Running: beginners; my beginning and how things have changed.

Workout notes: 3 easy walking miles. That’s it. Later today: more with the Building Steam group (probably about 3)

Yes, it is “two week vacation from training time” and instead of doing something useful, I’ll babble about running and endurance sports.

In today’s paper, I read about a “I’ve Decided” “first 5K” which is designed for beginners. How different things are now-a-days.

One big difference:


Yes, I started running in the “cotton” era; even nylon running shorts were new.

What drove home my age was a conversation I had with a beginning runner: there was some small country race that timed things the old fashioned way (pull tags) and the new runner didn’t understand how a race could be timed if there was no computer chip! Imagine a race in which someone had a stop watch, yelled your time, and YOU were responsible for writing your name and time on a numbered card that you were given as you crossed the finish line. The number on the card corresponded to your order as you crossed the finish line; the winner had card “1”, the tenth place finisher had card “10”, the 34’th had card “34”, etc.

Yes, I am a fan of the computer chip or the “chip in the race bib” system. I love that innovation. But I do remember a simpler time, and those old “card races” were fine with me.

But the difference I’ll talk about today was cultural.


This is me back in August, 1980. I was nearing the finish of the Severn River 10 mile run; I ran 1:21:45 (8xx out of 3000+ finishers). This was my first public race and I didn’t know what to expect.
But what I remember most was talking to the more experienced runners afterward; I remember one “old man” (30’s?) telling me “ok, that is an 8:10 mile; that will get you 3:3x in your first marathon”..and I thought that he was nuts!

But…well, that December I ran the Maryland Marathon in 3:33 (1054 out of 2229 males; the median male time was 3:36)

And to me, that was part of the fun. The same thing held with racewalking; I remember drawing some red cards during a race and having the other walkers give me tips. The same holds for swimming (getting tips from the better swimmers), weight lifting, ultra walking, etc.

But: that is part of my personality. Before my first race, I had run 1 mile time trials for football, 3 mile time trials for crew; I had gotten my butt kicked on the football field, wrestling mat and gotten hit in the mouth in boxing (PE). I expected anything worthwhile to be hard, and I expected to have a lot of improving to do. That is just how it rolled in that era.

But now: things are very different.

We have gyms that are devoted to, well, not making people feel bad or intimidated.

And so, the median times at road races have slowed a great deal. Some have conjectured that this is due to there being many more outlets for the more intense person (adventure races, trail races, ultra marathons, cross fit, off road triathlons etc.). In fact, in a recent New York Times, there was an article about a 200 mile “off road” bike race which said:

For the last 10 years, the hardiest of cyclists have been flocking to some of the country’s most remote roads to tackle 200 miles of gravel. The single-day race is called Dirty Kanza, a test of both mental and physical endurance, and part of an explosion of extreme-distance events testing the limits of the human body.

“Now, everybody’s grandmother runs a marathon,” said Rebecca Rusch, a professional cyclist whose affinity for extreme-distance races has earned her the nickname the Queen of Pain.

“I really think the point of endurance cycling is sort of that craving for a little bit of adventure,” said Rusch, who has won the women’s category of Dirty Kanza three straight years.

And they have a point.

Sure, *I* run the roads and I enjoy seeing how “fast” (less glacial?) I can “run” a 5K. But if I were just starting out, I am not so sure that running on the roads would have had much appeal. Much of what I see out there are somewhat dimply middle aged to old people waddling along at 10-14 minutes per mile and bragging about their “finishing bling”. As a young person, I would have thought “THAT PERSON is a road runner…YUCK…”

But the current atmosphere serves me well; I can enter most shorter races and finish “within the bell curve” and, in some larger marathons (or “walker friendly marathons”), even participate in a longer race without the sag wagon breathing down my neck. The current atmosphere in road races is much more accommodating to the older person with a stiff back and multiple knee operations. :-) But it might not be so attractive to the younger, fitter more intense person who wants to kick butt.

Ok, time to do end this post and do something more useful. :-)

May 27, 2015 Posted by | running, walking | , , | Leave a comment

Barton Springs Pool Flooding

When I visited Austin, Texas regularly, I would often stop by Barton Springs pool to do some open water swimming. One length was about 220 yards.

This is what it looks like in normal conditions: note the concrete pool deck and wall prior to the grass:



This is what it looked like during the recent flooding:


There are more photos from the flood here.

I am very familiar with many of these places (I played football in one of the stadiums shown).

May 27, 2015 Posted by | social/political | | Leave a comment

Progress: but is it the correct kind?

Workout notes well, workouts for the next 2-4 weeks will be lighter than normal.

Bodyweight: 184.0
Weights: 3 sets of 10 pull ups
Bench: 10 x 135, 1 x 185, 1 x 195 (hard), 3 x 180, 10 x 155 (rotator cuff)
pull ups: 1 set of 10, 2 sets of 5
military: standing, 3 sets of 10 x 40 dumbbell
rows: 2 sets of 10 x 200 Hammer
pull downs: 2 sets of 10 x 150

That isn’t that much easier than normal, but it is a start.

Then running (pouring rainstorm outside)
treadmill run: 3.11 miles (5K) in 28:56; first mile was 11:04 then 2 miles in 17:00 (.5 6.8, .5 6.9, .25: 7-7.1-7.2-7.3, .11 in 7.4)
1 mile walk on the track (started going the wrong way for Tuesday: I was using Monday’s direction) Ooops!

Afterward, my legs felt refreshed.

The bench press (195) was my best of 2015; I am going to have to see when the last time I got 200. In August 2013 I got 205. (August 23). I haven’t seen heavier since then.

May 26, 2015 Posted by | running, Uncategorized, weight training | | Leave a comment

Chicago and Nash

Workout notes: swam: 2000 straight laps (not timed; counted laps by 5: that is, 8 x 250 with no rests), then 200 pull.

I then took my daughter to Chicago Midway; we left at 9 am, I took her through the boarding pass line and to security; then I drove home and got home at 2:45. That was as fast as I’ve ever made this trip (round trip).

News: John Nash was killed in a traffic accident a couple of days ago. He was the focus of the book/movie A Beautiful Mind. He is known for the Nash equilibrium (in game theory); it was for that he won a Nobel in economics. But he had other great mathematics results; one of these was the Nash Embedding Theorem. The statement is somewhat technical but I think that I can give a flavor of what it was about.

Consider the circle. It is an object known as a “1-manifold” in that, if one examined the circle very “locally”, one would see that it was impossible to distinguish from a straight line. Example: if a tiny, near sided creature lived on a circle, it would look like a line to the creature, just like our spherical earth looks flat to us (locally).

Well, one can place a circle in a plane (distortion is allowed) in different ways:

Look at the two closed curves above. Those are “embeddings” (one to one, continuous maps from the circle). The one of the left: two points on the circle itself are “distant” from each other if and only if they are distant from each other as points on the plane. That is said to be an “isometric” embedding of the circle; points on the circle are far away from each other if and only if they are far away from each other in the plane.

Now look at the bent “circle”. See how two points of the circle are “close together” as points on the plane, but if one was forced to go from one of those points to the other point WHILE STAYING ON THE CURVE, one would have to travel a much further distance. That is a non-isometric embedding of the circle as two points are close together as points in the plane but NOT close as points on the circle.

So, the Nash embedding theorem deals with isometric embecdings; he gives a mathematical condition which guarantees that an arbitrary embedding can be approximated by an isometric embedding (as well as a dimensional criteria).

May 26, 2015 Posted by | mathematics, swimming, travel | Leave a comment

Some political reality

If we listen to the detractors, EVERYONE hates President Obama.

But what is reality? If one looks at the cold, hard facts, President Obama’s approval ratings:

1. Track very well with the historical ratings of previous presidents (who have served two terms)

2. Are well above those of President Bush (at this point in his presidency) but below what President Clinton’s were. President Reagan had better ratings for much of his presidency but, at this point, his approval ratings were similar to President Obama’s (remember Iran-Contra)


Dotted line: average of all presidents. Light green: President Obama. Dark green: President Bush.

Screen shot 2015-05-24 at 5.13.45 PM

Again, light green is President Obama, darkest green is President Reagan (with the big dip); the middle green (and highest ratings) is President Clinton.

From here

Now the Republicans turn their sights on the 2016 elections. Yes, some are bloviating about the instability in Iraq (President Bush left a stable situation!) evidently forgetting that the Status of Forces agreement to get the US out of Iraq was negotiated with Iraq by President Bush. Yes, the region was more stable with us there, but were we to stay there in perpetuity?


May 24, 2015 Posted by | 2016, Barack Obama, political/social, politics, republicans, republicans politics, world events | , , , | Leave a comment

Going longish…


The skinny: 20 miles in 4:59:18, with the final 4 miles (W. Peoria Heading course) being done in 58:49. I also added 6:14 in case my course was short (I sort of winged part of it) to get 5:05:32 for 20.4 miles.

Weather: overcast with periods of sun; 66 F with 65 percent humidity at the start; 80 F with 52 percent humidity at the finish; I beat the cold front with rain by about 10 minutes.

I did my best walking in the final hour; that might be because that was the flat part of the course.

For Peoria types:
Cooper to Laura (onto the BU campus) to Maplewood to Columbia Terrace. Then to Broadway all the way to McClure. Then to Bootz, Corrington, Bigelow to Forrest Hill (turn right). Take that to Central, go north to Peoria Heights (Marietta) to Prospect to Tower Park. Pit stop.
Then to Grandview, to East Grandview Dr., Harmon, Bishop Hill where I took the Rock Island trail (bikepath) all the way past Affina into Springdale Cemetery. Then to the bottom of Glenn Oak Park, up the hill, around the Park District Building, through the new parking lot along the sidewalk; exit, turn north on Prospect, turn left (West) on Forrest Hill….retrace the out part except when I got to Columbia Terrace, I kept going all the way to Parkside.

Then along Main/Western and turn onto Heading and go until it runs out. Then left, right to Swords, left, first left then down a few blocks and turn right to get to Rohmann, right on Sterling past the Cemetery and right on Kickapoo..through the brick street neighborhoods to Manor Parkway by the golf course..then to Waverly all the way to Rohmann then right to Western then right on Bradley ave. to Cooper.

It was a bit of everything; I saw other people on the course.

While it was my best long walk of the year and my best week since October 2014, it still wasn’t much. I have to be aware of that.

Along the way, I heard a call of a green frog (Rana Clamitans)

May 24, 2015 Posted by | frogs, walking | Leave a comment

River Run 2015: tough competition; I fall further back.


Yes, over 1 minute slower than last year; 53/109, 2/3 AG, 38/57 among the males. But for a change, we had some younger, faster runners show up.

Past years: 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013., 2014

mile 2009 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
1 7:35 8:19 8:08 8:03 7:54 8:07
2 8:43 8:49 8:07 8:01 7:56 8:15
3.1 9:21 9:48 8:47 8:52 8:52 9:21
final 25:40 26:56 25:03 24:56 24:42 25:45
place 82/148 144/283 89/255 71/258 47/146 53/109

Notes: missed 2010 (knee surgery year), 2009 was after the Rockford Marathon (5:14, walking), 2011 was after the Crud 8 hour trail event, 2012 was a week after a 7 hour walking marathon, 2013 was a week after a marathon; 2014 was the week after a hard half marathon powerwalk. All days were reasonable days to run.

Today, it was 64 F, moderate humidity; a “no excuses” day.

I felt slow and tight upon trying to warm up; it took me 13-15 minutes to start feeling good. But then I was ready; as ready as I would be this year.
It seemed as if the entire field pulled away from me; I was tracking Pat and stayed with her for about 2 miles; we chatted some. Afterward she mentioned my “heavy breathing on her neck” though I was not THAT close. I saw Dianne and Jerry up ahead but they were to finish under 25 minutes; roughly where I was last year.

I didn’t feel that bad in mile 1 and at mile 2 I gave some thought to perhaps having a kick; that idea faded at 17-18 minutes into the race. It was all I could do to keep moving forward; my last mile was around 8:34 or so.

It isn’t as if I am not trying; I wonder if I have gained 3-4 pounds over the first part of the year; I was 184 after breakfast last Monday and 186 yesterday morning. But what is unusual is that I am not feeling that on pull ups; my pull ups are actually stronger than they were earlier in the year when I was slightly lighter.

AmusingI stayed at watched the winners of the various age groups go up and get awards. I was amused: in my age group, both guys who were there had to straighten their backs when they got up after sitting; it seems that bad backs correlate with age. :-)

7 March 24:42 for 2.87 miles (about 26:45 for 5K) (recent illness) 39 of 83 (college students)
21 March 25:27 for 5K 71 of 269
28 March 25:50 5K (26 F) 15 of 68
11 April: 26:14 5K (some hills) 42 of 153
18 April: 25:45 5K or 9 of 105 Kidney 5K
2 May: 26:59 Run to Remember (collapse final mile)
9 May: Race for the Cure: 26:14.
23 May: River Run 25:45

This is what last year looked like (through May). I am certainly slower but I am not as far along on training; last year I had more “hard miles” under my belt by this time.

31 May: Family House 5K 26:50 (fell down)
24 May: River Run 5K (certified) 24:42 5K
10 May: Race For the Cure 25:27 5K
3 May Run to Remember 24:17 5K .
26 April: 26:47 5K (Bradley soccer 5K)
19 April: 23:27 2.96 (24:40 5K, or 23:45 3 mile)
5 April 22:31 (2.8 miles) 25:05 5K
29 March CIDA 25:09 5K
1 March: 27:27 for 3.25 miles: 26:10 5K.

5K (or close)

2012 2013
25:47 Yates City. 26:05 Yates City
25:42 Brimfield: 7:56, 8:10, 8:44, 0:51
27:59 Aug. 5: Math Fest 5K 26:56 Rocket Run July 20: 8:27, 8:42, 9:46
26:07 Run for the Health of it July 14 8:28 8:49, 8:49 (AG) 26:32 5K run for the health of it July 13 (AG) 8:03, 8:02, 10:26
27:46 July 4 Firecracker 8:09 8:43 10:53 27:40 July 4 Firecracker
25:03 May 26 River Run 8:08, 8:07, 8:47 24:56 May 25 River Run
25:13 Race for the Cure May 12 (8:25, 7:34, 9:12) (AG) 25:48 Race for the Cure May 11
24:34 May 5 Run to Remember (7:54, 7:45, 8:54) 26:12 (3.18?) May 4: Sam Fan 5K
25:41 Bradley U. April 28 25:29 (hilly) 20 April: BU women soccer 5K
25:14 CIDA March 31 (8:27, 8:17, 8:29) (AG) 25:14 March 23: New Interplanetary 5K
25:08 Interplanatary March 24 (8:14, 8:19, 8:34) (AG) 27:04 (3.25?) 2 March: 5K Jack Kenney (AG)

May 23, 2015 Posted by | running | , , | Leave a comment

Education, public discourse and ideas…

Bonus: has an interesting ranking of the all time bets NBA teams. The discussion is interesting as well.

Press coverage: Paul Krugman attacks an attack on Elizabeth Warren:

Yesterday Politico posted a hit piece on Elizabeth Warren, alleging that she’s being hypocritical in her opposition to a key aspect of TPP, that’s interesting in several ways. First, it was clearly based on information supplied by someone close to or inside the Obama administration – another illustration of the poisonous effect the determination to sell TPP is having on the Obama team’s intellectual ethics. Second, the charge of hypocrisy was ludicrous nonsense – “You say you’re against allowing corporations to sue governments, yet you were a paid witness against a corporations suing the government!” Um, what?

And more generally, the whole affair is an illustration of the key role of sheer laziness in bad journalism.

Think about it: when is the charge of hypocrisy relevant? Basically, only when a public figure is preaching about individual behavior, and perhaps holding himself or herself up as a role model. So yes, it’s fair to go after someone who preaches morality but turns out to be a crook or a sexual predator. But articles alleging that someone’s personal choices are somehow hypocritical given their policy positions are almost always off point. Someone can declare that inequality is a problem while being personally rich; they’re calling for policy changes, not mass self-abnegation. Someone can declare our judicial system flawed while fighting cases as best they can within that system — until policy change happens, you have to live in the world as it is.

I see this attack on Hillary Clinton as being similar (the attack: she wants to overturn Citizens United, but still welcomes support from 527 groups). To me, this is like advocating for a rules change, but playing within the rules prior to said change. I am fine with either side doing it.

Education One secret is that most students really don’t want to be educated. They are fine when learning is painless but ultimately, they want the grades, credits and credentials:

Dear Students:

The collective attitude you have shown toward reading and writing during the past semester is neither new nor surprising. You are not well-suited to do either. To your credit, you hate ignorance, as I do. To your discredit, you really only hate being shown that you are ignorant, through encountering words and ideas that are foreign to you and your immediate experience. Rather than look them up and learn about them, as is moronically simple these days, you disdain them, and then complain that you do not understand them. This complaint is disingenuous because you show no interest in having them explained.

Rather, you want to be relieved of responsibility for knowing them, and for reading the works that contain them. In short, you do not want to be educated, or even to go through the motions of education. What you want is a degree, and if there existed a system of academic indulgences, you would gladly fork over four years tuition to receive one without having to waste time going to classes. For a little extra, you could get someone like me to drop by and, for about a half-hour, confirm your base prejudices, the ones you’ve gotten from television and the movies and video games and life in general. You have written about these prejudices incessantly: why brute force is an answer for everything, why the whole world, with its little invisible workers everywhere, has come together for your material and personal happiness, why you live in the greatest country in the history of the world, led by its greatest leader, why your ethnic group has undergone suffering that leaves you preeminent over us, who are all racists… I will not go on.

I have read your stories about anime characters, complete with super-deformed doodles, your tales of extraterrestrials and werewolves and vampires. It is interesting that your eyes turn to the supernatural world so often, since you have such an impoverished notion of this one. […]

Note: I don’t think that, in this regard, much has changed since the time I was in college as an undergraduate; we were that way also. It is more comfortable to rationalize what you already know.

Public discourse: I think that honest discussions such as this one are a good thing; note that both of these students have some serious misconceptions.

However I really don’t like the headline. This is why: (opinion to follow) all too many times, people come to honestly held opinions and are loudly shouted down as “bigots” when they express them.

Examples: many of us have indigent family members who are lazy, dumb and perpetual moochers. So, it is easy to extend what we see in our own lives to conclude that laziness and stupidity is what causes poverty.

We see inner city riots and see mostly blacks. So, given that we humans are hard wired to “reason” inductively, it is easy to conclude that there is something wrong with black people.

We read about people leaving the US to join ISIS. We come to conclusions…without realizing that we are reading about extreme outlier behavior!

The same thing applies to lottery winners; the winners make the paper; the far more common “didn’t win diddly squat” people do not (in fact you are more likely to die in a car crash while driving to buy a lottery ticket than you are to draw the winning number)

I’d like to see more honest discussion and less “shouting down”.

Attitudes don’t help either. All too often I’ve seen conservatives make their own opinion as the benchmark for what is moral and patriotic. All too often I’ve seen liberals make their opinion as to what is bigoted or misogynistic. And all too often those setting their own opinion as the standard are those who are very limited in intellect and lacking in anything resembling accomplishment. I think that too many are overconfident in their own judgement and unaware of what they may be missing.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | basketball, NBA, political/social, racism, social/political | Leave a comment

Cold water and plans

Workout notes: empty lane, so I took advantage. While I was doing my 500 warm set, some silver haired guy was burning it up. He did one length next to me just to show me that he was faster, but that was unnecessary; I could tell he was a far better swimmer than I by how his IM sets were going.

Totals: 500 warm up, 10 x (25 side, 25 free), 5 x 100 IM (challenging), 5 x 100 (alternate pull, free), 4 x 50 (alternate 25 fist, 25 free) 2200 total.

Then I lifted (felt it in the shoulders so I at least needed to do my rotator cuff exercises:

pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (rotator cuff)
bench and military (3 sets of 10 each, with dumbbells), military: 40’s (standing), bench: 65, 70, 65.
rows and pull downs: rows: 70, 55, 45. Pull downs: 137.5

Then I did some back stuff

Plans for the weekend: Saturday: 5K run; possibly a medium walk afterward.
Sunday: longish walk; 20 miles or 5 hours; whatever comes first.

Then it is “not much” for 2 weeks.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | swimming, weight training | Leave a comment

Modern life: too much noise pollution!

Some time ago, I went to a conference in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference center was lovely and had a great view of a lake. There was an open area at on the roof; which I deemed a perfect place to sit, eat my lunch and read. It has many benches. I also noticed it was empty despite the pretty day.

But there came some worker with a large leaf blower going full blast; the racket was deafening. The place was unusable.

You see that on our campus too in in many other places.

As far as my neighborhood: in the spring and summer, it does look pretty and looks as if it should be peaceful. But the second you go out on the porch, someone nearby will fire up their power mower, or leaf blower, or edger; or some Stanley Steemer will park and just generate a deafening racket.

Our neighborhood is set up so that sound travels very easily; if someone is having a normal conversation across the street, it is very easy to listen to from where I am. You can guess the noise level that a symphony of power mowers and leaf blowers generates.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | social/political | , | Leave a comment


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