On getting “Girled” or “Chicked”…..


The following Facebook meme made me chuckle. I’ve heard it called “getting girled”. Basically: this is what happens when a male track team member gets beaten by a female.

In sports like swimming and track and field (e. g. “athletics”, which includes running and race walking), this concept really only makes sense for the stronger male competitors.

There WAS a time in my life when, on rare occasion, I might finish ahead of the first female. This only happened at small, local races. It isn’t that much of a surprise; after all, if one looks at the results of high school track meets, sometimes, in a dual meet between small schools, the girl’s mile is won in a time over 5:30. That is a time I could run…a long time ago. So could many other in shape “workout bros”.

But now that I’ve gotten older, when one takes into account age and sex, I can compete on even terms with females in the 36-40 year old age group. Hence my natural advantage is gone and I don’t even think about trying to mix it up with the faster women; about the only time I notice them is when they are cooling down on the course and I am finishing up.

Frequently, even the older ladies beat me (example:)


Now sometimes, a woman will show up at a local race and beat everyone; this happened at the Galesburg Half Marathon in June 2012.

And in the longer events: ultra walker Sandra Brown has frequently beaten the entire field in a 24 hour walk; she did that in 2004 at the Wandelweekend in the Netherlands.
That was merely one of many “outright victories” for her.

In ultra swimming: Peggy Lee Dean and Lynn Cox both held the human record for the English Channel Crossing (at one time).

But in the vast majority of races where there are no outliers (e. g., an elite showing up at a non-elite race), the male winning time will be better than the female winning time.

And the concept of getting “girled” or “chicked” has never applied to me in running, walking or swimming. I simply am not good enough for it to have ever mattered.

Now in the weight room: When it comes to pull ups and, say, the bench press, there are women who can exceed what I do but they tend to be outliers (e. g. perhaps a shot putter at a Division I university would out bench me…and I mean “real” bench pressing, not that “bench shirt” stuff). And plenty of women can do more pull ups than I can (think: gymnasts) but they also tend to be moderate outliers; you tend to not see them at the places where I work out. You’d see them at gyms that cater to the more athletic crowd.

April 17, 2014 Posted by | running, ultra, walking, weight training | , | Leave a comment

Athletics: was 2013 a year of failure, or merely my current level

Workout notes: reduced weight workout:
bench: 10 x 135, 7 x 170, 6 x 170
rotator cuff
dumbbell military: 3 sets of 12 x 50 (seated, supported)
upright rows: 1 set of 10 with a 40 lb. barbell, 1 set of 10 with 25 pound dumbbells
bent over rows: 3 sets of 10 x 65 (single arm dumbbell)
4 sets of 10 pull ups, 2 sets of 5 (used to doing them first)

Then I ran on the treadmill (sloppy outside; not that cold)
6 miles in 1:00:50; 10K in 1:03:50 (walked the .21 cool down)
45 minutes of 1 minute at .5, 1, 2, 3, 4,4,3, 2, 1, .5 first at 5.6 mph, then at 6.0 mph
then speed up to get to 5.92 miles in 1 hour.

This was at the Riverplex. I saw some of the regulars (Rich, Bob) and was happy to hear that Larry was there earlier. He is so incredibly tough.

Now…what to do for 2014?

2013: I didn’t meet many goals. I only broke 25 minutes for the 5K once and that was by a few seconds (albeit on an certified course) and my best half marathon was 2:01 (done twice). Most of my half marathons were slower and my marathon (5:46) was an embarrassing bust (albeit in very hot weather). I DNF’ed my only ultra attempt (after 10 miles) and DNF’ed a trail marathon attempt (snowy).

Weights: best bench press was 205 (and that was tough) and I didn’t swim at all.

I did have a “lay off” period due to back pain…well, that was a “reduction period”.

So, was this a failure on my part (I couldn’t sustain the necessary mileage) or was this the best I could expect out of my body?

For 2014, I need to decide:

Ultra? (30 hour time limit for a loop 100 mile on a bike path, or a bike path 24 hour)
Half marathon run? (break 2 hours)
Marathon walk (break 5:30)
5K season (aiming for 24:30) with a participation marathon (say, 6 hour run/walk)

Whatever I decide, I need to make a decision and work toward it with THAT plan in mind, understanding that the days of multiple goals are probably over. I really haven’t been the same since the period from April 2004 to August 2005. (trail 50 mile walk in 12:46, 101 mile walk in 24 hours, 87 mile walk in 24 hours, 81 mile walk in 24 hours, trail 100 mile walk in 34:16, groomed trail 100 mile walk in 29:34 (elevation)).

My performances at all events from the 5K run (22:5x to 23:30) have dropped like a rock since then and haven’t rebounded much; the exception was a lone “decent” walking marathon (5:14) in May, 2009.


After the workout, I enjoyed Indian buffet with Barbara and then was roped into grocery shopping. It was crowded (didn’t like that) but I was reminded of popular attire for MILFs.

January 4, 2014 Posted by | big butts, running, spandex, ultra, walking, weight training | Leave a comment

Thoughts on dreams and aspirations

I am drinking coffee getting ready to put a few minutes in the hotel gym, prior to hitting the road.

I don’t know how many middle age people have dreams and aspirations that exceed their grasp. I do; in my case I dream up some professional project but…when it comes time to doing the actual research:

1. It is ALWAYS more difficult than anticipated.
2. Some unanticipated administrative duty comes my way.
3. Life throws another curve (even minor curves).

This is hardly unique to me; it happens to all of us and pushing through these things is all part of it and something that the successful people do. No one is granted “optimal conditions” (or very few anyway).

Then there are athletic dreams. One of mine is to finish another 100 mile event (or 100 in 24 hours) but…I have to remember how hard I trained when I last did it and what background I had PRIOR to doing the training. I never went over 50K in 2003 but I had a lot of these and plenty of 60 mile plus training weeks. THAT was the base I built on in 2004.

Right now, my mileage base is about half of what it was in 2003 (maybe a bit more than half) and my body balks at doing more.

Another 100 isn’t going to happen anytime soon…realistically probably never again.

I am finding that when I get older, I have to seek sports that are more in tune with what my body is better suited for; in running that probably means shorter events (try to do them faster). I might be able to walk a marathon (or, gasp 50K) if I have a few months of solid preparation (I didn’t have this for the McNot-Again failure).

Off to the gym; lifting keeps my shoulders and back feeling good. :-)

December 26, 2013 Posted by | ultra, walking | , | Leave a comment

Here we go again

Today was a bit weird; my only exercise was an easy 2 mile jog in the morning.

I caught part of the women’s basketball game over lunch (game started at 11 am; had class at 1) and I needed to eat lunch. They had a ton of elementary school kids at the game so eating there was impossible.

The women trailed Illinois 52-41 at half but came back to win 98-92.

Now I’ll catch a lecture tonight, make part of a men’s game and then …tomorrow.

I last did the 30 miles in 2010 (after surgery; hiked) and in 2009 (with a torn meniscus).

I don’t know how it will go. But it won’t be all bad. I hope. :-)

November 8, 2013 Posted by | hiking, running, ultra | , | Leave a comment

Science: human endurance, basic particles and mimicry

Human endurance: this New York Times story talks about an incredible endurance athlete. The whole story is good; here is one bit:

Born into a Catalan family, Jornet grew up in the Spanish Pyrenees at 6,500 feet, and his gifts are literally in his blood. “When you are born and bred at altitude, you tend to have a higher blood volume and red-cell count for oxygen-carrying capacity,” which translates to better endurance, says Stacy Sims, a researcher at Stanford who holds a doctorate in exercise physiology and nutrition science. Years of daily running and skiing up mountains have further bolstered this advantage. This helps explain why Jornet sweats so little. During exercise, the bodies of very fit people quickly act to disperse heat by, among other things, vasodilation — expanding blood vessels at the skin’s surface where the air can cool the body. A body that sweats less loses less precious liquid from its circulatory system, a major factor in fatigue. In moderate temperatures, Jornet says, he can run easily for eight hours without drinking water.

For me: running at a moderate pace, I usually don’t drink during runs 2 hours or less. Walking: it is about 3 hours. No, I am not that fit and I do need to drink more when I am going very hard.

Physics Mano Singham has an interesting piece on particle physics. It requires a bit of effort to read, but it isn’t technical (though you have to know that subatomic particles are made of quarks and realize that mass of these particles isn’t just the mass of the quarks that make up the particle; the energy adds to the mass.

Human evolution
When we try to date human genetic lineages, the mutation rates are important:

Recent measurements of the rate at which children show DNA changes not seen in their parents — the “mutation rate” — have challenged views about major dates in human evolution.


The researchers show that pre-ice age hunter-gatherers from Europe carry mtDNA that is related to that seen in post-ice age modern humans such as the Oberkassel fossils. This suggests that there was population continuity throughout the last major glaciation event in Europe around 20,000 years ago. Two of the Dolni Vestonice hunter-gatherers also carry identical mtDNAs, suggesting a close maternal relationship among these individuals who were buried together.
The researchers also used the radiocarbon age of the fossils to estimate human mutation rates over tens of thousands of year back in time. This was done by calculating the number of mutations in modern groups that are absent in the ancient groups, since they had not yet existed in the ancient population. The mutation rate was estimated by counting the number of mutations accumulated along descendent lineages since the radiocarbon dated fossils.
Using those novel mutation rates — capitalizing on information from ancient DNA — the authors cal-culate the last common ancestor for human mitochondrial lineages to around 160,000 years ago. In other words, all present-day humans have as one of their ancestors a single woman who lived around that time.

There is more there; right now there is a disparity between modern family mutation rates and the observed mutation rates of ancient humans (as derived from fossils.

Biological Mimicry
Both the hunters and the prey benefit from camouflage. There is a gecko that resembles a leaf; below is an insect that also resembles a leaf.



March 23, 2013 Posted by | evolution, nature, physics, science, ultra | , , , | Leave a comment

Purity Trolls, Muddy Tough Trails and the long road

Workout notes
Leisurely weight workout:
rotator cuff
hip hikes
pull ups (5 sets of 10)
bench: 10 x 135, 4 x 180, 8 x 170
incline: 10 x 140, 7 x 145
leg set (abduction, push backs: 3 sets of 10 each)
superset: military, rows, dumbbell bench:
military: 2 sets of 12 x 50 lb. dumbbells, 1 set of 10 x 80 machine,
rows; 3 sets of 10 x 65 dumbbell (each arm)
dumbbell bench: 3 sets of 10 x 65 dumbbell
abs: sit backs, twists, crunch, vertical crunches: 3 sets of 10 each (20 for vertical crunch)
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160
curls: 2 sets of 10 x 57.5 pulley, 1 set of 10 x 30 dumbbell.

no run; a bit tired. Perhaps along a trail tomorrow?

Ultras: yes, I’ve done the McNaughton Park races (2003: 31, 2004: 50, 2005: 100, 2006: dnf 100 (70 total), 2008: 50, 2009: 100, 2012 (50 dnf (knee, 20)) plus the fall version (30) in 2009, 2010, and 10 in 2011.

But not like this guy:


Agreed. Not that we’ll get anything resembling competent policy from the other side:

Like almost everyone on his side (and many centrists), Ryan pretends that Keynesians are for fiscal stimulus always and everywhere — as opposed to the reality, that it’s about doing something in a liquidity trap, when monetary policy can’t cure mass unemployment. But what really struck me was his assertion that the notion that spending is expansionary and austerity contractionary has been debunked by “lots of studies”. Which studies, exactly?

I think it all comes back to Alesina and Ardagna — which, to repeat has been more thoroughly refuted by both academic criticism and real-world experience than any other popular doctrine I can think of. If Ryan’s faith is unshaken, that says everything about him and nothing about the evidence.

And let me ask a broader question: what, exactly, have Ryan and the economists he likes to cite gotten right these past, oh, five years? How has the Heritage Foundation prediction of soaring interest rates from four years ago panned out? How has Ryan’s own warnings from two years ago that Bernanke’s debasing of the dollar would translate into sharply rising inflation panned out? How has Alesina’s prediction that European austerity would be consistent with a strong recovery panned out?

OK, I understand that in GOP internal politics we seem to have a principle of survival of the wrongest, in which the less real-world outcomes corroborate the dogma, the more fiercely that dogma is held. But Ryan’s complete lack of self-reflection is nonetheless something wondrous to behold.

I think that part of being a conservative is having non-falsifiable beliefs.

On the other side: we too have our “you are with us or against us” types:

The choice for Democrats: Obama or liberalism?

There is such a thing as pragmatism. As far as drone strikes: the problem here is war. Conventional air strikes and fire fights kill more innocents than drones. And President Obama’s so called “apology tour” laid the ground work to make war less likely. Social Security: it is underfunded. Personally, I’d prefer to see the cap raised (taxed on more of one’s income).

But, regardless of what you think, the reality is that:
blue dog democrats exist. Republicans exist. The Senate filibuster exists.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | economics, economy, politics, politics/social, ultra, weight training | , , | Leave a comment

Potawatomi Ultra (150, 100, 50, 30) course tour

Note: I posted this back in 2008 when these were called the McNaughton Trail runs. The new name is Potawatomi Trail Runs, but the course is virtually identical. The name of the park is the John McNaughton Park.

Because the Potawatomi Trail Runs are coming up, I’ll talk you through one of the 10 mile loops (note: in the 50 miler you do 5 of these, 10 for the 100, and 15 for the 150).

Note: on race day, the course is very well marked with bright yellow tape and glow sticks.

Note: if the course is muddy, it can become a gigantic mud bath. Here are some examples:

See here for more “mud” photos.

The start is near where the McNaughton Park blacktop road runs out. Note: there is a red arrow pointing to the right (as you look toward the end of the road loop). This is the start of the 7.5 mile “red trail”. If you want to do the trail course, you look left. You’ll see a wide, somewhat muddy trail heading down hill. Start there.

You go down hill and empty out into a field. Starting in 2006, the course turns left and you go around the field, hugging the outstide.

The race course has a “short cut” marked; if you go all the way around you’ll add a couple of minutes to your loop time. Stay around the field (don’t follow the horse trails out!) and, at about .8-.9 miles into it, there will be a small entrance into the woods; that leads you up your first climb.

The entrance can be hard to see during the summer; remember it comes at “almost 1 mile” into it. You go up this hill and empty out into a grassy field.

You can see the start of the course on your right and you head straight across the field toward the woods (near where the woods get closest to the road). This is where the “red trail” starts. Again, this entrance can be hard to find when the course isn’t marked. Here is a summer and a spring view:

Now the trail goes through the woods and you’ll go over several “dipsy doodles” (mini ravines). You’ll also cross several mini streams and possibly pick up some mud. Note: recently, a couple of cool foot bridges have been added. Eventually you’ll turn right and go up your second good uphill

and face another field to cross; this one has a foot path and features tall grass on either side. You’ll cross under some power lines.

You are closing in on mile 2. Then you’ll head back into the woods for some more single track; here you’ll encounter 3-4 more mini-ravines and perhaps a small stream. The footing is mostly good but the ravines are momentum killing. Eventually, you’ll come to yet another footbridge and that means that you are close to exiting this woodsy section.

This takes you to the totem pole aid station, and I have a hard time believing that I don’t have a photo of that. Here, you are at mile 2.5, and this is the first aid station.

Here is Jerry Davidson’s:

From this station, you head out following the red trail, for a little while. Eventually, you break away from the red trail:

Note that the red trail moves off toward the left; to follow the race course you go to the right of the tower that you see. This takes you past a bathroom and through some open fields.

Though this stretch, you might encounter some fallen limbs, maybe a stray root and some gopher tracks/holes. But mostly you can make good time.

When I am out on my own, I always get lost here (and so I usually just follow the red trail). But when it is marked, you can see where to cross the first small rectangular field (short side), and go between two trees into a footpath through the woods. You empty out and follow another field going along the long side of the rectangle, then when the field jogs right, you turn left thought the woods again, and move up over a tiny grassy hill.

Then you hug the field and then turn left through some woods

and this path connects to a very sandy path; you turn right on this path and head downhill.

The down hill area is called “the beach”. Stay on it and then go uphill to leave the sandy area; the path becomes packed dirt again. Then downhill to the first major creek crossing:

Note: during the summer, this crossing is sometimes dry:

And you are about 1/3 of the way through the loop!

Across the creek, you turn right and follow the dirt path. Here (when it isn’t marked for a race) it is easy to get lost and miss that first uphill section; you don’t want to miss that! :)

This first post-creek uphill takes you about half way up the bluff that you are about to get familiar with. Then you go down, take the dirt paths that run along side the creek and stretch out those legs getting them ready for the bluff section.

You eventually head toward the bluff and go along side of it for about 100-200 meters until you then make a hard right turn right up the side of the bluff: welcome to golf hill!

You are at about 4 miles into the loop. This hill has a rope during the race.

This starts you on an interesting 1 mile section where you repeatedly go up the bluff and almost all the way back down it:

You do have some flat stretches along the bottom of the bluff. The third uphill is the longest though not the steepest. You have one up-down part on this third uphill,

but eventually you’ll come to the end of this section where you will see this:

That is the signal that you are about to take a long downhill toward the creek. Note that this has been changed this year; no more screaming downhill but rather a more reasonable, gentle downgrade.

This bridge is just a hair shorter than half-way! On the other side, you’ll have a minute or two more of a few minor dipsy-doodles

prior to crossing another small foot bridge and emptying out at the base of a hill, where you will turn left and go up a long uphill, which features a wide trail and another wooden footbridge.

You empty out into a field for about .5 miles worth of easy running or walking:

Along the edge of the field you’ll pass a small family cemetery. Then you’ll pass an easy to miss (when not marked) clearing on the right. This is about 5.8-5.9 miles into it and is called “Heaven’s Gate”. Turn into this clearing and you’ll be at aid station number 2 and 3, as you pass it twice. Head towards the end of the field and you’ll see an entrance into the woods. Follow it, but then when you get on the foot path, take your first right (easy to miss) If you go straight, you’ll cut off about .5 of a mile.

This takes you down toward some woodsy paths that run along side the creek. I call this the slalom course as you frequently twist and turn between the trees. Eventually you empty out into a grassy field and follow that for a while.

Off to your right, you can see the mile 8-9 section of the loop.

Eventually, you head back through the woods, up hill

and back into the Heaven’s Gate field. You exit that, turn right, and head out along the outer perimeter of the field; you have about 3 miles left in your loop.

Here it gets a bit tricky again if you are not out there when the race course is marked. Keep going so long as you see the red markings on the trees.

You exit the field to the right and go along a wide grassy clearing.

You keep going until you see woods off on your left, and at about 7.25 miles or so, there is a small opening into the woods:

Yes, that one:

And that takes you through just about a mile of small ups and downs, with perhaps one good sized hill.

You pass over one small footbridge, and at about 8.1-8.2 miles you’ll see a larger one:

Turn right when you cross this bridge; this takes you on a bit more of path which empties into yet another field and a downhill.

Here you get easy grass running/walking for about a quarter of a mile.

When you come back toward the woods, there will be a right turn that you do prior to moving toward a field (where you first went downhill at the beginning of the loop. Turn right and after about 200 meters you’ll find the third steam crossing.

yes, that is Andy, the race director, and on the other side you see where the trail picks up again.

You go up a steep hill and past a hole in the Disc (Frisbee) golf course; don’t be deceived; you still have about 1 mile left.

You go through some woods, alongside the creek again, and then back into the woods on a steep uphill.

This part is the most mentally taxing for me, as it appears that you are finally about to get out of the woods, but then you are directed back into them again. The uphill is followed by a downhill, then two more minor uphills and downhills.

The downhill which has the wooden marking post signifies the end of the last wood section; you then empty out onto the disc golf course!

Turn right, follow the red signs on the trees. This takes you across a field, to a path where you go right. The lake will be on your right as you go past. Then as you see a big uphill on your left, take the hill and go through the clearing. This is the last hill of the loop.

Then as soon as you are on the top, turn hard left and follow the treeline. You’ll go through a clearing toward another “hole” of the golf course, but then turn right through yet another small path.

That path empties you out into yet another field, where you will be able to see the start of the course.

Congratulations; you now have another 4-9-14 of these to do. :)

Update: this shows what things can get like if it rains hard:

Note the tape on the tree to the right; that is the kind of tape that is used. I see this as a very bright green but perhaps it is really yellow? :) (re: Brian’s comment)

Here is another photo showing a muddy course and the tape:

Both of these, I believe, come from the stretch between the last stream crossing and the disc golf course.

January 31, 2013 Posted by | running, ultra | , | Leave a comment

People who run and walk extreme distances

Today I read the following on facebook:

16 years ago today I greeted the day with my last hangover. I smoked my last cigarette. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I changed my mind and changed my life. I put down the booze and put on my shoes. One of the best decisions I’ve made. Celebrated by running 4 laps around [...]

The person who wrote this has completed 100 miles several times and even won a rugged trail 100 a couple of times. If you met her in person, you’d never dream that she was ever out of shape.

But I noticed: many people that I know who regularly run (or walk) very long distances (marathons or beyond) or run distances HARD (21:10 for the 5K run…as a 70 year old!) are former drunks or were formerly morbidly obese.

I wonder if there is some correlation there (between being a dedicated runner/walker who pushes themselves to the limit and being an addict of some sort).

My guess: probably.

September 21, 2012 Posted by | marathons, racewalking, running, ultra, walking | Leave a comment

15 miles and my inner Republican

Today I did a hodgepodge course: to the river, then 2 goose loop laps, one ball field loop, 2 more goose loop laps then out to Springdale. I walked to the mausoleum, back, one more goose loop lap, then back (37:08 last 2.55; 36:4x first one).

Yes, it got warm; 87 F at the end; pretty humid at the start. I stayed 14:30′ish most of the way (3:42); I got dive bombed once. Basically, you are ok until about 9-9:30 because that is when they search for food.

When I do a “just get it in” walk, I often let my mind wander. Today, I noticed that what turned out to be an “easy effort” 15 miler was easier than my usual 14 miler done at comparable speeds, even with the heat. The reason: I only had three uphill climbs on this course and only 1 was hard; the “path taken” makes a big difference!

Here is why I thought about this: I once saw a politician giving a political speech; the candidate used an pointed to a wheelchair bound person as an example of someone who would be hurt if social safety net programs were cut back. So later I looked at this wheelchair person who was “on disability”: this individual had an artificial leg was said to have diabetes. But this individual was also: sickly looking, overweight and chain smoking. My “inner Republican” kicked in: “hmmm, this person is on public aid and supposedly can’t work…but they have enough money to overeat and to buy cigarettes….maybe what we need to do is to make all public aid recipients get weighed and have a nicotine and an alcohol test; if they can afford to overeat, smoke and drink they don’t need to be on public aid.”

Of course such a policy would be stupid; we’d spend a lot of money trying to change something that won’t change and, well, demanding optimal living for public aid recipients is just dumb. What comes next: not sending EMTs to the aid of someone who got an accident because they might have been doing something dumb?

Yes, personal responsibility is important but when we make social safety net program decisions, we need to be a bit more spreadsheet oriented. If the safety net REALLY is discouraging work then it needs to be changed…or if it encourages unhelpful behavior…same thing.

Public policy decisions made in anger are almost never good decisions.

Then, my mind went back to MY life: yes, I did ok in high school, got lots of scholarship offers for colleges, got a job, then got assistantship offers for graduate school as well as veterans benefits and now I have a job (and have had one for 21 years).

So, I thought: “hey, I did it; if you didn’t, well, shame on you! It isn’t MY problem that you knocked up some girl in high school…or got knocked up yourself. I showed discipline and you didn’t not. I made decent grades; YOU should have too. Blah, blah, blah…”

And THAT is where the idea of “paths and courses” came to mind. Bear with me; I will “connect the dots”:

one of my best athletic accomplishments ever is walking 100 miles in 23:41; I walked every step on my blistered, tired feet. But:

1. It was on a smooth, rubberized (springy) track.
2. I had aid every 400 meters if I needed it, and my wife fed me every 4 hours. That saved me at least 30 minutes.

My next “fastest” 100 mile walk: 29:34. That featured a gravel trail and some very long hills. Same distance, same effort, but it took a lot longer because the PATH was harder…much harder.

My next fastest 100 mile walk: 34:13. That featured a technical trail; dry day, but this trail was a series of short but steep 80 foot uphill sections; about 130 all together. Again: the PATH made the journey harder though the preparation and effort were roughly the same…and yes I had aid every so often.

My next 100 mile walk: 47:55. Same path as the last one, except: sea of mud almost the whole way. The PATH was even harder.

Then I thought about the time one of my training walks went awry when I followed survey markers off of the trail and ended up moving about 2 miles an hour (if that) on no trail at all. I couldn’t believe the going was that slow…but there was no path cleared for me in advance. That makes it even harder.

Then I thought about this: I had aid stations and nearby roads and outposts of civilization. How difficult was it for the first humans who had to MAKE those paths to begin with…and those who had to carry their own gear/aid? MUCH harder.

So back to my “inner Republican”: yes, I worked hard to get my college scholarships, my college degree and my Ph. D. But: I had libraries, public school, a safe path to walk to school, gyms, health care, veterans benefits, teaching assistantships and NSF money. You might say that the path was blazed for me. I had to follow it on my own blistered feet, but I had a road to follow.

That is why I remain a Democrat: I want others to have that road to follow, and its upkeep costs money. Those of us who used the road ought to pay for its upkeep.

And, not everyone has access to that road; some kids wake up wondering where the next meal will come from. Some are abused…sometimes by their relatives. Others worry about getting physically wounded by the violence in their neighborhoods. Many don’t have good, safe schools to go to and many don’t get encouragement at home.

A few make it out of bad situations, but their paths are much harder than mine.

I’ll let Stephen King finish for me; he says what I am trying to say in a much more elegant manner than I do (then again, he should be able to!)

July 15, 2012 Posted by | 2012 election, Mitt Romney, politics, politics/social, republicans, ultra, walking | Leave a comment

Endurance Sports: Falling off of the Performance Treadmill….Difficult to Get Back On

I chuckled when I saw this old “demotivational” poster:

And given my previous two “long” performances (15K run, marathon walk) it sure looks as if that poster applies to me.

Then I thought about it. My last “good” ultra performance (83 miles in the 24 hour walk) was in 2006. My last good 100 mile performance was in 2005. My last “good” marathon walks were in 2009 (two of them). I finished a staged 100 in 2009 (almost 48 hours, albeit on a horribly muddy trail) and I stumbled through some disgustingly slow ultras (2010, trail 30, 2011, 24 hour walk). My last good swim was in March, 2010. (5K PR)

But the reality is: since my knee operation in July 2010, I haven’t been able to build up to anything resembling steady training, and frankly I am beginning to wonder if I will be able to.

I sure am familiar with this!

It isn’t as if I am doing nothing.

Then I noticed something. I follow blogs of some endurance athletes; one is on the upswing and still climbing (5:16 50K walk!) and one has had, well, some injury related consistency issues. This guy had previously worked himself to a sub 3 hour running marathon.

I noticed other runners and walkers in my life have undergone similar things: they can still “do” events but they can’t seem to muster the old fire to really crush an event; the ability to consistently train hard and really push doesn’t seem to be there. One of my other friends has told me that she has “lost her ultamarathon mojo”; at her last 100 attempt she had to stop at 40 miles and was all nauseated. (sound familiar?)

Yes, I am familiar with some who can consistently, decade after decade, finish 100′s. But they seem to be the exception.

It seems that most of us have a limited period of time in which we can approach our genetic potential, but when that time is it marked by injury, illness, or whatever, we are never quite the same again.

Some of it, I am sure, is just plain old age. Some of it is accumulated injuries; even when they heal, their remnants degrade your performance, at least a little bit. So when you add their effects up….

Some of it is losing the ability to recover from hard training. And some of it is the training itself. For example: when it comes to weights, I almost never really, really push for that last rep; I do a few sets and quit when it becomes uncomfortable (the last rep often is); no more of that grunt and really push for me. :)

So my question: is this what I can expect from here on out? If so, I am ok with it as I am still having fun. Or, someday, will I finally be able to really bear down and produce something resembling a quality performance?

My heart tells me “yes”, but my head says “probably not”.

Note: this isn’t really a whine; I’ve been pretty happy with this past week’s training. But I’d like to be realistic in making plans for the fall.

June 23, 2012 Posted by | Friends, marathons, Navel Staring, running, swimming, training, ultra, walking | 4 Comments


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