Back to Racing, Part 2

This past weekend, the Unplugged Half Marathon was held, starting and finishing at Waterfront Park in Burlington.  In total, 425 runners finished in eight waves, an hour apart over two days.  It was a modified out and back course along the Burlington bikepath. It was unusual for various reasons.  One, COVID-19 protocols limited the number of runners per wave to 150.  In theory, that would have allowed for 1,200 runners. As it was, 950 were registered, but many of those had originally registered for the race on April 11th.  With the April event cancelled due to COVID, runners’ registration carried over to October.  If they did not respond when contacted for their preferred wave they were assigned a day and wave.  That didn’t work for some, including a large number of out of staters subject to travel restrictions.  Two, the eight waves were not seeded.  Thus, usual competitors (at least before COVID) were likely not together and able to pace each other.  Three, the course was out and back on the bikepath, not everyone’s first choice for a half marathon.  The reason was the South End of the Burlington bikepath is being totally redone and the two-mile stretch from downtown … Continue reading

Running in the Moment

We all try to find silver linings in COVID constraints.  And it’s good to keep looking! As I was running recently along the Burlington bikepath which borders Lake Champlain, I found myself 100% in the present moment, taking in the views of the lake and the Adirondacks, the colors of the changing leaves, and the calm air.  It was close to a perfect day to run.  My trusty Garmin indicated a solid pace.  I felt smooth with a good rhythm.  Afterwards, I reflected upon how often I miss the opportunity to be “all there” during my runs, taking in the elements and fully enjoying the present moment.  As may be the case with others, I often find myself thinking about any number of things including how I should be able to run faster or contemplating the next race.  Of course with COVID, race opportunities are now limited. All this led to some existential thoughts.  First, the present moment is really all we have.  Everything in the past was built on prior present moments and the future will be the sum of those down the road.  So, our lives are really the totality of present moments and that’s a pretty awesome … Continue reading

Moving Forward

As COVID-19 continues to affect much of our daily lives, at least those of us in Vermont have some assurance we’re doing things right, as we have both the lowest incidence and active cases per 100,000 people in the country.  Mask wearing indoors is universal and highly prevalent outdoors where there are people in close proximity. My past three blog posts are about completed races.  So, in spite of protocols that constrain how we congregate and execute a road race, things are beginning to happen.  Not everything is opened up, however.  For example, the UVM indoor track is reserved for “groups,” which for now means the track team.  For now, that’s OK, but winter is coming! Running in the rain this morning on the Intervale trails, there were  very few people.  Farmers were picking vegetables and the F-35 jets blasted overhead.  Otherwise, it was pretty much me and the elements.  Which was nice – I kept my mask below my chin.  Starting out, I felt quite sluggish, drained really, and was not at all sure making the planned five miles was in the cards.  But I kept moving and after about two miles the sluggishness lifted and the rest of … Continue reading

Back to Racing!

While my hamstring continues to heal, I’ve provided music mixes and announcing for races the past two weekends.  Yes, races are happening again. And it’s working! From what I’ve seen it’s working for four reasons: (1) race organizers going the extra distance (literally) to figure out the requirements, go through the painstaking steps of writing them all down, putting them up on the website, and reminding runners about what they are agreeing to do, over and over; (2) a willingness by races to scale down some, maybe by as much as 50%.  Makes the margins lower but it’s allowing races to take the first steps, to learn how to do races safely; (3) a big volunteer pool – there are jobs never needed before, like medical screeners and herders to move runners in different waves in the right direction, with waves lengthening the volunteer time commitment.  And many of these volunteers have direct contact with a lot of runners — they are, in effect, front line workers; (4) and of course the runners, who wear masks up to their designated race time and then right after finishing; willing to race in waves, arriving at different times and not necessarily seeing … Continue reading

Runners, On Your Mark!

The races are beginning to happen!  For five months most everything has been virtual, but intrepid clubs and race directors are taking the plunge.  The reason this can happen is enough is known about how Covid-19 spreads and what can be done to avoid that while holding a race.  The list of precautions and requirements is long and things previously taken for granted, such as water stops, post-race food and awards ceremonies are off the table.  Start times are staggered and a limited number of runners allowed in a wave.  Not perfect for sure, but progress, nonetheless. One novel approach is a marathon I am helping with on a rail trail in Northern Vermont this Sunday.  It was organized by 62-year old Jim Miller, who has run a sub 3:00 marathon in each of the past five decades, starting in the late 1970s when ran his first sub-3:00 as an 18 year-old.  He’s shooting for six decades, which would put him in select company: only three others in the U.S. have accomplished this.  To be clear, over the years Jim’s bar has been much faster than three hours.  He has run sub-2:20 marathons, participated in the U.S. Olympic Trials and … Continue reading

Tone

During Covid, many of us have lost significant amounts of muscle tone.  To be clear, the tone I’m referring is much more than the external buff sought in the gym.  It’s about the layers of muscles around everything inside our bodies.  These layers are working 24/7 to support organs and posture, offsetting the effects of gravity.  Without tone, we would be lifeless blobs!  Of course we don’t see these inner layers but lost tone may present itself in various ways: feeling more tired during the day and stiffer than usual when starting our runs; slouching more when sitting; and after a while and even if not gaining weight, slight appearance of a double chin and softer abs and triceps.     I can think of two basic reasons for these changes.  One, Covid isolation has us being home much of the time, significantly reducing our out and about, some of which was done carrying a backpack or bag.  The benchmark number of steps for an active person is 10,000 a day, though the average for Americans is only about 4,000 steps.  Whatever the baseline, my guess is current activity is way down.  Also, even though we may go for a run … Continue reading

Staying With It

It’s now looking like all the larger fall races are cancelled.  The glimmer of hope that continued training would apply to these races is fast fading.  There are some smaller local races still on the docket, but looking at the conditions under which they are being run makes it seem more like a time trial: start times are staggered; you are not expected to show until your start time and then exit immediately upon finishing; no water stops or course support.  Not much different from getting a small group together for a time trial. At the same time, kudos to these race organizers for taking a stab at bringing things back. Our choice is whether to participate. How much different is this than playing MLB games in empty stadiums?  Time will tell if the  safety precautions were sufficient.  There has been a lot of chatter about the pros and cons of trying to have a season.  One could take either side and make a strong argument.  If we consider the fans, of which I am one, it is healthy to have the season get underway.  Maybe it’s vicarious experience, but I’ll take some of that.  From the players’ perspectives, they … Continue reading

When Yes, When No!

Today would have been the Stowe 8 Miler.  A marque race attracting many hundreds of people.  It went virtual this year due to Covid-19.  But a few GMAA folks decided to do it as a time trial.  I said I was in.  My week revolved around getting ready for an 8 mile time trial.  Then on Saturday two things happened.  One, the weather turn rainy and very humid.  Two, I felt as washed out as I had in many weeks.  Thinking about leaving at 6:30 a.m. and then 45 minutes to Stowe to run in the rain and another 45 back just didn’t excite me.  I went to bed leaving the decision to morning, but was pretty sure I’d do an easy run around here.  Which is what I ended up doing. During this time of Covid, we want to keep pushing, set challenges for ourselves and then meet them.  It helps having goals and things to look forward to.  But with our running, it’s also important to put things in context and focus on the long view.  If our body (and mind!) are screaming “No” and we push on anyhow, there is a chance, maybe a good chance, we … Continue reading

July 4th

For many, July 4th means fireworks, barbecues, and big crowds.  For me, Independence Day has usually meant a road race.  Over the past 20 years, I have run July 4th races 15 times on 7 different 5K to 10K courses.  The years I’ve missed have been due to injury or a crowded race schedule.  In Massachusetts, I’ve run races in Boston, Concord, Marblehead, Dedham, Hingham, and Nantucket. In Vermont Woodstock, Morrisville, South Hero and before that in Seattle, Denver, and Epping NH.  I can’t tell you about the fireworks displays those years but can recall the details of most of those races. I’ve read the most races on any given day is Thanksgiving.  It’s cool (or cold!) and both seasoned and occasional runners work up an appetite for the big T-day dinner.  My guess is July 4th has the second most races. Often there is beer, barbeque, bands, and a party following.  The weather is predictably warm (often hot!) and people are eager to hang out.  The races draw kids, grandparents, and everyone in between.    So in 2020, we have Covid-19.  Everything is different with essentially every race cancelled or virtual between March and so far through July.  I … Continue reading

Running vs. Training (and Maintaining!)

I keep a small book by John Jerome at my bedside entitled “The Elements of Effort.” Published in 1997, it’s 150 snippets from one paragraph to several pages of his musings on running.  You may recall the running log he authored for many years after Jim Fixx’s death — the cover was a replica from Fixx’s Book of Running and the log was dedicated to him.  Each month included an essay, similar to some of these entries. Last night I picked it up and turned to one entitled Running vs. Training. Here’s a quote from it:  “There is running to run and there is running to train, and the difference can best be summed up by a single word: increase.  Training is about trying to get more ….  In the running sports, what we’re trying to get more of is speed ….. You might say that those of us who run to train see life as a kind of graph, and concern ourselves primarily with the angle of its line.  Running just to run, on the other hand, is about sustaining. Those of us who are not trying to improve are running for the experience itself, and the only pressure … Continue reading