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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What I learned from being a woman

[That title should get some interest...]

When I joined Twitter, the only thing I could think of that changed frequently and for which I didn't have decent information sources was fashion and then I thought that I might get treated differently as a man than I would be as a woman. So, I decided to take on a female identity and I needed a photo that wasn't of any actual person and I just happened to have one from face research I'd done.

I thought it would be interesting to see if I'd be treated any differently if people thought I was female. I never misrepresented myself, never acted any differently, just used the photo of a pretty girl. I wondered if I'd get insight as to why women on social media always seem to be a mutual admiration society for pointless accomplishments. Honestly, this is what it sounds like to me sometimes:
"I was the 37th left-handed woman to finish the marathon!"
"That's amazing! I shaved off one of my eyebrows!"
"Wow. I Wish I could do that."

[Feel free to comment with what men sound like.]

What I discovered was that, at least on Twitter, women follow people who give them something (which sounds mercenary, but is practical), whereas men tend to follow with the hope that something will come from it and "unfollow" frequently. Everything else I learned was about men (including myself) and how they act around women!

There's a guy I ignored because he wasn't interesting and then he said something amusing, so I responded... and I was DELUGED with comments from him. Whoa, dude!, back off - and I know I've been that guy, thinking to make the most of an opportunity and just completely overdoing it, misreading the situation.

There's the young guy who said "You're hot!" and my thought was "AND???????" Really, does that approach ever work (it didn't the one time I can recall doing something similar, when I was maybe 17)? I ignored him and wondered, very briefly, if he thought "stuck-up bitch!" and then forgot about him until I started writing this.

There's the guy who hired a woman who looks a bit like the photo I used just before he retired. I think he just likes feeling connected to some people and enjoys seeing their faces pop up his screen each day. Because of something written in my profile and some political stuff I've commented on, he has complete deniability: if anyone ever questioned why he was following me, he could explain it away without anyone (read: his wife) being able to say he was chasing after pretty girls. Yeah, I've been that guy, too.

So, in my experience, the question of "Is life easier for attractive women?" gets answered: yes, but just barely. Not enough to matter.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Puzzle, part 1

Thirty years ago, when I was running my best, I never ran a great marathon and why that was has always been a puzzle. I hate unsolved puzzles.

While training for a marathon, I ran a 32 minute 10K and a 1:10 1/2-marathon, so I was pretty sure I could break 2:30 in the marathon. I ran an even 5:30 pace, died at 15 miles and struggled in in the low 2:40's. Perhaps I wasn't in that kind of shape, so I ran 6's - and died at 17 miles, finishing in the 2:40's. The pace I needed to run to not hit the wall was about 7:10 (about 3:10 finish time), which was about my training pace at the time.

There was obviously something wrong with my training, so I got every training schedule ever devised and the one thing they had in common was that I couldn't do ANY of the workouts. If I scaled them back to where I could do them, they came out to 3:10 marathons. Either I was already the world's greatest overachiever (though the 32 minute 10K said not), or there was something very weird happening.

I assumed I just wasn't meant to run marathons and stopped doing them for 20 years. Top marathoners have about 90-95% slow-twitch muscle fibers and I have about half that, so I had a ready excuse - except I shouldn't be able to run a fast 1/2-marathon, yet I had.

When I turned 40, I decided to try to break 3 hours again and used all the information I had learned over the years. Knowing hat I could run far and run fast, but not run fast very far, I concentrated on long runs at marathon pace. Anything 25K or beyond at that pace was so close to a race for me that it would take 2-3 weeks to recover, but I found 1/2-marathons every other week and ran them in a comfortable 1:27-1:28 (one in a too-fast 1:24), but was worried that perhaps I wasn't in the shape I thought and was actually racing the half's, so I ran a 10K race in 36:54 and knew I had plenty left. I tapered for two weeks, did standard carbohydrate-loading and when race day came... I died at 8 miles.

There were a dozen reasons that could've happened, including lack of sleep from race anxiety, but the puzzle remained. For about the 30th time, I think I might have the answer.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Very short update

I've been having some medical issues and haven't been able to run. I have an interesting idea about training that I'm investigating and, if it pans out, there'll be a long post with lots of biochemistry to come.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

For the low-carb, fat-adapted crowd

Here's a diet of 2000 calories, 88g protein, 117 g carbohydrate (55g of which is fiber), 134 g fat, meeting all vitamin and mineral requirements, which a registered dietician wouldn't freak out if you tried it, though it's still high in saturated fat. It's almost all nuts and seeds, unlike the steak, eggs and cheese of most diets of this type.

4 oz. pink salmon (canned)
1 oz peanuts
3 Tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tsp whole flax seeds (ground)
1 oz almonds
1.5 c. cooked asparagus
1 c. crimini (portobello) mushrooms
1 medium green  bell pepper
1 oz. pumpkin seeds
3 cloves garlic
2 oz. dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa solids)
5 oz. red wine
1 avocado
1 c. chopped broccoli
1 oz. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. spinach
1/2 c. collard greens
1/2 c. bok choy
1/4 tsp. iodized salt
1 stalk celery
5 leaves fresh basil
2 c. coffee
2 c. green tea

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Greying of the Finish Line

I ran my first race in years this past week (and my next is this Saturday). It was a time to see old familiar faces at the start line - and then I noticed that "old" and "familiar" points to something I've talked about endlessly here. People used to race, whereas now they participate; the old-time racers continue to race and they're still near the front of the pack, beating the participators a generation (or more) younger. Here's the top 10 from the race:


Place Name                    Age Sex Time    Pace     
===== ======== ==== ======================= === === 
    1  Greg Hexum               43 M   27:52  5:35 
    2  Daniel Strike            44 M   29:31  5:55 
    3  Adam Carlsen             22 M   29:59  6:00 
    4  William Sikorski         44 M   30:51  6:11 
    5  Jim Ramacier             51 M   31:37  6:20 
    6  Luke Charpentier         49 M   32:30  6:30 
    7  Gary Simon               46 M   32:40  6:32 
    8  Michael Kennedy          56 M   32:46  6:34 
    9  Daniel Nowlan            38 M   33:09  6:38 
   10  Jessica Paschke          29 F   33:26  6:42
 I was 35th, 8th among men over 50 (36:54).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Two and a half experiments

I have a friend who irks me by introducing me as "old school." I'm always looking for something new, though it tends to make me vacillate between different training ideas.

The Edinburgh protocol

Actually, it might be Glasgow or Aberdeen - I should look it up. Though it's gone by several names, doing sprints to improve distance running has been around forever and it's had a variety of reasons behind it. James, then Canova, then Hudson, had people doing short hill sprints, which is almost entirely dependent upon creatine phosphate and is useful for sprinters, but I was never sure of it for distance runners. Then there was Tabata and 8x20 sec.(10 sec. recovery) all-out, which pushes from creatine all the way through lactate tolerance, but always caused me injury. Researchers in Scotland got it down to 3x20 sec. all-out, which hits the upper end of lactate tolerance and found that doing it 3 times per week for 12 weeks improved maximal oxygen uptake. That I can do. It's too early to tell if it's helping me any.

The late-Foster/Furman/Hanson bros. world

Supposedly, I've reached that point in my running career where high volume is not going to help much any more. It's possible to get by on three days of running per week, supplemented by cross-training, running very hard twice per week. Jack Foster ran a 2:20 marathon at age 50 that way (though he ran 2:11 at age 40 on higher mileage). Recent plans have been advocated of running fewer days and, looking at what is essential to marathoning and to what I don't do well, the follwing looks like a plan:

Tuesday: two hours, with 3x1.5 to 2 miles @ 1/2 marathon (threshold) pace
Thursday: two hours of hills
Saturday: 2.5-3 hours, with the last 4-8 at marathon pace
Sunday: two hours speed hiking/fast walking

That whole low carb thing

 Though it doesn't appeal to me, I'm willing to put anything to the test - assuming it makes sense. Getting 45-65% of one's calories from carbohydrates is considered normal. 40% is where Zone, then paleo went; that's possible if one's careful. Then things went weird and people were advocating exceptionally low carb diets - and some were having running success with them. I kept looking at what they were eating and it made me ill, but still, I considered it.

Most people don't get enough vitamins D, E and folate, or enough zinc or calcium. These low carb diets could get those nutrients in sufficient quantity, so I started looking at it again. There is evidence for a healthy diet containing: 4 oz fatty fish, 2 oz. baking chocolate, 5 oz. red wine, 2 cups green vegetables (especially leafy greens and cruciferous), 1/2 tsp (3 cloves) garlic... not many carbs there!

Unfortunately, weird diets lead to weird deficiencies and I suddenly had to think about thiamin, of all things. If you eat grains or legumes, you get enough thiamin, but these have too many carbs. The alternatives: yeast extract (which is industrial waste, and most vitamin pills are derived from this same sludge) which tastes horrible to me, pork loin or sirloin or tenderloin in too large quantities, kidneys (which I refuse to eat) and supplements.

I've looked over what people are eating on low-carb diets and it's either nutritionally deficient, revolting in taste or just a bunch of potions and pills. Until I can find a way to test this that I can live with, this remains a thought experiment.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Still Here

I had a major hiccup in my training last month and was wondering if I was already falling apart. Then I ran 50 miles in this past week (with 2 days off) and things seemed to be back to where I wanted to be. I'm not running very fast, but I didn't expect to be, given that I had a 16 month lay-off - even though my weight's back under 150 pounds at 6 feet [5'11 3/4" according to a recent measurement, meaning I've lost 1/4 inch to age over 30 years] and my body fat's just under 5%.

I went back over my records and found that my "fat slow years" were not quite as I remembered. I was still running 8 minute miles, rather than the 9.5-10 I'm doing now. At my best (early 1980's), my easy days were 9 miles in an hour, then I hit the 8 min/mile plateau for decades, dropping to 9 in 2008, when I started running a lot of ultras... and now 10.

I'm trying to figure out how to regain some speed. Running fast, no matter how little, seems to get me injured these days, but I've been managing to run 3x20 sec. all-out on a steep uphill three times per week, which studies show could lead to an improvement over 3 months (5% showed no improvement or get worse). I've been working on regaining both strength and flexibility, hoping that that will pay dividends in the future and allow me to actually run fast without injury some day.

I have two races planned next month! There's a guy that will be at both of them that has never beaten me in about 80 tries over 30 years (mostly long ago) - I also have raced his father early in my career and both his daughter and son a few years ago - and this looks like his big chance. I doubt that he even knows he's never beaten me, though. At any rate, it'll give me some idea of just how far I have to go.

Next year, I have two races planned. In at least one of them, I have to beat a guy who ran a 2:43 marathon a few years ago. [Yeah. That'll happen. Sure. Right.]