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

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A different kind of break

Last week, I ran my 90,000th mile, lifetime. It came a little later than expected, due to some allergy problems.

Then I had the best run I've had in a couple of years and started thinking, "Hey, I may not be done yet!"

Last night, I fell down a flight of stairs. Broke some ribs, pulled some muscles. I'll be out of commission for a while.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

New Thoughts on 100 Mile Training

Just thought it was time I talked about running again. As time goes by, I find my thoughts on training to be changing from "why doesn't anyone try..." to "this is starting to look sensible." The old dictum: 100 mile training should look like marathon training, but with longer long runs.

I no longer think back-to-back long runs are essential, nor that one needs to ever run faster than marathon pace in training. Here's a plan for those who can run a marathon between 3:00 and 4:30, which is most people who can also finish 100 miles before the cut-off, but isn't looking for medals.

3 week cycle:

Monday 6 miles
Tuesday 6 miles
Wednesday 9 miles hard (marathon pace or hills)
Thursday 6 miles
Friday 6 miles

First week
Saturday 20 miles
Sunday 9 miles

Second week
Saturday 12 miles hard (marathon pace or hills)
Sunday 9 miles

Third week
Saturday 31 miles
Sunday 12 miles

At 11-12 minutes per mile (4:30 marathoners), this is about 12 hours per week.
At  8 minutes per mile (3:00 marathoners), this is 9 hours per week, and one can add two-a-days, running an additional 6 miler on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Then one could also make 14 miles of the 31 miler fast.

I'd schedule a 50K race every 9 weeks, then drop the hard 9 miler before and after the race (run the miles, just not fast). If closer to 4:30 than 3:00 in the marathon, I'd also drop the hard 12 prior to the race - if around a 3:45 marathoner, maybe run 6 of the 12 hard.

That gives an adequate mileage - higher than most do - with an appropriate amount of hard running. Moreover, it looks doable.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Steve's Evil Kitchen Gets in a Pickle

Still nothing to write about on the running front.

I thought I'd try something new and daring in making pickles. The first experiment didn't turn out well:

Sometimes explosions just happen in the Evil Kitchen.

Eventually, I came up with an idea that anyone could follow. Noticing that pickle manufacturers uses calcium lactate to ensure crunchiness, I came up with an idea for making pickles without vinegar and without salt. The procedure is very simple.

First, soak cucumbers (or anything else you want to pickle) in calcium hydroxide. I used 2 Tbsp. in a pint of water, which was more than saturating and I left it in the refrigerator overnight. You can pick up food grade calcium hydroxide as - imagine my surprise - "Pickling Lime." It was a couple of dollars at Menard's. You have to be careful, as it has a pH of 14; it will turn your skin into soap.
 The second step makes them edible. You pull the cukes out of the caustic solution and put them in acid. I used 88% lactic acid, which is available at any homebrew shop. It, too, will cause nasty burns. 15 oz. of water plus 1 oz. of lactic acid (always put acid in water, not water in acid; a lesson from chemistry class I learned the hard way) gives a solution that is 5.5%, about as strong as strong vinegar. When you put the cucumbers in the acid, there's a little bubbling as the base in the cucumbers reacts with the acid, creating calcium lactate. I stored them in the refrigerator for two days, just to make sure the acid had permeated the pickles and I wouldn't have a nasty surprise.

$4 at Northern brewer.

So how were they? There's an immediate hit of acid on the tongue, as these are very tart. Then there's a lingering aftertaste of fresh cucumber. I decided that the acid was a bit much, so I added sugar to the solution and made sweet pickles, which would probably have aided in preservation, but I ate them all pretty quickly.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Summer Reading List

Time to start reading novels again (I've been reading a ton of poetry). Here's my wish list, which will undoubtedly take more than the summer to get through.

Anonymous - Lazarillo de Tormes
George Bataille - Blue of Noon
Italo Calvino - Invisible Cities
Luis de Camões - The Lusiads
Cao Xuequin - A Dream of Red Mansions
Karel Capek - War with the Newts
Alejo Carpentier - The Kingdom if this World
Camilo José Cela - The Hive
Louis-Ferdinand Céline - Journey to the End of Night
Jean Cocteau - Les Enfants Terribles
Marguerite Duras - Four Novels
Alfred Döblin - Berlin Alexanderplatz
J. G. Farrell - The Siege of Krishnapur
Theodore Fontane - Effi Briest
George Gissing - New Grub Street
Witold Gombrowitz - Three Novels
Guillermo Cabrera Infante - Three Trapped Tigers
Christopher Isherwood - Goodbye to Berlin (The Berlin Stories)
Gottfried Keller - Green Henry
Nikolai Leskov - The Enchanted Wanderer
Primo Levi - If Not Now, When?
Mario Vargas Llosa - The War of the End of the World
Najib Mahfouz - Midaq Alley
"          "              - Miramar
Charles Maturin - Melmoth the Wanderer
Robert Musil - The Man Without Qualities
Flann O'Brien - The Third Policeman
Joyce Carol Oates - Them
Walter Pater - Marius the Epicurean
Alain Robbe-Grillet - Jealousy
Fernando de Rojas - La Celestina
Raymond Roussel - Locus Solus
José Saramago - Baltasar and Blimunda
Isaac Bashevis Singer - The Manor
Adalbert Stifter - Indian Summer
Italo Svevo - As a Man Grows Older
Junichiro Tanizaki - Some Prefer Nettles
Sigrid Undset - Kristin Lavransdatter
Giovanni Verga - The House by the Medlar Tree
Patrick White - Voss

Sunday, April 19, 2015

New Mile Training Plan

I posted plans for training to race 1 mile on this blog before, but it was poorly done and has been found in searches by a ton of people, so I want to do it again. The "Murderous Mile" plan by Fishpool and Smythe from 2000 (http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/racing/the-murderous-mile/63.html)
 is brilliant - the more I look at it, the more I like - but it assumes that one's in top 5K shape and wants to move down to the mile for once race, in four weeks, not that one's starting from scratch.


Monday 0
Tuesday 55 minutes, with 8x400m @ 1 Mile pace - 400m recovery.
Wednesday 55 min.
Thursday 55
Friday 0
Saturday (same as Tuesday)
Sunday 55

The plan is to continue that every week until improvement plateaus. Then the Tuesday repeats get longer and slower (5x800 @ 2Mile -400, later 4x1200 @5K -400) and the Saturday repeats get faster, with longer recovery (800m time trial, 800, 4x400-800; and eventually 1600m time trial, 1200m, 3x400m - 1200m) A moderate workout of 8x400m hills is added Thursday (starting at 4% incline, progressing to 8%)

Final plan

Monday         0
Tuesday       30min AM with sprints
                    55 min. PM w/ 4x1200m@5K -400m.
Wednesday  55 min. w/ 16x100m@1Mile-100m
Thursday     55 min. w/ 8x400m hill (8% incline) at 1 Mile pace equivalent effort.
Friday            0
Saturday      30 min AM with strides and form drills
                    55 min. PM w/ 1 mile time trial, 2-3x400m @800m pace - 5-10 minutes recovery.
Sunday        80 minutes, with last 3 miles at "threshold" pace (15K to 1/2 marathon pace).

This gives two hard workouts on Tuesday and Saturday and two moderate workouts on Thursday and Sunday.

For the record - three years and 5 minutes

Age-grading my best mile (age 23), the best I could hope for this year is 5:16 and at age 55 only 5:24. Using my best races at any distance, I get 5:09 this year and 5:17 at 55. The Minnesota records on the road are 4:48 (aided) and 5:16 at age 52 and 4:52 (aided) and 5:51 at age 55 and the track records are 4:45.42 (age 50-54) and 4:55.3 (age 55-59). That last one was once the WORLD age-class record! If I could get under 6 this year, that'd be okay and 5:30 would be great. Five minutes is looking close to impossible.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In Search of Pastime (apologies to Proust)

One of the great lost art forms is the eccentric hobby, which is a shame, as what a person does in leisure is far more telling than what they do for a profession. I have yet to learn anything about someone by being informed that they are a "systems analyst," but "the guy who makes dollhouse furniture from beer cans" is a subject worthy of investigation. We seem to have a fall-back position of passive consumption, whether products or media, and originality has been left to others; I think it is time to start afresh, to look at the possibilities and perhaps find more perfect ways to spend spare time.

Collecting has long been a favored hobby, but it has become usurped by profiteering. Rule one of pastimes should be: neither you nor anyone else should benefit in any real way. People are more likely to browse flea markets today in search of resale value than to search for things they merely enjoy. Finding something completely bereft of value to collect is a challenge, but the eclectic genius William Sidis nearly cracked it with his collection of streetcar transfer stubs. Transfers were given for free and had no value, but because they came in many varieties, could be collected. He wrote a book about the subject, called "the most boring book ever written" by one critic and that was his undoing, because he caused others to collect them and, because of their increasing rarity, ephemerality and age, they became valuable... to the four or five other collectors.

Crafts, too, have been a mainstay of the hobbyist. Unfortunately, folk art has become trendy and there is a market for intentionally naïve attempts, for example Etsy crafters making increasingly ugly Christmas sweaters. Again, once money becomes the focus, the point of the activity is lost. When Francis Johnson of Darwin, MN made the biggest ball of twine, he didn't do it for money or notoriety, though it is now the town's center attraction; he was not a visionary, just a man with a lot of twine. The second rule of pastime should be: impress no one. Ideally, you want to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy on something just this side of futile, something that causes others to think they could do it and probably do it better, but couldn't be bothered to try. This brings us to the third rule: do not inspire competition (there are now bigger twine balls). This non-competitiveness can be tricky; while you may while away an hour completing a cross-word or jigsaw puzzle, there are others who do it in less time and do it competitively - there is even money involved, breaking all the rules.

Years ago, hearing of "high-pointers," who climb to the highest point in each state, I did some research and found that many states have county high-pointers, who frequently ask themselves why they drive all day to stand on yet another mound in yet another corn field in yet another county. These sounded like my people. I thought about climbing all the "peaks" in Minnesota (which are defined in a complicated manner involving 300 feet of rise from the saddle with the nearest taller neighbor) and discovered that there were a couple one could not do - corporate legal teams citing insurance liability - and I scared a true climber into doing most of them before I could. No one's done Wisconsin's peaks, which are easier, but the logistics bothered me. Then I noticed that if you drop the 300 foot rule, Wisconsin has more than 700 prominences, 74 of which are in Vernon County, which has zero 300 foot peaks. Vernon, in the glacial driftless area, is corrugated with tiny ridges and has no island peaks or chimney-like rocks requiring climbing skills and it's a mere two hour drive from my home.

Climbing the hills in Vernon County has several things I seek. It is a physical challenge, but a completely undemanding one. It is a logistical quagmire, which allows me to fill idle moments with thoughts of whether any one method of doing them is preferable to another. It's so infuriatingly vague that it is hard to know when one is done; the county high point is in one of ten possible areas, one a half-mile in diameter, all of which would have to be painstakingly covered to be certain one did not miss the true high point by a step or two. If I accomplished climbing all 74, not one person would be impressed and certainly no one would be inspired to duplicate the feat, even if I should follow Sidis and write the "Guide to Mountain Climbing in Vernon County, Wisconsin," available to download for free, of course.

What other pursuits should I consider? I ask myself as I crumble a madeleine into tea, ruining both. What tales shall I tell?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Starting from scratch

I keep getting asked if I'm running at all and then getting asked to join someone to run 30-40 miles of trails at 6 AM, as if those go together somehow. Here's what starting from zero - real zero, not "I took six weeks off after running 80 miles per week for 9 months" - looks like:


1  0 miles
2  0
3  0
4  0
5  0
6  0
7  3 in 27
8  3 in 29
9  0
10 0
11 0
12 0
13 0
14 0
15 0
16 0
17 0
18 0
19 0
20 0
21 0
22 0
23 0
24 2 in 18
25 0
26 0
27 0
28 0


1  0
2  2 in 18
3  0
4  0
5  0
6  0
7  6 in 55
8  0
9  0
10 3 in 26
11 5 in 46
12 6 in 59
13 0
14 6 in 55
15 6 in 57
16 0
17 3 in 27
18 2 in 19
19 1 in 10
20 0
21 6 in 56
22 6 in 62
23 0
24 6 in 54
25 6 in 60
26 6 in 60
27 0
28 6 in 54
29 6 in 57
30 0
31 6 in 53

It's taken a lot of work, but I've found a way to run (relatively) pain-free with only ten minutes per day of rehab exercises. It's a start.