Thursday, June 30, 2011

Deep Thought

You know you're addicted when you get so excited that the new issue of Runners World has arrived that you immediately flip through it while your kids circle around you begging for attention. Hey, I'm debating signing up for a half-marathon this fall, so the issue is really timely!


So i'm intersted in a good smoothie recipe for before/after runs so that i'm refuling wisely rather than devouring whatever happens to be in my path.

What, if anything, do you drink after your runs? Do you make your own smoothies? If so, what do you use? Are they fruit based? Include dairy (just for Joel, I guess)? This RW smoothie article includes an interesting carrot juice recipe here that sounds like it's worth exploring.

June miles

72.96 miles. (9 runs, 12:09:23 spent running)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Quick Thoughts about Sox/Phillies

Last night's game was ugly, but at least it was Cliff Lee, so we can rest easy that a lot of teams look really bad against him. I'm also chalking Beckett's sub-par performance to his sickness .

I don't feel good about tonight's game because:
- Lackey's pitching. Ugh.
- Gonzo's playing Right Field! WTF? If Tito was going to play him in RF, wouldn't you think he'd do so on a night where the pitcher typically gets lots of ground balls, rather than "all these runs aren't my fault" Lackey? As Pedroia says: "It will be good for us offensively, but damn, I’m going to have to play second, first and right."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Barefoot Trail Running Form

I'm a member of the Sierra Club, and enjoy their monthly magazine very much - it always has interesting articles about environmental news, trends, and alerts. This month, there are two articles about running: one is an interview with Scott Jurek and the other is an article about barefoot trail running - obviously inspired by Born to Run - provocatively advertised on the cover as "Thoreau was Wrong".

A few thoughts about the "Silent Running" article, since we've talked a lot about form recently. I don't disagree with anything the author Dianiel Duane writes, but I do disagree with what the article implies, which is that someone can start running barefoot tomorrow with no ill effects. That's the impression I got from phrasings such as this:
there's a wonderful self-limiting quality when you're barefoot. Almost instantly, you find ways to run softly and smoothly. I liked that feeling so much that I bought a pair of shoes called Vibram FiveFingers, which have articulated toes. They're like an artificial callus for people who like the idea of running barefoot but didn't grow up doing so and therefore don't have tough soles.
He does talk about going to see a gait specialist and "doing some drills" but it almost seems perfunctury - as we've talked about, training your muscles to run this way is hard work!

I'm also intregued by this statement:
...[I] soon discovered that a natural gait on a dirt trail reduces impact even further. That's because every stride is different; your feet dance from rock to stick to soil. On flat pavement, you bang away at precisely the same physical imperfections over and over, until you get hurt. On a wandering footpath, impact varies from step to step and thus gets distributed throughout your body.
I haven't done much trail running, but when I have I found all of the different striding to be distracting. I couldn't get into a groove and lost the meditative quality I so enjoy on my longer runs. I should try it again, I suppose, but I'm curious to know what you think?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Running in Circles

Eric came over yesterday to get me out to the Hopkington track for some speedwork. It's literally been 15 years since speedwork meant something other than "occasionally run faster when on a regular run" so the whole event was a bit of a challenge. Here's what we did:

- 1 mile warmup, conversational pace
- 6 x400 at race pace, followed by a 400 at conversational pace
- 1/2 mile cooldown

By mutual consent, this workout was actually easier than the suggested speedwork workout from RW, which called for 800 sprints. Neither Eric nor I are there yet, but hopefully it will happen soon. I was reading the suggested beginner marathon running plan in RW last night and they had speedwork in there as well, mainly because (paraphrasing) it builds power in your legs and also helps your form (since most people tend to get lazy with their form on long runs).

I'm recovering somewhat nicely, although my calves and frontal hips are sore today. I'm hoping to get in a nice slow 3 miles at lunch today to loosen them back up.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

C&O Canal

I was in the mood for a new place to run this morning, so I drove 15 minutes out to Georgetown. Set back a few blocks from the bustle of M Street's stores and restaurants is the southern endpoint of the C&O Canal.

The 185-mile long canal was built in the early 19th century as a means of transporting goods (especially coal) along the route from Washington, DC to Western Pennsylvania. Its various bridges, locks, dams, aqueducts and tunnels are impressive and beautiful. The canal is no longer in use, but the whole route has been taken into custody by the Parks Service, and the towpath that runs alongside is very popular with runners and bikers.

Since I'm not yet in shape to run 370 miles, I decided to run out for five miles, and then back in. Ten miles is my favorite running distance these days - long enough to get a good workout and enjoy some time to myself, but short enough that I don't have to worry about hydration, joint pain, or other issues. Just strap on the watch and go!

And go, I did. The path was shady and running by the water seemed to cool the air. The city was left behind quickly, and although I slowed down at a few places to observe geese and butterflies, I still managed to turn in a 9:13 pace, much faster than my record in December of 9:37. This was my only run this week, and the days of rest seem to have done me some good.

This may be my new favorite route in DC - especially since after the run was done, I was able to head over to the outdoor cafe at Dean & DeLuca and enjoy the Sunday paper!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Deep Thought

MLB is just being cruel by giving the Sox a day off after a day game. It's been over two days since i've been able to see any live Sox action. Last night, I had chores to do and no game to watch while I was doing them! Interleague play is bad enough, but this scheduling is just mean.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I have a confession. I don't stretch before I run. I just put on my gear, step out the door, hit start on my stopwatch, and go.

For a long time, I felt guilty about this, as if it somehow it indicated I was less serious than other runners. But more and more, I have been seeing articles like this one in the New York Times. The bottom line? There really isn't much evidence that static stretches--the kind we learned in high school--are useful in any way.

Of course, these things are notoriously difficult to study scientifically. How in the world can you set up a study where two groups of runners are exactly equal in all respects, except that one has stretched and the other has not? At the end of the day, we all individually have to keep experimenting to figure out what works for us (and what we enjoy).

Do you stretch before running? If so, how do you think it benefits you?

the next good, american read

i finished Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, by Tom Franklin last week.  i'm not sure where i got the recommendation for this one from, but it fit quite perfectly as a follow up to Philipp Meyer's American Rust.

unlike that book, i came unto this one knowing nothing about it, with no expectation that it was the next big thing, little expectation what-so-ever.  like that book, it's an American tale, this one based in the south (and it certainly has that southern feel).  also like that book, the plot grabs you, pulls you in quickly, and revolves around a murder (of sorts).

Tom Franklin does something i very nearly forget about, with all the "lenses" i read books through these days; he writes a phenomenal story.  the characters are rich and vibrant, alive on the page:
French, a former game warden and a Vietnam vet, laughed and showed his small sharp teeth.  He was late fifties, tall and think, pale green eyes behind his sunglasses and close-cropped red hair and matching mustache.  He had a blade for a chin and ears that stuck out and could move individually.  Said his nickname in Nam had been Doe.  He wore blue jeans and a tuckedin camo T-shirt that shoed a Glock 9 mm in a beefy hand, aimed at the viewer.  YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT, his chest said, FOREVER.
 every part of this story feels interesting, the characters, the side plots, it's just plain very well thought out and executed.  and the writing isn't bad either!!  quite good in fact.  deadpan kitsch used to prove a point works well when you've been able to establish a certain level of trust with a reader:
He passed a clothing store that had gone so long without customers it'd briefly become a vintage clothing store without changing stock.
corny, but descriptive, and that trust allows us to forgive him because it all works.

one of the things that differentiates a novel that i read and like from one that i'll remember is how much i care about the characters.  that doesn't mean like, dislike or whatever... but simply that the characters evoke emotion.  where Meyer fell short, Franklin does not... maybe by not trying to achieve so much.  his characters don't exist off the page, i don't care to recreate them or hear about them in, say, a follow up book.  but in the lifespan of the story, they live and i live with them, breathing, sweating, worrying and wondering.

it's the real nature of this story and it's characters that Franklin uses to establish that trust.  and he knows it...  and even makes a point of telling us he knows it:
It was nothing like movies or television where they dug moths out of the victim's mouth with tweezers.
we can reliably call bullshite on that statement without offending him.  we know he means "it's nothing like THOSE movies".  and it isn't.

i'm not going to tout this book as a work of literary art, but i liked it.  enough to recommend it.  probably not enough to remember it.

Ten Thousand Saints

In this week's New York Times, the cover review is of Ten Thousand Saints, a novel by Eleanor Henderson. The book delves into the straight-edge music scene of the late 1980's, of which I know only a very little. The reviewer says that, "Henderson does not hold back once: she writes the hell out of every moment, every scene, every perspective, every fleeting impression, every impulse and desire and bit of emotional detritus."

I'm going to put this on my list of books to watch for. At $12.99 on the Kindle ($15.85 hardcover), I'm not quite ready to pull the trigger, but maybe if the price comes down or I see a used copy.

PS: Although much of the book takes place in New York City, portions of it apparently take place in Lintonburg, VT, a fictional town that whose name is an anagram for Burlington, VT, and which resembles Burlington in many ways.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Did I just see what I think I saw?

Amazing steal by Big Papi. Has he found the fountain of youth?

June Runs

Despite the fact that the weather is getting hotter, and that my runs are getting longer and faster, my legs feel better than ever. Following Saturday's long run, all I had was a little soreness above my ankles.

Unfortunately, though, I've been feeling a little mentally fatigued with running. After a glance at my Garmin, I realized why. 92 miles in the past 30 days! I had no idea I was running that much--I was just trying to get out and run before summer really set in. But I think I am going to take a little bit of a break for a week, and spend more time watching the Red Sox, and less time running.

Because the Red Sox have really been on an amazing tear. In the month of June so far, the have scored 132 runs. The next nearest team (the Yankees) has scored 98 runs. The average in the AL is 78 runs. In short, the offense has been insane. I wish I could figure out what the major league record is for runs by a team in the month of June, because I think there is a decent chance we're going to take that record.

As long as the Sox don't get mentally fatigued with all that running.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kinvara 2 Review

Since Todd mentioned that he's going to start looking into minimalist shoes, I figured it's about time that I blogged my experiences with the Kinvara 2, a shoe that seems to be all the rage among runners looking to go minimalist. I've been running with them for about 50 miles now, over a variety of surfaces and for a variety of distances.

I'm going to start by describing what the shoe is not, after which I'll describe what it is.

The Kinvara 2 is not:

An "almost barefoot" shoe. Sure, it is extremely light: the shoe weighs 7.3 oz. But there is still lots of cushioning underfoot -- 17 mm at the forefoot, and 21 mm at the heel.* That's more than I'm used to (my previous shoes had 10 mm and 19 mm). And that's more than fine by me -- in fact, since I've been running longer distances, it is just what I was looking for.

A shoe with less technology. Saucony could have given every part of this shoe a high-tech sounding name. The could have said it had an ultra-vector-lateral-heel system, coupled with ultra-trivarate-impact soles. Etc. Instead, they laid off the marketing, saying that the shoe has a "foam heel collar" and the sole is made of "durable foam." Smart move. Everyone has responded by believing this is the kind of shoe Christopher McDougall would approve of, and it has taken off.

Terribly durable. The super lightweight foam means the sole wears out super fast. I'm already seeing significant treadwear after only about 50 miles.

On the other hand, the Kinvara 2 is:

Very comfortable. I've run in these for over 19 miles on pavement, and my feet still feel fine. (My only complaint is that I do consistently get a blister on the outside of my right big toe. I can't figure out why, but something is rubbing there.

Built on an extremely wide platform. See below for a comparison to my prior shoes. Given
the fact that the heel is very flexible, and the soles are quite thick, the width makes sense to me. As a bonus, it means the shoe has a nice, wide toebox, which is great for long distance runs.

Relatively breathable. I say relatively, because, despite how airy the upper looks, it does have three layers of different mesh, so they are less cool than I had hoped. They are still better than most shoes in the summer, but I wouldn't call the uppers revolutionary.

Affordable. Saucony's suggested retail is $90, and it is not hard to bring the price down with discounts, either online or from your local shop. So, if it wears out faster than a more expensive shoe, that's fine by me.

In short: I've been enjoying running in this shoe. I feel comfortable running on both pavement and trails, and my feet and joints don't seem to be taking as much of a pounding. If I don't watch my form, I can feel my pronation problems kicking in, but if I pay attention to my stride, I'm fine.

I've read a lot of people claiming that this shoe has magically helped transform them from heel strikers into midfoot strikers. I am skeptical that a few millimeters less of heel buildup is going to change years of ingrained mechanics. But I'm also skeptical of the claim that midfoot running is innately "better."

A final note: the Kinvara 2 seems to run a bit small. I normally wear a size 12. For this shoe, I wear a size 13.

If you have any questions, let me know!

*Stats are from, based on the size 9 men's.

comment on Todd's "Barefoot Form" post

my comment was too long for blogger to handle, so i'm moving it to a post.  it is in response to Todd's post on barefoot form.

i wanted to write "tread lightly", but that's too obvious to get more than a groan.

i was swayed by McDougall's book Born to Run, towards a more natural running stride, more natural foot-strike.  i started barefoot running 6 months ago, but my experience has been more an experience with a more natural foot-strike than one of barefoot running.  from what i've read, shod running in any form, even with vibram five-fingers.  allegedly, it's the sensory input you get from your bare foot on the ground that really gives you the beneifts so highly touted by the barefoot running movement.

still, there is much to be gained by adopting a more natural foot-strike.  since i was a child i have been diagnosed as a severe overpronator.  this has caused me to continually have to wear very structured, motion-controlling shoes.  the positive side of this was that i got to the point where i was running quite fast and relatively pain-free for a while.  the down-side was one of degrading returns in my non-running athletic performance.  my muscles had grown accustomed to the forward-only, rigidly controlled foot-strike, and so my lateral motion was impaired.

very few of us are starting with a blank slate, and, in my personal situation, i was way behind the curve in this regard.  i knew there would be a long breaking-in period, where my leg muscles would hage to adjust to the more natural foot-strike.  i wasn't quite prepared for how hard it would be.  here are some details:

- feet:  my arches had become somewhat weak from the motion-controlling shoes.  but the arch pain is nothing compared to the pain i feel on the tops of my feet, above my arches.  when i've been idle for a bit, especially getting up in the morning, i can barely walk.  i've read this is all part of strengthening your feet, which is one of the hardest parts of re-tooling your footstrike.  this is by far the most painful part, and, 6-months on, i am no where near stable.

- ankles: overpronation is real.  i am an overpronator and that does cause an issue for me because my muscles have been been properly built up to handle it.  think of the difference in stabalizer muscles you obtain in a workout on dry sand vs. solid surfaces.  you need to build that stability to support your leg's natural motion.  again, i'm not there.  second to the pain in my feet is the pain on the insides of my ankles, similiarly debilitated in the A.M. and after being seated for periods of time.

neither of the conditions above affect my running.  when i run, it's a non-issue, no foot or ankle pain.  it's only when i'm NOT running that it comes into play.

- calves:  get ready for this.  what a difference.  i always thought i was using my calves quite a bit, but i've never experienced them screaming and yelling to me like they have throughout this 6-month period.  this is a mostly "while running" thing, not much of a problem when i'm not running (the soreness went away after a couple months).  i just noticed my calves feeling overly pumped, used up much more quickly than the rest of my legs muscles, a lot more fatigue than other muscle groups.  since incorporating speed-work, this has significantly been reduce and i expect soon my calves will no longer be an issue.

- knees: i've had knee problems my whole life.  probably a by-product of too much jumping (volleyball) with hard landings.  when i started this whole experiment, i thought my knees would be my undoing.  i haven't had knee pain like that in years.  in my mind, i thought, while there may be merit to a more natural foot-strike, i’ve missed the boat.  if i’m already running pain-free, why not just let it be what it is?  if only i could live by that kind of logic...  my life might be simpler, but i certainly wouldn’t have had some of the great experiences i’ve had, nor the lessons learned from them.  i’m happy to report, i am basically through the painful period with my knees.  they feel quite good these days actually.

- lower back:  this was a big problem at first, but, like with my knees, this went away.  the lower back issues didn't take long to go away either, maybe even just a month.

some other notes about the switch:

- slow!!  two years ago, training runs (which where few and far between, i admit) where up to a minute faster per mile pace.  i don’t know if it’s because i’m focusing on form so much more, or if it’s the pain, or what...  but i often just want to strap on the ‘ol motion control shoes and see what kind of time i could get.  but i threw them away, so it’s not going to happen.  as previously reported, times are starting to get faster and faster now, especially with the addition to speed work.  i imagine towards the end of this year, or early in the season next year, i’ll be back where i was.

- endurance:  this is a strange one.  it’s not about running endurance, which actually has increased with a more natural stride.  it’s about other athletic endurance.  i played a few volleyball tournaments this year and was fine through a few hours, but, once i hit a certain point, my legs just plain wouldn’t work.  i’ve never experienced that before.  i had energy, just the legs seemed dead, i couldn’t get them to respond or warm up.  maybe a by product of the pain noted above, or the causes of that pain...  who knows, but i really hope this changes.

these are pretty much all the NEGATIVE notes, the gotchas, things to look out for.  the important thing to note is that i’m STILL doing this experiment... so, clearly, the positives out-weigh the above.

i guess i’ll have to find some time soon to write about those!!

Barefoot Form

It's too nice of a day not to run. So I went for my first post-race run today and, since I knew I was going to take it slow as my muscles continue to recover from my unusually fast pace (that and all of the golf balls I hit at the driving range yesterday), I decided to try to run with more of the “barefoot form” that I’ve been reading so much about, namely, focusing on landing on the ball or mid-foot as opposed to the heel. (Don't have the book in front of me, but MacDougall wrote very well about it in Born to Run as something like "how you naturally run when you aren't wearing shoes" which is what I envisioned doing today.) Here are my quick reactions:
- Easy to do going up hills, very awkward going downhill.
- Feels strange but okay on the flats, but was difficult for me to do as my legs got tired at the end of the run.
- At times, it felt like my heels weren’t touching the ground at all. I know they weren’t, but that’s what it felt like.
- Feel great afterwards, but know why everyone says to ease into it – I could really feel my shin muscles working. If I attepted to run like that everyday at my usual pace, I’m sure I would really feel bad before too long unless I adapted my shin muscles to the new workload.

In short, I was encouraged by my experiment. Overall, it did feel better than I had thought it would. Next up, i'm going to research of minimalist shoes and see if that's worth using (although probably not the five-finger ones).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

congrats todd!!

congratulations to our Todd Meigs, who had a blazingly fast race this weekend, breaking into the top 10 in his age group (7th) and ending up with an incredible time (19:34.7):


So here is a link to a blog written by a guy who has completed 29 marathons and 2 ultramarathons while juggling. Enjoy.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Relating to Fiction

Some interesting thoughts on relating to fiction from J.L. Wall:
Fiction doesn’t present the unreal; it presents the possibly real, something balancing precariously between the real and the non. (This holds, it should be said, for fantasy, science fiction, and other “genres” as well as in realistic or literary fiction; they just go about it, as is the case in variation between individual works, in different ways.) We empathize with fictional beings not despite their unreality, but because of their possible reality.
I've always been curious why some people become more attached to the characters that they read about (or watch on TV) than they do the people in their everyday lives. My intuition tells me that because they're interacting with these idealized figures in a controlled environment (i.e., they can't actually talk to them, and thus the spell that the writer is casting is never broken), these characters speak more to a person's ideal than real people, with whom you have to deal with the inevitable dissapointments of reality (making small talk, noticing skin blemishes and annoying personality traits, etc.)
What do you think?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If a Great Game was Pitched and No One Watched, Did it Really Happen?

As Joel noted in the comments, Josh Beckett continued his amazing return to form yesterday by pitching a one-hit, 97 pitch CG shutout against the Rays last night. And all of Boston - including Eric and myself, were tuned in to an incredible hockey game where the Bruins and Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas simply broke the will of the Vancouver Canucks to take home the Stanley Cup.

Hope Beckett can repeat on this performance! I was surprised to learn that "the fewest hits he had ever allowed previously in a complete game was three and he had done that just once." Given how dominant he can be - in '07 in particular - I had expected him to come closer to a perfect game, but there are just so many variables involved. I mean, Pedro Martinez never had a complete game and he's the best pitcher i've ever seen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The keys to life

"I feel very, very confident that the keys to life for me are reading and running." - Will Smith.

Now we just need to get that man a Red Sox cap.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cool weather

For the past several weeks, the thermometers in DC have all been stuck north of 90 degrees. I've been pushing my way through long runs and short runs, but my pace never seems to improve.

Today, though, a cool breeze blew into town and by the time I arrived home, the temperature was in the low 70s. Even though I was still sore from my 18-mile run this weekend, there was no way I was going to stay inside. So, I went out and ran 5.5 miles at an 8:42 pace.

I know that doesn't seem so fast to y'all, so let me put it in context. Prior to today, the fastest pace I've ever maintained for longer than 5 miles is 9:13. My fastest 3 miles was only at a 8:45 pace.

Unlike Eric, I find running in the heat to be very tough. But it seems to be doing wonders for my conditioning. I'm looking forward to seeing what my times are like come November.

Running and Character

Due to illness, insomnia and extreme readability, I’m already halfway through Born to Run. The thing that has stood out to me so far - other than the sheer awesomeness of the story - is the emphasis on the personality traits that make up a better runner. Evidence includes the story of Emil Zatopek starting on p.95, or the antidotes about Coach Vigil:
Posted on the wall of Vigil’s office was a magic formula for fast running that, as far as Deena could tell, had absolutely nothing to do with running: it was stuff like “Practice abundance by giving back,” and “Improve personal relationships,” and “Show integrity to your value system." p.119
Over the previous two years, Vigil had become convinced that the next leap forward in human endurance would come from a dimension he dreaded getting itno: Character. … Vigil wasn’t talking about “grit” or “hunger” or “the size of the fight in the dog.” In fact, he meant the exact opposite. Vigil’s notion of character wasn’t toughness. It was compassion. Kindness. Love. p.92
I’m looking forward to where this all leads, but from a book that I expected to hear more about form than psychology, this angle was a pleasant surprise.

Run Support

The AL and the NL each now have one pitcher who has won nine games. Over in the NL, it's Roy Halladay, who has managed the feat by pitching lights-out -- he currently has a 2.39 ERA. Here in the AL, it is Jon Lester who has done it by pitching only slightly better than the league average. So what is his secret? Run support.

For every nine innings that Lester pitches, the Red Sox score 9.77 runs. Insane. Among qualified pitchers, that's the second best run support in the major leagues.*

Here are the run support stats for the entire rotation. 2011 numbers are first, followed by full-season 2010 numbers in parentheses:

Lester -9.77 (6.88)
Lackey - 8.12 (7.07)
Buchholz - 6.37 (6.79)
Wakefield - 5.77 (5.45)
Beckett - 5.75 (7.67)

While Lester's run support is up, Beckett's run support is down. A lot. (Though even so it is only just slightly below the median figure --5.77 -- for all qualified big league pitchers.) Perhaps he is just so dominant that our hitters figure they can take things easy when he's on the mound.

On the other hand, the Sox have never given Wakefield that much support, which makes his accomplishments that much more impressive.

* "Qualified pitchers" are those that have pitched an average of at least one inning for every game their team has played, i.e., the "qualified pitchers" on the Red Sox staff are those that have pitched at least 65 innings. The run support leader among all qualified pitchers in the big leagues is Jake Arrieta of the Baltimore Orioles, whose run support is at 9.79, just the tiniest sliver above Lester's. Despite Jake's 4.48 ERA, he is already an 8-game winner.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

First Lines of "Born to Run"

For days, I'd been searching Mexico's Sierra Madre for the phantom known as Caballo Blanco--the White Horse. I'd finally arrived at the end of the trail, in the last place I expected to find him--not deep in the wilderness he was said to haunt, but in the dim lobby of an old hotel on the edge of a dusty desert town.
- Christopher McDougall, Born to Run

Reading and Running collide! I finally broke down and bought this book - the paperback, not on the Kindle - and am eagerly anticipating getting deep into it. I'll let you know what I think!

Friday, June 10, 2011


I missed last night's game due to damned mother nature and her 3.5 hour rain delays, but a sweep is a sweep - and one against the Yankees is that much sweeter. Despite all of this team's shortcomings over the season so far - disappointing starting pitching, slow starts for key players (CarlCrawford, Yooook, Pedroia), bullpen inconsistency - this is now a team with the best record in the AL and in first place in the AL East. It's fixing to be a fun summer!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Deep Thought

It's hard to keep your legs moving when running in humid weather.

I just finished a four mile speed run and my legs are all quivery - like I've been doing squats.


I bought a Kindle last year and I have really enjoyed reading with it. It is lightweight, the screen is extremely readable, and the battery seems to last forever. My only concern when I bought it was that not all of the books I wanted to read were available on the Kindle. But so many books were available, that it wasn't really an issue. Plus, with most books priced at under $10, I figured that the device would quickly pay for itself.

Has anyone else noticed that most Kindle e-books are now being priced at $11.99? And I'm not talking about new releases. I'm talking about books that have been out in the marketplace for years.

What really annoys me is that this price point is higher than the price of buying a new paperback. To take just a few examples:

Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami: $11.99 (Kindle); $8.62 (paperback)
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell: $11.99 (Kindle); $10.20 (paperback)
Oscar and Lucinda, by Peter Carey: $11.99 (Kindle); $10.85 (paperback)
The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro: $11.99 (Kindle); $8.64 (paperback)

I suppose to deflect criticism, Amazon has been including a note next to the Kindle pricing, stating that the price was set by the publisher. But I don't particularly care where the responsibility lies, I still find it irksome, and I plan to begin reading paper books again.

Pedroia's Stuggles Explained?

I always check in with Joy of Sox in the morning for a synopsys of the previous night's Sox game. Imagine my terror when I opened it up to see this headline: "Pedroia Returns To Boston, Surgery A Possibility"

Petey's knee is bothering him, which explains his uncharacteristic troubles at the plate. It sounds like this is just a precautionary measure, but I wouldn't be suprised to see him on the DL soon. With Lowrie's shoulder hurting, I'm not sure who would be taking his place at 2B - would the Sox have to call someone up? Iglesias up to play SS, with Scutaro moving to 2B?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Remember those days when the Yankees were in their prime and the Red Sox were a bunch of upstarts, and you'd get nervous every time the week in the schedule arrived when we had to play them, and then, somehow, the Red Sox would get ahead of them in a game, and it would be the most unbelievable, exciting, edge-of-your-seat event?

Do you miss those days?


it's a long way off from my PB in a 5K, but i am also a long way from the condition i was in when i achieved my PB.  but i'm happy to report i can no longer consider myself "out of shape" as i could earlier this year.  the miles are finally paying off.

todd and i are running the Sharon Timlin Memorial 5K in a week and a half, and, while i want to be realistic with my expectations, i also push myself.  my last 5K was over 3 years ago, and i've spent the better part of the last 2 years injured and not consistently running.  the past 3 months i have started to seriously try to get back into shape, and over the past couple weeks, i'm started to feel my legs coming in under me.  i ran a "test race" this weekend, to see where i'd fall.  i really pushed it and saw 24:30 on the clock when i was done.  not particularly fast for me, but a minute faster than anything i've run in the past 6 months for 3.1 miles.  i figure that on race day, i will have that adrenaline i always get at races that'll push me harder, trimming that extra 30 seconds.

i don't think i should have any problem doing it...  and, i know i'll be absolutely crushed if i don't.  it's not about being fast; 23:59 is *not* fast, not even by my own standards.  it's about measuring up...  about setting a goal and achieving it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Blake Swihart

Among other picks in last night's draft, the Red Sox came away with Blake Swihart. He is generally regarded as the best available catcher in this year's draft. He is a switch-hitter who hit 0.529 during his junior year of high school. He also claims to be able to to throw 95 mph and dunk a basketball. Some interviews with the kid are available here and here. It's too soon to be making any predictions, but it's good to see the Red Sox getting a catcher into the system.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Shoe Review: Asics Gel-Bandito

First impressions can often be deceiving, so while I continue to get accustomed to my new Saucony Kinvara 2's, I thought I'd post a review of the shoe that they will largely be replacing: the Asics Gel-Bandito.

In brief: the Bandito is my favorite running shoe that I have worn to date. Unfortunately, they were discontinued at the end of 2009, and while a few pairs can still be found in odd sizes around the internet, there aren't any that my feet will fit into. My pair doesn't have too much more life left in them, so it's about time to move on.

I bought the Bandito about a year ago, when I wanted to start moving away from motion control shoes, but I wasn't willing to give up support altogether. At that time, I also was looking to move into a lighter shoe than what I had been wearing. The Bandito is a lightly posted shoe, and Runner's Warehouse weighed the size 9's in at 7.9 oz, so they fit the bill. (As for the other significant stat: RW measured the heel height at 19 mm and the forefront at 10 mm. So, while the heels are not as built up as most, those who obsess about heel drops will probably lose interest right about here.)

The biggest reason I love these shoes is their breathability. I've run in them as far as 18 miles, and even on warm days, my feet never come out feeling hot or wet. The reason for this is the very open mesh upper. You can see the light shining through it in the picture below:

What's more, the shoe even has small holes in the sole:

All of this means that this is the only shoe I have worn that can almost guarantee me a blister free run. (I say "almost" because the one time I splashed through a few puddles, my feet quickly became soaked, leading to eventual blistering -- that's the downside of the mesh.)

Despite the very lightweight material, my feet stay nicely locked in these shoes. Part of this is due to the overlays, but I think the biggest factor is the laces. Unlike other shoes I have worn these laces don't stretch, and they have no give. Moreover, except at the very top the shoe has an extremely thin tongue; just more of the same mesh material. This means you have to pay extra attention when lacing them up: tie the laces too tight, and your foot is going to be in serious pain after a few miles, as I learned the hard way during a few early runs.

By the way, notice the faux-snakeskin that the overlays are made out of. Whoever designed these shoes included some seriously cool details. They don't make shoes like this very often.

But perhaps all these details made them too expensive to manufacture, because ASICS never came out with a "Gel-Bandito 2". Instead, they just began channeling people into other models. For a while, I was thinking about buying the Gel-Speedstar 5, but there have been too many reviews complaining about how those shoes don't breathe at all. Hopefully, ASICS will return to Bandito-style mesh soon.

The other factor for me is that I wanted a shoe with more cushioning. Although ASICS billed these shoes as "long distance racing flats," once I started getting above 15 miles, my feet started hurting. Surely, part of this is because the padding was already a bit tired by the time I started running so far. And an even bigger part is because my feet are still weak. In any case, I decided to look for a shoe with more padding, but still lightweight and breathable. I'll let you know if the Kinvara 2 fits the bill.

Quote of the Day

"If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. That's the world of hicks and snobs. Real people would be ashamed of themselves doing that."
- Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood, page 39

Friday, June 3, 2011

Running and Form, Part Deux

You had some good responses to my post about Running Form, and I thought I’d raise my reply back to the upper level where it’s easier to read.

First of all, Eric mentioned that he first tried to “cure his running woes with technology.” I’d be curious to hear what technology that he used, but from my perspective, it seems to me that running involves two types of technology:1
. Shoes. Not to be discounted! Personally, I need a stable shoe because I pronate and thus need something to prevent my feet from rolling and fucking up my knees. I’m sure there are other ways that shoes could help your form, but that’s the main point I think of.
This could be expanded to include things like the computer chips included in some of the newer shoes out there – Eric could speak more to the Nike technology in particular – but again I’m not sure how this could help form analysis.
2. Watch/timer. Not sure how this would help out form even if we expand it to GPS devices.
Any other technologies that I’m missing?
What may be the answer is missing from this list because it's not a technology. I think that the best way to work on form is to work with another person. In the examples from my original post, the commonality was a coach who not only identified my form issues but also helped me work on and improve them. Having someone work with you to correct imperfections is probably the answer to Eric’s valid question: “what do i do if i've been running WRONG for all these years? just deciding to run with "proper form" (who defines that) isn't going to work, as the legs and leg muscles aren't accustomed to it.” I think it’s an incremental process, and finding a coach/running partner who can guide and experiment with you to find form fixes that work for the runner is a huge factor.

To expand on who defines correct form, I don’t think there’s any single form that will work for everyone. Joel pointed out that Born to Run does “NOT advocate paying attention to particular rules about form. It advocates running joyfully, and listening to your body to determine what is right and wrong.” I agree with this to an extent, but I also think that almost everyone could benefit from tweaks - as long as it works for them. To go back to the story about my arm swing, while my original swing was natural and felt right, and I never would have changed it if someone else hadn’t called me out on it. Changing my running form eventually was the best thing for my body – and enabled me to run faster. Now it wasn’t easy! I needed to start strength training and practice, practice, practice before the new movement came naturally and stuck. But what originally was my natural form was definitely not the best thing for me.

I’m curious to hear more about what you think! As for Born to Run, I’ve heard so much about it, I’m really going to need to pick up a copy. May head over to amazon now...

Kinvara 2

My new pair of Kinvara 2's just got delivered last night.

On top of Running Warehouse's everyday low price, they were running a 10% off sale, and I had a 15% off coupon. Since shipping is free, I ended up paying a grand total of $57 for these. Not a bad price for the newly-released update to one of the most popular running shoes of the past year.

I'm taking these down to Richmond this weekend, where I'll give them a spin. Review to come soon.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Running and Form

I thought that most semi-serious to serious runners took a good look at their form as part of the process of becoming a serious runner. However, the article about running form in the June 2011 issue of Runners World makes it sound like this is not the case; they focus on how form is kind of a red-headed stepchild in the sport and focus on how the “barefoot running” trend is sparking a newfound interest in form.

While I’m sure that barefoot running is helping people's form, I'll offer a rebuttal about the lack of form focus in the past in the form of a personal anecdote about my softmore days at Essex Junction High School (the good ‘ol days of 1987). Before that, I was run as a social thing, not really training or preparing for races in favor of jogging around town while laughing with my friends. That all changed when my Cross Country (XC) coach, an excellent man named Steve Dowd, called me and my friends out on our lackadaisical ways. He insisted that we could unleash our talent if only we were more focused, and the way he challenged us resonated with me, and I started working harder during training.

I slowly became a much better runner, but I didn’t really take the next step until one Saturday when our coaches videotaped us running across a field. Watched the tape later that week, we looked at my form and the coaches pointed out what was good and what was flawed. They were mainly upper body related: my right arm was not only situated significantly lower than my left, but it was also swinging down and out much more that the other arm. This was a big deal for me because I had had no idea that I was doing anything incorrectly, so simply staying more conscious of my arms during my runs enabled me to become faster and more efficient.

Another big benefit of having coaches work with us on form came when they pointed out that the slapping sound of feet hitting pavement was the sound of wasted energy, and that the trick to avoid this was to roll your foot so that you didn’t lose any energy in the transfer of foot to ground. All this contributed to me being much more mindful of my form and thus significantly reducing the amount of energy I was wasting with each stride.

I write all of this to say that I’m surprised that RW considers the focus on form to be a new thing, since my experience is much different, and that I find form focus to be a significant factor in not only the success I’ve had running races but also in keeping relatively healthy. What do you think? Do you pay attention to your form? When did you start doing so and was it worth it?

the next 'Great American Novel'?

i'll save you the suspense; American Rust by Philipp Meyer is *not* in the same class as, say, Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath.  But is it worth reading?

i snatched up this book after catching a Steinbeck comparison.  Steinbeck is one of my carefully calculated "TOP 5 BEST" authors; so the comparison alone puts the book on auto-purchase.

it usually takes me 50-100 pages to settle into a book, form an opinion.  American Rust was a quick read, i think 3 nights, and i wasn't aware of how much i read in a particular sitting...  the book really was engaging.  the NATURE of the engagement was somewhat strange, however...

let me provide some background.  the book tells the story of a few residents of a past-its-prime mill town in Pennsylvania.  unemployment, lack of jobs, lack of hope leading to more crime, drugs, depression...  a story we, as Americans, have heard before and know quite well.  the key event of this book is a murder, after one of two twenty-something boys, both of whom have not lived up to their post-high school potential, find themselves in a tricky situation with some vagrants (due to some bad decisions they made) and end up killing one of them.  the ripple effect of this event is told to us from the unique and personal experiences of the mother of one of the boys, that mother's love interest and local police chief, the father and sister of the other boy and the two boys themselves.

i found the unique perspectives to be quite enlightening in terms of how they related to the overall plot.  a certain level of honesty was built into the motivations for actions we might otherwise read about and dismiss as "yeah, i figured that".  an example:

"A guilty thought came to him: it would have been better if the boy had died -- she'd be able to move on, believe what she wanted.  Now the boy both existed and didn't exist, he was there but being kept from her, she would never be able to stop thinking about him.  The only torch she could carry."

these are the thoughts of a local police chief, interested in a boys mother after that boy has had a life-threatening situation, while being held on murder charges.  the thought itself isn't riveting, but it is this kind of writing that makes the book all the more real.  the man's feelings for the mother clearly motivate him more than  his feelings about her son, both of whom he is intimately involved with in very specific ways.

too, the writing style is very stream-of-consciousness:

"This wind, he thought.  Should have hung on to the coat and hat.  Maybe I'm not really that cold, just hungry and tired.  But you ate last night, that's enough calories.  One day is nothing.  Figure out your bearings.  I am having trouble thinking.  That is my problem.  Should have stopped to eat but I didn't feel safe."

this kind of writing works well, in my opinion, when you're engaged in a book...  as if the thoughts where occurring in your own mind.

like i said, i really was engaged in the book, i could barely put it down.  but i didn't necessarily care about the words on the page, rather, i just wanted to know what happened.  like reading a newspaper.

i think Philipp Meyer's writing is good...  but despite the painstaking detail built into this story using the many perspectives, i didn't find it to be all that deep.  i didn't particularly like or dislike any of the characters, although i will say Poe (one of the boys) certainly steals the show in terms of who matters most (to me anyway).  the book WAS very American in it's feel...  but it lacks wisdom, lacks the well worn feel of American Literary standouts.  but hey, this is his first published book...  so i'm definitely keen to read what he comes up with next.

overall, i liked the book.  i would recommend it to others.  but it's not a "Great American Novel" as some have touted.  it's a good, american read.

May lookback

Even though they stumbled at the end, the Red Sox logged 19 wins and 10 losses for the month of May. That puts them tied with Arizona for the best record for the month.

How did they accomplish it?

296 hits - 1st in the majors
156 runs - 1st in the majors
39 home runs - tied for 1st in the majors
.287 team batting average - 1st in the majors
.472 slugging percentage - 1st in the majors

Despite Beckett's run, the pitching staff still has some catching up to do. They managed only a cumulative 4.01 ERA, which puts them 21st in the majors for the month. They did lead the AL in strikeouts (214), but they were also second in the AL in walks (102).

Defensively, opponents stole 31 bases against the Red Sox, which is the most in the majors against any team.

All of the above has certainly made for some dramatic baseball!