Why I won’t miss “The Penguin” (running)

Workout notes: ZERO. I’ll do 3-4 miles with the group tonight; that’s it. Damn…I am going crazy though my body isn’t as energetic as I hoped it would be.

The Penguin Yes, a famous author and “middle of the pack” runner is retiring from his column. He was known as the author of the column The Penguin Chronicles which was featured in Runner’s World magazine.

He (and Jeff Galloway, who was once an elite runner) are associated with the movement in the “second running boom” in which running races transformed from events for the very fit to events for the very average. Not everyone was happy with this transformation though others have pointed out that the younger, more intense individuals have gravitated toward different events, such as adventure racing and trail racing. There is some evidence for that conjecture; I know that while I still finish somewhere between the upper 50’th to 75’th percentile in running faces (at least those 10K or shorter), I am often close to DEAD LAST at trail running events.

But I digress.

As far as “The Penguin” I can say this:

1. His columns were well written. (at least the ones that I’ve sampled)
2. The one talk I heard (at the Fox Cities Marathon/Half Marathon) was well put together and entertaining
3. He seemed to inspire many new, unathletic people to try the sport. Note: by “unathletic”, I mean those who lack the genetic potential to be a competitive athlete; I consider myself to be in that category.

As far as the effect of new road races being populated by new people? From my very narrow, self centered point of view, I see good and bad:

1. There are more races to choose from; hence I can usually find something that fits into my schedule. In the old days, it was “like it or lump it”.
2. The staple distance is 5K, which suits my body type better than the 10K. I lift weights and weigh 180-190 pounds and tend to wear down at 40-45 minutes if I am running hard. In the old days, the staple distance was 10K.
3. The time limits for the long distances are much longer. In the old days, the usual time limit for a marathon was 4:30 to 5 hours or so. Now 6-7 hour time limits are common. That enables me to show up and walk the distance and still beat the cut offs. And if I have a bad day, I still have time to recover at an aid station and beat the time limit.

I remember running (or attempting to run) a marathon back in 1983; I showed up overweight (210 pounds) and out of shape. It took me 4:24 to finish and several times, the sag wagon driver asked me if I wanted a ride. I stubbornly refused. In THOSE days, that was a horrible time.

As I’ve aged, I’ve really grown to appreciate the longer time limits.

4. There are a LOT more women entering races. Sure, some of the good is the “hubba hubba” effect (since I’ve slowed down, I see a LOT more larger spandex wrapped asses in running races) but, even if they wore skorts or the dreaded “long shirts”, I still like women being there. They add to the event. My first marathon had 2229 male and 201 female finishers. Note: the median male time was 3:36; median female time was 4:05.

1. When a community gets “less exclusive” then there is less of an ego boost in being a part of it.

2. I enjoyed the old “performance oriented” atmosphere of the old days. I remember talking to the owner of a shoe store; he asked me how my Chicago Marathon went. I told him my time (3:46) and he winced in sympathetic pain; he understood how disappointed I was. Yes, for a male my age (38 at the time) at with my 5K (just under 20 minutes), that was a pretty stinky time. I blew up at mile 20. To me, “finishing” wasn’t that big of a deal; I knew that I could finish. I had a performance goal and it hurt to fail to meet it…and those around me UNDERSTOOD the disappointment.

3. Some of the races: too many bells and whistles. I want a reasonably accurate course, protection against auto traffic and a reasonable number of aid stations (5K: none at all; marathon: every 3-4 miles is good; very 5 miles is ok). I don’t care about bands, “goodies” “bling” for finishing (I outgrew my need for gold stars in kindergarten), age group awards, etc.

Now I admit that I do like the “chip times’, mostly so I can see if I really did “beat” the smart-ass who out kicked me at the end. 🙂

4. I find that the level of “entitlement” has gone up; I get nauseated when people start complaining that, say, a half marathon doesn’t have a finisher’s medal. Seriously? What’s next: finisher’s medals for our training runs or warm up jogs? In the old days, such attitudes were not welcome at races; “suck it up buttercup” was the attitude of the day.


“The Penguin” had a saying: “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

Of course, I think that this is ridiculous; anyone can “start” something (witness my slew of half finished mathematics papers; oh, I have some finished ones too 🙂 ) But that saying did give rise to another saying that was tossed around by my “performance oriented” running friends. Note: NONE of us were really “good” runners; for us, a 3:10 to 4 hour marathon was typical; most of us are much slower than that now.

But we cared enough about our performance to actually do some consistent training. And, when we reached our goals, we got congratulated. But when we flopped, we understood each other’s pain.

But we did needle each other too. For example, I was training for a sub 20 5K, but blew up on race day and ended up with 21:xx. My friends: “hey, you had the COURAGE TO START”…which eventually became “THAT was a “courageous” performance. 🙂 I love it.

June 3, 2015 Posted by | marathons, running | , , | 4 Comments

Cartoons and Trolls

Today’s cartoons were unusually good: we have masters degrees that don’t help one’s employment prospects, science, a true fact about the memory-less-ness of the Bernoulli trial and the lack of effort on the part of students.





Then we have troll pages. One of the best troll pages is the Your Tattoos Make You a Horrible Mother Facebook page. People have fallen for it so hard that they become enraged and try to get it shut down; for those of us who like to laugh at clueless outrage, it is an almost endless source of amusement. Yes, I know; I should have better things to do with my time; but this is a bit like a train wreck. I don’t want to look..but I can’t help myself. 🙂

The page attracts outraged people who, well, aren’t the most educated and who don’t write all that well. The usual response is:

1. “I’ve got tattoos and I am a GREAT (or AWESOME) mom and my kids are all geniuses” or “having a tattoo doesn’t make you a bad mom”
2. “YOU SUCK” or some version of “Your (sic) and idiot”, often followed by obscenities, most of which are spelled correctly and
3. Some wish that those who run the page and like the page have a violent demise.

All of this is written at about a 3’rd to 6’th grade level, with a few exceptions.

The idea that the page isn’t advocating that someone do something illegal doesn’t phase the visitors; all they know is that they are offended and therefore want the page shut down.

June 3, 2015 Posted by | blog humor, blogs, humor, statistics | , | Leave a comment

Journalists not understanding politics

One outlet says this:


So what was this “attack”?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How are you even gonna get into the pole position right now? I mean, Bernie Sanders– taken out a lotta the same progressive positions you have– has kind of shot up– in both the national polls and– and Iowa and New Hampshire the last– few weeks. Is– that’s a challenge to your candidacy.

GOVERNOR O’MALLEY: Well, I think it’s an encouragement to my candidacy, and for this reason. I think that– the public is looking for new leadership, leadership that doesn’t apologize for having progressive values.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: –why should progressive voters pick you over Bernie Sanders?

GOVERNOR O’MALLEY: Because I have a track record of actually getting things done, not just talking about things.

THAT was ugly? Please. This was nothing more that the classic “Governor vs. Senator” rhetoric that has been going on since we’ve had primaries. There is nothing to see here.

Mike Huckabee’s joke Yes, Mike Huckabee made the old “I with I would have pretended to be a girl so I could have showered with them” joke. That is not new; nor is it particularly offensive to me.

But many are having vapors over this:

The political mind of former Arkansas governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee must be a very interesting place — a place that looks and feels a lot like 2004.

BuzzFeed spotted a video of Huckabee’s February address at the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tenn. The video was posted online this weekend by World Net Daily. In it, Huckabee shared some thoughts on transgender Americans.

“Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE,” said Huckabee. “I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.’ You’re laughing because it sounds so ridiculous doesn’t it?”

For most people, Huckabee’s comments seem a little out of date, perhaps even bigoted. This is a country in which a gold-medal-winning Olympian and one-time mascot of American masculinity just revealed that he is a transgender Republican, and then posed for the cover of Vanity Fair to share a new name, Caitlyn Jenner, along with a new gender identity and personal story.

Newsflash: Gov. Huckabee is running in the Republican primary and is openly targeting the elderly voter (witness his positions of Medicare and Social Security, which have put him to the left of his party and drawn the ire of his fellow Republicans)

Folks: the world of the Republican party is not an oversensitive college campus. 🙂

June 3, 2015 Posted by | 2016, political/social, politics, republicans | , | Leave a comment

Comrades Marathon: a most unAmerican event (and that is good!)

Workout notes untimed 3 mile run; I didn’t feel as loose and easy as I had hoped. That sometimes happens during a taper.
Then weights (reduced):

rotator cuff exercises
3 sets of 10 pull ups (easy)
incline bench: 10 x 135, 8 x 145, 10 x 135
military press (standing) 2 sets of 10 x 40 (dumbbell)
military press (machine) 1 set of 10 x 100 (each arm; 200 total)
rows: 2 sets of 10 x 110.

That’s it.

Comrades Marathon: this marathon is about 56 miles (depending on the route and year) and a friend has run this twice, and finished it. His report is well written and very fun to read. But this race; well, its rules, which I have deep respect for, wouldn’t play in the United States:

While the course is challenging, that’s not the only reason this is a difficult race. It has a hard 12 hour time limit. When I say hard, I mean 12 hours after the start, the gun goes off and they block the finish line. Nobody else gets to cross the line, much less get an official time. The cutoffs are based on “gun” times (your time from when the gun when off at the start of the race). All runners wear timing chips, but it doesn’t matter when you crossed the starting line. The clock is already running. Runners in the last corral may take as much as 10 minutes to reach the starting line. A cruel reality is that the runners losing the most time are the ones that can least afford it.

To finish the course in 12 hours, you need to average roughly eight minutes per kilometer (or 12:52 per mile). While that’s not a fast pace, you need to maintain it for 12 hours on a hilly course. It’s not unusual for temperatures to get hot in the afternoon. That many hours running in the heat can wear you down. Also, for most of the runners, this is the farthest they’ve ever run.

There are six types of medals you can win, depending on your pace and how high you finish. The top 10 men and women receive gold medals. Other runners finishing within six hours receive Wally Hayward awards, named after a five time winner of the race. The next major cutoff time is 7:30. All other runners beating that time get silver medals. The fourth type of medal is the Bill Rowan medal, named after the winner of the 1921 race. To earn a Bill Rowan medal, you have to finish in nine hours.

Prior to 2003, the final cutoff time was 11 hours. Runners finishing between nine and 11 hours received bronze medals. Since then, the cutoff time has been increased by an hour, making the race accessible to more runners. To receive a bronze medal, however, you still need to finish within 11 hours. Runners finishing between 11 and 12 hours get Vic Clapham medals, named after the founder of the race. […]

As the 12 hour cutoff approached, there was much more drama. The 12 hour bus (pace group) was so big that it took several minutes for them all to stream by.

There were quite a few runners close behind them who still made the cutoff. With 30 seconds to go, we all counted down. As the countdown begins, you realize which runners have time to finish and which ones don’t. Soon they realize it too. This was the look of disappointment when these runners realized that they were only 100 meters away but wouldn’t finish.

When the final gun goes off, the race officials immediately block the finish line. Runners still making their way around the track aren’t allowed to cross the line. Runners are still coming into the stadium, but none of them will finish. Runners who just made the cutoff are exuberant. Runners who just missed are heartbroken. They’ve been out there for 12 hours. They ran 54.5 miles. They didn’t finish.

One one hand, I envy a race like that and have deep respect for those who would try to finish such a race. I also envy that aspect of the culture which permits them to run the race in that manner. It is refreshing to see something that isn’t this “everyone is a winner” BS.

On the other hand, can you imagine that being done in the United States? There would be tears, angry denouncements in the softer running media…probably even lawsuits. 🙂

June 3, 2015 Posted by | blogs, running, walking | | Leave a comment

A moving post by a terminally ill man

WisePiper at Daily Kos is terminally ill with cancer. He lives in a state that allows for physician assisted suicide and has planned a farewell party for him and his friends. This is one of the most moving posts I have ever read; I teared up upon reading it.

June 3, 2015 Posted by | social/political | , , | Leave a comment