Friday, September 30, 2011

For mountain runners

I aspire to be a mountain runner, but I can't call myself one--yet.  In a recent reading of Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I ran across this quote, apropos of mountain running:

In the mountains the shortest way is from peak to peak, but for that route thou must have long legs. 

If only. . . . But I guess a mountain runner would say the fun isn't only at the peaks, but on all the ridges and valleys in between.

Happy running!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Karl Meltzer on The Human Express

Sunday night I happened to see The Human Express, a documentary about Karl Meltzer's run from Sacramento, California, to St. Joseph, Missouri.  To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express, Meltzer decided he would run the 2064-mile Pony Express route, something no one had ever done before.  The Human Express records the travails and triumphs of Meltzer and his crew as they follow this historic route.
No stranger to covering long distances, Meltzer has run the Appalachian Trail, and has won more 100 mile races than anyone.  But running 50 miles a day for 40 days has got to take its toll, right?  It would for most of us, but Meltzer seemed to gain strength through the run.  He took daily readings of his resting heart rate and other vitals, and, once he got stabilized after a couple weeks, his health seemed to improve.  Impressive.

I liked his comments on endurance and speed.  He said he doesn't do speed work, but trains for long races by running long distances.  It makes sense, but I have to wonder how well that translates to mere mortals like myself.  Meltzer lives and trains in the Rocky Mountains, so his daily runs must be hilly, rocky, at altitude.  If you're running on mountains every day, you probably don't need to worry about getting in some intervals on the track.  Still, his simple, high-volume, low-stress approach to training is appealing.

The Human Express served as a great commercial for the Hoka One Ones. These are the anti-minimalist running shoes, with so much sole they remind me of those moon shoes that kids wear.  I am a running minimalist, but the farthest I've ever run in my VFFs is 50 miles on trail.  Meltzer ran that much or more every day for 40 days on dirt and pavement.  The Hoka's almost cartoonishly wide soles and thick cushioning certainly made that pounding more tolerable.  His feet held up remarkably well through all that running.

Meltzer's run is an impressive accomplishment, one more to add to his unmatched running resume.  Here's a guy who loves to run, and has figured out how to get a corporate sponsor to pay him to do it.  More power to him!  I look forward to hearing about Meltzer's next insane distance feat.
That's a long, long way to run.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Holey VFFs and a custom pair

A year ago, I got a new pair of red and black VFFs (see here) after I wore a hole in the sole of my blue ones.  I finally started feeling a hole coming on my red ones, and this week it finally wore through.  I figured I must run more heavily on one side or the other, and pulled out my old ones to compare.  To my surprise, the hole is in the other foot.  The good news is, now I have a cool red and black and blue pair with no holes.  I figure since most of my runs these days are in the pre-dawn darkness, no one will be around to laugh at me for wearing mismatched shoes.
Kelly said I could make the full transition to barefoot running by wearing these until the sole is completely gone.  Hmm. . . . it's a thought. . . .
I know you're jealous of my one-of-kind, custom VFFs!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Lure of Long Distances, by Robin Harvie

If you've read my blog at all, you know I'm a sucker for running books.  I prefer the narrative/memoir books to "how-to" or training books.  The Lure of Long Distances is about as memoir-ish as they come.  I knew I could relate to Harvie on some level by the bio on the book jacket: After trying unsuccessfully to improve his marathon time, "he decided instead to see how far he could run before keeling over" and started running ultramarathons.  That's my story, too.  I started running seriously later in life, completing my first marathon at age 39.  Lots of running books talk about how our bodies start getting slower after 40, so I knew I'd never get too much faster.  I started reading about ultramarathons and decided that I may not be fast, but maybe I can last a long time on my feet.

Harvie was a younger man when he started running ultras, and has run much farther than I ever have.  The Lure of Long Distances covers his running history, primarily the year he spent preparing for the Spartathlon, the annual 152 mile race from Athens to Sparta.  He weaves in his training experiences, personal stories, reports from other races and runs along the way, anecdotes from history and modern running, and plenty of literary and poetic reflections.  He writes skillfully, putting together some beautiful and effective passages.
Harvie spent many hours running along the length of the Thames.
However, the overall product didn't turn out to be a very satisfying read.  All the well-written passages and stories flowed from one to another, kind of like the aid stations in an ultramarathon.  By the time you get to the end, you know there were some nice views and good conversations along the way, but they only fit together in the sense that they were part of one long race.

This is not to say I didn't like the book.  It was an enjoyable read.  But sometimes when I finish reading a book about running, I want to put my shoes on and head out the door right away.  This one made me sit back on the recliner and think about getting ready for bed.

The subtitle of the book, "Why We Run," is, in a way, a bit of false advertising.  Harvie sets out to discover why he runs, but it's up to us to find our own way.  He concludes, "Running is not about fitness, competition, or even other people.  It is simply about becoming a more sentient person, living . . .  a more authentic life." I'll buy that.  But I still ask myself sometimes, "Why am I doing this again?"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Running Man with a Plan

I have finally put together my training plan for Rockledge Rumble and White Rock.  Since WR is 3 weeks after RLR, I decided to treat RLR as my last long run before the marathon.  I used the training calculator on, and am not completely happy with the result, but I think I can work with it.  The time goals are pretty ambitious, as I used my 2009 WR time (3:35) as the starting point.  It's been a while since I've run that fast.  I have also substituted a 3 mile easy run for the 2 rest days each week, in the interest of keeping up my streak (17 days so far).

With the ambitious time goals, I am sure I won't meet them, like today.  I set out to run a tempo run at a sub-8 pace, as prescribed here.  I knew I couldn't run that fast, so decided to shoot for mid-8's.  After a mile of that I was about out of gas, so I just finished 5 miles at an easier pace.  We'll see how intervals go next week.  I figure if I can get most of these miles in, at progressively faster times each week, I will do OK at these races.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I have had a mixture of admiration and suspicion of people who say they have run every day for a long period of time.  I have been a firm believer in rest days.  But I wonder if a rest day has to be a non-running day?  After taking about 6 weeks of "rest days," I have been running every day for 10 days, trying to build my base back up.  I have been only running 5-6 miles per day at a pretty easy pace, with no long runs and no intervals.  So far, so good.  Now that I'm feeling better about my base, and with a couple of races on the calendar, I will definitely need to start in on some intervals and long runs, which may require a rest day.  But a rest day could mean a short jog around the block . . . .  I don't know how long I'll keep up the current streak.  30 days?  More?  One thing I'll promise: my streaking will be fully clothed.