What Keeps Us Running?

Each year, we notice some friends and fellow runners stop competing.  They may run on occasion but the fire that burned to train and submit themselves to the rigors of racing has faded.  In younger years, most said that would not happen to us.  We surely expected to slow down but to drop out, never!  Yet, the numbers don’t lie.  Less than 6% of race fields are 60 or over, in spite of this age grouping comprising about 17% of the U.S. population.  Even the 50-59 age group, also representing 17% of the population – it’s a big group!, comprises about 13% of race fields.*  So it appears the downward trend starts in the 50s.   Race participation is a reasonable proxy for vigorous training.  I don’t know one person who trains with intensity but doesn’t race.  Racing is the payoff for doing the hard work!  There are numerous reasons why people stop training and racing.  It can be distressing and depressing to belabor them.  So I decided to focus this post on what does keep runners running and racing.  I came up with six relevant to me and perhaps others will relate to them too: Enjoyment Satisfaction Camaraderie Challenge … Continue reading

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

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

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

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

Some Reflections on Running

Like everyone else, now that we’re sequestered in various ways to ward off the spread of coronavirus, I’ve had time to do some extra reading.  This led me to pull Tim Noakes’s Lore of Running off the shelf, a past birthday present.  Many of you know this 930-page tome, first released in 1985 and last updated in 2002 (4th Edition).  It’s an amazing compilation, in many ways ahead of its time or at least on the cusp of it.  Much has been gleaned in the last 18 years, but little contradicts what Noakes presented in LOR.  It’s unfortunate Noakes has become known for his more recent outspoken advocacy of the low carb-high fat diet.  If you Google him, almost all the YouTube links relate to this.  Yet, Noakes’ understanding of running science is broad and deep.  And this is why LOR is such a valuable resource and good read. In the Introduction, Noakes talks about his own love and connection to running and entitles that section Some Reflections on Running.  Hence the title of this post.  He notes seven things that capture what running has meant to him.  This resonated with me and led to listing his points and adding … Continue reading

Self Talk

Sports psychologists have developed various theories about what motivates athletes to train and compete at their best.  Weinberg and Gould define motivation as the “intensity and direction of effort.”   They suggest intrinsic motivation drives us to be competent, drawing from self-determination and a belief we can succeed.  In sport, that does not necessarily mean winning.  Rather it means performing to our potential.  An athlete cannot control who shows up at a race but they can control whether they show up, in top form and ready to compete. I’ve been thinking about this recently as it pertains to my own training and performance.  And from conversations with my peers, I know they think about it too.  The conundrum as we age is how much we fall off from personal bests and training volume and, most importantly, how we process that so we don’t get trapped in a spiraling sense of disappointment and failure.  I’ve concluded the “secret” is to maintain a sense of joy and optimism about our athletic endeavors.  As trite or obvious as that may seem, I recall recent conversations with aging peers as they lament about their current level of fitness compared to earlier years.  And note it’s … Continue reading

Milling It!

Many runners (including you perhaps!) emphatically declare, “I hate the treadmill.”  Some opt for the elliptical or stationary bike in lieu of stepping onto a moving belt.  To be sure, few would choose the mill over a nice outdoor run.  But adding to my prior post, Inside Out, the past couple of weeks have been unusually cold and windy in Vermont.  For both safety and comfort I’ve been spending time on Treadmill #53, a Cybex 770T at the UVM Rec Center.  It’s one of a bank of six high-end Cybex and Woodway treadmills that look over the UVM soccer/lacrosse field, where hardy UVM athletes often practice in extreme conditions. And there are clear views of Camel’s Hump, the second highest peak in Vermont some 30 miles away.  #53 is a pretty new machine with a cycling display of time, distance, pace, calories, calories/hr., watts, and METS.  Plenty to watch! Well and good.  But to be honest I do find it hard to get started.  An inner voice asks – “can I stand doing this?”  That was the case last Sunday when I was planning to do a 12-mile run.  But with outside temps at minus six and 25 mph winds … Continue reading