# blueollie

## Same Planet, different worlds.

This was seen as “wow, that is cool”…

And these people who were “having fun” just completely disregarded those around them (note one of these people crashing into someone else who was finishing).

I see them as self-centered narcissists.

Also on the Steamboat thread: one of my Facebook friends whined, bellyached and complained about the streets being closed for the race (though cross trafic was permitted to pass in gaps). This wasn’t the first time.

Then from the Steamboat Training group: There were hurt feelings because the 15K finishers got a medal whereas the 4 mile runners did not. Seriously….the larger running races are becoming kindergarten.

Then there is this, from the Huckabee Facebook page:

Oh sure, the others died but one who survived said that he prayed. I suppose that the others didn’t?

And also from our Right Wing

Uh, no…these women aren’t the same.

I might live on the same planet as these people, but we live in very different worlds.

June 16, 2013

## The George H. W. Bush Library and Museum

Impressions: this is one of those museums that is probably more meant to “showcase the legacy of” than to “give a realistic picture as possible of”. I didn’t find anything dishonest in it and what was there WAS very interesting. But it didn’t tell the complete story.

As far as the early Bush years (childhood to World War II service): what was left out was the family wealth when he was growing up. His prep school days and Yale days certainly IMPLIED it but it was definitely underplayed.

The part about his missions as a pilot of a torpedo bomber (Grumman TBF Avenger) was very interesting, especially the part about his raid on the Japanese naval communications station, his getting shot down and rescued by a US Submarine (Finback).

There was some about his days as a US Representative and how he voted for an equal rights bill (in housing). There was also displays about his term as Ambassador to the United Nations

(blurry)

and his term as the Director of the CIA and his term as RNC chair.

Note: this is a miniature camera of the type that spies used; that was part of the display!

There was a display about his 8 years as Vice President:

Yes, they talked a lot about the Cold War and its end; this is a piece of the Berlin Wall.

What they did NOT talk about was a key moment in his 1980 Primary campaign when he called then Governor Reagan’s economic plan “Voodoo Economics”; which in fact, it was…and he was to get stuck with the aftermath when he became President number 41.

They did talk about Desert Storm and they mentioned some of the things he did (e. g. ADA). And Desert Storm was very prominently featured:

They discussed why he went in. The actual brutality of the war was sanitized (ok, almost any museum would do that) but what was left out was the period when Saddam Hussein was “our” SOB.

I didn’t remember the emphasis on our stopping at Kuwait and not going into Iraq (which I agreed with).

They played his 1992 defeat as sort of being brought on by the media; they didn’t seem to emphasize WHY some might have found him “out of touch” in terms of economics.

Overall, it was a positive experience though; it was a nice reminder of a time when I saw Republicans as people that I disagreed with (sometimes) rather than as enemies that needed to be defeated.

ONE EXTRA
There was a bonus about cancer and genetic research. Though the genetic research part was designed for kids…well…let’s just say that I learned quite a bit! It was VERY well done; do NOT skip this part!

Other President Library Reports:
I have visited the Lyndon Johnson Library
The Bill Clinton library (my report)
The Harry Truman Library (my brief report)
The Herbert Hoover museum (my brief report and longer report)
The Lincoln Library and Museum (my report)

So there you go: 6 Presidential Libraries visited: 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans.

June 10, 2013

One thing I forgot about the Galesburg Half Marathon
After the race, I went to eat bagels and bananas. A lady in spandex shorts was in line in front of me. We talked…and kept the conversation going.

Eventually she asked “are you married?”

I said “no”…”uh….I was but she recently left me….for a hedge fund manager who drives a Maserati”

She said “oh, yeah, I can understand why but I like lost causes…do you want to do something?”

I thought: “Barbara is leaving for 3 weeks in July” so I said “sure…Lake Okoboji in July…a trip for two?”

She said: “sounds like fun!”

Now I have to update my Facebook status; I can’t remember if my blog posts still shows up on Facebook or not.

Update What I really forgot was to log out!!!!! Stupid Frog %\$#@!!!

## This weekend: anxious, nervous, excited…Peoria’s First Marathon

This is the predicted race day weather: HOT. No, this won’t be the worst I’ve seen (Quad Cities in 1998, either of the Oklahoma marathons, Lake Okoboji were all worse) but conditions will be tough, and I don’t handle heat well. HUMILITY will have to be my guide for the first 15 miles or so. I can’t let anyone con me into starting too fast for my current abilities. If that means a slow, slow, slow finish time, so be it.

Yes, I am nervous and excited. Yes, I’ve gone much further than this before (3 to 4 times farther!) (here, here, here, here..scroll down to 7′th place)

Though I’ve mixed in some running and walking in a few races (a couple of winter “Fatass” 50Ks and at a trail 50K), this is my longest “running” race I’ve attempted since 2002.
Realistically I can have a great day AND still set not only a “personal worst”, but also fail to beat my best powerwalking marathon time.

I suppose I can view this as a “coming to grips with my mortality” marathon.

Fears:
1. Getting sick and having to stop (I have my succeed tablets and early walking strategy ready)
2. Getting discouraged and quitting because I don’t like how slow my finish time will be.
3. Getting discouraged and “finish the race without trying my best” because I am disgusted with my projected finish time.

So, it is about mental toughness: I need to be mentally tough enough to hold back when it is still easy, and to keep doing my best when it gets hard….and it WILL get hard, both physically and mentally. And accepting that I’ll be in the back of the pack is tough…but it is either accept that, or to give up marathons.

And if all else fails: find out where the photographers will be, and stop and do some pushups before I get to them so I can look good in my marathon photos.

My projected schedule (Revised from here due to the projected heat)
Mile 5: 55 minutes
Mile 10: 1:50 (55 minutes)
Mile 15: 2:46:15 (56.25 minutes)
Mile 20: 3:43:45 (57.5 minutes)
Mile 23: 4:19:00 (35:15 for 3: 11:45 mpm)
Mile 26.2 4:59:00 (40 minutes, or 12:30 mpm)
(2:25/2:34)

Past Results

Walking Marathons
2002 2:21/2:23 for 4:44 + 2
2003 2:33/2:44 for 5:17 + 11
2004 2:30/2:43 for 5:13 + 13
2005 2:37/2:48 for 5:25 + 11
2005 2:35/2:59 for 5:34 + 24
2008 2:45/3:31 for 6:16 + 46
2009 2:35/2:39 for 5:14 + 4
2009 2:35/2:54 for 5:28 + 19
2012 2:46/4:12 for 6:58 + 1:26 (86 minutes)

May 17, 2013

## Marathons: training and prediction

Workout notes 2 mile jog to lossen up; I picked a bad time (during the school drop off period) but the day was pleasant.

Marathon Training
Let me make something clear from the get-go: I am in no way to dispense marathon training advice. I am neither a coach or athlete, and I have not studied tons of training data. But I have some questions about what is out there.

Unfortunately, a lot of what I read is just nonsense. There is training advice that tells you never to run longer than 90 minutes for the marathon! Here’s a free tip: if you do that, you will never run to your potential in the marathon, much less qualify for Boston.

Uh, I know a two time Olympic marathon medalist (bronze in 1984, gold in 1988) who did exactly that!
Her name was Rosa Motta:

“Her hard days were fartlek sessions on the roads. Mota had two hard days, and one or two long runs of 13-15 miles per week. The length of her long runs was another harbit from her early days in Porto, where it was hard to find longer loops to run. Nearly all marathoners do runs longer than Mota’s regular one hour, 30 minutes, but she sums up her attitude about long runs saying, “For me, that owrked. There’s no reason to kill myself. If I have to do two hours, I need to go slow. And I think it’s better to go faster. Two hours or more is too slow. And the races are not slow.”

From: Running with the Ledgends, by Michael Sandrock, page 480.

It goes on to say that once she ran 1:45 when she was running with Robert de Castella.

Also, Grete Waitz typically ran two 10 milers in a day rather than one 20.

Now yes, Mota’s milage (according to the above book) was about 100-110 miles per week.

My whole point: only going 90 minutes might be good advice for a high mileage runner who might cover 15-16 miles (or more!) on such a run. Such advice is certainly NOT “nonsense”, depending on who it is directed at.

Speaking of the “long run”, running coach Jack Daniels talks about the long run. He says (in his book, Daniels Running Formula, page 90):

An upper limit of 20 to 22 miles works well for many good runners. However less talented or less fit runners who set 20 miles as their L run goal stand a greater chance of overstressing themselves (the run may well take over 3 hours to complete). Certainly, runs lasting three hours or more are not popular for elite runners so why should they be useful for a less talented person?

He goes on to mention that long runs might help an ultramarthoner…and here is the key.

His VDOT table (table of equal aerobic requirements) lists a lowest VDOT of “30″, which corresponds to a 4:49 marathon. Compare that to those who have marathon targets of 2:30 or faster: a 4:49 IS a type of ultra, at least in terms of duration.

Think about it: my last half marathon, I ran (shuffled? waddled?) a 2:01. An elite marathoner would have been done soon afterward (5-10 minutes?). So a slowpoke such as myself is training for, in effect, what would be an ultra for a good runner.

This leads me to the question: when it comes to training schedules and the like, doesn’t it make sense for a runner to train according to the rough expected time duration of the race, rather than by distance?

Example: my current 5K’s have been in the 25:xx range. Years ago, that was a 4 mile time for me; and it is a average 5 mile (8 km) time for a university runner and darned close to a 10k time for an elite runner. Hence my 5K training should probably be a good runner’s 10K training, and I can probably use a good runner’s marathon schedule (in terms of mix and time duration of workouts) to train for a half-marathon. Example: when a good runner’s schedule calls for a 10 mile run (60 minutes for the runner), I can do a 10K run instead as it will be about the same duration.

Predicting a marathon time
So, what time should I predict?
The formulas often talk about marathon potential, assuming that the training is done and that one has equal ability across the distance spectrum.
Of course, in my case, those are poor assumptions. For one, my body can’t handle a proper “train to race” marathon training program. Another: I am heavy (186 pounds) and sweat like a pig. The marathon will never be a good distance for me.

Example: in 1999, I ran a 42 minute 10K and a 1:34 half marathon. The VDOT predicts: 3:14 marathon (via the 10K) or a 3:17 (via the half marathon)
The usual conversion $time 2 = (\frac{distance 2}{distance 1})^{1.06})(time 1)$ formula yielded 3:15 and 3:16.

But my best (perfect day) was 3:38 (a year later; I did a 1:35 half that year).
The formulas (VDOT or exponential) tended to work reasonably well from 5K to the half marathon; my mile times gave me inflated expectations for the longer distances.

However, there is a table that has worked very well for me across the distances from the mile to the marathon: these are the Donn Kirk tables found in the appendix of Bill Rodgers’ book Lifetime Running Plan.

Looking Forward
So, this Sunday, I attempt my first “running” marathon since 2002.

The weather prediction: sunny, hot and humid. My prediction: I have, have, have to go out very humbly; perhaps walking 2 minutes every mile for at least the first 20 miles so as to keep my pace at about 11 minutes per mile or so. That should get me under 5 hours: say 1:50 for the first 10, 1:55 for the next 10, 1 hour for the next 5: puts me at 4:45 with 1.2 to go, all downhill. IF it comes up cooler, than perhaps I can knock 5 minutes per segment off of these segments.

May 16, 2013

## “Race”, IQ and immigrants

Note: I put “race” in the quotes; scroll to the end of this post to see why.

I heard of the Heritage Foundation member who is working on their immigration reform ideas; he had written a Ph. D. dissertation (at Harvard University) in which he argued for using an IQ criteria for admitting new immigrants:

Richwine’s doctoral dissertation is titled “IQ and Immigration Policy”; the contents are well summarized in the dissertation abstract:
The statistical construct known as IQ can reliably estimate general mental ability, or intelligence. The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Selecting high-IQ immigrants would ameliorate these problems in the U.S., while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries.

Richwine’s dissertation asserts that there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races. While it’s clear he thinks it is partly due to genetics — “the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ” — he argues the most important thing is that the differences in group IQs are persistent, for whatever reason. He writes, “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.
Toward the end of the thesis, Richwine writes that though he believes racial differences in IQ to be real and persistent, one need not agree with that to accept his case for basing immigration on IQ. Rather than excluding what he judges to be low-IQ races, we can just test each individual’s IQ and exclude those with low scores. “I believe there is a strong case for IQ selection,” he writes, “since it is theoretically a win-win for the U.S. and potential immigrants.” He does caution against referring to it as IQ-based selection, saying that using the term “skill-based” would “blunt the negative reaction.”

Emphasis mine. So we have “race and IQ” once again.
I will NOT focus on the politics but rather focus on “the facts” regardless of the political and social implications.

I have NOT read the dissertation and therefore cannot comment on the data or methodology. However it appears that the argument is this:
1. Hispanics, as a subset of people in the United States, currently have a lower IQ than whites (undeniably true)
2. Immigrants from, say, Mexico, have a lower IQ (on the average) than current Americans (true)
3. These immigrants, as part of the pool of Hispanic Americans, would drive the aggregate IQ down (true)
4. IQ is a heritable trait (true)
5. Therefore these immigrants would have low IQ offspring thereby hurting the nation’s aggregate IQ (not convinced here!)

So, what do the facts say?
The current IQ difference between “races” (self identified) are real:

“Race differences show up by 3 years of age, even after matching on maternal education and other variables,” said Rushton. “Therefore they cannot be due to poor education since this has not yet begun to exert an effect. That’s why Jensen and I looked at the genetic hypothesis in detail. We examined 10 categories of evidence.”

The Worldwide Pattern of IQ Scores. East Asians average higher on IQ tests than Whites, both in the U. S. and in Asia, even though IQ tests were developed for use in the Euro-American culture. Around the world, the average IQ for East Asians centers around 106; for Whites, about 100; and for Blacks about 85 in the U.S. and 70 in sub-Saharan Africa.

Race Differences are Most Pronounced on Tests that Best Measure the General Intelligence Factor (g). Black-White differences, for example, are larger on the Backward Digit Span test than on the less g loaded Forward Digit Span test.

The Gene-Environment Architecture of IQ is the Same in all Races, and Race Differences are Most Pronounced on More Heritable Abilities. Studies of Black, White, and East Asian twins, for example, show the heritability of IQ is 50% or higher in all races.

It is true that the brains of the more intelligent have better wiring than those who are less intelligent; there are observations to back this up. However, if there are genes responsible for this (perhaps there are epigenetic effects too?) they haven’t been found.

However the story doesn’t end here for a number of reasons.

1. When it comes to an inheritable characteristic, genes don’t tell the whole story. Consider the height of Japanese people. Clearly, height is an inheritable characteristic and I don’t think that they’ve had that much intermarriage after World War II, but we now see:

For the 1995 survey, the results of medical checkups undergone by children in kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, and high school were used, with statistics on height and weight compiled on the basis of a random sampling of 700,000 children and statistics on obesity compiled on the basis of a random sampling of 1.2 million children. Between fiscal 1948, the first year after the war the survey was resumed, and fiscal 1995, the most remarkable change in height occurred among 14-year-old boys in the eighth grade. Today these boys average 159.6 centimeters (5 feet 2 inches), 19.8 centimeters (7 3/4 inches) more than their counterparts in 1948 and about the same as eleventh and twelfth grade boys that year. They are 7.9 centimeters (3 inches) taller than children in their parents’ generation 30 years ago. Similar increases in height could be seen among the girls too. The biggest change occurred among 12-year-old girls in the sixth grade, who average 146.7 centimeters (4 feet 10 inches) today, or 15.9 centimeters (6 1/4 inches) more than their counterparts in 1948 and 6.3 centimeters (2 1/2 inches) more than those in their parents’ generation 30 years ago.

Genes merely provide a bound; environment can change how the genes are expressed!

The Flynn effect is the increase in average intelligence test scores by about 0.3% annually, resulting in the average person today scoring 15 points higher in IQ compared to the generation 50 years ago.[36] This effect can be explained by a generally more stimulating environment for all people. The authors suggest that programs aiming to increase IQ would be most likely to produce long-term IQ gains if they taught children how to replicate outside the program the kinds of cognitively demanding experiences that produce IQ gains while they are in the program and motivate them to persist in that replication long after they have left the program.[37][38] Most of the improvements have allowed for better abstract reasoning, spatial relations, and comprehension. Some scientists have suggested that such enhancements are due to better nutrition, better parenting and schooling, as well as exclusion of the least intelligent people from reproduction. However, Flynn and a group of other scientists share the viewpoint that modern life implies solving many abstract problems which leads to a rise in their IQ scores.[36]

3. There ARE environmental factors affecting IQ as well; it is not 100 percent heritable:

A 2011 study by Tucker-Drob and colleagues reported that at age 2 years, genes accounted for approximately 50% of the variation in mental ability for children being raised in high socioeconomic status families, but genes accounted for negligible variation in mental ability for children being raised in low socioeconomic status families. This gene-environment interaction was not apparent at age 10 months, suggesting that the effect emerges over the course of early development.[33]

4. Though IQ isn’t measured here, the data shows that the gap between Hispanics and white kids (on school achievement scores) are greater between kids growing up in “non-English speaking households” than in English speaking households. This study did NOT control for “years lived in the US”:

Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute , a nonpartisan think tank, called the data on Hispanic students meaningless because it puts students from vastly different backgrounds – first generation Latino students entering the U.S. school system in the middle of their education, for example, with third generation children who are highly assimilated. The data released by the Department of Education is not separated by generation or a parent’s country of origin, though it does distinguish between Hispanics who are English language learners and those who are not.

The gap between white students and Hispanics who are not English language learners has declined from 24 points in 1998 to 15 points in 2009 in fourth grade reading. In contrast, the gap between white fourth graders and Hispanic English language learners was 44 points.

(here: “English language learners” means, roughly, that English wasn’t the first language in the home).

We also know that, at least in terms of language, there is virtual total assimilation by 3 generations.

Conclusion Caveat: this isn’t my area and I have not read the dissertation in question. But my questions are these:

1. Will the level of immigration stay the same or will new immigrants become a smaller and smaller proportion of all Hispanics?

2. Why isn’t it possible or even likely that we’ll see an upward drift in IQ among the descendants of these new immigrants, similar to what we’ve seen in the rest of the population as a whole? Heritable does NOT mean “immutable” (height of Japanese is an example).

Commentary on “Race”
I’ve followed the discussions on “race” and if it has any real meaning. Some of the biologists and other life scientists that I’ve interacted with said “sure”: if one were blindfolded and taken to one of three cities without knowing which was which: Stockholm, Peking or Abuja, and then you had the blindfold taken off, you could easily tell where you were taken to.

There are characteristics that cluster, genetically speaking. For example, it makes to sense to test a Swede for the sickle cell.

But on the other hand, especially in the United States, “racial classification” can get tricky. Propensity for sickle cell or the differences in outward appearances really are superficial, in a sense.

I learned this the hard way when I got my DNA tested. I have olive skin and self-identify as “Mexican-American”. My dad was very dark skinned, and my slightly lighter skinned mom grew up speaking Spanish; she didn’t learn English until later. Both were raised in Mexican-American neighborhoods in central Texas.

Hence, when I submitted my cheek-swabs for testing, I fully expected to see Aztec type ancestry. The results:

European haplogroups, both paternal and maternal. In other words, though society identifies me as “Mexican” and I self-identify as “Mexican”, my genes identify me as European! It isn’t that easy, is it?

Update Dr. Andy (in the comments) provided us with an interesting article by Ron Unz from The American Conservative. Unz argues that wealth and other factors can change IQ:

Consider, for example, the results from Germany obtained prior to its 1991 reunification. Lynn and Vanhanen present four separate IQ studies from the former West Germany, all quite sizable, which indicate mean IQs in the range 99–107, with the oldest 1970 sample providing the low end of that range. Meanwhile, a 1967 sample of East German children produced a score of just 90, while two later East German studies in 1978 and 1984 came in at 97–99, much closer to the West German numbers.

These results seem anomalous from the perspective of strong genetic determinism for IQ. To a very good approximation, East Germans and West Germans are genetically indistinguishable, and an IQ gap as wide as 17 points between the two groups seems inexplicable, while the recorded rise in East German scores of 7–9 points in just half a generation seems even more difficult to explain.

The dreary communist regime of East Germany was certainly far poorer than its western counterpart and its population may indeed have been “culturally deprived” in some sense, but East Germans hardly suffered from severe dietary deficiencies during the 1960s or late 1950s when the group of especially low-scoring children were born and raised. The huge apparent testing gap between the wealthy West and the dingy East raises serious questions about the strict genetic interpretation favored by Lynn and Vanhanen.

Next, consider Greece. Lynn and Vanhanen report two IQ sample results, a score of 88 in 1961 and a score of 95 in 1979. Obviously, a national rise of 7 full points in the Flynn-adjusted IQ of Greeks over just 18 years is an absurdity from the genetic perspective, especially since the earlier set represented children and the latter adults, so the two groups might even be the same individuals tested at different times. Both sample sizes are in the hundreds, not statistically insignificant, and while it is impossible to rule out other factors behind such a large discrepancy in a single country, it is interesting to note that Greek affluence had grown very rapidly during that same period, with the real per capita GDP rising by 170 percent.

There is much more in that article; it is long but worth the effort to read.

May 9, 2013

## Target Marathon Schedule

Of no interest to anyone but me. I developed this based on my previous “slow down curves” from other marathon races. Add 30 seconds a mile if hot.

 mile pace time: min hr min 1 10.5 10.5 0 10.5 2 10.5 21 0 21 3 10.5 31.5 0 31.5 4 10.5 42 0 42 5 10.5 52.5 0 52.5 0:52:30 6 10.5 63 1 3 7 10.5 73.5 1 13.5 8 10.5 84 1 24 9 10.5 94.5 1 34.5 10 10.5 105 1 45 1:45:00 11 10.8 115.8 1 55.8 12 10.8 126.6 2 6.6 13 10.8 137.4 2 17.4 2:18:00 half 14 10.8 148.2 2 28.2 15 10.8 159 2 39 2:39:00 16 10.8 169.8 2 49.8 17 10.8 180.6 3 0.6 18 10.8 191.4 3 11.4 19 10.8 202.2 3 22.2 20 10.8 213 3 33 3:33:00 21 11.55 224.55 3 44.55 22 11.55 236.1 3 56.1 23 11.55 247.65 4 7.65 24 11.55 259.2 4 19.2 25 11.55 270.75 4 30.75 26 11.55 282.3 4 42.3 26.2 11.55 284.61 4 44.61

May 7, 2013 Posted by | marathons, running, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

## Bradley Women Soccer 5K plus …

You see the course profile. Just the facts:
8:20, 8:14, 8:05, 0:49 25:29 for 5K
2 miles warm up plus 2 miles cool down = 7 miles total

This was a tiny race; 20-30 tops. Early on a young woman was leading and I was chasing 2 young women, an older guy and a young man. I caught none of them.

The course started with a right hand turn and then an up/down on the toughest hill on the course. We came down and on the downhill I passed the two women and the old guy; they got me back on the next uphill. Then it was pretty much the same on the rest of the course though they eventually picked up the pace.

The day was pretty and I ran hard; this was just a challenging 5K.

Next I ate some breakfast and then went to the East Peoria bikepath to walk 8 more miles. I kind of lolly-gagged going up (1:01 to 4.05) and then, inspired by some slower women runners (that I couldn’t catch) took the return in 55 minutes; 40 for the last 3. That was a better effort.

Why? I’ll be walking much of the marathon so I need to practice walking.

## Running: slowing down with age

Workout notes We had more thunderstorms so I took it to the university treadmill. I had a pleasant surprise: Tracy showed up and so we were side by side for much of it. That made the workout much more pleasant.

1. 5 mile run: 10:26, 9:47 (20:13), 9:10 (29:23), 17:20 (46:43), so you might say I had a 26:30 tempo run after a 20:13 warm up. I kept the elevation at .5 after the first .5 mile. I admit that this was NOT easy for me.
2. 3.4 mile walk (3 in 43:50) varying the incline. Since I’ll be walking much of the marathon I need to practice walking.

Navel Staring
I admit that my moving back in the pack in running has distressed me a bit. Because so many new runners and not-in-shape people show up at the 5K events, my demise is a bit disguised. But this sure came back to me “front and center” at last week’s half marathon. I was a bit distressed that so many “wide bodies” are now running faster than I am.

I looked at one of my old training diaries. In 1980, I weighed 200-205 pounds, bench pressed 250 and ran a 3:33 marathon. In 1982, I weighed 195, benched 240 and ran a 39:50 10K. In 1985 (fall), I weighed 220, ran a 23:00 5K (last Saturday in September) and benched 300 in the second week of November. In each of those cases, I had a wider body than I have now and STILL ran MUCH faster.

So what is going on? Some of it is age. Some of it is accumulated injuries. And some of it: just too many “miles on the tires”?

I used to run with a guy who was unhappy with the way his performance had deteriorated over the years. In his early 20s, he said, he had been super-fast. A couple of decades later and about 20 pounds heavier, he had lost that amazing speed.

“Too many miles on the tires,” he would say. His idea was that if you start racing when you are young, you will be worse in middle age than if you started fresh when you were older.

But is it true, and if so, how does it happen? Do athletes accumulate injuries, for example, or just get mentally fatigued after competing nonstop for decades?

PERSONAL BEST
Gina Kolata on exercise.
There are no definitive data on this question, but there are some suggestive findings, said Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon and exercise researcher at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Wright’s study of senior Olympians — athletes age 50 and older who participated in the National Senior Olympic Games, a track and field event — found what she considers a surprisingly small rate of decline in performance until age 75: just a few percent a year in their times. After that, though, the athletes slowed down considerably.

She asked the athletes when they began participating in sports. In her survey, 95 percent said they were active in sports when they were teenagers and 85 percent said they were active as young adults.

But the survey did not ask what sports they played when they were younger — the same sports or different ones from those they were competing in now — or when they began to compete (it is likely that many of the women, growing up before Title IX, did not compete when they were young). Both factors bear on whether late-blooming athletes have an advantage as they get older.

Hirofumi Tanaka, an exercise researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, has some data that bear on the question, albeit obliquely. He and his colleagues measured the maximum oxygen consumption, or VO2 max, of 153 men ages 20 to 75. Because VO2 max describes how much oxygen can get to muscles during exercise, it is measure of how well a person can perform. Sixty-four of the men in his study were sedentary, and 89 were trained endurance athletes.

The results were something of a surprise. The endurance athletes had a greater VO2 max than sedentary men of the same age, but this measure also declined more swiftly with age among the athletes. And although Dr. Wright may be right that each year performance times decline only a few percent, that steady decline year after year takes its toll. [...]

I know that many runners deal with this. What I’ve seen: it seems that many of the runners who ran years ago no longer run races. And of those that do: the gap between us is roughly the same; it is just that we’ve all slid back roughly the same amount.

Now you might notice that median times for the age groups at a race slow, but not that much. That is true. But if one tracks individuals, you do see a slow down.

So what to do?

I see the slow down as resulting from a loss of strength (my current bench press is about 190-195) and from a loss of VO2 max. So I might have to cross train, do some hard VO2 max type running (at least one speed session a week…can be a short race) and do some hill work, emphasizing knee lift.

Goals: work on my half marathon.
1997: 1:40
1998: 1:39 (day after a 5K)
1999: 1:37, 1:34
2000: 1:42, 1:35
2001: 1:37
2002: 1:43
2003: 1:53
2013: 2:01:19 (so far)

April 18, 2013