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

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year when many of us determine what we want to do or change in 2019.  It’s a worthwhile and noble activity – always good to take stock! Last week I made a tentative race schedule for the year, with target times for various distances, keeping in mind the S.M.A.R.T. principles: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound.  It’s easy (and fun!) to plop things down on paper.  To throttle that some, I put considerable thought into what it might take to meet these targets.  I tried to incorporate the time-proven principles of progressive training, exertion-recovery cycles, and balance with other demands in life.  No doubt my optimism is at least a tad ahead of reality, which is often the case in goal setting.  And maybe I’m in denial about the effects of aging.  But I do feel excited about committing to the necessary work. All of this is fine, but I was reminded of the importance of keeping things in perspective.  We know lots can happen in the course of a year: injury, illness, accidents, job changes/pressures, family needs, etc.  And we either adapt and respond to these changes or get rolled over by them.  If … Continue reading

The Performance Enigma

We turn the key and expect our cars to perform – without fail. Same with our TVs, toasters, bikes, and computers.   We board a plane 99.99999+% sure all will go well. With all these machines, it’s on or off, up or down, cut and dried, no in between. The acceptable performance level is 100%. But what about us humans – what’s an acceptable % if not 100%. Let’s talk baseball. A top hitter hits 30% and gets on base 40% of the time. A pitcher striking out 25% of batters faced is an all star. On a team level, some nights the Red Sox are invincible – Gold Gloves at every position, a Cy Young on the mound, and hits and runs mount throughout the game.   Other nights, they have butterfingers, pitchers serve up dingers like it’s batting practice, and the offense is nowhere to be found. They wouldn’t beat the Lowell Spinners, their Single A affiliate, much less another major league team. Same team, different nights. So how does this relate to running? First, we are not machines, even if we train methodically with an eye on gradual improvement and excellence. I practice and preach this – aiming for … Continue reading

Why We Run!

On Memorial Day weekend, I gave a talk at the pasta dinner preceding the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington on the topic of “Why We Run.” I was initially asked to speak on the beginning of VCM, which is now 29 years old and which I helped start, and why it has flourished. But I felt that should be framed by why any one runs, period, whether it be a 5K or a marathon. So I entitled my talk “Why We Run, Why Run VCM.” I did a lot of thinking about the first part and came up with five reasons: We Choose to Participate We Challenge Ourselves We Make Friends Good Health Reasons Beyond Ourselves  PARTICIPATION Running is a choice we make. We’re not alone! Running USA’s survey indicated there were 17 million road race finishers (not unique racers – one can count multiple times) in 2015. Of those 45% were 5Ks, 12% half marathons, and only 3% (or 500,000 finishers) in marathons. Interestingly, 57% of finishers were women, up from 25% in 1990, when there were just 4.7 million finishers. Lots of reasons for this increase, including technologies allowing for net times/quick results, a proliferation of local races, … Continue reading