Friday, September 30, 2011

September's Summary

It's that time again! Here's what I did in September:

  • 16 runs
  • 85.2 miles (5.32 average mileage)
  • Total Time: 11h, 23 min (42 min average)
  • Average Pace: 8:01 / mile
Two speedy races factored into this, but you can see that i've been working on increasing my mileage, slowly but surely. Hoping to head out for an 11 miler this Sunday.

How'd you do?

Thursday, September 29, 2011


In 9 days, I am (supposedly!) going to go down to Virginia and run 31 miles.

After my last long run, almost two weeks ago, I began to taper. "Taper" is perhaps a strong word, since I never really had a strict running plan. But following the 25-mile run, there have been no more runs above 10 miles, no more fast runs, nothing strenuous.

I thought that, as a result, I would have a lot more energy, that my legs would be feeling a lot more fresh. Nope. I've been feeling old and creaky and tired, and getting aches and pains in my knees and hips where I never had them before.

It's kind of worrisome! But after reading a number of blogs, it seems that this is apparently totally normal. As the body loosens up and heals all of its little tears and stresses that it never had a chance to heal before, this is what the body is supposed to feel like.

These same blogs say to have faith - that even though I don't feel it now, I'm going to be a lot more ready for race day. I sure hope so!

Time For New Shoes

I'm currently running in the Brooks Adrenaline 10 (link is to the updated version). I've been very happy with how they've felt, but it's time for a new pair; i've been feeling the shoe flatten out over the last few weeks. My dilemma is that I have a sweet coupon for Sauconys, and it sounds like the Saucony Omni ProGrid is the equivalent in that brand. I'm heading to my local running store tomorrow to try them on, but wanted to see if either of you had any opinions. I think I prefer a shoe with more stability then either of you, but would welcome any ideas/feedback you might have about the two brands.

This is Why They Play the Games

Remember those odds I was posting on the Red Sox making the post season? Turns out someone summarized them all on a graph for us to "enjoy."

Really does put this epic collapse in perspective. An all-around choke, this one.

And that'll be my last writing on the Sox for a bit methinks. I'd like to put down my thoughts on what to do in the offseason but it's just too soon. For now, my immediate reaction is that the only people I'd keep without a doubt are Ellsbury, Pedroia, Aceves, Francona, and (surprisingly) Scutaro.

Naked Running

No, not what you think! I ran without my iPhone strapped to my arm today due to the threat of rain and literally felt naked. Other than races, when i'm thinking about other things, I always run with my phone, and not having it along felt really strange. Perhaps I should start alternating arms so that not having it on my left arm wouldn't feel so strange when I don't have it with me! Do you have this same reaction?

I'm wondering if when I start running with the water bottle during the really long distances i'll start feeling the same way on my shorter runs.

injury status report

it's been two weeks now since i made my last mistake of trying to run at any serious pace.  since august 20th, when i had to stop my run because of the pain in my calf, i've run only 3 times.  2 of these times were races, and each of these times started great and ended very badly in terms of healing this calf problem.

still, i think the fact that the BULK of that time was rest has been very good for healing not only my calf, but my legs in general.  i will say that lately, apart from my calf, my legs have been feeling better than ever.  when i was running with a high level of frequency, the down-time would involve a lot of slow, slightly painful slogging around.  the idea of running out to catch a football, for example, or play basketball was a painful one, as my legs really needed to be warmed before they were any good.  these days, with all that rest, i feel energy back in my legs, the spring back in my step.  my feet, which are especially problematic during a heavy running phase, are feeling good enough that i can make it down the stairs in the AM in less than 10 minutes.

the three things i have focused on during the rehab of this injury are compression, massage and minimal exercise.  the compression was a surprise and something i tried just for the sake of it.  as i've said, i don't really know if it does much for me when running (i also haven't tried it enough to know), but i do know it is very helpful when i am not running.  i wear the sleeve at work, walking around home, etc... and at this point i have very minimal pain when walking around.  i believe that compression not only just feels good on the leg, it also stimulates bloodflow, which is key to healing injuries.

the stick is another useful too.  i wrote previously about using a foam roller to perform self massage, but i found that to be a bit cumbersome for daily use.  the stick is a bit easier to use, despite the fact that you will have to put some elbow grease into it if you want to get anything out if it.  i use the stick in any situation where i would want to stretch and also in the mornings and evenings.  i can't say for certain that it is working, but i'm improving and the lumps i can clearly feel when using the stick on my leg seem to be getting a bit smaller.

the most important aspect to this all is minimal exercise though.  if bloodflow is key to healing, doing a bit of exercise is the best way to get the blood flowing.  the problem is finding the balance.  running is too much.  even slow running is too much at this point.  i've started using the elliptical for 30-45 minutes a session and swimming (to keep the cardio going).  and now i've started walking on the treadmill with it at full incline for a period of time.  the most surprising thing is how much of a workout i get!  i had though i could do the elliptical or walk on an incline without breaking a sweat...  no chance.  not only that, but i'm working muscles that are not normally touched in my running workouts...  these are the glutes and the hamstrings just below the glutes.  i think building strength in these areas is a large part of what is helping me get the spring back in my step.

it'll be a couple more weeks before i start running again regularly, but i am starting to get exciting about the prospect that i can do exercises now that will make me a better runner when i am ready to start picking up the miles.  getting injured in the first place was certainly a result of mostly too much too soon, but also a by-product of muscle imbalances and poor form.  if i strengthen the areas that are weaker and balance the imbalances, i'm almost certain it will do wonders to improve my form.

it's very, very hard not to be out there pounding out the runs...  but i'm trying as hard as i can to do the right thing, let the calf fully heal, and to prepare myself for some serious marathon training come november.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

So Many Kindles

I'm intrigued by all of the different Kindles that were announced today.

Given that both of you currently use one, do you have any opinions on what you think might be the benefits/faults of these new versions? Do either of you use a tablet or is it just the Kindle?

I ask because I'm starting to envision the day when I have a tablet that not only serves as a replacement for my home PC but also something on which I can read my books, but i'm not sure how viable this is. For one, both of you have stated that  eye strain is almost non-existent on the current kindle, something that would be reintroduced in these back-lit versions.

Wharton's Writing

TNC has been writing brilliantly about the greatness of Edith Wharton's prose. (Seriously, click the link.) Specifically, he's enamored with The Age of Innocence, but since i'm not yet ready to revisit that book (which I read in college), I did lay down 50 cents for the softcover of Twilight Sleep at a library sale.

I'm now six chapters in, and already I wouldn't characterize it as a great book - there's not a lot of plot, and what there is involves the über-privileged upper-crust of NYC society in the Jazz Age and their spoiled lives - but my oh my does she write some great paragraphs. To wit:

"But she had had glimpses enough of the scene: of the audience of bright elderly women, with snowy hair, eurhythmic movements, and finely-wrinkled over-massaged faces on which a smile of glassy benevolence sat like their rimless prince-nez. They were all inexorably earnest, aimlessly kind and fathomlessly pure; and all rather too well-dressed, except the “prominent woman” of the occasion, who usually wore dowdy clothes, and had steel-rimmed spectacles and straggling wisps of hair. Whatever the question dealt with, these ladies always seemed to be the same, and always advocated with equal zeal Birth Control and unlimited maternity, free love or the return to the traditions of the American home; and neither they nor Mrs. Manford seemed aware that there was anything contradictory in these doctrines. All they knew was that they were determined to force certain persons to do things that those persons preferred not to do. Nona, glancing down the surried list, recalled a saying of her mother’s former husband, Arthur Wyant: 'your mother and her friends would like to teach the whole world how to say its prayers and brush its teeth.'" p. 11

"Poor Arthur—from the first he had been one of her failures. She had a little cemetery of them—a very small one—planted over with quick-growing things, so that you might have walked all through her life and not noticed there were any graves in it." p. 25

I'm not sure i'm going to make it all the way through this one, but I've sure enjoyed what I've read so far. What more do you want out of a book?

Cross Posted at Thought Ambience

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September Aces

Pop Quiz time: without reviewing their stat lines, rank Boston's rotation (Beckett, Bedard, Lackey, Lester, Wakefield) according to their ERA over the past 3 starts, from best to worst.

Answers in the comments.


Turns out that if you "friend" Running Warehouse on facebook, they'll give you an additional 15% off the sale price of all sale items. Sweet.

future prospects

i'm one of those folks that will never stop believing, and, especially after the '04 ALCS, i wouldn't ever count the red sox out when a chance still remains.

that said, like you guys, i'm frustrated as heck right now...  having a hard time keeping positive about our chances in the playoffs even if we do make it in.

that got me thinking about our farm system and upcoming years.  with the strange barrage of injuries, we got to see a lot of players we didn't expect to see.  of those, none left a lasting impression.  i think reddick will amount to something, but will it be for the sox?  who knows.  lavarnway* shows promise as a hitter, but i don't think anyone believes he can be a big league catcher (yet) defensively.  kalish is certainly promising, but only as a compliment to ellsbury, who we could very easily lose.  just think of an outfield made up of crawford, kalish and reddick.

our short-stop position has never been solid, but to be honest, scutaro has played his way into it this year and solidly established himself there.  i think between youk and lowrie we have a third baseman, and we always know who will be on first and second.

i refuse to even talk about pitching at this stage, but i don't think anyone who has read sports news of late could argue there is going to be an issue that the offseason really needs to fix.

so, apart from first and second, a piecemeal third and whom we settle for at ss, i'm nervous.

*i do think salty is our catcher...  it's just that i don't have any feeling in particular about the guy in the position. 


I see that the Boston Herald has turned on Beckett:

It has become the story of Beckett’s career since he led the Red Sox to the 2007 World Series. In 2008, he pitched through an oblique injury in the playoffs, but still went just 1-0 with an 8.79 ERA. He lost his only playoff start to the Angels in 2009. In his last four playoff starts, he’s 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA. And in his last two starts this season, both must-wins, he’s 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA. Barring some unforeseen relief appearance on two days’ rest, Beckett’s 2011 regular season is officially done. He finishes 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA. The historians will look at the numbers and consider it a success. But we’ll know better. When the Red Sox needed Josh Beckett most, he disappeared.

I say, there's more than enough blame to go around. But also, it's a little too early to be spreading blame, since there is still a chance a redemption, no matter how dwindling.


So I woke up this morning to find out that the Red Sox and Rays are tied. After 160 games, we find ourselves on even footing with Tampa Bay at 89-71.

All this because Beckett just can't seem to pitch in the late innings any more. JoS shares the painful truth about the only two starters on our staff that don't make me want to throw up:
This was Beckett's second start in a row in which Terry Francona watched him run out of gas in the middle innings and did not pull him. In six starts since September 11, Beckett and Jon Lester have posted an 8.18 ERA.
JoS also asks the good question why Aceves pitched the 8th last night. Why wouldn't you have rested him, knowing that it's more likely that we'll need him tonight?

Sigh. It didn't need to be this way. And now our lonely eyes turn to Bedard, who had four runs, albeit only one that was earned, in 2 and 2/3 innings against the Orioles just last week. Let's hope his knee/hip/brain is feeling better tonight!

Baseball Writing

They're all waiting on the pitcher, he's a faceful of boding, upper body drawn forward, glove hand dangled at the knee. He's reading and reading the sign. He's reading the sign. Hitter fidgeting in the box. This son of a buck can bring it.

The shortstop moves his feet to break the trance of waiting.

It's the rule of confrontation, faithfully maintained, written across the face of every slackwit pitcher since there were teams named the Superbas and the Bridegrooms. The difference comes when the ball is hit. Then nothing is the same. The men are moving, coming out of their crouches, and everything submits to the pebble-skip of the ball, to rotations and backspins and airstreams. There are drag coefficients. There are trailing vortices. There are things that apply unrepeatably, muscle memory and pumping blood and jots of dust, the narrative that lives in the spaces of the official play-by-play.

-Don DeLillo, Underworld

Monday, September 26, 2011

Long Run, Big Eating

I have a problem. Whenever I go for a long run - 7 miles or more - I eat WAY too much when I get home. I start off by chugging a glass of water, then I make a smoothie (banana, blueberries, muscle milk, soy milk and some flax seed), and then despite my best efforts, I end up basically scarfing down whatever I can get my hands on until I feel stuffed. I'm not sure what to do about it other then to have a spread of healthy food laid out for my return from the road. 

I mention this because the latest issue of RW mentions this problem in this month's "Miles and Meals" article. But their solutions aren't really anything that I can incorporate: they suggest eating a meal 2-3 hours before the run (impossible to do when running first thing in the morning) or skipping recovery snack in favor of sitting down to a full meal within 30 minutes (also impossible when I have just enough time to shower up before having to watch the kids). Any suggestions on how I can realistically battle the long-run munchies?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What's Wrong with Lester?

It's no secret that I haven't thought Lester was an ace this season, but I honestly never expected him to pitch THIS badly. He got shellacked by the MFY today, a team that doesn't have anything to play for. And he's looked like a below average pitcher in September, like someone that's lost all confidence in his fastball. Anyone have any explanations?

It's horrible to say, but I almost home that he is injured in some way. At least that would be a good excuse for his huge amount of sucking this month, because the alternative is that his skills are deteriorating and that's too  scary to contemplate.

At this rate, i'm not even sure why I'm rooting for the Sox to make the playoffs, because they'll just have a quick one-and-done before being put out of their misery. I actually pined for Daisuke the other day, which tells you about the awful place that the team has put me in.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Inspiring Little Readers

Surrounded by Books!
It's still too early in their lives to tell if i'm raising my kids well or not, but one of the things that i'm confident in is that both of my boys will be good readers. We've always surrounded them with books and constantly read to them, and now both of them read incessantly. I mean, just look at the picture here: Trey was all by himself in the living room, just pulling books down off the shelf and flipping through them, babbling to himself. He even mimics the cadence of my voice when I read to him! I feel fortunate, because I hear a lot about how kids these days don't like to read, but so far at least, i've been able to avoid that pitfall!

I wonder when I can start him on Pynchon...

Accurate Measurements

I went for a seven mile run today. Enjoyed it a lot – ran at a fast clip, had Life’s Rich Pageant spuring me on – but when I got home found out that Runmeter (my iPhone tracking app) had not captured a good chunk of the run because the GPS crapped out again. Now, I was able to enter the missing data into the phone manually, but I’m finding myself continually frustrated by tools that don’t measure what they’re supposed to. This is not to bust on Runmeter, which I think is a fantastic running app. The problem could be with my phone, the GPS signals in very hilly and tree-covered Ashland, or another random issue I haven't thought of. I bring this up because I've been thinking about how difficult it is to accurately measure something (outside of a laboratory).

Just last week, Eric and I were talking about tracking your fitness on the Daily Plate and being surprised at the number of calories that the program credits you with burning. For example, the Daily Plate tells me that my 53.5 minute run at just under 8 minute miles for 7 miles burned 861 calories. Doesn’t sound accurate to me, but I’m also not sure which of the many “running” options to choose: selecting 7 mph credits you with burning 1,190 cal/hour, while selecting 7.5 mph credits you with burning 970 cal/hour. WTF? Another example was a health check my company provided for everyone this past week. Standard measurements of cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass/weight, etc. Essentially a physical. But the scale that these folks used informed me that I weighed 163 pounds. This didn't seem right to me, so I used the sliding weight scale in the gym which told me I was at 170. Which is right? Who to trust?

Of course, the Red Sox connection here is which stats to trust. As we’ve argued before, which stats are the ones to trust? ERA? WAR? etc. etc. Consider as well the human factor of calling balls and strikes.

All this uncertainty can be fun to ponder, but at the moment I’m frustrated because I’m trying to be more scientific about my training and can't be sure if the numbers I have are right or not. I’m trying to consider new factors and new information , but I’m just not sure how accurate it all is, and it’s starting to bug me the point where I should probably just invest in high-quality gear (heart rate monitor?) or just go back to running by feel.

Will the Worst $80 Million Pitcher Please Step Up?

That's the question the Wall Street Journal asks. And while A.J. Burnett is a serious contender, the Journal concludes that Lackey would be the choice in a game you absolutely must lose.

"Lackey also has a slightly higher ratio of walks and hits to innings pitched, 1.6 vs. 1.5. He's allowing more hits per nine innings—11.6 vs. 9.1—and has given up 115 runs in 154 innings compared with Burnett's 113 runs allowed in 182.1 innings."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Carl Crawford

This blog post made me really, really sad. Especially the ending:

"I want to end the diary saying something to the fans of Boston. I just want to say I'm sorry for the year I've had. You guys have been really supportive and I appreciate that. Hopefully when we get into these playoffs, I can be the real Carl Crawford that I know I am. We'll see."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

25 miles

As previously mentioned, Saturday was my last long run before the race in Virginia. Conditions weren't quite ideal. Even after nearly a week of rest, my legs didn't feel fully recovered from all the running in early September. I could feel the beginnings of a cold coming on. And, for various scheduling reasons, I had to be out the door at 7:00 AM.

But, on the other hand, it was unseasonably cool - 52 degrees - meaning perfect weather for running.

For my long runs, I frequently run a 3.15 mile loop around a local park and golf course. The advantages are that it's flat, there is minimal traffic, there are public restrooms, and I can leave a cooler in the car stocked with with Gatorade and whatever else I want that day.

The disadvantages are that it's boring and that by my sixth loop, I really feel tempted to cut the run short. Every excuse possible went through my head on Saturday - 19 miles is long enough to develop the requisite amount of fitness, I don't want to injure myself, etc., etc. But I had told you guys that I was going to run 25, and I sure didn't want to come back with only 19 to show.

It was pretty much all mental, though. By the time I finished that lap, I was raring to run my heart out for one last lap and see what was left in the tank. I held back for a slow mile 23 (10:55), then ran mile 24 in 10:01, and mile 25 in 9:48. OK, so there wasn't much left in the tank! But I finished without injuries, and with an overall pace of 10:26, which is faster than any run over 15 miles I have done at the past.

I'm going to run five miles further, but I'm hopeful that cooler weather, rested legs, better pre-race nutrition, better in-race fueling, and a dose of adrenaline will push me along to an even faster time.

After which, I just have to figure out how to increase my speed to beat you guys in the marathon.

More fun than watching the Red Sox

An email from Todd inspired me to think about things that, of late, have been more fun to do than watching the Red Sox...

10. Watching the Buffalo Bills
9. Watching college field hockey
8. Having a glass of water
7. Rearranging the bookshelf
6. Cleaning bird crap off my car
5. Draining blisters on my toes
4. Laundry
3. Scrubbing grout
2. Blowing my nose
1. Writing lame blog posts

And yet, I continue to watch.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

CarlCrawford in Perspective

Chad Finn makes the argument that - so far, at least - he's having one of the worst seasons by an outfielder in Red Sox history. Hard to believe it, but he's got some numbers to back it up.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Josh Beckett, a lonely nation turns its eyes to you...

I don't think it's hyperbole to say that tonight's game is huge. Beckett needs to come in and pitch like he's capable of pitching and shut down the Rays. Someone needs to turn this team around and he's only pitcher on our staff that's capable of doing this (being the proverbial "stopper"). Lester's the only one who might be close but I just have no faith in his ability to pitch big in big games.

In other Sox news, this is interesting: sounds like Buchholz will be throwing a bullpen session this weekend with an eye towards becoming a long reliever in the playoffs. If this really happens, then we could use a combo of Aceves and Buchholz as a starter, which I like MUCH more that Miller and Weiland.

I haven't heard any news on Bedard? Is he still hurt?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

race night

this is the third time this year i've been signed up to race with todd.  the first time was march.  i pulled my hamstring in february and sat that one out.  the next one was in june.  high fever, chills, sore throat and body aches left me making a last minute (literally) decision to bag it.  this time, it's the calf...  but i'm racing.  it won't be the rain nor thunder nor lightening nor legs that stop me from running tonight....

(maybe i need to stop signing up for races with todd?)

anyway, looking forward to getting a run in, as i haven't done that much at all lately.  going to try out a compression sleeve.  nothing else has worked, so maybe this will?  a report will follow.

regardless, i look forward to seeing todd hammer through yet another blistering race and look forward to getting some miles underfoot (for a chance), even if i keep it slow and sure.  i'm rooting for todd to take a top 5 (top 3 even) in the AG!  (the better he does, the higher up he'll be in the beer line!)

Josh Reddick: Wrestler

Presented without comment:

"Josh Reddick doesn’t only sit on a Triple H-themed folding chair in the middle of the Red Sox clubhouse and he didn’t only buy Dustin Pedroia an autographed Ric Flair robe off eBay earlier this season. Nope, he also apparently spends time thinking about his own wrestling costume, just in case a career change comes along.

“Obviously I’d have to put on about 30 more pounds,” he told’s Jessica Camerato. “I feel like I’d be one of those high-flying guys that just jumps up off the ropes all the time doing all kinds of crazy flips, that kind of thing. I’d be loud — I’d have to be loud. The quiet guys don’t really make it a whole lot. [I would] probably wear the standard Speedo with kneepads and boots. It’d have to be red. Red’s been my color since I don’t know how long.”"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction."
- William James, as chosen by Scott Jurek as the Young Gun's unofficial creed as detailed on Born to Run, p. 112

Monday, September 12, 2011

Running and Breathing

"Christopher McDougall's hugely popular book, Born to Run, tells a very entertaining story. McDougall is a dazzling writer, at least in the arena of gonzo journalism. But as a long-distance runner, it seems that when he wrote his book, he was something of a newbie. Nothing wrong with that, but when someone attempts to explain a complex process to hundreds of thousands of others who include many other relative newbies, there are some risks. Like getting it quite wrong about how a good runner breathes."

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I think it finally hit me that, less than a month from now, I'm on the slate to run 31 miles in the woods.

Or if not that, maybe it's the weather. But regardless, for some reason, I've been really insanely enthusiastic to get out and train. This week, I managed to cover 40 miles. 40 miles! (Actually, 40.01!) OK, a lot of marathon training programs call for more. But I still find it unbelievable, given that, just a few years ago, the idea of running 7 miles/week seemed barely attainable.

I do think that this is the peak in my preparation for the 50k. I've never run more than 29.4 miles in a week before, and that was back in June. So I've already totally broken the rule not to increase one's mileage more than 10% in a given week, and that means I've been lucky to avoid injury. But injury or no, I can definitely feel the wear and tear this week has taken on me. So, the plan is to take it easy for the next five days; run a long run (25 miles?) over the weekend; and then begin my taper.

I do wish I had been training this intensely earlier in the summer, but for a variety of reasons it just wasn't feasible. I have no doubt that I will finish the 50k, even if not as fast as I could have otherwise done. I must say, though, I am really curious to find out how I do.

Canal Diggers 2011

The results from the Canal Diggers 2011 5K are in. Here's what I was able to accomplish:
Time: 19:24.7
Pace: 6:16
Place: 21
Division: 6 out of 100
I'm obviously pretty happy with the results. Might try doing some speed work before my next 5K to see if I can't improve on that. I'd say that I'd see if I couldn't improve in my division - the top three finishers make some money after all! - but the 5th place 30-39 year old finished in 17:45. That's faster than I was able to run a 5K when I was 17, when I ran a 17:58 in the VT XC State Championship. Yikes!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Carbo Loading

Since I'm running a 5K this Saturday (Canal Diggers in Worcester), I ate my favorite carbo loading dinner: penne with Bove's Vodka Sauce. So. Good.

What do you like to eat the night(s) before a race?

quick hits

i liked joel's recent approach of book review; 1 or 2 lines that give me all the info i need.  i'm going to try the same (for lack of time), hopefully to almost as good a result:

  • Three Cups of Deceit (Jon Krakauer):  this is Jon Krakauer's exposé of Greg Mortenson's book Three Cups of Tea, which if you don't know about, no point in reading this. For the most part, i was absolutely sucked in by Mortenson's accounts of his time in Pakistan, thought of him as a great man and fully supported his initiatives.  Krakauer's book has certainly changed my opinion of this man...  quite considerably, in fact.  i do still think great work is being done, though.  anyway, if you've read Three Cups of Tea, this is a must read.
  • Town House (Tish Cohen):  this was one of those mcsweeny's books i found for $.99 cents in the kindle store.  it's clear why it was that price.  only made it half way through before giving up.
  • Kapitoil (Teddy Wayne):  i don't know whether it's because i can relate to the characters in it or what, but i absolutely loved this book.  it's about a man from Quatar who comes to the US to work on some Y2K fixes for a huge financial firm.  He ends up creating a program that automatically trades oil futures based on news trends to a great profit.  The story was laugh out loud funny at points, sort of like a funny version of the Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid (also a great book, on a more serious note).  best book i've read in a while, purely entertaining and quite interesting in it's (ok, pretty well known) social commentary.
  • Ten-Thousand Saints (Eleanor Henderson):  Joel pointed this book out, and because of how i grew up and the things i was associated with, this sounded spot on for a novel i'd really get into.  much like the highly lauded Welcome to the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, this book fell well short of my expectations.  i liked both books, don't get me wrong; but i don't understand the incredible high praise they got.  10,000 saints, for example, seemed like a cheap, plastic imitation of a childhood i grew up living and breathing...  something so raw that i yearned to see it captured in print.  alas...  
next 3 books i'm reading are 86'd, by Dan Fante (John Fante's son), Everything is Going to be Great, by Rachel Shukert and The Art of Fielding, a baseball novel by Chad Harbach.

running, red sox sunday

this past sunday should have been a dream.  and, really, it was, if i'm thinking bigger picture.

i woke up early and ran the tavern to tavern 5K.  later that afternoon i dressed up the lad and my wife, son and i all went to fenway to watch the red sox play (my son's first sox game).

the weather was quite humid, but, we're new englanders, we're accustomed to just about anything.  having to hold back at the race wasn't enjoyable, but, i'm really glad i did.  i never do that, really...  i'm usually a pedal to the metal kind of guy, the kind of guy who get's overuse injuries all the time.  but i started out of the blocks pretty fast and kept that pace up for near 2 miles.  at that point, i felt the leg start to burn like i'd been shot in it, so i slowed to a walk for a bit, then slowly jogged my way in.  for some reason, my official time didn't post on the results, but even with the portion walked, i didn't do too badly.  the best thing is that i proved to myself that i can still go fast (fast is relative, of course, i should say fast for me!) and i didn't push my leg into a bad state.

the sox game was a hot one, but we were prepared for that.  the only issue i had was with the level of play.  lackey was on the mound, and the bats weren't working.  we lost handily...  but hey, we were there, and my son was a great little boy the whole time.

all in all, could have been worse.  here's hoping i have a lot more of those sundays to come in the future!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wild Card

Oddly, the Red Sox are better on the road (43-27, 0.614) than they are at home (42-29, 0.592). So maybe they should be resting up and intentionally taking the wild card?

Motor City Here We Come?

I didn't realize it until I looked at the standings, but Detroit has been on a tear. So, there is a reasonable possibility we could be playing them in round 1, instead. So how do we stack up?

May 18 (home): win (1-0, WP: Bard)
May 19 (home): win (4-3, WP: Papelbon)
May 26 (away): win (14-1, WP: Aceves)
May 27 (away): win (6-3, WP: Wakefield)
May 29 (away): win (4-3, WP: Albers)
May 29 (away): loss (0-3, LP: Beckett)

It looks like we do pretty well against the Tigers, but we came up against them while we were hot, and even then, there were a lot of close games.

Here's how our potential starters fared:

Beckett: 2.25 (12.0 IP)
Lester: (0 IP)
Lackey: (0 IP)
Bedard: 3.18 (17.0 IP)
Wakefield: 2.57 (7.0 IP)
Miller: (0 IP)
Buchholz: 2.08 (13.0 IP)

That's an awful nice looking set of numbers. However, if Detroit manages to get their rotation set (which they should, since they are 8 games up in their division), then Verlander would be pitching twice. So far this year, he's pitched 15.2 innings against the Red Sox, with a 1.72 ERA. That's kind of scary.

Deep in the Heart of Texas

It's looking more and more like we'll be playing the first round of the playoffs in Texas. So, here's a summary of how the regular season games went:

April 1 (away): Loss (5-9, LP: Bard)
April 2 (away): Loss (5-12, LP: Lackey)
April 3 (away): Loss (1-5, LP: Buchholz)
August 22 (away): Loss (0-4, LP: Bedard)
August 23 (away):Win (11-5, WP: Lackey)
August 24 (away): Win (13-2, WP: Beckett)
August 25 (away): Win (6-0, WP: Miller)
September 2 (home): Loss (0-10, LP: Miller)
September 3 (home): Win (12-7, WP: Bedard)
September 4 (home): Loss (4-11, LP: Lackey)

They're a tough opponent for us, no doubt, and there are a lot of high scoring games, usually decided in the early innings. As for our possible starting pitchers, here are their ERAs against Texas this year:

Beckett: 1.50 (6.0 IP)
Lester: 8.44 (5.1 IP)
Lackey: 11.15 (15.1 IP)
Bedard: 4.50 (24.0 IP)
Wakefield: 1.50 (6.0 IP)
Miller: 7.04 (7.2 IP)
Buchholz: 5.68 (6.1 IP)

(Note that Lester's only game against Texas was the season opener, and Lester always starts out poorly.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


So, for the time being our rotation is as follows:



Monday, September 5, 2011

What Makes Murakami Addicting?

I was in a weird mood the other night, and so didn't want to continue reading You Don't Love Me Yet (Lethem's excellent rock and art and love novel), so, in anticipation of IQ84, I blew the dust off of Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and lost myself in the first two chapters. I mean, seriously lost myself: I stayed up way too late because I got lost in that Murakami groove.

This morning, I pondered: what is it about his writing that is so mesmerizing? I mean, it's not like his prose is anything unique; on the contrary, some of the descriptions are so bland that they verge on cliche. For instance:
"An old, brown, withered Christmas tree stood in the corner of one garden. Another had become the dumping ground for every toy known to man, the apparent leavings of several childhoods. There were tricycles and toss rings and plastic swords and rubber dolls and tortoise dolls and little baseball bats. One garden had a basketball hoop, and another had fine lawn chairs surrounding a ceramic table." p.13
There are portions of his novels that just go on and on like this. In fact, to me his uninspiring novels (I'm looking at you, Dance Dance Dance) border on boring for this very reason. What I think it is is that this familiarity of prose (can't think of a better way to put it) really puts you in the mindset of his typical protagonist, a "boring" male in his 30s who is a bit of a stranger to himself, into routines, etc. This sucks you into a certain ordered mindset, and the bizarre events start occurring - and they do! - the juxtaposition is that much more jarring. You see this in great effect in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, where the "normal" chapters are interspersed with the "fantasy" chapters and while they tell completely different stories, the manner of telling is exactly the same.

This is a long way of saying that to me, it's really the plot of his novels that is so engaging. Bizarre occurrences and complete normality live side by side with no real explanation and after a while just start to make sense in a strange way. Think "Johnny Walker" and "Colonel Sanders" in Kafka on the Shore and how they fit into the novel. Critics writing about Murakami bandy about labels like "dream-like" and "magical realism" (which always makes me think of "Latin" authors (think Gabriel García Márquez) but I think what Murakami is trying to do is different - it's more subtle, subconscious, and ironic. And I just can't get enough of it!

In just the first chapter of TWUBC, the narrator is called multiple times by someone who wants to talk dirty to him and exclaims that "Ten minutes... is all we need to understand each other." He makes spaghetti and listens to Rossini and tells us about his lost cat and boring job. He falls asleep in the yard of a 16-year old girl who puts him to sleep by whispering about "the lump of death... something round and squishy, like a softball, with a hard little core of dead nerves. I want to take it out of a dead person and cut it open and look inside. I always wonder what it's like." p. 20

This type of writing combines the boring and cliche with the bizarre and unlikely, and presents it all equivalently. Most of his writing is ambiguous, as if the author himself wasn't entirely sure what it all means. To foax like me, who loves to try and fill in the blanks, it's a heady brew.

 Does this make sense to you? What draws you to Murakami? What keeps you coming back for more? What's your favorite book of his? (For the record, mine alternates between TWUBCand Kafta on the Shore.)

Update: Edited to correct spelling mistakes. Blogger's new interface doesn't really work well with Chrome's spellchecker.

Running Makes me Stupid

I'll just put this out there. When I exert my legs on a long run, my brain seems to take a break.

Today, for instance, I set out for my long run without a clear goal in mind. But I was feeling pretty good after the first ten miles, so I decided that I would continue on until I got to 75% of the distance of my upcoming 50k. After several minutes of struggling with the math in my head, I finally calculated that 75% of 31 miles is 22.75 miles.

It wasn't until I was in the car on the way home that I realized my mathematical error.

And it's not just math. Several weeks ago, I arrived at my doorstep after a long run and came inside panting. After I announced to my wife how far I had run, she asked me what route I took. I responded that I had several times around "that long green area in the middle of town where all the people are walking." She looked at me quizzically. "Do you mean the mall?" "Yeah," I said, "the mall. That's what they call it. I couldn't remember."

I'd like to think that this is a normal, easily explainable thing, perhaps caused by all the blood being directed to my muscles rather than my head. But I have never noticed it talked about on blogs or in runners' magazines, so maybe it's just me.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I ran 5k tonight and managed a new personal best - a 7:56/mile pace. A year ago, I couldn't even imagine the idea of going faster than 8:00/mile over that distance.

I still can't conceive of 6:17 and will never even come close. But it's pretty fun getting faster over short distances (and pretty funny that I am getting interested in short distances while you guys are moving toward longer ones).

Are there any strategies you recommend for further picking up the pace?

Recent Reads

A few quick thoughts on the books while I read in Greece.

The Child in Time is by far my favorite novel by Ian McEwan. Most likely, it is because it is his least focused. Well worth reading if you are looking for soemthing new.

Troubles, by J.G. Farrell, is engaging but overrated. Perhaps if I was British and more interested in the Irish question, I would think differently.

The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, turns out to be more of a random collection than I had hoped. Good for subway reading, though.

Sex and the River Styx is gorgeously written, but gets repetitive: each essay explores exactly the same ideas about the environment and about aging. Worth buying, but to maximize your enjoyment, put this on your bedside table and read on essay every month or so.

Outsider in Amsterdam turned out to be one of the least rewarding mystery novels I've read in a long time. Very hard to understand the positive reviews for this one.