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

The Road Back

It’s now been over three months since Covid-19 resulted in a state of emergency declared in Vermont and many other states.  The virus has taken various turns and while things are now beginning to open up, there is still much uncertainty about how it will play out this summer and fall. I wrote a blog post entitled “Proof in the Plodding” on April 9th lamenting my slow pace related to a tight and sore hamstring that couldn’t be worked out with water running or weights in the gym due to closures.  That condition lingered and I just couldn’t muster speed in my runs, long or short — the hamstring holding me back.  It was frustrating and I was discouraged. And with no races in sight, there were no carrots to chase.  But as the calendar turned to June and the gyms and pools began to reopen, I’ve been able to water run and hit the weight machines.  The hamstring has finally begun to loosen up, as I suspected it would.  So two weeks ago I headed to the track for a 5K time trial.  It was time to push on the pedal, if not to the metal as least down! … Continue reading

Hidden in Plain Sight!

In speaking this week with Jon Waldron, longtime running coach at Concord Academy and accomplished masters runner, we kicked around ideas for a tagline for Run Strategies –  something that might draw attention and readership to both the site and the blog.  I’m also toying with the idea of starting a podcast of interviews with top regional masters runners and was looking for a name for that podcast.  He suggested: “Hidden In Plain Sight.”  Jon noted the many examples of incredible masters runners who are buried behind the pack of open division frontrunners.  I looked at two of the 2019 USATF-New England Grand Prix races, the 5K in Westfield and the 10 Miler in New Hampshire. As expected, Jon’s instincts were confirmed.  In the 5K, 49 out of the 1,506 runners (a mere 3.3%) accomplished at least an 85% age grading and of those, 26 were over 40 with 17 of those over 50. In the 10 Miler, only 14 of 1,128 runners (1.2%) achieved 85% AG status, with 8 of those 14 over 50.  Another 57 runners earned at least an 80% AG with 34 (48%) of the 71 80%+ age graders being masters runners. Thus, 4.7% of the … Continue reading

Running Economy

The concept of running economy (RE) – the amount of oxygen our body uses at a given speed and distance – is akin to fuel efficiency in a car.  If we have a heavy car, with a big engine, going up a hill or pressing the pedal hard as the light turns green, our fuel economy suffers.  So it goes with running.  Ideally we’ve got a trim chassis, run with an even pace, lean easily into the hills and then motor down them. Most books on running devote space to this topic.  Pete Magill, Jordan Metzl, Owen Anderson, and Tim Noakes come at it from a slightly difference angle.  However, for the endurance runner it boils down to what percentage of the oxygen we have at our disposal is being used to move us forward at a submaximal pace.  Other than a finishing kick this is the pace we run.  While VO2max gets a lot of attention, RE is crucial.  Many highly successful runners have respectable but not top-end levels of VO2max.  Frank Shorter, for example, had a 72% VO2max but regularly beat competitors with 80%+ levels.  RE is closely related to the concept of fatigue resistance, which Anderson defines … Continue reading

32 Years

This morning I went for an early 10-mile run along the Burlington Waterfront, ending up at the finish of the Vermont City Marathon.  With Covid-19, the event has been postponed (hopefully not cancelled!) until October and it was very quiet on the bikepath.  This is the way it was in Burlington on Memorial Day weekend before 1989.   On May 27, 1989, I recall driving into Burlington at 5 a.m. from Shelburne where I lived.  The sun was rising and anticipation in the air.  We had been planning the event for 18 months and it was here!  There were now several hundred volunteers setting up the course, filling up cups at the aid stations, donning traffic vests to supplement the police, setting up the start and finish areas and running around taking care of various tasks.  From the air, it might have resembled a sweater being knit.  The pieces were coming together!   As the 1,025 runners congregated at South Winooski and College for the 8:05 start (an agreement with the churches to minimize conflicts with their 8:00 a.m. services), the P.A. system embedded in the local radio station’s van quit, so Governor Kunin used a bullhorn to greet the … Continue reading

The Eyes Have It!

Taking a break from Covid-related news, I came across a 2018 article in the ACSM Health and Fitness Journal extolling our marvelous (and maybe underappreciated) eyes.  Certainly those with impaired vision do not take their eyes for granted.  My father in his 80’s suffered a mini-stroke and woke up effectively blind.  He lived another 10 years but his enthusiasm for life waned as he was a voracious reader.  Many others have had sight complications earlier in life or even at birth.  But for most of us, we rely on our eyes without thinking a whole lot about them. So, James Peterson’s article “Ten Nice-to-Know Facts About the Eyes” caught my eye, literally, and I thought my blog readers might find this interesting.  So a bit rephrased, here are his 10: Our eyes are nearly full size at birth.  The rest of the body grows around them!  For those with normal vision about 80% of what we learn and remember is due to sight.   After the brain, eyes are the most complex and powerful organ in our bodies.  With them we distinguish shapes, colors, depth, and adapt to changes in light.  The tiny muscles controlling the eyes don’t get time … Continue reading

Silver Linings

Each week, the faculty and students in my program at UVM hold a seminar, often to review a current paper in the medical literature.  The program is in the College of Medicine, so topics often center around clinical trials.  Not exactly running related, but it’s a great group of smart people and I’ve learned a lot about the research process, which can apply to running as well. Last week, we discussed an article in the New York Times examining whether the number of deaths from Covid-19 are being accurately reported.  Probably not, and several reasons were given.  First, there is often a delay in reporting, sometimes up to several weeks.  But that sorts itself out eventually.  A second bigger issue is how the death certificate is read. There are usually four lines on a death cert, with the top line considered the primary cause.  Presumably this is the line used for reporting the Covid deaths we see in the news.  However, with older people having several health issues, Covid-19 may have merely been the final straw.  The attending physician has to make a determination about the primary cause, and likely there are inconsistencies around the country.  Also, there may not … Continue reading

Options

So what will things look like on the racing front later this summer, fall, and even next year?  It’s anybody’s guess and there is indeed a lot of guessing going on.  Right now, the Boston Marathon is scheduled for September 14.  That seemed safe when it was re-scheduled in March, but now it’s not so certain.  Locally, the Vermont City Marathon is moved from Memorial Day weekend to October 25th.  Again, that seems safe, but who knows.  Vermont is in good shape Covid-19 wise and Governor Scott is slowly allowing a reopening.  But he cautions we are a short drive away from metro areas that have more of a problem and less control over the spread of the virus.  If events are held that attract out-of-staters, just how will that be handled? Our local club, Green Mountain Athletic Association, has canceled its first two races, with a third to be virtual.  Coming up are our two July races that attract over 200 runners each.  On our Board call earlier this week, we agreed to see what guidelines the Vermont Department of Health issues on gatherings in the coming weeks.  This is quite pertinent to all of Vermont; summertime is when … Continue reading