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

Monday, September 28, 2015

Taboo Confession

I think that no one's ever said this before:

"I sometimes miss being depressed."

It's something that's not supposed to happen and I don't know how common it is - but there it is.

I was depressed by the age of 7 and in the decades since, I've had periods where I wasn't depressed about once every 5 years that lasted 1-3 weeks. Two years ago, I had a good spell of about 6 weeks. Now I've been in remission for about 6 months, long enough that I've stopped waiting for "the other shoe to drop." I feel I should be more "okay" than I am by now.

When depressed for a very long time, you develop patterns of behavior that are hard to change. Getting out of bed and getting anything done was a major accomplishment. Now, because I'm doing the same amount of things and am not depressed, it seems... lazy. There's all this time and I'm not doing enough with it. I miss having the excuse for not getting things done.

Because of depression, my tastes ran to dark things. In film, I'd watch horror, film noir (where everyone is doomed and just different types of evil) and black comedies because these suited my mood. I'd read Beckett and Bukowski. I'd listen to Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen. Now these don't affect me the same way and I don't have good substitutes. There's a vagueness, a dullness, a greyness, an emptiness, a numbness - depression wasn't replaced with joy, but with nothing. I find myself thinking I'd like to feel horrible, just so I felt something. And that sounds like depression, so I keep questioning whether things have really changed or not.

There are problems in dealing with people, because I'm not quite the same person they remember me being. Those I haven't completely pushed away (a depressed introvert on the autism spectrum is a naturally lonely existence) expect me to behave in patterns I'm trying to break. When dealing with new people, there's all this baggage in the way that's not really appropriate to mention, but it's sort of defining.

Sometimes I think it was better when I was depressed. Then I remember what it was like. It wasn't better - it was horrible beyond description - but it's what I know. Not being there is exciting, but it's scary and it's really hard.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Minneapolis Spleen (apologies to Beaudelaire)

1)There was a televised track meet where a woman from the US had a surprising race, but it wasn't shown - they were interviewing someone, I believe - and there was a huge uproar in the running community. "Why do they only show sprints! Everyone knows what a 5K is. It's the most common racing distance." To which I ask, "When was the last time you ran a 5K on the track?" "Well, never. You couldn't pay me to run that many laps. I'd go crazy from boredom."

Arrgh! Don't argue about what you don't know!

2)Looking up advice online about DOMS, I found a chatroom and some of the things said: "It's a magnesium deficiency." "I had that once, but not since I switched to minimalist shoes."

Stop! There's not a one-size-fits-all answer to everything. It's not what you ate or what you wore - ever. Just shut up.

btw, I found a simple elegant solution after a lot of messy errors (the way you really learn things). Running hard downhills and then jogging back up backward.

3) There was a guy on Facebook who was complaining that he didn't want to hear about predictions of who would win and what the times would be, because it's not about winning, it's about participation. The response from a sports writer attacked that from several directions, the first and best being "You don't have to read it." The generation that has killed the sport of running has now swamped trail races and ultras. I'm sick of it.

I'm feeling a lot of ennui about Superior right now. It's always intrigued me as a problem to be solved and what I liked hearing about was people who failed at an attempt there (not due to happenstance) who came back to finish the next year. You can learn from that. Most people who do 100's, though, are well-suited to it, and after adequate training and mental preparation, finish almost comfortably; that just bores me. A friend of mine didn't finish and I was wondering if he'd double-down like Julie Berg (who ran 85 miles per week and did 7 hour hill workouts with 10000+ feet of climb) or if he'd decide he just didn't care - like me. He ended up with a third response: "I just love being a part of it. I'll be back;" he won't train any differently and he won't ever finish... and he won't care.

I get that attitude - I really do - but it just makes me want to vomit. Race, or don't, but if you want to just run on trails and hang out with your friends, don't gum up the races. There were people who couldn't get into the race (it filled quickly) who would actually want to try to finish and couldn't because there were many just messing around.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


I've done an analysis of everything Superior 100 related and... Hegge's splits are unique. Not just in that race, or in ultras, but in all of running. That's all I'm going to say on the matter.
Now, back to Afton 50K thoughts. The over-50 record according to the website is 4:27:27 and I think that's soft, so I've thought about whether I can do that. Looking at John Horns' times at various distances, I think he could run 4:02. Looking at the best times at various distances for a number of contenders, 4:00 is a strong possibility for someone. Conway's 25K record equates to a 4:05.

Then I saw that Larry Ochsendorf ran 3:55:43 at Afton at age 50 in 1995 on a very slightly easier course (he also ran TCM in 2:53:59 and the Superior 100 in 22 hours that same year).

Game over, man. Game over.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Theory of least-favored, Plan B and feasance

Here's what happened with the last experiment: Doing 1 meter box jumps is supposed to create DOMS in the quadriceps, which I was actually attempting. What heppened was that I did indeed get DOMS, but in the piriformis, quadratus femoris (a muscle I had to look up) and a bit in the pectineus.

Developing "dead quads" in races has been a problem for me and I'm trying to avoid it by getting used to whatever causes it. Doing a ton of long slow hills doesn't do it, thought he quads do get fatigued. Downhill sprints cause DOMS in the gluteus medius and tensaor fasciae latae. Squats and lunges do nothing for me.

One theory, the "least-favored muscle fibers"  theory, suggests that these are still the things to do. It is when these ancillary muscles are fatigued that the quads are called on to do more and are getting overworked. I'm not so sure, but it's something to keep in mind.

Because the problem only happens on occasion, it brings up the "feasance" idea, which comes from legal terms. If something is going wrong in racing, either you're doing the wrong thing, you're not doing the right thing or you're doing the right thing, but the wrong way.

I think balance is one of the key things in my problem. As we get older, our balance gets worse and, while I can plunge down hills on the road, trails are rutted, sandy and rocky and require one to step agilely. At Afton, one tends to run in bright daylight, then hit a steep downhill that's in complete shade; my eyes don't adjust fast enough, and balancing blind is much harder.

Either I'm occasionally over-striding to get to safe footing, which is over-taxing the legs, or putting on the brakes to avoid calamity is causing high eccentric loading.

What I think I need to do to simulate this without the danger of sliding and falling on a trail is to put obstacles on a steep downhill and force myself to run down at top speed, but do complete circles around the objects. The change in direction will require eccentric loading of the quads and, in turning, the hip flexors.

This might work. I'll let you know.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Never-ending Experiment of One

After I ran a long trail run two weeks ago, I developed delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The good news was that that meant I could stop doing squats, as they were completely ineffective... and I hate squats with a passion that makes Romeo look mildly indifferent to Juliet. Unfortunately, I ran out of things to try.

I went into trail running as a superb downhill road racer, which made the fact that I couldn't run down hills on trails (I fell a lot early on) peculiar. Though I've become better at it, I never got good at it and style coming from practice only counts for so much.

Hill repeats, which seemed the obvious thing to do, did not help. I could run 4-7 hours up and down a hill, but my legs would get trashed 10 miles into a race. The problem was that I needed to run the downhills faster. Faster downhills, alas, led to instantaneous injury.

Uphill sprints did not work. Weight lifting did not work. Nothing worked and there was only one thing left to try, which has always led to injury for me - plyometrics. The eccentric strengthening was what I needed, but everything that's been designed is not designed for 50 year-old men with a history of ligament issues.

Exercise physiologists studying DOMS have people do 100 jumps off of a 1 meter box. People generally find this an easy task, but can't walk down steps the next couple of days. So, obviously, if I could build up to doing 100 1-meter jumps without pain, I could get past the problem.

There are few solid objects a meter high in a house - everything is built to 30 to a maximum of 36 inches - and fewer that are stable and can support a person's weight. Though I could work around that, a 6 foot guy on a 3 foot box needs more than a 7 or 8 foot roof. My garage roof beams ruled that out as well. Even if I could arrange something, outdoors, I needed a ramp to get onto it. And then, what if I wanted to try building up to that height?

I was NOT going to go to a gym for a 5 minute workout that would probably prove embarrassing.

Fortunately, I found a landscape retaining wall that did not terrace outward, which had a convenient grade so that I could jump and then walk back to the jump site (the landing was also on a slight grade, but I wouldn't find anything better).

That first step is a doozy. After doing a couple more, I was starting to get the hang of things, but I was already feeling strain on number 6. I was worried I was losing form on #9, so I called it a day after 10. The thing with DOMS, is you don't know you're going to get it until it's too late, so deciding when to quit is tricky.

So now we wait to see how we feel tomorrow and Tuesday. The main thing is: I didn't injure myself.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Oh. (....oh [... oh {... oh}])

I suppose the silver lining to having someone break up with you and tell you exactly what's wrong with you is that you get to see yourself as others see you, rather than how you think they see you. I would guess that people would describe me as "smart, a bit aloof, with a weird sense of humor." What I heard instead was "You set unreasonably high standards for yourself, try to reach them through perfect adherence to some elaborate plan and then quit early because you're not getting immediate results. Plus, you have a condescending attitude toward anyone who doesn't understand what you're trying to do or who isn't doing the same thing."


So.... I'm planning on going for the over-50 record at the Afton 50K next year.

Yeah. I'm ignoring the irony.

Here's the contenders:

Scott Ross, the current record-holder. 3:07 marathon in 2012.
John Maas, this year's winner. 2:59 marathon in 2012.
Jeff Miller, 3rd this year. 3:02 marathon in 2015.
Others that could mess things up:

John Horns. 3:08 marathon in 2006 (but won Sawtooth 100 outright recently)
Dave DeHart. 2:46 marathon in 2004, 3:15 in 2014.

Hi, Double!
Jim Ramacier 2:52 marathon in 2015 (2:37 in 2004)

And then there's me. Last marathon: 3:18 in 2005.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Brief Quandary

I was in great shape in 2007. My training looked like this:

Saturday: 30-40 miles @9-10 min./mile
Sunday -Tuesday: 12 miles @ 8-8.5
Wednesday-Friday: 4 miles

I'd love to get back there, if I could (I'd only run long every other week, though). I figured the thing to do would be to just grind out what miles I could, to get used to running fairly long day after day, with 2 days off per week as a concession to age. I just kept getting slower. The idea of "the grind" was to keep glycogen levels low, so I'd start running more efficiently on fat. That doesn't work for me, though others swear by it. I just do less, slower, until I grind to a halt.

So how did I get there in 2007? In 2004, I was trying to break 5:00 in the mile, was running about 50 miles per week, ran about 7.5-8 min./mile (and was about 162 pounds, rather than 150 today). I can't find my records of 2005 or 2006, so I don't know how that build up occurred.

There's a few basic approaches to consider:

1) Long and slow and add speed later (e.g. Van Aaken and Maffetone methods)
2) Start fast and short and add volume later (e.g. Hanson bros. method)
3) Work from both extremes to the middle (e.g. Hudson method)
4) Do a little of everything from the start (most other systems)

None of these seem to work for me any more.

Where do I go from here?