Saturday, December 22, 2012

TNF 50-miler -- Great Falls Loop

Eric and I are planning to run the Washington, D.C. North Face Endurance Challenge Gore-Tex 50-Miler on June 2, 2013.

 Part of the course is made up of a 7-mile loop in Great Falls Park that is repeated 3 times.  I went out today to scout it out.

With no further explanation, I hereby dump the following photos:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

eBooks and the Library

David Vinjamuri, writing at Forbes, points out that how libraries lend books will change as more and more people read eBooks. The problem is that neither pricing nor usage has stabilized  as a result, libraries are spending a significant amount of money on eBooks that a limited (but growing!) amount of patrons use, and publishers are looking to charge higher prices - and dictate more limitations - for eBooks than they do for printed books. Money quote:
For better or worse, Big Six publishers are unlikely to adopt a pricing model for eBooks that mirrors how print books are sold to libraries.  But current pricing and lending restrictions unfairly penalize libraries to the detriment of publishers and readers.  A system based on actual use would more fairly allocate cost and risk as long as eBooks are not governed by the First Sale doctrine.
Personally, despite reading more and more eBooks, I use the library less and less because I don't really understand the lending process and so few eBooks are available for lending. It's a problem that will need to be solved at some point, between the lack of eBooks at the library, the question about what happens to eBooks when an account goes dormant, and other factors, a real availability issue may be starting to take shape.

H/t to the Dish for pointing out the article. Also interesting at the Dish is the reading trends graphic.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why Mike Napoli?

Like many of you, i've been a bit perplexed about why the Sox have been showing such interest in Mike Napoli. After all, he's on the wrong side of 30 and only hit .227 last year with just a .343 OPS. Doesn't seem to make sense for a rebuilding team. However, Alex Speer at WEEI explains the rationale. The whole thing is worth reading, but here's the money quote:
"...Napoli represents a perfect storm when it comes to the Sox’ interest in pursuing a competitive team for 2013 that doesn't impair the team’s long-term outlook. As a first baseman, he plays the position of greatest need in the Sox organization. Signing him to a multi-year deal likely wouldn't block the progress of anyone in the Sox system for at least a couple years. And as a player who won’t cost a signing team a draft pick, he represents a way of addressing a key shortcoming of the Sox without impairing the team’s ability to continue to accumulate prospects."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Evolution of My Running

It’s been almost a month and a half since the New RiverTrail 50k.  It’s been a month and a half since I have been training for anything, running hard or seriously or even blogging about running.  And yet, I’ve never been more “in love” with running.

The NRT 50k was an evolution of sorts in my still-young running life.  Sure, I started to come apart towards the end, probably didn’t fuel well enough and am still somewhat hobbled by the physical after-effects of training for and racing in that race.  Regardless, it can be counted as no less than the best running experience I have had to date.

Strangely, since running that race, the feeling I crave from running, the feeling I most want to feel when out for a run is the feeling I had at my lowest point in that race (mile 27).  I was down and out, just passing by the mileage marker of my longest ever run, under-fueled, limping and completely isolated (after having spent most of the first 3 hours of the race with some great folks).  I was struggling.

I just kept reminding myself, “I choose to do this, and I do it because I love it; This is what I’m here for, this is what I trained for.”

And the training paid off.  And that’s what makes me want to be back in that place, testing my training, testing my mind, my ability to persevere; testing my love of running.

The year is winding down now and there are no significant goals left to accomplish.  My mileage for the year will be well above the goal I had set at the beginning of the year.  I’ve run all the races I had planned to run.  I had some great experiences and some bad experiences.  Most importantly, learned a heck of a lot about how and why I run and running in general. 

Heading into 2013, I’m already focusing on a 24 week training cycle, starting the very first day of the year (just before that, actually), targeting at getting me ready for the North Face Endurance Challenge50 mile race in Washington, DC.  I’ll be lucky enough to run that race with Joel again, and we’ll go through our (vastly different) training cycles together as well.

Going into 2012, the focus was on running longer.  The hope was that I could run longer and lose only minimal speed.  What I learned, quite unfortunately, is that I lose quite a bit of speed the longer I run, much more than I had hoped.  Training for a 50 mile race is going to have to be about abandoning any idea of speed altogether.

I never fully grasped the idea of “running by feel” before the NRT 50k.  Call it a result of being under or over-trained for races, but the way I felt in races leading up to that one could only be characterized using negative terms.  If I were running by feel, I wouldn’t be running at all, it would seem.  But in stretching my runs out longer than I ever thought possible, I’ve started to realize just how amazing the human body is.  I haven’t quite determined if “running by feel” is fully coupling the body and mind, or fully de-coupling the body and mind.  The reality is that there are most likely times when coupling works best, and other times when de-coupling works best…  and it’s that adaptability that really defines running by feel.

Running by feeling really blows open the doors on my enjoyment of running, however.  Forgetting about the watch, about whether I’m running too fast or too slow for goal pace and focusing about my perceived effort has allowed me to become much more in tune with my body and with my surroundings.  This is especially true on trails, when not being in touch with my body and surroundings will result in a face plant.  Some days, after I get back from the run, upload it and see what transpired, I’m quite amazed at how much faster or slower the run is than what I perceived.  But I think the value of understanding how much effort you are exerting relative to how much energy you have in reserve, how to properly push the pace when you are hurting, and back off it (even when you are not hurting) to ensure you’re going to be able to finish and run the race you want to run is fully supported by training in this manner, and so it will be my motif during this training cycle.

I’m also working on my Metabolic Efficiency.  There was an article in October’s Ultrarunning magazine (one of the best running magazines out there, in my opinion, for runners of any distance) about how to train your body to become more efficient at burning fat as fuel.  This makes perfect sense to me.  If my stomach is off and I can’t take in calories for a period of time, I want to be able to keep pushing on without taking a huge physical or mental toll.  I want my body to operate as efficiently as possible in all conditions, and I realize just feeling comfortable on my training runs isn’t going to get me there.  So, for the past 2 weeks and for the next four, I’ll be eating a (vegetarian, as always) diet high in protein (with a bit more fat than usual) and lower in carbs than I normally eat.  I won’t fuel specifically for any training run, nor will I fuel during any training run.  Too, I’ll be running SLOWLY (so as to keep my heart-rate in the right zone for optimal ME training) and for a duration between 1 hr 30 min and 2 hrs for as many runs as I can.  This should lead right into the beginning the training cycle for the 50 miler, so the timing is perfect.  Generally, I would just build a cardiovascular base before a training cycle anyway, so it’s not terribly different from what I would normally plan, with the exception of the nutritional aspect.

Training for and racing in the 50-miler is going to take up the first half of next year.  I plan to throw in a 50k race in that time (hopefully the TARC Spring Classic) and possibly a fast half marathon with Todd (the Quincy Half again?).  Beyond that, I don’t yet know.  Maybe I’ll try for another marathon at the end of next year, see if I really can run as fast as I want to run for that distance?  We’ll see.  I think a lot depends on how the 50 miler goes... I could end up signing up for a 100 miler, or I could end up hanging up the shoes altogether.

But for now, I’m loving running more than I ever have, and I feel so lucky to have had such a great and relatively injury free year of consistent running (haven’t had a single week without logging at least one run all year).  I’m really looking forward to tackling the 50 mile distance and figuring out where I want to go with my running from there.  Onward!!

Book Review: "Now Wait For Last Year" by Philip K. Dick

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. -  Philip K. Dick
It’s hard to relate how strange it feels to be immersed in a Philip K. Dick novel. In both subject matter and style, he’s a very eccentric writer. At his best, his books are journeys into paranoiac alternate realities, containing one plausible mind-bending idea after another, but you still have to forgive him a lot – his awkward turns of phrases, the continually jumping from one topic to another, his obsessions with overbearing, bitchy women, etc. In addition, he fancies himself an experimentalist. This means that many of the bizarre and silly things that occur in his books are often the result of him “playing” with form rather that extensions of his sometimes poor writing.

But I’m selling him short. Now Wait For Last Year is a good novel. It tells the tale of Eric Sweetscent, an artiforg (artificial organ) surgeon working for Gino Molinari, the leader of the Earth, who has allied with the wrong group of aliens in a struggle for control of the galaxy. Most of the book centers upon Molinari’s efforts to keep these alien “allies” from overrunning the earth forces by sacrificing his health. But, this being Dick, it also deals with misadventures with JJ-180, an instantly addictive drug that causes you to slip backwards or forwards in time. These two threads twist around each other in bizarre ways as Dick creates a multi-layered reality that leaves you standing on unsteady ground, never knowing who – or what – to trust.

Dick loved chaos, and was one of the first proponents that the future will basically be an extension of the present with all of its political quagmires, shoddy craftsmanship, and corrupted power structures – but with cooler technology. He also insisted that the fake had as much validity as the real. In other words, he felt that the social fantasies that we make up in our heads end up replacing our reality, leading to some serious disconnects when we do abut up against “reality.”  He combines these ideas together in a heady brew that – like his best novels – lead you to false conclusions and uncertainty so that you acutely experience the same feelings as the protagonist as he struggles with political, emotional, and temporal problems. For this reason, I don't want to give too much away about the plot since to do so would rob you of this experience.

Having said that, I was surprised at how powerful and deep Now Wait for Last Year is – it carries real psychological heft. Dick’s novels at times go too far, leaving you with shallow characters and tinny prose, but not here. For instance, the mutually destructive relationship between Sweetscent and his wife Kathy is compelling because you can tell that Dick has lived it (he was married five times in his short life). Similarly, the oppressive nature of the book's military situation drives its characters towards the darkness: when Sweetscent meets up with Molinari for the first time, they bond over their “yearning for death. [They] could envision it as a release—the only dependable release that existed…” p. 56

I loved the trip of Now Wait For Next Year, but it’s hard for me to recommend to people because it was such a bizarre experience. If you’re interested in Dick, you might do best to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep or Martian Time-Slip first. Or you can wait for the movie!

Cross posted on Thought Ambience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: "The Stand" by Stephen King

Many Stephen King fans regard The Stand as his greatest novel. After finally completed the 1153 pages (of the Expanded Edition), I can see why they think so, even if I don’t agree with them. Certainly everything that makes Stephen King such a powerful and interesting writer is in place here—the propulsive narrative that drives you to keep turning the pages, the compelling character relationships, the chilling elements of the supernatural and horror – but, to me, the book is just a hot mess. A fascinating mess, but a mess nonetheless.

King kicks it off by tracking a plague—dubbed Captain Trips—as it narrowly escapes from a Top Secret military facility to infect the rest of the world. The way that King coldly details the spread of the disease, the effect it has on people, and the devastation that results is chillingly powerful. This is the spookiest part of the book – as when Stu, trapped in a CDC containment center, wanders through halls of dead and dying victims while searching for the exit.

After people have (mostly) stopped dying and the .04% of humanity that are immune to the plague take stock of what’s happened, they all start dreaming one of two dreams: of Randall Flagg, a “dark man” setting up camp in Las Vegas, or of Mother Abigail, a Christ-like 104 year old woman. Survivors are drawn towards one side or another depending on their nature, with King setting up a confrontation between them. He obviously wants to explore religious ideas, and what he calls “rising above adversity through faith” so, to this end, and despite his well-deserved reputation for wallowing in the darkness, King spends a long time with the “good” folks who congregate in Boulder, CO to re-establish society. This attempted rebirth of America is interesting, and SK is typically at his best when describing the interconnections between people in close knit environments, but the book’s pace falters as King includes too much sociology and politics while neglects Flagg’s group. The rest of the novel repeats this pattern: lots of interesting stretches that ultimately don’t really serve an important point in the big good vs. evil showdown – the Stand – that concludes the book.

In short, I liked The Stand, but I feel that King could have cut out a lot of material and ended up with a taught thriller in line with the gripping first third of the book. Many, many people have fallen in love with The Stand, but although I liked it, call me a simple acquaintance.

Cross Posted on Thought Ambience

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: "Rollback" by Robert J. Sawyer

I picked up Robert J. Sawyer’s Rollback on the strength of two things: 1) the author’s pedigree (he’s won the Best Novel Hugo and Nebula awards) and 2) the fascinating premise. The book takes place far in the future when mankind has received a second transmission from Sigma Draconis. Sarah Halifax, the woman who decoded the first message is now 87, and so a rich benefactor offers to pay for a “rollback procedure” – medically improving the body so that you’re physically 25 again – so that she can continue the correspondence with our neighbors 18.1 light years away. Sarah agrees, but only if her husband Don is rolled back as well. Unfortunately, the rollback only works for Don, and the couple has to deal with the implications of their 50-year age gap as Sarah works towards deciphering the second alien message.

While Rollback was a good book – I plowed through its 300-something pages in less than a week – I was a bit disappointed that Sawyer spent so time focusing on Don. Entire chapters cover the challenges of dealing with his new youth – of being an old mind in a young body. Sarah’s predicament as an 87-year old working to decrypt the alien message - to me, the more interesting scenario - felt like an afterthought. In the end, Rollback was an interesting story, but I was hoping of more of an examination of how aging scientists would cope with challenges.

For me, the highlights of the novel were the examinations of first contact theory, even if the characters didn't so much talk to each other as much as promote theories. Still, I liked the discussions about what Sigma Draconis culture would be like. Forgive the long quote, but it will give you an idea of what these sections of the book is like:
“The aliens have an obligation to let us know they’re there. …Because they’d be an existence proof that it’s possible to survive technological adolescence—you know, the period during which you have tools that could destroy your entire species but no mechanism in place yet to prevent them from ever being used. … [one] solution is that time-honored sci-fi cliché, the hive mind. … you all think with one mind. Of course, if you do that, you might even lose any notion that there could be other individuals out there. … There’s another solution too. Absolute totalitarianism. Everyone’s still got free will, but they’re constrained from doing anything with it. pages 53-4
He continues this interesting line of thought by offering another way to survive technological adolescence: by refusing to evolve as a species through a lack of procreation, etc. that Sarah calls “transcend[ing] Darwin.” In the end, the novel neatly wraps itself up with some touching pictures of mortality and a continued picture into what life will be like several hundred years from how. It’s an entertaining little self-contained book that I’d recommend to anyone with an interest in first contact, even if it didn't blow me away.

Cross-posted on Thought Ambience

Monday, November 5, 2012

Papi on Bobby V

Yet another reason why I like the big guy: he's just got a way with words.

To recap, in his first interview after being fired by the Sox, Bobby V. threw Ortiz under the bus by claiming that Papi gave up on the team after hurting his Achilles tendon. It's an absurd claim, given that Achilles injuries take forever to heal and the Sox didn't even want him playing at that point in the season (when the playoffs were a distant dream) just in case he hurt himself more seriously. Regardless, Ortiz spoke out about it recently:
“… after he went on national TV to say what he said, he sent me a text message trying to tell me that it was the media trying to change things. I did not respond to the message and I said to myself, this guy must have some mental issues or needs medicine or something? I said, I am dealing with someone crazy and I am not going to drive myself crazy, so it is better if I leave it alone.”
As the folks at hardballtalk point out, its hard to claim that what you said wasn't represented correctly when you said those words directly on camera! But then again, nobody ever accused Valentine of being a paragon of consistency.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Papi Returns!

David Ortiz will remain in Boston for two more years. I'm not sure that anyone is really surprised by this - Ortiz is a Boston institution and is still one of the best hitters in all of baseball. Could you have imagined the outcry if he had left for another team?

The risk is, of course, that his 37 year old body will betray him eventually, but after some slow starts the last few years, Ortiz has committed himself to staying in shape and has reaped the dividends  Consider these stats, as relayed by ESPN Boston:

  • In the past three seasons (2010-2012), he trailed only Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Jose Bautista and Josh Hamilton in on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS).
  • In the past three seasons, he trailed only Cabrera, Votto, Bautista, Albert Pujols and Ryan Braun in OPS+, which measures OPS adjusted to a player's home park. 
  • In the past three seasons, he trailed only Cabrera, Bautista, Hamilton, Votto and Braun in slugging percentage.
  • In the past three seasons, he trailed only Bautista, Giancarlo Stanton, Cabrera and Hamilton in isolated power (ISO), which measures the percentage of extra-base hits a player has.
That's a damned good hitter! I'm convinced the Sox are at least a year or two away from contending again, but in the meantime I'm very happy that good 'ol #34 will continue to hold down our DH spot. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Race Report: Ashland Half Marathon

Last Sunday, over 700 people toed up to the original starting line of the Boston Marathon for the inaugural Ashland Half Marathon. Sponsored by the Ashland Redevelopment Authority, the race is looking to raise funds to enhance Marathon Park – a small green space on the banks of the Sudbury River – and also create a marathon hall of fame at the Ashland VFW. To me, it was my first long race since the Vermont City Marathon, and since I live in Ashland, one that would give me a fun home court advantage.

Sunday broke with overcast and chilly weather, with intermittent rain falling as Hurricane Sandy inched its way north, so I broke out the running tights and jogged down to the starting line with some friends. We were running late, but that was okay – since we were sharing the start line with folks running a 5K race, my strategy was to avoid getting caught up in a fast start in favor of going slow for a few miles and seeing where I stood. Since I missed my usual stretching, these first few miles – luckily relatively flat – would also serve as my warm up.

Regardless, I felt good as Bill Rogers mocked the drawing of the original line in the dirt way back in 1897, and soon enough we were off! Looking at my splits, I actually ran faster than I expected for the first few miles, feeling relaxed and enjoying the view of my hometown and all of the people that had braved the weather to cheer us on. I felt good and loose and started to seriously pick up the pace at mile 3.5 when Cedar street starts a long slow climb up to Eliot. Since a majority of my training is in the hills of Ashland, what I was hoping would be the case came true: almost everyone that I passed during the race was on a hill. So striding steadily up the hills on Cedar and Eliot Streets, I was passing people – and passing them for good. It was a good feeling.

The first challenge for me was the big downhill on South Street as we worked our way down to the Ashland Reservoir. My right knee is not a fan of running downhill, so I try to take these slopes easy, but I also know that gravity is providing free energy if you but lean forward and open your stride. I also took advantage of the rest to put on my headphones, which always help to motivate me through the hard times in a race. And it was a good thing I did. The rain started in earnest as ran by the Ashland gravel quarry on Spring Street, and I found myself running by myself. My usual tactic is to eye the runner in front of me with an eye towards picking them off, but the next runner was easily 200 yards in front of me by the time we got to the 135 straightaway, so I hunkered down with my tunes and focused on pushing a steady pace.

It wasn't until we hit the next hill that I was in a crowd again. At 9.5 miles, we climbed a sharp hill over the train tracks and started running towards my house. I run this stretch of road all the time, and knew that there was a killer climb up Green Street just past the 10 mile marker, so I mentally focused on crushing this hill. It sucked, as I knew it would, but I passed three people on that quarter mile of 12% grade and gasped my way down Green Street towards the highlight of the race – my family and Eric were cheering us on at the turn onto Acton Street. Disaster almost struck as I rolled my ankle in a pothole hidden by the fallen leaves, but the adrenaline of seeing my boys’ face as they cheered me on kept me moving.

However, at this point, the lack of speed workouts was catching up with me. I knew that there was one last good hill – the stretch of Myrtle and the 270 degree turn onto Winter – so I kept pushing, knowing that the last mile was a big downhill. I did well – passing another few runners – but I had nothing left in the tank at that point, and was passed in turn by three people as we strode downhill towards the finish. I was also concerned about the conditions; by this point, the steady rain made for some slick streets and the last thing I wanted to do was wipe out at the very end of the race. So I reluctantly watched these three runners pass me while trying to maintain what speed I could. I didn't think I had anything left in me at all until I saw the finish line and the time reading 1:35... my PR is just under 1:38, so I knew I had it, so I gritted my mouth and punched out the last 50 yards as best I could.

I finished in 1:35:30, besting my Quincy Half Marathon time by over two minutes. 25th overall, 13th out of 89 in my age group. No word if I get bonus points of holding the upper marker of 18-39! Regardless, I’m satisfied with the results and already looking forward to my next one!

Related Posts:
The Calm Before the Storm
Race Report: Quincy Half Marathon

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Calm Before the Storm

I'm currently in the middle of a taper for the Ashland Half Marathon this Sunday. While not as intense as the taper for a marathon, it's still very refreshing to go out for a run with the goal to run as slow as possible. In fact, it's been challenging for me to run slow - without a partner, my tendency is to push an 8:00 pace. It's even more tempting to go fast when your legs are filled with energy and racing like a motor car at a suburban stoplight. So on my last two runs I've been deliberately trying to slow down, only occasionally opening up the throttle for 100 yards to remind the body what it's like to go fast.

This concentration on going slow should pay off on Sunday, because my strategy is to start out SLOW. Negative splits, baby! It's going to be hard, because I think that the half-marathoners are sharing a starting line with the folks running the 5K, but I want to replicate my success in the Quincy Half Marathon - and in that one, scared of a potential leg injury, I started out very slow and slowly picked up the pace throughout the race. I'm cautiously optimistic for Sunday - I think I could do really well, given my familiarity with the course, but don't want to get overconfident, since I think that's partly what lead to my injury in the Vermont City Marathon.

Anyways, I can't wait for Sunday. It looks like the storms are going to hold off until Monday, leaving us with cool, windy conditions: my favorite type of running weather! I'm prepared and ready and will report back next week.

Related Posts:
Race Report: Quincy Half Marathon
Race Report: Quincy Half Marathon (Another Runner's Take)
Coming Soon: The Ashland Half Marathon

Friday, October 19, 2012

The New Language of the Cinema

David Mitchell's reaction to having Cloud Atlas adapted into film:
"None of the major changes the film made to my novel “threw me off” in the sense of sticking in my craw. I think that the changes are licensed by the spirit of the novel, and avoid traffic congestion in the film’s flow. Any adaptation is a translation, and there is such a thing as an unreadably faithful translation; and I believe a degree of reinterpretation for the new language may be not only inevitable but desirable. In the German edition of my last novel, my translator Volker Oldenburg rendered a rhyming panoramic tableau by rescripting the items in order to make it rhyme in German too. He judged that rhythm mattered more than the exact items in the tableau, and it was the right call. Similarly, when the Wachowskis and Tykwer judged that in a translation (into film) of “Cloud Atlas” Zachry’s and Meronym’s future needs more certitude, then I trusted them to make the right call. They want to avoid melodrama and pap and cliché as much as I do, but a film’s payoff works differently to a novel’s payoff, and the unwritten contract between author and reader differs somewhat to the unwritten contract between filmmaker and viewer. Adaptations gloss over these differences at their peril."
It's interesting that, in general, authors appear to give movie directors benevolent license to do whatever they have to do in order to make it work the big screen. Only occasionally do you hear of big disagreements like Stephen King's hatred of Kubrick version of The Shining. It's very different than the typical reaction of the reader, who often intensely dislike having the pictures in their mind overwhelmed by the overpowering images of a movie.

Related Posts:
Cloud Atlas, Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Johnny Depp, Publisher

So anyway, Johnny Depp has decided to get into the publishing business.  Sure, why not?  The first books that have been announced for his new imprint The Unraveled Tales of Bob Dylan, by Douglas Brinkley, and House of Earth, by Woody Guthrie. 

If you have a folk-music sort of book that you've been working on, maybe you should mail Depp a manuscript. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Red Sox Postseason

So, that Red Sox season... how about that? The completely depressing nature of the Sox implosion caused a  shortage of baseball posts here at RRRS. However, now that their offseason has begun, it's time to start hoping again!

To that end, I found this Providence Journal's Guide to the Red Sox Winter to be a useful summary of the challenges facing the Sox. It says something about how awful this season was that I'm actually somewhat hopeful that the return of John Lackey might actually help us...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Searching for the anti-Valentine

The search begins.

On Friday, the Sox will interview Dodgers third-base coach, Tim Wallach.  Then, next week, they will interview former Padres/Tigers/Astros/Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus.

Unless they are just trying to sharpen their interview skills before they get serious, lets say that experience does not seem to be a priority. 

Mo Yan

This year, the Nobel prize for literature goes to Mo Yan

Happily for us, many of Mo Yan's works are available in English translation by the estimable Howard Goldblatt:

Red Sorghum
The Garlic Ballads
Big Breasts and Wide Hips
Life and Death are Wearing Me Out
The Republic of Wine
Shifu, You'll Do Anything For a Laugh

Western bookmakers, of course, had Haruki Murakami as the favorite to win.  I've never quite understood why, given that Murakami's work does not grapple with social issues in the manner of Mario Vargas Llosa, Orhan Pamuk, J.M. Coetzee, Imre Kertesz, V.S. Naipaul, and other Nobel  winners.  Perhaps just because he is a popular non-English author? 

In any case, congratulations to Mo Yan!  I look forward to reading some of his work.  For those who have a headstart on me, do you have a recommendation as to where to begin?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


From the Gloucester Times:
  • Lester’s ERA in 107 innings that Saltalamacchia caught was 5.62 compared to a 3.70 ERA in the 48 innings caught by Kelly Shoppach.
  • Clay Buchholz posted a 6.30 ERA in the 75.2 innings that Saltalamacchia caught compared to a 3.23 in the 78 innings caught by Shoppach, who was traded to the Mets during the season.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

5 days 'til 50k

Here I sit in the familiar state of madness induced by tapering from a strenuous training cycle.  Am I ready?  Am I over-trained, injured even?  Should I be running more/less right now?  Am I eating right?

I’m not a life-long runner.  I never ran in high school, never considered running for fun until I was well into my 20s.  Even then, I never took running seriously until I started racing.  I’ve never run a 50k (~31 miles) before, much less trained for racing that distance.

A tough day
I trained hard for KBVCM, but that race was a complete and utter disappointment (read: failure) for me.  Were it not for Joel’s good graces, I’d never had made the finish line, even if I did end up nearly having to crawl there.  Looking back on my training, I did everything by the book; I didn’t miss a workout. I hit every split, grunted out every single long run and every last speed workout.  I thought I did it all right. 

I spent the better part of the month after KBVCM getting ART therapy, rehabbing my legs and rethinking my approach to running.  The bitter unhappiness I felt after having put in such an arduous training cycle left me at an impasse with running:  Why work SO hard for such little result?  The moral of many “survivor” stories is “for the personal satisfaction of it”, but that isn’t the moral of this particular story.

When I started running again, I did it without obsessing about splits, without worrying whether I was hitting a predetermined weekly mileage volume.  I forgot about pace and ran for the sake of running.  I ran more on trails, in the woods, away from cars and traffic, and I was surprised to find, away from other runners.  I would often stop in the middle of a run to look at a group of turkeys off the trail, a deer grazing nearby, or just simply to take in my surroundings.  My mental state was becoming fueled by my running adventures.  I’d never in my life run slower, but I’d never in my life run for longer; not necessarily in terms of mileage, but in terms of time on feet.

The Ridge between Bonfcliff and Bond
I took a couple trips up to the White Mountains, did some serious elevation gain/loss, put in some epic solo efforts where I was either going to learn how far I could push myself, or simply crumple up in a ball right there on the trail and leave it up to everyone and everything else to determine what came next. 

I learned a lot about fueling myself on long runs, hydrating and taking in calories.  I learned about how far past the “I don’t want to” feeling I can push myself, and how that “I don’t want to” feeling comes at different times and in different ways on every run.  I learned about how my mental state is equally if not more important than my physical state for my ability to continue to push on in those “no man’s land” miles beyond where I ever thought I was capable of going.

My lungs and legs felt very strong, but I felt very slow.  When September rolled around, realizing the race was a little over a month away, I started to panic.  The New River Trail 50k is run on trails, but hardly the trails I'm used to.  The race is entirely flat, on primarily crushed gravel trails.  Running 25 miles through the White Mountains involves quite a bit of hiking and technical sure-footing.  Running up and down hills on trails engages different muscle groups at different times, evening out the fatigue and allowing for a bit of recovery as you shift pitches.

Charles River Path
For the marathon, I had trained on flat pavement.  Knowing how flat the 50k was going to be, I thought it would be best to put in a few long runs on the Charles River, my go-to training course for the marathon.  I went over 20 miles on 4 runs in September, focusing on keeping moving, only stopping at crosswalks or when otherwise absolutely necessary.  Two of those runs where 25 mile runs, both of which were quite slow and both of which were really enjoyable.  The other 2 20 mile runs where done on consecutive days, back-to-backs as I’ve heard them called by many people who recommend them for building endurance for longer races.  I got up very early for each of these runs and did most of my fueling on the run.  I took in 3 gels per hour and no other calories on each of them.  I ran with a hydration pack filled with 3 liters of water enhanced with electrolyte tabs.  I had high-points, low points, falls, rain storms, small injuries, but not once did I bonk and not once did I feel like I wasn’t going to be able to do it.  In fact, I would count all four of these runs as great experiences, through which I learned simple principles of endurance and mental toughness.  (Waking up on Sunday to strap on my shoes and bang out a 20 miler after I had done it the day before was particularly inspiring).

All of these long runs were slow.  Much slower than the long runs I did in the lead up to KBVCM.  I felt slower, I FEEL slower and certainly, with the lack of speed work, I am.  How much slower is very hard to say.  A few weeks ago, Todd and I did one of the ever-popular Let’s Run, Have Fun and Be Fit series runs along the Charles River.  Last year, we did the same run, the “Halfway to Mardi Gras” race.  Last year this was a 4.2 mile race.  We had no reason to suspect it would be different this year (and I certainly didn’t read the fine print) and so when it ended after 5k, I had a little bit left in the tank.  Even so, I ran my second fastest 5k time.  5k speed has very little to do with 50k speed, but at least my lack of speed work isn’t going to be a primary concern going into this weekend’s race.

Joel running in Rock Creek Park
So, am I ready?  Writing all this out is what I’m doing to make myself feel better.  I probably pushed a bit too hard, packed a bit too much into September.  I’m certainly paying for it, as my legs don’t feel great, even after 2 weeks of a 3 week taper.  Still, I don’t think the residual fatigue or niggles up and down my lower leg will keep me from finishing the race.  Regardless, there isn’t much I can do now, we’re 5 days away; it is what it is.  I’m getting very excited for the race and really can’t wait to toe the line.  I feel very fortunate that Joel will be down there with me to run as well and glad we’ll be able to share the experience.  And I feel very happy having been through the training cycle I’ve had.  As Todd says, the training is even more important than the end goal.

Side note: After having gone through a spell where I felt like I wasn’t recovering well, where I was consistently over-tired and cranky, not able to put my heart into my runs, I did some research.  Many signs and the fact that I am a vegetarian made me a prime candidate for iron deficiency.  I started supplementing with Floradix.  I put 1 tablespoon in a glass of orange juice every morning before I drink coffee (caffeine lessens the body’s ability to absorb iron) or eat anything.  I’ve tried a variety of supplements in my life time to help a variety of symptoms; none have had such a clear effect as supplementing iron has.  It didn’t happen overnight.  It took about 4 weeks for me to notice anything, but it was clear to me then that iron is a very important part of my diet when I am training so hard.

Related Posts:

Friday, October 5, 2012

New Murakami Book Covers

Vintage has redone all of it's Murakami book covers in a standardized minimalist design by artist Noma Bar.
More information here. Murakami's books have really raised the bar for book design, IMO. Makes me wish I didn't already have most of these books on my shelves!

Related Posts:
IQ84: Paperback
Kindle Covers
Judging a Book by it's Cover

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Moving Meditation

From a fascinating NYTimes article about the search for Caballo Blanco's body:
Like the Rarámuri, True now ran in sandals, delighting in the simple act of self-propulsion, bounding along the undulating trails like a Neolithic hunter. He called it “moving meditation.” His motto was “run free,” and he did.

Running was essential to the human experience, [Blanco] had decided. Most people undervalued its importance. Running was not merely a sound cardiovascular choice in a fitness craze; it was an ancient art, part of mankind’s genetic imprint. Humans had survived across geological time because they could chase animals until the prey dropped from exhaustion.
Caballo Blanco was one of the most interesting thing about Born to Run, and this article sounds like McDougall may have gotten the inspiration for not only the story but the theory behind running presented in the book from the white horse. RIP.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Review: A Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers

I bought and read Dave Eggers A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius because of the title alone.  I felt guilty while reading it, because the book felt self-indulgent, as if I were bathing in the coolness of my own generation and I'll admit that I enjoyed the book.  In subsequent works by Eggers, I've gone from writing him off (You Shall Know Your Own Velocity, which I enjoyed, but which felt like literary candy) to establishing him as a prominent voice/author of my generation (What is the What and Zeitoun, both great [non-fiction] books IMO).

When I heard he was releasing a new novel, I was quite excited.  Could he be one of the great writers of our time?  Would this book solidify him as a literary voice much greater than the candy-peddling masses of authors out there?

Eggers, a very clear supporter of the printed and physical book, would be dismayed to know I didn't opt for the very nicely designed hard-cover, but rather the convenience of reading his new work on my Kindle.

Once I had the book, I dove right in.  I really wanted this book to wow me.

It is very easy to spot the distinctive change in Eggers voice in this book.  It is written very simply, very clearly, very straight forwardly.  The prose is highly readable and the pages turn quickly.

The novel details a business trip for our lead character Alan Clay to Saudi Arabia where he and his team are pitching hologram technology to the King.  Alan is a bit down on his luck, looking for a bright spot to redeem himself after a long, downward slide.

Alan's detached nature in this land so far from his home reminded me of Bill Murray's character in the movie "Lost in Translation".  A paranoid, young student who served as his personal driver invigorates Alan the most...  the most life we see from Alan is when his young driver takes him into the mountains, to a large house his father has build through hard work and determination, a hideaway in this case from thugs of a man who believes this driver is sleeping with his wife.  The threat of trouble, firearms and being the vastly odd-man-out all bring out something in Alan that is as close to alive as we see in the entire novel.  But it isn't authentic, it's more Alan trying hard to be something he knows he cannot be, trying hard to be someone in the eyes of people who are suspicious of him to begin with, people who he cannot help but try and win over only to push them further away.

That section was one of my favorites from the book, as Alan thinks back on his life, on building a wall in his hard with his own hands, the satisfaction he felt in doing so, only to have to destroy it for violating zoning laws.  He imposes himself on some local villagers building a wall, and while as the reader you want to believe this is going to lead to some sort of breakthrough emotionally, it leads to a sore back, to an attempt at solidarity that falls well short of intention.

There are very few scenes in this novel in which Alan appears comfortable...  not in the business meetings, not with his colleagues, not with women nor with friends.  And probably the most uncomfortable moments are those Alan spends with himself, drinking home-brewed alcohol and trying to find the right words to say to his daughter on his ex-wife's behalf.  And that basically summarizes Alan for me...  he isn't spending his energies trying to figure out how to be a better father himself, or a better man himself, in his daughter's eyes or anyone's, even HIS for that matter.  He isn't selling a product he is passionate about, doesn't work with people he bonds strongly with, isn't ever really committed to any idea, even as far as the one he is thinking right now.

I do appreciate what Eggers did in trimming the fat from this novel.  I appreciate the straight forward voice and the no frills story.  This is not, however, a "Hemingway-esque" story, as I have heard some commenters say.  There is no bravado, no success, no celebration...  no real emotion in this book.  I certainly enjoyed the read, but I never really connected with this story.  Eggers voice is a good one, being direct is great, but not at the expense of cutting out the emotional core of a novel.  Let's hope his next effort improves on that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: My Revolutions, by Hari Kunzru

After reading Hari Kunzru's God's Without Men, I was very interested in reading more of Kunzru's work.  Without too much thought to which of his previously written works I'd select, I picked up My Revolutions.  The lead character of this novel, Michael Frame (or Chris Carver, as we come to find out), doesn't present a lot of positive qualities the reader can latch on to.  He is an emotionally numb, middle aged man who barely presents the picture of working, largely being supported by his entrepreneurial wife.

The separation of his values from hers triggers memories of his youth, inserts distance between them and leads him into a chase to find his old self, or his old self in the eyes of an ex-lover, who he believes he has seen (despite being dead) on a trip to the south of France.

This vision triggers his memory of his past as a radical revolutionary, fighting against a capitalist establishment, the very embodiment of which he now sees in his wife.  So he runs away...  he escapes in search of his dead former lover, in search of some vision of himself that he wants to see, something better than what he has become.

As a reader, I'm never convinced that the "self" he is searching for is better or worse than the "self" he feels he has become.  I don't see a lot of positive qualities in either character.  This is the meat of what Hari Kunzru seems quite good at, which is to keep me reading despite not really liking the reality I'm reading about.

When describing the younger years in Michael/Chris' life, there is an absolute grittiness overwhelming any sense of the "youthful revolutionary cool" that one might expect.  Parties, love affairs, drinking, and drugs do nothing to glamorize the criminal, addiction-fueled and often violent moral righteousness he and his group of friends impose, all from the dingy dwellings they overtake.

Kunzru's ability to turn emotional revulsion into a somewhat morbid curiosity, be it to find out how low the character can sink, or whether he'll emerge in any way more positive a light, keeps the reader plugged into this novel.  It's a page turner you never really feel good about, but don't want to walk away from either; something under the covers you wouldn't sign up to see but can't take your eyes off.

While I much prefer God's Without Men, My Revolutions was a great read.  What it confirmed most in my mind is that Kunzru is one of the most exciting authors of this generation, and I'll certainly add him to my list of must-buy authors (Mitchell, Marukami, etc..) as I eagerly await his next book.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bequething eBooks

Something I've never thought about before: when you die, what happens to your eBooks? Turns out, they might not be able to be passed onto your next-of-kin like the physical objects:
...with digital content, one doesn’t have the same rights as with print books and CDs. Customers own a license to use the digital files — but they don’t actually own them. Apple and grant “nontransferable” rights to use content, so if you buy the complete works of the Beatles on iTunes, you cannot give the “White Album” to your son and “Abbey Road” to your daughter.
According to Amazon’s terms of use, “You do not acquire any ownership rights in the software or music content.” Apple limits the use of digital files to Apple devices used by the account holder.
I knew something was fishy with eBooks because of the tight restrictions in loaning them out that obviously don't exist on physical objects, but this is even more disturbing. Part of the fun of building up a library is knowing that it's yours and that you can do with it what you will. Or is this just scaremongering? I have a hard time believing that someone who has a collection of 1000 eBooks won't be able to pass some of those along to his kids. After all, couldn't they just use the original account to access the content?

What do you think?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Club House Psychology

"We don't understand why the Red Sox played better without Nomar than with him, so we credit it to clubhouse psychology . . . . This is illogical, and it isn't really any different than attributing it to witchcraft." -- Bill James

There are any number of reasons why the Red Sox are playing so poorly.  To attribute it to clubhouse psychology is to take the easy way out.  After all, who knows what the players are thinking?

But if I was a member of the Red Sox . . . and if I saw Josh Beckett dawdle around all year . . . and then if I saw that his reward was getting traded to a long-term contender with an energetic fan base, a fun manager, a positive press corps, and owners who care about the team but don't meddle . . . well . . .

Of course, some of the very new players (Middlebrooks) and very old players (Podsednik) will never see such a sweetheart deal unless they play hard enough to get other teams interested.  But for the others who already have established records, what's the point of playing their hearts out?

If you know that the Red Sox are in rebuilding mode, and if you know you have an established record that will interest other teams, maybe its better to take a break and not try very hard.  You may just find yourself in a friendlier place to play ball.

Book Review: Brian Greene's "Hidden Reality"

The sub-title of Brian Greene's Hidden Reality is "Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos."  It's advertised as an accessible examination of the physics behind parallel universes (both the multiverse and the many-worlds theory of Quantum physics). The subject it covers is fascinating, if complex: Greene details nine actual theories that detail the existence of other universes in addition to the one we know and love. The most basic of these theories claims that if the universe is infinate, since there's only a finate number of ways that you can arrange matter, then logically patterns of matter would repeat, leading - somewhere out there - to duplication of our universe. The more complex of the theories rely on very abstract theoritical frameworks like the probability of Quantum Mechanics and String Theory. For another taste of this, get it straight from the man himself:

Greene is a good writer, and does his best to simplify the science behind these complicated theories However, it's a daunting task: string theory in particular is so abstract and antithetical to our everyday life that it's very hard to follow - particularly if you're reading the book in segments. For example, here's an interview where he attempts to explain the brane multiverse:
...the brane multiverse, in which our universe is envisioned to reside on a giant membrane, an ingredient that comes out of string theory. It’s actually a three-dimensional membrane, but thinking in two-dimensional terms is easier. Think of our universe as if it were a huge slice of bread, with all the stars and all the galaxies sprinkled across its surface. The math of string theory suggests this picture, along with the possibility that there are other universes, other slices of bread, all constituting a big cosmic loaf.  
In the book, he expands upon the three-dimensional idea by stating that "...few of us can picture two coexisting but separate three-dimensional entities, each of which could fully fill three-dimensional space." (page 130) His loaf analogy is a nice attempt, but he has to keep revisiting it whenever new details arise, until the whole thing gets incredibly complicated - just like the theory. For that reason, I can't recommend this book to the layman; it's just not an easy-to-grasp, high-level explanation of the concepts behind parallel worlds. Granted that, it is an interesting book on a fascinating subject, but in my opinion it couldn't get over the hump that simply grasping the meaning of theoretical physics can be difficult, much less following them to their logical conclusion.

Note for the Kindle edition: I found the footnotes and graphics to be problematic, mainly because you can't jump back to where you were without making note of the page number and manually entering it in. Would it really be that hard to make the footnote a two-way street? Also: there was obviously no color in the graphics. These two factors combined made me wish I had purchased the dead-tree edition of this book.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bill James and the Red Sox

Hardballtalk notes that Paul Henry wants to give Bill James more power in the Red Sox organization moving forward: Henry informed the Herald, James had fallen “out of favor over the last few years for reasons I really don’t understand. We’ve gotten him more involved recently in the central process and that will help greatly. He’s the father, so to speak, of baseball analysis and a brilliant iconoclast who looks at things differently from everyone else.”
Two quick thoughts:

  1. I wasn't even aware that James was still with the team. It's good to hear that he's still around!
  2. I wonder if his lack of influence led to the FO losing its way with the Lackey and CarlCrawford signings. I'm curious to hear what exactly his input was over the last few years.
  3. This is another good sign that the Sox are committed to James' typical method of building up their own talent and finding free agents in the rough.
Update: Over the Monster writes more eloquently about this announcement: "For John Henry to say that James had been marginalized in some way these past few seasons strongly implies that this upcoming rebuild will truly be a return to what Rob Neyer (James’ former research assistant) recently called "first principles"- namely payroll flexibility, a strong farm system and avoiding long term free agent contracts."

Friday, August 31, 2012

Adrian Beltre

The New York Times has a great profile of Adrian Beltre, noting that he is "perhaps the most underappreciated performer in baseball." 

So why did the Red Sox let him sleep away?  They claimed to have concerns about his age and his health -- but more significantly, another Adrian, with more name recognition, was available.   

Now, Adrian Gonzalez was no slouch during his tenure with the Red Sox.  But Adrian Beltre has been the better performer.  (So far this year, Gonzalez has hit .297 with 16 home runs; Beltre has hit .311 with 25 home runs.) 

If the Sox had kept Beltre, Youkilis could have kept playing 1B and perhaps would not have aged so quickly.  But then, what would the Sox do with Middlebrooks?

As they say, it's water under the bridge. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: Injnji Toesocks (Performance Series, Mid- and Original-Weight)

I'm behind the ball on this one. Months ago, the nice folks at Injnji sent us RR&RS bloggers a number of toesocks to try out. Both Eric and Joel have posted their reviews and it's time for me to chime in.

I started with with the Midweight Performance Series and, to be quite honest with you, didn't like them all that much. The construction of having a sleeve for each toe felt awkward, and the fabric between the toes rubbed together and almost gave me a blister on my middle toe. I also found them to be a bit too warm for anything other than winter running - but I tend to be hot as a default. The instructions did say to give yourself some time to adjust, and so I tried these socks a few times, but never really warmed up to them.

Given my experience with those socks, it took me a while to try the Original Weight Performance Series socks. I'm sorry I waited, because the weight change made a significant difference! The thinner material felt much more natural on my toes and didn't rub together nearly as much. They were cooler, wicking moisture more effectively for me, and fit much better in my shoes (which I like to lace up really tightly). It was wearing these socks that I discovered the fun of spreading out your toes when running, something I can do much easier in the larger toe box of my Saucony Guide 3s rather than my usual shoe (Brooks Adrenaline 12). I wear them regularly now, when trail running in particular, and enjoy the subtle increase in control that it gives me.

I was impressed with the original weight socks, and want to thank Injniji for sending them along. They're high-quality socks that are now a regular part of my running wardrobe.

Related Posts:

Review: Injinji Toesocks (outdoor, original weight, crew)
Review: Injinji Toesocks
Review: Feetures! Elite Socks
Review: Injinji Toesocks (outdoor series)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Remind Me...

... why Bobby Valentine is considered a tactical genius again? Because he sounded intelligent on Baseball Tonight?

Last night, fresh off a three-game suspension that was ostensibly about giving the closer role to Bailey, Bobby V brought in Aceves to make a two-inning save. As is his style, Aceves was able to get out of the 8th with no problem but surrendered two runs and the lead in the 9th.All this even knowing that, according to Over the Monster,
Amongst relievers with 10 or more innings pitched for the Boston Red Sox this year, Alfredo Aceves ranks 10th of 11 in ERA, 9th of 11 in FIP and xFIP. He is not simply an ineffective closer indicative of a weak bullpen, one who would ideally be shifted to lower-leverage innings in a stronger unit. Alfredo Aceves has been a bad relief pitcher in an overall strong unit.
There's a reason that basically nobody in the league uses closers to get two inning saves! In fact, the only reason I can think of for this move is that, in true Bobby V fashion, he was passive aggressively trying to teach Aceves a lesson - that he shouldn't be the closer. But I sure hope that childish reason wasn't the case...

I really, really hope that Valentine is gone at the end of the year. I see no reason for keeping him.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to Make Your Runs Longer?

It's not what you think. Boing Boing recently posted about the science behind why we perceive time to pass quickly or slowly. William Reville, emeritus professor of biochemistry at University College Cork, writes in The Irish Times that:
“Time” is related to how much information you are taking in – information stretches time. A child’s day from 9am to 3.30pm is like a 20-hour day for an adult. Children experience many new things every day and time passes slowly, but as people get older they have fewer new experiences and time is less stretched by information. So, you can “lengthen” your life by minimising routine and making sure your life is full of new active experiences – travel to new places, take on new interests, and spend more time living in the present.
The implication here is that running on new routes or using different techniques will make the runs feel longer. Personally, I also enjoy the meditatively qualities that come with running along a route multiple times, forgetting myself and disappearing into a rhythm, but I think I understand what Reville is saying. It's why trail running is so exciting and addictive - you need to pay close attention to what you are doing or you'll fall, and that's why trail runs always seem to take so much longer than running on pavement.

It makes sense, but I'm not sure how this theory accommodates the flip side of this: if you're running in a place that offers you no new information - like a treadmill - the time can drag interminably. In my book, there's nothing worse that running on a treadmill without an interesting podcast or movie, because time just... seems... to... stop...

What's your experience?

Monday, August 27, 2012

More thoughts on the Punto Trade

Joel's thoughts on the Sox' mega-trade are well-worth reading. I'd add a few things:

One, we need to call this the Punto trade. There really isn't any other option.

Two: I second Joel's sentiment: Show Ortiz the money.

Three: I think one of the major reasons the Sox gave up on Gonzo and CarlCrawford so quickly (other than wanting to save money) was that they expected 2011 & 12 to be their prime - the peak of their bell curve, if you will. The risk in long term contracts is that you'll end up overpaying  for past performance in the last years, and since the Sox didn't get what they expected in the beginning, they blanched at the risk over the rest of the deal and took the opportunity to dump both the salaries and the risk.

Implicit in this decision is that they're now committed to building the team "right": developing and promoting in-house talent; making safe, short-term free agent signings; not signing older free agents to long-term deals, etc. The problem with this is that not only can it take a while to develop in-house talent, but it's a crapshoot. There's no guarantee that any of the players we received from the Dodgers will become serviceable major league players, much less superstars. I read somewhere this weekend that the great '04 team only had one regular player that came up through the Sox organization (Nixon). But it's one thing to rely on Pedro and Manny and Damon; it's another to find these type of players on the cheap. Face it: the Sox haven't been great at finding diamonds in the (free agent) rough recently. In fact, in the last few years, the only unqualified success I can think of (although i'm sure there are more) is Beltre. For every average to above-average guy they find (think Cody Ross), there's a slew of Camerons, Renterias, etc.

My point is that while the trade may have been the right move to make, the Sox gave up known commodities in favor of the vagaries of the talent market. And while this may prove successful, it just as likely may mean years of mediocrity. At the very least, it will mean a year or two of odd lineups that blend proven players with developing skills, like what I saw in person on Saturday:

  1. Podsednik, LF
  2. Pedroia, 2B
  3. Ellsbury, CF
  4. Ross, RF
  5. Gomez, 1B
  6. Saltalamacchia, C
  7. Lavarnway, DH
  8. Aviles, SS
  9. Ciriaco, 3B

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thoughts on the Trade

With Eric on vacation (if you call running up and down mountains vacation) and Todd at game one of the new era, it is left to yours truly to comment on the biggest salary dump in the history of professional sports.

I've read the facts about 500 times, but they still have the power to shock: the Sox sent Josh Beckett (2003 World Series MVP and 2007 ALCS MVP); Adrian Gonzalez (4-time all star, 3 Gold Gloves, 0.294 lifetime); Carl Crawford (4-time all star, 4 time AL stolen base champion, 0.292 lifetime); and Nick Punto (umm, yeah) to the LA Dodgers.  In return they got struggling first baseman James Loney; the Dodgers' #2 prospect, right handed pitcher Allen Webster; minor league second baseman Ivan DeJesus, Jr.; and two players to be named later.  Earlier in the day, those two players were rumored to be right handed pitching prospect Rubby de la Rosa and minor league outfielder Jerry Sands, though that is no longer clear.

Oh - and the Sox did send a little bit of a cash the Dodgers' way, but barely enough to be worth mentioning.  So, they ended up clearing out $265.5 million of salary obligations.  And they may still shed some more, if any teams wish to claim Jon Lester or Jacoby Ellsbury from the waiver wires.

I've got to say, I'm more excited about the Red Sox than I have been in a long time.

Now, what is Cherington going to with all that money?

I'm pretty sure he is not going to sign a hard-hitting superstar first baseman.  While Adrian Gonzalez never quite lived up to expectations, his numbers in Boston were pretty damn good -- he hit .338 in 2011, and .300 in 2012.  That's a better batting average than he had in San Diego.  Meanwhile, the price for high caliber first basemen has skyrocketed ($250 million for Joey Votto!)  If the Sox wanted production from that corner, they should have stayed put.

Perhaps he has his eye on a shortstop?  But I've got to think that Iglesias is going to get his chance.

Pitching could be area of focus.  Buchholz, Doubront, Morales, Lackey and (Bard?  De La Rosa if he's ready?)  don't quite cut it.  Neither does much of the bullpen.  But there is something to be said for waiting a year or two or three for some young talent to develop and prove itself, and then rewarding it well.  The last thing we need is another John Lackey.  We've still got one.

So let me give Cherington my suggestion: SHOW ORTIZ THE MONEY.  Even after you faced him down in contract negotiations this past offseason, he has played his heart out, hitting 0.318 - his best since 2007.  Despite his injuries, he has still been the best DH in baseball.  And beyond his abilities, he is the soul of the team, having taken up where Varitek left off.   So for heaven's sake, give him a contract that says you want him in a Red Sox uniform until he is old and decrepit and ready to leave the game.

And then, if you still have some cash left over, see if you can get the owners to cut ticket prices.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Running While Hot

In Mass, the summer's humid heat  has broken (for now), making it much more pleasant to run and or do anything outside. It's been a brutally hot summer, with record heat and stifiling humidity, making it extremely difficult for me to stick to a training plan, because I have an infant at home, meaning that the only time I really have to run is during my lunch break when the heat is at or near it's peak. I've adjusted my running to accomidate this in a few ways:
  • Slowing down
  • Changing my typical running route to one with the most shade
  • Continually switching the side of the road i'm running on to stay in the shade
  • Running with my handheld water bottle, no matter how fast the run
  • Putting ice in the water bottle
  • Squirting water on the back of my head every mile
I'd been squirting myself with water all summer, so was interested when Joel forwarded me a recent posting on the New York Times Phys Ed blog that examined how effective this tactic was in improving performance. Short answer: while it feels good, not so much:
"...when cold water was poured over their heads did the volunteers report feeling blessedly cooler than in the other exercise session. They also said that the workout felt noticeably easier, and their skin temperatures were lower than in other sessions.
They did not, however, actually perform better during the five-kilometer time trial, no matter what cooling strategy they employed. Their times were generally equivalent, whether they drank cold water, were doused with it, or neither."
However, in another posting, Gina Kolata posits that simply training in heat can make you a better runner - not necessarily by improving your physical condition, but by making you tougher:
"After 10 days of heat acclimation, performance ... improved by 4 percent to 8 percent when they rode as hard and fast as they could. ...
The problem is that to get faster you have to run or ride faster in your training workouts. And when it is hot — and especially, hot and humid — your body slows down to prevent dangerously high core temperatures. The result is that you simply can’t run or ride as fast. That’s why the cyclists in his study did their speed workouts in cool temperatures and used the hot room only to acclimate to exercise in heat.
But there may still be an advantage, Dr. Minson added. There is a large psychological component to performance, and those who do hard workouts outside on hot, humid days have to overcome mental barriers to push themselves. That sort of toughness can translate into improved performance."
This tells me that running in the heat doesn't necessarily make you faster, just mentally tougher, and dousing yourself with water during this time only makes you feel better, not able to run faster. All things I suspected before, but it's nice to know there's actual science behind them. And as I continue to do short lunchtime runs in the heat, i'll know that i'm a mentally rugged, albeit wet, runner.

Monday, August 20, 2012

How Many Steps Do You Take?

My company is participating in the Global Corporate Challenge, a contest in which teams of seven are tracking the steps that they walk every day for a few months. Given that I develop corporate education for a large technology company, I am sitting at my computer or in meetings all day. The benefit of the program has been to open my eyes to how few steps I typically take on a day where I don't go for a run.

The surgeon general recommends that people walk 10,000 steps per day in order to stay healthy. This Livestrong article states that:
People who take fewer than 5,000 steps are considered to be sedentary or inactive. Those who take 5,000 to 7,499 steps daily have a low active lifestyle. Somewhat active people usually take 7,500 to 9,999 steps per day. People considered to be active take 10,000 or more steps per day.
I consider myself an active person, but on days I don't run, I might only walk 4,000 steps at most. If I take the dog for a walk, we're still only looking at 7-8 K. I honestly thought that I would be taking more steps than that! The eye-opening point - and i'm sure why corporations are supporting the program - is that walking the recommended amount of steps per day is difficult to do.

Now combine a running plan into it and things get much easier. It's hard to say how accurate the relatively inexpensive GCC pedometers are, but I've found that a good 4-5 mile run would be around 8,000 steps. On days with longer runs, I find myself racking up a good 30K steps by the time I ease into bed. Unfortunately, the GCC coinsided with my break from running while I healed up my knee from the Burlington Marathon, but once I started running regularly again I've been able to up my daily step average to just under 11,000 a day.

Does walking count as cross-training for running? I'm not sure that it would for a serious runner, but I've found it to be both helpful and relaxing. In addition, during my layoff I found walking to be low-impact enough to stay healthy but active and close enough to running that it helped me figure out how my knee was doing. I plan on continuing to walk as much as I can during the day, but also as and end in and of itself on days when i'm not running.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ashland Half Marathon: Coming Along Nicely

Some new developments in the inaugural shland Half Marathon, to be run this October:

  • The course map was released. The coolest thing about this race for me is that a lot of the course will be on roads that I run and drive on every day. In fact, my family will be able to see me run by just walking down to the end of my street!
  • Bill Rogers will be running. Fun stuff, to be running with someone that won two big marathons (Boston and NYC) four times.