Back on Track!

I’ve always enjoyed and valued the UVM indoor track.  It’s a tenth of a mile with a very slight bank, enough to allow for efficient cornering without causing excessive torque.  If I pick unbusy times, I alternate direction.  Some don’t like the distance – they want the standard 200 meters.  But I prefer the more frequent feedback loops.  However, due to COVID-19 the UVM indoor was track shut down on November 24th, the day students went home to finish the term remote.  I did my last track workout that day.  The athletic facilities were then closed until February 4th.  Thus, what had been weekly ventures to maintain some fast twitch fiber function went on pause.  So, heading up today for my track reservation, it was with some trepidation and uncertainty about what to expect.  Could I still muster anything resembling speed after nearly 12 weeks?  After two miles of warmup, I hit the marker, pushed the start button on my old-school Timex (Garmin GPS isn’t accurate indoors) and took off on the first 800.  The first lap felt pretty good!  Then the second, then the third.  Finishing the fifth lap, I was somewhat surprised the pace was similar to the … Continue reading

Reflections on Grete Waitz

I happened to take World Class off my shelf this morning and started reading and looking at the pictures.  This is the life story of Grete Waitz through 1986, as well as a training guide.  Waitz trained at a serious level through 1990 when she won her last NYC Marathon, a race she won an amazing nine times!  Her last marathon was in 1992 when she ran NYC with Fred Lebow after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Waitz’s story is compelling.  She had running talent early on, focusing on 800M to 3,000M distances.  She had to overcome parental and societal resistance to girls and women running competitively but persevered and in 1975-6 held the world record in the 3,000.  Then in 1978 her husband Jack talked her into running the NYC Marathon on a long run of 12 miles!  Grete was skeptical but the Marathon paid airfare and hotel for Jack and Grete to come over.  She has often recounted that foray into marathon running: the first 18 miles seeming like a jog followed by eight miles of pain and torture.  She yelled with anger at Jack at the finish line saying she would never do this again!  Of … Continue reading

A New Year!

Most people I know are glad 2020 is over!  As discussed in my previous blog: “2021: Here It Comes!,” there is reason to hope for an end to the most stringent COVID-19 restrictions during 2021, as we move towards some kind of normalcy.  While we each have a role in containing the virus, certainly much about COVID is beyond our control.  Nevertheless, the new year provides an opportunity to take stock of what happened with our running in 2020 and plan out 2021, as best we can. Most runners I know, of all ages, regressed some during 2020.  Part of this is due to a lack of “real” races to target and train for.  For the younger set, maybe that’s not bad, giving the body some needed rest. For those of us 50, 60, or beyond, it’s likely another year beyond our PRs and a time when our capacities are progressively aging.  Regardless, for us seniors (50 YO+) it is probably best not to dive into 2021 with unbridled enthusiasm, pretending to some degree 2020 didn’t happen and we’re ready to rock n’ roll.  It would be a shame to push it early and bring on an injury that persists … Continue reading

2021: Here It Comes!

Suffice it to say, 2020 was a whacky year!  I ran two races in February and that was it.  Everything went virtual shortly after that and as enterprising as the whole virtual thing is, I see those as individual time trials, not races. As the calendar turns, we are probably all asking ourselves what racing will be like in 2021?  Can we organize our training around target races and expect them to happen?  Let’s take a look at what is known, or at least assumed, based on the latest COVID-19 facts and projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), the data from which is generally used by the U.S. government and states for planning the Covid-19 response: Covid-19 is going to be with us and affect how we do things well into the year. That said, under various scenarios and assuming we keep our collective foot on the pedal with respect to public health measures, daily infections and deaths from Covid-19 are expected to peak in mid-January and then linearly decline so that by April 1 both are about 15% of peak levels. This is very good news! Even with that decline, vigilance will … Continue reading

Extended Gratitude

I was listening to a TED Radio Hour podcast earlier this week where one of the segments featured A.J. Jacobs talking about his experience of thanking everyone who made it possible to buy a morning brew at the local coffee shop.   He started a list – it grew to over 100 people!  When you consider the entire supply chain for coffee, it’s long.  He made this a project – even traveled to Columbia to thank the growers in person.  He found some people suspicious — like “what’s up with this guy.”  But he said most got into the spirit, even giving him ideas of others to thank.  All this led to giving a TED talk. It got me thinking about who is responsible (i.e., who might we thank) for a pair of running shoes we buy.  I started my list going backwards roughly from the point of sale.  He’s what I’ve come with so far: The salesperson at the running store who brought out multiple pairs of shoes to try on The person who trained the salesperson so they knew which shoes to bring out The employees who stocked the shoes so the salesperson could go fetch them The driver … Continue reading

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