Back to Racing!

While my hamstring continues to heal, I’ve done sound 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 the … 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

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

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