves mode.)

Hi. I’m the guy you saw a few times on and near the Cottonwood Trail at 7 a.m. who was wearing a bright blue Charlottesville Running Company windbreaker, black Sporthill-style pants, a Delaware XC hat and two-dollar gloves from Walgreens. (You surely couldn’t see all that, but I like describing this crude ensemble.) You were — and probably still are — about 5′ 10″ or 5′ 11′ and 160-ish pounds, and were wearing black bicycle-type tights and a Boulder Running Company top. You had — and most likely still have — a dark mustache/goatee combination and appeared to be about 30 or 40 years old. (I didn’t have my sunglasses on.) Here’s the deal. I was out to run for a little over 70 minutes so I could call it ten miles. That gave me the freedom to go by my watch rather than landmarks, which will explain the behavior I’ll review below. Continue reading “To the BRC guy I saw doing a road fartlek this morning (North Boulder)”

And you thought Guliani was done running

Nope. He’s pretty close to the top of the pile, actually. Check out 19th place in the small-school boys’ race at this past Saturday’s Manchester Cross-Country Invitational. (Okay, the spelling is a bit off, but were this a road race rather than a sanctioned high-school event, I’d be screaming fraud.) It was at this meet in 1985 — my sophomore year — that I first transformed myself, in my mind, into a decent runner. The event has exploded into an extravaganza attracting many top teams from New England and — obviously! — New York State.

Running Douchebag

Yesterday I ran the Utica Boilermaker 15k. Decent weather (for July in upstate NY) and 13,000 runners. Not my best effort but I did manage a mid 57 and an age group medal so I can’t complain. About that. What I can complain about is dumb, clueless people.

Right after mile 8, a fellow a bit in front of me decides to do a cartwheel on purpose. I find that a little odd, but he was over to the left side and we were making a right hand turn, and besides, it wasn’t extremely crowded. Runners all around yes, but not like the shoulder to shoulder traffic a couple miles behind us. Anyway, he received a lot of hoots and hollers for this from the spectators, including some banter from a DJ who was set up at that corner.

A few hundred yards later he is directly in front of me and to the side of two or three women who are clearly racing seriously. We come up to a band and Mr. Cartwheel begins dancing and gyrating madly all over the place, apparently looking for more crowd reaction. In the process he nearly took out at least one of these women.  Fortunately, a little quick side stepping on their part got them out of harm’s way. It turns out that they were running in about 10th-12th place, the Boilermaker offering money 10 places deep plus 5 deep in the masters ranks. So they all were racing for a potential payout (at least one of them did get masters money, I don’t know about the others).

Needless to say, this could have been a disaster. He could’ve ruined the races of 2 or 3 potential money winners, and had they gone down, I most likely would’ve tripped over the lot. I don’t need that either. Anyway, we all got around Mr. Douchebag in short order. I mean, if you want to goof around in a race and play to the gallery, that’s fine, but do it where you’re not going to screw with someone who’s there to actually race.


Upping The Stakes: Three-part series on high-altitude training

The third of three installments of a piece I wrote for Competitor Online was posted today. Here are links to all three.

Part 1: What’s The Real Story With Altitude Training?

Part 2: Upping The Stakes: Live High, Train…Like Hanibal Lecter?

Part 3: Upping The Stakes: How Long Is Long Enough?

I not only had a lot of fun with this but learned quite a bit, and may even apply some of it to my own training soon. If that happens, I’ll detail the results here for that guy or woman (I’m not sure which it is yet) who comes here looking to read stuff about running.

I guess the 10 percent rule really is crap…

…because the New York Times has gotten around to making a note of it. From Gina Kolata’s column from yesterday, “When Running Up Mileage, 10 Percent Isn’t the Cap”:

[Researchers] investigated the 10 percent rule because it is so popular and seemed to make sense with its gradual increase in effort. The study involved 532 novice runners whose average age was 40 and who wanted to train for a four-mile race held every year in the small town of Groningen.

Half the participants were assigned to a training program that increased their running time by 10 percent a week over 11 weeks, ending at 90 minutes a week. The others had an eight-week program that ended at 95 minutes a week. Everyone warmed up before each run by walking for five minutes. And everyone ran just three days a week.

And the results? The two groups had the same injury rate — about 1 in 5 runners.

This isn’t at all illuminating because 90 minutes a week and 95 minutes a week both amount to so little training that the whole gang of 532 would have been better of skipping the race. Nevertheless, this is one instance in which using noncontributory data and a couple of anecdotes to support a true conclusion gets a pass. That said, even though Kolata has long had a gig with the Times, which is probably read by about six frigtillion more people every year than the Times (Running) in which I had a 10-percent-rule article published, I think I’ve done the topic similar if not greater justice, possibly because I can afford to be more prickly on a blog and even in RT than Kolota can in her august publication.

Addendum to the Crossfit post: full article from Competitor.com

The other day I derided wrote about the Crossfit program that Brian Mackenzie is deluded into believing convinced will revolutionize training for distance runners. At the time, the full article in the June issue of Competitor was not available online, but it is now, in Competitor’s nifty digital format.

A couple of notes. One, Richard Gibbens (not Gibbons) is incorrectly identified in the article as an exercise scientist. He has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, but that doesn’t make him a scientist, and this would hold true even if he were a bastion of sound analysis instead of a fifth-degree crank. If he’s an exercise scientist, then I’m a physicist, and anyone with a B.A. in psychology is a psychologist, and wouldn’t that be a colossal mess.

Two, and more importantly, it’s become clear to me that all of these guys pushing low-volume, high-intensity training for distance runners because they themselves became injured or otherwise wiped out by high-volume training have no idea how to train properly using high mileage. Mackenzie is very clearly an intense guy, as is Gibbens, a former Green Beret. I have no doubt that whatever mileage totals they reached in their previous lives included far too much work at the high end of the aerobic spectrum, and that they had no concept of how to properly execute recovery days. Had they gone about things the tried and true way, and maybe tried running more on grass and dirt and less on pavement, and learned that hammering away all the time is a bad idea, then they surely could have thrived on a greater overall workload. This is admittedly just a guess, but it’s not a blind one — I’ve seen their Type-A ilk in action and their ability to survive sane marathon training is limited by their personality traits unless they submit to being reined in regularly by a second set of eyes.

In which I present possibly the most worthless “article” about running on the Web

I admit that I only found this captivatingly inane treatise on the evils of “jogging” because I decided to choose the title “How Jogging Can Be Bad For You” from the LIVESTRONG pile just to practice writing from the standpoint of borderline intellectual dishonesty. (People on debate squads apparently engage in similar endeavors routinely.) For all I know, the “author,” Jonathan Wong, was doing the same thing when he wrote the piece, in which he gives three basic reasons that jogging “does people no good”: It doesn’t help you look good, doesn’t help you in the “game” of life, and isn’t that great for your health. Reading only these three section headings is enough to assure anyone not in the throes of heavy-metal poisoning, an ether binge or organic mental compromise that the “writer” is either piss-ignorant or gleefully dishonest. Given his lack of command of English (note that he manages to misuse both “it’s” and “its,” which is pathognomonic for spurious content), I reckon he’s just a twit.

Some excerpts: Continue reading “In which I present possibly the most worthless “article” about running on the Web”

Skateboarding powerlifter vs. Arthur Lydiard: not a fair fight

This morning I was sitting in the waiting room at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine waiting to meet with one of the exercise physiologists on staff to gather information for an article I’m writing for Competitor Online about high-altitude endurance training. There was a print copy of the June issue handy, so I grabbed it and was immediately struck by the cover, which features the words “Run Less, Get Strong, Go Faster” alongside a photo of a grave-looking, heavily muscled guy who was apparently the mind behind this breakthrough. No longer quite as anxious to get into the performance lab, I flipped to the story, knowing I was about to be walloped with a load of bunk but curious as to whether it would be novel bunk. It wasn’t, but it pushed the limits of credulity all the same, at least as much on account of what it didn’t say as what it did. Continue reading “Skateboarding powerlifter vs. Arthur Lydiard: not a fair fight”

Please picture a world like this

I wish that for one day, everyone in the United States who is ambulatory would lose the ability to walk, but retain the ability to run. This would happen with no concomitant improvement in anyone’s fitness. In other words, the only way people could get from place to place on foot would be to run, however slowly, sloppily and painfully. If they needed to take breaks, they’d have to sit down or stand there until ready to go again.

This would be an awesome sight in the non-ironic but non-hackneyed sense of the word. Just imagine it. Young people, fit people, heavies, senior citizens, smokers, drunks, cops, aspiring pedophiles, missionaries, whores, cable servicepersons, Wal-Mart shoppers, everyone — running along sidewalks, across parking lots, from the bread aisle to the checkout counter, into family court, out of bars at last call. I would spend the entire day filming people, except at the end, where people like me would be at a distinct strength advantage we would put to heroic use, e.g., in the form of looting or recreational vandalism.

Kept off track — a survey of sorts

I grew up in southern New Hampshire and lived there with until I was 32, with side trips to a couple of college towns in New England. I don’t recall a single instance of finding a 400-meter track at a public — or private, now that I think about it — high school closed to the public. I have worked out on tracks in Concord, Hanover and Lebanon, N.H.; Burlington and South Burlington, Vt.; and various places in Massachusetts, always with unfettered access. Continue reading “Kept off track — a survey of sorts”

Of interest to runners who poke their heads in here

I think we’re getting more traffic from running sources than we used to, and some people probably want to read only the running-related stuff and skip the rest. If so, your loss, but if you haven’t figured this out already you can bookmark http://chimprefuge.com/category/the-running-ape/ or append “feed” to the end of that URL and stick it in your RSS reader. Or wherever.

Optimizing Your Racing Frequency

Optimizing Your Racing Frequency

How often can you go all-out and do yourself more good than harm?

Competitive runners race. A select few compete to win or place high, most of us race in order to lower our fastest times, still others of us enjoy the intrinsic challenges of mountain races or ultramarathons; some of us float between these roles depending on how old we are, our health and a host of other practical and psychological factors.  But despite our differences, one element that virtually all competitive runners share is selecting a goal event or handful of events, training for a dedicated period of weeks or months, recovering, and starting the cycle anew unless injury or ennui intervenes…

via Optimizing Your Racing Frequency | Competitor.com.

More shit-shots from the banal-running-rules department

Following up on yesterday’s post, I’m going to delve into even a more hackneyed complaint — the “10% rule.”

I wrote about this for Running Times years ago, but there’s considerably less editorial oversight on this blog, so I’ll give it a whirl here, too. For the non-runners who have read all the way to this sentence, the 10% rule is supposed to be a guideline for how aggressively you should ramp up your training mileage from some established baseline. It’s meant to keep people from being too ambitious and placing themselves at injury.

The problem is that no one knows what the fuck it means. Sure, some Americans understand the concept of percents and a few can even do simple calculations, but when it comes to this, even people who invoke it in mantra-like fashion can’t tell you what they’re saying.

The discussions usually go like this: Continue reading “More shit-shots from the banal-running-rules department”

A somewhat trite complaint about shitty running dicta

One of the main things that separates people who started running in or before high school and runners who got started as adults is that the latter are more fond of reading books, magazines and Web sites about the subject. What seems intuitive to some of us thanks to early exposure is actually ingrained, not innate, and so it seems curious to some of us, or at least to me, that people like to read running books, often more than one at a time. This is coming from someone who did run in high school and nevertheless did used to read a lot of running books and magazines, and in fact is personally responsible for a running book and a great many magazine and Web articles about it, so maybe I’m just tired of it and have resorted to compartmentalizing my mind in order to continue earning much of my income continuing in this vein. In any rate I like to bash certain aspects of the running world and I can really only do that on my own time, as I’m doing now.

I deal closely with one of the aforementioned adult-onset runners, and this one is especially dangerous because she’s very intelligent and obsessive and analytical and hence perfectly positioned to get in her own way. Earlier today she claimed to have read somewhere that every extra pound of body weight slows runners down in a race by two seconds per mile. I’m sure whoever came up with this had the best of intentions and possesses some whimsical, pseudoscientific means of justifying his claim, but it fails on its face.

This leads me to write about a bunch of running rules that suck. (If you are ever curious about whether a rule you’ve heard about anything to do with running sucks, go visit the Runner’s World Online forums. If there’s a fight about it, it most likely sucks. In fact, if it’s even there at all, the likelihood that it sucks approaches unity.) Continue reading “A somewhat trite complaint about shitty running dicta”

Distance running makes you fat — a remarkable breakthrough in human physiology

Some chick found some blog by some guy who is apparently a fan of “manning up” through heavy lifting, and makes certain that visitors are aware of this by posting GIFs of flexed biceps and remarking on the utility of the purported testosterone-induced “swagger” of youth. (I’m surprised that the blog advertises only his training services and not a link to ExtenZe.) In his first blog post (he only started the thing last Thursday), he’s claiming that running long distances makes people fatter, in terms of the percentage of their body weight accounted for by fat, because it slows their metabolisms, reduces testosterone, and lowers muscle mass, mostly because of the effects of cortisol.

I posted a comment, but it is temporarily or maybe permanently in the moderation queue, so I will reproduce it here, with a few additions that occurred to me after I commented. (Please excuse my self-aggrandizing style; I was aiming for pompous on purpose.) Continue reading “Distance running makes you fat — a remarkable breakthrough in human physiology”