"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Dreaded Yearly Fashion Post 2020

I've always liked to see the fashions at the Golden Globes, rather than the Academy Awards, because it's less formal (no one gets $200000 in diamonds from Harry Winston, for example) and there are a lot of young newcomers in television each year, whereas film tends to be the same faces repeated for generations. People take some chances. It's Los Angeles in January - which sounds good in Minnesota in January.

I didn't get to watch this year. First, the Viking's playoff game went to overtime. Second, I was baking a cake for Epiphany the next day (I may have swallowed a plastic baby). Third, I had to watch some DVDs I'd already sold online before I sent them. I even got in a long run.

I'm already a day late [update: two days], so here's my impressions, dress by dress, without order and without crediting photographers or designers (sorry). As usual, you're going to wonder who some people are.

Lucy Boynton. I like bits and pieces of this, but it's too much. If the detail of the shoulders and elbows, the belt and collar had been a color - almost any color - this would be a winner. There was a lot of metallic again this year and you'll see a much better take on it below.
 Molly Sims. Without the ruffle at the bottom, this is a nothing dress; with it, it's not much better. The earrings (hard to see here) are nice.
 Annabelle Wallis. Standard black ball gown, but a better shape than usual and the jewelry makes nice accents.
 Bel Powley. Yikes. The less said, the better.
 Ana de Armas. I've become smitten with Ana (form "Knives Out") lately. She's had some interesting fashion choices and has one of the most photographable faces. The only problem with this is that the dress doesn't photograph well. The bright lipstick is necessary. The necklace is necessary. It all works and is just on the verge of failure. Oh, and it has pockets!
 Awkwafina. Quirky, which suits her.
 Cate Blanchett. Though the dress by itself looks like a mushroom cap and stem, it all pulls together with the daring "bra tiara" and accentuates her natural appearance, which is what a dress should do. I want to hate this, but can't; it's just too pretty.
 Charlize Theron. Swing and a miss. The green section of the dress is nothing by itself and there's no point to the undergarment - and the tacked-on train doesn't compensate.
 Elle Fanning. There was a lot of tulle on the red carpet this year. This is a nice color (it looks better in other photos) but does nothing for the wearer. It's a bridesmaid's dress.
 Greta Gerwig. We've seen versions of this before, black with a bold white top. The proportions are right, the design on the sides helps make it more than blocks of monochrome and its only the distractingly bad hairstyle that mars this.
 Gwyneth Paltrow. There's nothing good about this and it's even worse from the back. It's like it's raining dog vomit.
 Jane Levy. 1940's glamour and shades of red always seems to work with red hair. This looks a lot better from a distance, though.
 Jennifer Aniston. Blah.
 Jennifer Lopez. This dress is really divisive, but the hair isn't (1994 is asking for it back). My thinking is always the same: why add the giant bow, is it to hide some flaw? Remove it and you have a simple dress, perhaps too simple. A smaller dark green bow (first thought) wouldn't quite be right, but maybe a green design on the bottom hem would pull it together. In the end: it's... okay.
 Joey King. I actually love this, despite (and maybe because) of all the odd things it makes one think of: I see an oyster. I see labia. I see an inverted lily. The metallic details make all the organic things more interesting. The biggest problem with this is again photographic: one gets a moiré effect, which can be removed with a blurring filter, though that creates other problems.
 Julia Butters. Awwww, how cute is that?
 Kaitlyn Dever. It's a lovely pattern, but there's way too much of it. Remove the puffy sleeves (a trend this year that I'd like to see disappear) and add panels of a solid red or pink - or maybe just a wide belt.
 Kerry Washington. Trying to look sexy never looks sexy. It looks desperate.
 Kirsten Dunst. She always seems to favor colors that wash her out and simple, but frilly. The bottom half is terrific.
 Margot Robbie. California casual. Okay, but insufficient for the occasion.
 Naomi Watts. Uninteresting.
 Priyanka Chopra. The perfect color for her and the length pairs well with the off-the-shoulder detail. The little bit of asymmetry at waist and hip (recall how often I say that an asymmetric dress should be asymmetric all over) keeps it from being too simple. The train looks like a continuation of the waist, as if it's a long wrap, but it's not. I'd lighten the lipstick and add a colored stone to the necklace.
 Reese Witherspoon. Vanilla in a sugar cone.
 Renee Zellweger. I really like this color. The fact that the line from the thigh slit continues through the dress makes this very simple, very elegant dress.
 Saoirse Ronan. Nope. There's a nice side-boob photo of her in this dress somewhere.
 Scarlett Johansen. A nice dress ruined by the feeling that it's all piled up and bunched behind her.
 Shailene Woodley. That piece connecting the bust to the neck draws all one's attention, but it's nothing to look at. Yet, without it, the dress is too simple. All the parts fight each other.
 Sienna Miller. Total misfire.
 Sofia Carson. Tons of tulle below, with a contrasting texture above, this is a nice combination.
 Taylor Swift. The bare midriff doesn't work with the scale of the dress. I like the floral print and the size of the design - from the waist down, this is alright.
 Thomasin Mackenzie. More tulle! The way it separates at the bottom reminds me of car wash rollers and the top of chimney sweeping tools (her arms are pressing down the fringe at the top, which is wrong in a couple of ways).
 Zoe Kravitz. Taking a page from Janelle Monae's constant black and white, this just doesn't seem formal enough for the occasion. Like Sienna's and Margot's, this is an after-party dress.
 Zoey Deutch. 1970's futuristic vampire.
 Nicole Kidman. Compare to Scarlett's. The train is the right size and length and even with a thigh-high slit and strapless (usually too much to do together), doesn't look trashy. This would look interesting with maybe a black matador jacket.
 Helen Mirren. There's really nothing wrong with this at all, except being unmemorable.

 Jodie Comer. Oof. Usually spectacularly dressed on "Killing Eve," this looks like the daughter of Twiggy and David Bowie playing dress-up.
 Leslie Bibb. Um, okay, I guess. Certainly not great, though.
 Rachel Bilson. She needs a new hairstylist. I - again - like the pattern and hate the shoulders.
 Rooney Mara. We laughed at Princess Leia's hair in 1977 and anything went in 1977. This needed color to not look funereal.
 Sarah Snook. Over-sized ball gown was a bit too much for the room, but she wore it to the after-parties as well, so she owned it.
 Toni Collette. Again, I like the print and hate the flouncy shoulders.
 Zanna Roberts Rassi. Neither a nominee or presenter, but "style maven," this is how you do asymmetric dresses. The only thing wrong here is that her hair blends into the dress. Pull her hair back and maybe add a choker.

So - all of this was done in two minute intervals over the space of two days; if any of it make sense, I'd be surprised, but no more surprised than any of my friends are when they hear I care about fashion.

Yeah, this guy. Fashion. Go figure.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Has the Standard Model of Training Changed?

I like to investigate new ideas in training and philosophize about them; it's what I do - but, after going down various rabbit holes, I inevitably ask myself "Have you tried what works for everyone else?" First, do what's worked for others, then if it doesn't work for you, make tweaks; don't start with something no one's ever tried. But maybe some new method has supplanted the old...

When I ran my first marathon in the late 1970's, there were no published marathon training plans. Lydiard's was the first and came out a few months after I ran. What we had to go on was lore, guidelines created by those who had gone before. Here were the general rules:

1) Rarely run more than twice your average distance, and never more than three times it.
2) Your average pace should be a minute per mile slower than your marathon pace (some said 1.25 minutes).
3) The number of total miles you run in the 8 weeks before a marathon, divided by 20, is the number of miles into the marathon before you "hit the wall." [No one ever hits the wall any more; I'll get to that eventually.]
4) Your average training pace is about 1.5 times your all-out one mile time.
5) Get in three 20 mile runs before a marathon and, if you can, make it two 20's and a 22.

This has 3:00 marathoners running 60-70 miles per week, with long runs of 15-18 miles, at 8:00/mile.

Strava did a survey of its users and found that sub-3 runners averaged 7.5 miles per day at 7.5 minutes per mile. This is considerably less mileage and much faster. Is this the new paradigm? Going back to the 1973 poll, runners breaking 3 hours averaged 8 miles per day, less than the old guidelines, but it was noted that they had an average one mile race time under 5 minutes and that the more miles they ran, generally the faster they finished; there was nothing about their average training pace.

I looked for a recent marathon plan that fit the Strava numbers and there's a good one at from Runner's World that averages 7.5 miles per day at 7.5 minutes per mile the last 8 weeks: https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/training/marathon/a760127/rws-ultimate-marathon-schedule-sub-300/ Looking at it, I immediately found a lot of things I didn't care for, but it's really a good plan. The last 12 miler should be "easy" rather than "steady" or you aren't tapering properly. The percentage of fast miles is high. It doesn't say what to do if you can't run what it says on any given day. The suggested time for the last 1/2-marathon race is a bit fast. Other than that - and those are quibbles - it has everything right.


If you look at it from the rules of the 1970's, it looks different. 7.5 minutes per mile average, less one, gives 6.5 min./mile for a marathon, or 2:50. If you take 7.5/1.5 you get a mile in 5:00, which while correct for a miler like me to run 3:00, is more typical of breaking 2:50 for most runners. If you take the mileage in the last 8 weeks and divide by 20, you get hitting the wall at 21 miles. This is a plan for running 21 miles at 6:30 and then staggering in at 8-8:30/mile the last five miles to still break 3:00. And this is pretty much how I did it back in the day.

But no one hits the wall any more, and it's more a change in attitudes than in training. You don't get anything more for running so hard that you spend 8 weeks trying to recover than you do for running more easily and finishing 10 minutes slower. Back in the day, if you ran 7:30 per mile on easy days, you ran 70 miles per week and finished in 2:50.

So - next year already - what I think is really needed for me.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Subtypes and Thought Experiments

One of my favorite things to ask when coaching: Imagine you're running with a group and you've gone a little farther and a little faster than your typical training run. Now you're given a choice; you can either run one more mile but it has to be the fastest mile of the day or you can run two more miles at any pace. Almost every distance runner I know will automatically go for 2; some will even slow down. A few will "just go with the flow" and see what happens when they get to the next mile marker. I will always choose to go faster; in fact, I'll keep speeding up because, once I've invested the extra effort, I don't want to risk it.

These divide people pretty accurately into groups. The first are best at races longer than a half-marathon and their races times are in line with what Jack Daniels has published in charts of equivalent performances; these I'll refer to as "marathon types." The second group are about equally good at most distances and their times fall in with the Gardner/Purdy charts or with age-grading equivalency; these I'll call "distance types." The third, including me, are best at short distances (but usually not sprints) and I'll call them "miler types."

Now imagine you're the marathoner type and, if you ran your best, you could run a marathon in exactly three hours. Imagine that I too could run 3:00 at my best. If you look at mile race times, you see the biggest differences between the groups. You might run a mile in 5:30-5:40, as predicted by Daniels and some others. A typical distance runner, using the Purdy chart would run about 5:15, which fits in with Jeff Galloway's 1.3X rule (5:15 x 1.3 = 6:50/mile marathon pace, just under 3:00). I would come in at just under 5:00 in the mile, which is what was found typical of sub-3 hour marathoners in a 1973 poll and was found typical of sub-3 runners using Strava recently.

So, we both run a mile race and I trounce you. At 5K, I'm still way ahead. I'm still better than you at 10K and just a little better at 1/2 marathon. You'd expect that I'd run faster than you in the marathon, but we're both 3:00 marathoners. But it should be easier for me to break 3, right? No - it's exactly the same for both of us. You can't run under 5:30 in the mile and that time's a cakewalk for me, but the 3:00 barrier's the same for both - it just doesn't seem right at first.

What if you're the marathoner type and we run the same time for a 10K? I'd be faster than you at the mile, but slower at the marathon; I'd be running 3:00 and you about 2:50-2:55. This was a problem for me almost 40 years ago. I figured the guys that I could beat in shorter races would be good training partners for me and good pacers for the marathon, but I'd end up going out too fast with them and dying.

What's even stranger when you look at these performance curves is that, if we use the same training schedules, every training run would be easier for me. You'd think that would make the marathon easier, but it doesn't; the differences become smaller with distance and I'd be only a little better in runs over 22 miles - but how many of those does anyone do in training?!

What's problematic for me is that, even though the individual runs might be easier for me, the transitions are much harder. Plans tend to increase miles, not increase pace. A plan might have one run 9-10 miles at marathon pace, then 2-3 weeks later run 12-13 at that pace, then 15 at that pace and then the marathon. Each of these runs (except the race) is easier for me, but the increase from one to the next is gradual for you and a huge leap for me. Added to this s that plans frequently ramp up mileage from 45 to 65 miles in a few weeks and those increases are much harder for me. So, I'm constantly getting hammered by harder and harder days and weeks, when you feel it's a gradual improvement. When race day comes, I'm overworked and undertrained!

Practical consequences of this should gradually become apparent as I proceed through these posts.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Questions Coaches Hate #1,2,3

My scattered thoughts should cohere eventually.

The question I've heard the most often and hate the most when coaching is "What's the absolute least I have to do?" It's usually couched in terms of efficiency, as in I don't want any wasted effort so I can rise faster and higher, but really it's more "I only have an hour before work unscheduled each day." These are the people that, if you tell them they have to run 30 minutes, get on a treadmill and set the timer and the second they hear the bell, they step off. I much prefer the rare "What more can I do?"

The next one is "Should I try to run farther, or should I try to run faster?" The more you know about training, the less the question means. It depends upon who you are, what you've done, how you responded to what you did, what your goals are, how long you've been training and how long until your next goal, etc. This is where the "performance curves" of my last post come in; you have to know how one effort at one distance compares to another effort at another distance - and that varies from person to person. And just improving that average performance doesn't really mean much (except that you are getting fitter), as your race times don't necessarily correlate well with your average. [Mine actually DO, though. My average run is almost exactly 79% of my race performance, regardless of distance, but that doesn't mean it works for anyone else.] What you want to improve is your race performance, the outlier in your runs, which I call "Beamonizing" (after the long jumper who added two feet to the world record), and the math there becomes 5th partial derivatives of a gamma function... don't worry, no one else understands that sentence, either.

The question that plagued me my whole career was: "Should I go with my strengths, or should I shore up my weaknesses?" This, too, turns out to be a meaningless question.

Okay, I think this gets me to the next step in my thought process.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Limiters and Performance Curves

I'm working through another idea in training. To understand it, I have to give a little background to my thoughts.

What keeps you from being a great sprinter is different from what keeps you from being a great marathoner (the proof is that no one's world class at both). There are a collection of things that limit running performance and we don't even know what they are. People talk about maximal oxygen uptake, but that's just something that can be measured and is dependent upon dozens of variables, some untrainable and that means little far from about 10-15 minutes of racing.

When you hit your first limiter, the others don't matter. Change that factor and your race times change. However, we don't know but what these limiters are connected, that raising a bar that isn't the lowest might raise the lowest bar too.

At any rate, if you plot out the logarithm of your race times versus the logarithm of your race distances, many will fall on a straight line, generally the range of races you frequently do. For me, that range is unusually broad - almost from 1 mile to 50K. You'll probably get a steep line over the sprints and then a turn and a flatter line over longer distances and then a steeper line again when you hit ultramarathons - or what looks like a scatter plot, if you haven't raced a lot at a lot of distances.

The log/log plot slope divides people into categories. People who excel at the marathon, the slope is about 1.06-1.065 and this is about the slope of the chart you'll find in Jack Daniels' book comparing performances. Those who do about as well at all distances are at 1.08-1.085 and these correspond well to the old Gardner/Purdy charts, or if you're using age-grading, with those comparisons. I come in at 1.10, which partly explains why all the things I read about distance running don't seem to apply. If you look at top milers, they come in at about 1.12, but they rarely race beyond 5K.

Now, marathoners might do better at the long distances because of the slope of this line and their own personal limiters, or it might be that a great performance at the marathon just makes the slope change favorably to that distance. I haven't figured that out yet. I'm working on it.

The questions that come to me are: Would changing training change the slope of this line for me? Would training specifically for a good marathon make me better at shorter distances as well, or would it come at the expense of running well at shorter distances? Should one train differently depending upon which category one fits in and what changes should be considered?

I wrenched my back shoveling snow. I have time to think about these things now.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Steve's Evil Kitchen Presents: Lumps of Coal Brownies

For National Brownie Day (today), here's my recipe for the absolute best brownies. It's my Christmas gift to you. If I can find photos, I'll add them later.

Line a 8x8" pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil with butter. Then lightly dust the surface with flour. These brownies will be difficult to remove otherwise. The edge brownies will have a white flour coating; if you want to avoid this, you can try dusting with cocoa powder instead, or skipping the dusting altogether and taking the risk that the foil will stick.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter with 1 oz. baking chocolate. Add 1 Tbsp. corn syrup, 1/4 cup neutral vegetable (corn) oil, 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract and 1 cup sugar. Cream the sugar in the liquid. Add 2 large (room-temperature) eggs and mix gently. Add 1/2 cup flour, a pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional) and 1/2 tsp. baking soda. Gently fold in the flour, then pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until the center is just barely set. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool.

Because these brownies will not form the papery skin that people expect from brownies, I suggest gilding the lily with a ganache:

Toast 1/2 cup chopped pecans in a cast-iron (or other heavy) skillet on the stovetop on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to color, about 5-10 minutes. Melt 1/2 bag (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I do it in the microwave, using the instructions on the bag), add the pecans and spread on top of the cooled brownies.

Cut brownies into squares after cool and keep covered, at room temperature, for no more than a day.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Missteps and False Starts

There's not much to report and there won't be for a while. I've been trying to get healthy and training's been hit-and-miss since having surgery a month ago. I got to where I was running 3 miles in 22-24 minutes, but not consistently. Then the weather got ridiculous. Now I'm running 8 miles in 76-79 minutes four or five times per week. If and when I can get that down to sub 9 min./mile, I'll start thinking about speed again.

So, base training for the foreseeable future.