Attrition

Over the years, we get used to going to key races, such as the regional USATF Grand Prix Series, and seeing our friends and rivals there.  That’s a big reason why we travel to these races.  Many of us keep track of our times and places at these events and maybe note who we beat or beat us.  Yes, this can be obsessive, but it’s also part of the fun! Yet, as we age, we see fewer of our cohort showing up.  We invariably hear directly or through the pipeline about the reasons why: an acute or chronic injury; a serious debilitating illness; an unwillingness to train as workouts feel harder and less fulfilling; less motivation due to slowing times; and even death.  The data bears this out.  Results from the 2019 BAA Distance Medley Races (5K, 10K, Half Marathon) with over 23,000 finishers, showed that 80% of the field was under age 50; 14% were 50-59 and just 6% over 60.  Last Saturday’s New Hampshire 10 Miler, a tough, hilly Grand Prix race that weeded out some younger casual runners, drew 1,088 finishers.  Of those 33% were over 50 and 11% over 60, with just 23 runners 70 and older.  It would be an interesting longitudinal study to … Continue reading

Covid Part 2

As noted in my May 23 post, I lost all hearing suddenly in one ear after a track workout two weeks after contracting Covid.  It’s now two months further down the road and maybe 5% of the hearing has returned in that ear.  The good news is the right ear is holding its own, and I’m doing my best to navigate life in monotone.   After taking steroids for two weeks, I did four weeks of hyperbaric oxygen treatments (HBOT).  These are two-hour sessions in a chamber at 2.4 times normal atmosphere (simulates ~45 feet underwater) with 100% oxygen (normally we breathe 21% oxygen.)  The idea is that oxygen forced into the tissues encourages healing.  While this is proven to help many conditions, including those with open wounds or undergoing cancer treatments, and has been used by athletes to supercharge their recovery for some time, it only succeeds about 40% of the time for hearing loss.  And that’s when started within two weeks.  For various reasons, it was 26 days before I started HBOT. At this point, it’s likely I will never recover much of my hearing, though of course I’ll keep hoping. The ENT specialists I’m working with indicate viruses have been shown to cause permanent hearing loss. The … Continue reading

The Morning Shakeout

The Internet is a crowded place.  Depending on your interests, there is a myriad of topics and themes to choose from.  The running space is no different.  I Googled “running-related podcasts” and came up with a list of 19 compiled by Run to the Finish.  There’s only so much time and attention in the day and week.  So, how to choose? Recently, Kevin, a member of my running club, suggested I listen to an interview with Pete Magill on The Morning Shakeout,  a weekly podcast hosted by Mario Fraioli since December 2017.  Kevin knew as a coach I recommend Magill’s book, Build Your Running Body.  After listening to Mario’s conversation with Pete, I scrolled through the archive and saw and listened to conversations with Alex Hutchinson, author of Endure, George Hirsch, founder of the New York City Marathon and former editor of Runner’s World, Amby Burfoot, and Bill Rodgers.  It didn’t take long to conclude TMS was a mother-lode of great stories about everything running on roads and trails.  Now 40, Mario has spent most of his adult life involved with the sport.  Through writing, editing, coaching, his own running, and an outgoing personality that enables him to easily connect with folks, he has a deep e-rolodex to draw on.   TMS now has an archive … Continue reading

Covid and Running

After 2+ years of avoiding Covid, it caught up with me.  Not at an opportune time (if there ever is one!) as we were in Boston for the week to do a variety of things and had to high tail it back to Vermont, leaving Covid in our wake with two of our friends. My symptoms included a pretty deep cough.  Perhaps because I had been vaccinated and boosted, within five days most symptoms were gone.  But it did set me back. This was two days after running the National Masters 10K race in Dedham MA and to be honest I felt a little tanked then.  So, after walking easy for several days I began running 3 miles, then 4, then 5.  All very easy, though none of it felt that good and I was as tired as if having done a tempo run.  Nevertheless, I pressed on, and the following week picked up the pace and distance.  All clear? Maybe not!  10 days post symptoms I did my first track workout.  All seemed fine, ran pretty good splits, and I was thinking of running a local five-mile race on the weekend to test my fitness.  After stretching and doing some weights at the UVM gym, I walked back to … Continue reading

Enthusiasm!

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts today, No Stupid Questions, which is essentially a conversation between Stephen Dubner and Angela Duckworth.  They cover a broad range of topics and feed off each other in a fun, informative way.  Dubner is a writer/economist and Duckworth a psychologist at University of Chicago.  Today’s topic was “How Valuable is Enthusiasm?”  Dubner, an avid amateur golfer, was posing how important enthusiasm was for him as he approached participation in a pro-am golfing event.  He quoted from Gary Player’s book, The Golfer’s Guide to the Meaning of Life.  Those of us of age probably recall the “big three” of golf: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Player.  Dubner indicates this book is about much more than golf and draws on Player’s comments about enthusiasm.  Perhaps more than is needed for this post. Nevertheless, I highly recommend listening to this podcast, #89 in the NSQ series. This discussion got me thinking about how important enthusiasm is in our running lives.  What is it that gets us out to train most days at an intense level?  And what allows us to put the hammer down, or keep the hammer down, in a race when discomfort mounts? This is hardly a stupid or theoretical question for a competitive runner, at … Continue reading

Favorite Races

I expect those of us who have been running and racing for a number of years all have our favorite races.  Reasons might include location, time of year, race management, course layout, and vivid memories from those races.  Our favorites may change year to year. However, my unwavering favorite is the New Bedford Half Marathon, held the third Sunday of March.  After a two-year hiatus due to Covid, it is set to be held in four weeks.  And I can’t wait to toe the line!  This will be the 20th time I’ve run New Bedford – by far the most I’ve run any race.  The first time was 1990.  Since then, I’ve lived in Vermont and Boston: from Vermont, it’s a destination race, from Boston a long drive. So why New Bedford?  It’s a rite of spring – it falls on or about the first day of spring.  To be truly ready to race New Bedford requires training perseverance through the coldest months of the year.   Optimal size – usually around 2,000 runners.  And with NB often being in the USATF-NE Grand Prix series, it attracts the top New England runners – often 600+ from USATF clubs – a chance to see friends and fellow competitors at the end … Continue reading

And Then…..

How many times have we planned things out, maybe in great detail, only to have change thrust upon us without notice?  Often, I suspect.  This is the way life goes!  I believe the saying is “life happens when we are busy making plans.” My latest wrecking-ball-to-plans happened last weekend at the Clearwater Marathon Weekend 5K.  Six weeks prior we decided to visit Florida to escape the frigid Vermont cold in late January, historically the coldest time of year.  So, we made plans to visit St. Petersburg and Siesta Key, where temps then are usually in the 70s with lows in the 50s.  I saw a 5K on January 29th, organized by none other than Millennium Running, the Bedford NH operation run by John and Jenn Mortimor, who regularly host USATF-NE Grand Prix events.  I knew the race would be well organized.  So game on! It turned out Florida had a cold spell this year.  Iguanas were falling out of trees and race morning was just 40 degrees.  The wind was horrendous to boot, between 25 and 30 mph, gusting at 40+ — putting wind chill in the mid 20s.  Just pinning on numbers in the dark for the 7 a.m. start was challenging, as well as deciding how much clothing to … Continue reading

A Running Conversation

I’ve been conversing with two well-known Boston runners/coaches, Jon Waldron and John Barbour, about starting a podcast built around our experiences with running – our own and those we know.  Getting it off the ground is a challenge for three people not especially well-versed in technology.  We know enough to get by, but producing a high-quality podcast is something else.  We’ll need some help! We’ve had a couple Zoom calls already and posed two questions to ourselves: One, why would we do this? And two, would anyone listen?  We’ve sort of answered them.  The “why” is we are unabashed running enthusiasts, with over 150 years (!!) of running experience among us.  John and Jon were accomplished distance runners in their youth and then continued to excel whereas I got serious about it in my late 20s.  They have very successfully coached (John mostly adults and Jon high school) for many years.  I’ve coached myself and others who might bother to listen about what has worked for me.  The tougher question is: Who would listen?  Maybe we are kidding ourselves, but we think there are many others out there, like us, who have an insatiable appetite to read, talk, and listen … Continue reading

Our Brains on the Run

It’s old news that moderate to intense exercise is good for our hearts, muscles. skeleton, and lungs.  Running is particularly good since it’s weight-bearing and stresses the joints.  Some feel that creates wear and tear.  But the research is clear that running combined with strength-training, stretching, adequate rest and recovery, and a reasonable training load, in most people builds cartilage at joint surfaces rather than wearing it away.  This is due, in part, to nutrients being drawn into our joint capsules from physical activity.  Otherwise, the avascular (no blood vessels) cartilage is left to fend for itself and it’s not a fair fight.  So, for the most part, us runners feel we’re doing what we can to keep the chassis in decent shape, hoping to keep it on the road more than in the garage.  Whether or not we’ve come completely to terms with slowing down, we are at least out there putting in a good effort. That is all well and good, but lurking in many people’s minds, literally, is what is going on in our heads, in our brains. We may have instances of forgetting things and not being as quick on the fly in spirited conversations.  We … Continue reading

Goals for Senior Runners

In my Sports Psychology class at UVM this fall, we were able to choose a topic for a research project on goal setting.  Of course, I jumped at the chance to do this for senior runners!  And for this post, I’m drawing from my project write-up.  Goal setting theory (GST) is used to improve performance in many endeavors.  In sport, GST has been applied to both teams and individuals, with clear links to building skills and task achievement.  Goals have been broadly grouped as subjective or objective.  Subjective goals could include “I want to keep running” while an objective goal might be “I want to run competitively until age 80 and maintain a 70% age-grade standard”.  Objective goals can be subdivided into process, performance, and outcome goals. In sport, objective goals should be: (1) moderately difficult to achieve; (2) both short and long term; (3) specific; (4) feedback looped.  An oft-used acronym to critique goals is SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timebound.  It’s no secret we senior runners encounter constraints not faced by younger runners. These include various physiological changes that begin to appear in our 30s but accelerate with aging.  These include changes in: (1) … Continue reading