Monday, December 31, 2007
1. I changed date to age on the x-axis, as that seems a more important indicator than date run.
2. More importantly, I added the "Norton Barrier," a horizontal line crossing the plot at exactly 5:48. See post regarding "Two Houghton boys" for more information on who Norton is. After much discussion, I have decided to use the Norton Barrier as the mile time that I must achieve each year. If I do not break that barrier, I need to consider retiring from competitive running. Because Norton has always been a presence during my running career, although he is really a basketball player, it seemed fitting to use Norton's post-40 PR in the mile of 5:48 as a standard for comparison. If I can beat Norton's post-40 record of 5:48 in the mile, I can with good conscience continue competing. If not, I need to re-assess whether I should be competing, and perhaps retire at that point. This past year, the first year in which the Norton Barrier was implemented, I just squeaked in a 5:43 mile in December, so I am all set to compete throughout 2008. Because I am in relatively good shape, I may try getting out on the track in January, on a day when there is no snow, and try breaking 5:48 again. That would then ensure me of competing through December 2009!
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments on this barrier, and it's applicability to distance runners over 40 years of age.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Can you invite my brother Michael, and a long-time friend of ours from
Houghton, Andy Norton, to be authors in the blog? Michael of course
actually ran for Binghamton a couple times, and ran the Maryland
Marathon once with us. He attended an indoor track meet once while in
high school, and met Basil and Oliver, who referred to him as
"Mock-brother" (I guess Mark's brother in their lingo). He would be
suitable as a blog author.
Andy Norton, although technically not a runner, grew up with Michael and
me in Houghton, and was really more of a basketball player at 6'3".
However, he ran track as a freshman in high school with us (2 mile relay
and pole vault), then often went on 9 or 10 mile runs with us in the
summers as we got in shape for Bruce Truce cross country season. He
still runs, and tries to get close to a 6 minute mile each season. He
would also be a suitable author. In fact, Andy ran the Gary Truce 5K
with Michael, Kaila, and I a few years ago, so he has actually met Gary.
I think we introduced him to Gary as "the basketball guy." Andy also
ran a few cross country races with me a few years ago. Finally, he was
there with Michael and me in the infant stages of our glorious running
careers. We started out when I was in junior high, early high school,
running and racing a 2-mile loop around Houghton, then later extending
it to the Houghton College 4-mile cross country course. Typically, it
was me, Michael, Andy's older brother Ken, Andy, and another guy named
Dave Samuels (the suspicious 5:50 miler I referenced a few months ago).
We would literally race the very hilly Houghton 4 mile cross country
course for "fun" after dinner a couple times per week in the summer. I
set it up with calculated handicaps to make it as even as possible, but
leaving me a margin to win.
I've copied both of them on this email, so you will have their
Friday, December 28, 2007
First, let's get the preliminaries out of the way. I ran in high school and had a pretty good, but not exactly stellar career. I'm really dating myself by referring to yards vs. meters, but my best events were the 600 yd. run during winter season and the 440 in spring. However, I was pretty versitile and ran everything from the 100 yd. to cross country as a conditioning season. By the time I got to Binghamton in 1974, I was eager to continue in a comfortable Division III program. I got a slightly rude shock when the team travel schedule got in the way of school work. While not flunking by any means, I soon realized that I had to make a choice between grades and running and grades won. I was "in and out again" between freshman and sophomore years but by the end of my sophomore year, my track career came to an end.
I was all but inactive during my junior year but by the time I was a senior, I was determined to get back into running, even if it was on my own. Perhaps inspired by the beginning of the marathon craze, I starting road running on my own and competing in the occasional 5 mile, 10K race. I was smitten from that point on. I was a road running junkie and if nothing else, stayed in pretty good shape running 40+ miles a week and racing with the idea that the New York Marathon would be a piece of cake in under 4 hours. That's when John Lennon's famous line about live is what happens when you start making other plans came into play.
My downfall was that while I ran "hard" I did not run "smart." Now Coach Truce will surely be critical of my training and justifiably so. It seems I forgot all about cross training, flexibility, upper body development, rest intervals and just about every reasonable and prudent element of distance running. Being a sprint convert, I took that approach to distance. If I wasn't running everything fast, I wasn't running. The Jim Fixx era was in and we all know what happened to him! Then the injuries started, mostly in the lower spine. I slogged on throughout my 20's and early 30's. I joined a pretty good running club in Southport Connecticut where I had settled after college. I was running every Sunday morning with marathoners and tri-athletes. Guys who thought that 26.3 miles was a warm-up for the 100 mile ultra or the 24 hour endurance runs. I thought I was pretty hot when I could still run the opening mile of a 10K under 6 minutes when I was 32 years old, but then had to throttle back to around 7:30 to comfortably finish. And more pain. Back spasms would come and go. I was lucky to put my socks on for a ten day stretch, recover and then go out and do it again. I went through periods where I spent more time recovering than running. By age 37 it was over. The simple choice was find another form of physical exercise or the spine surgery could be done at any time.
My departure from running was sudden but necessary. I found a good trainer, joined a YMCA and found other ways to stay in shape. I did all this reluctantly and still pine for a peaceful and beautiful 10K in the park. But I knew when to say when so I envey all of you who can continue to run as we cross the 50 year age barrier. But there is hope for me in my 16 year old son Greg, who has taken to track with passion. Better for me, Greg is running the same events I did so I now enjoy the vicarious thrill of reliving my past in his present. But don't worry, I'm not that obsessed to be the coaching helicopter parent from hell. Greg is doing just fine with a great coach but more about that in future posts. This is my initial entry to set the stage for my observations about watching your kid do the same stuff you did, but maybe a lot better, certainly smarter! Let's just end by me saying that I'm probably having more fun watching high school meets again than anything I have done in a long time. It's great to relive the sights, sounds and even smells.
For now, I'll say goodbye and Happy New Year!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Maybe I should not have done this, but I plotted up my mile times over the past 7 years or so in Excel, and fitted a linear regression trend line to the data (see graphic). Unfortunately, the trend line revealed the sad truth that I'm gradually getting slower, at least at first glance. Of course, this plot only shows raw times, but does not include many variables, particularly the amount and type of training done in any particular year, injuries (such as I had in 2006), and other important factors (i.e., motivation, thinking about retiring that year, or as in 2007, playing tennis 2 or 3 times per week, thus reducing the time available for serious training).
After a closer look, I noticed that during 2001, I hovered in the low 5's for the mile. I was seriously trying to break five at the time, when I was 42 in the beginning of the year, and 43 at the end. However, I ran 5:04 in February 2001, then took off a whopping one second and ran 5:04 in December 2001. After that, I probably reduced my training and speed workouts, thus causing a rather sharp rise in the curve in 2003. Nothing much happened over the ensuing years. In 2007, my first mile attempt was way over 6 minutes, and I only just got it back down to within reason this December. That is the only glimmer of hope, as it was better than last year's time, and although the linear regression trend is clearly upward (slowing), it may potentially be reversible with some training. More on this later, and Eric promised to provide a blog related to training.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Splits were 85, 2:52, 4:20, and then a blazing 83.8 second last lap for a 5:43.8. Anyway, I didn't feel all that bad, and beat last year's best time of 5:49, and this year's previous best of 5:51. At our age, any time we beat a previous year's time, I consider it a bonus, or as Andy Norton would say "icing on the gravy."
It's a strange sensation running a mile at 49 years of age. When I'm out there on the track, I guess I feel exactly the same as when I ran in college or high school. I "feel" like I'm going just as fast as I ever was, but it is simply a cruel delusion.
Anyway, I've got to make a decision soon concerning next year. Mainly because it sounds like a good marketing slogan "Sub 5 at 50", I would like to consider breaking 5 in the mile at 50 years old (any time after April 1, 2008). However, I think that in order to make that a reality, it will involve training fairly "seriously" (yes, I used to be the leader of the unserious contingent) throughout the winter. So, my plan is to either run or cross country ski 4 or 5 times per week, and try to include a longer run (6, 7, even 8 miles) once per week. If I can start out this spring with a reasonable base, I think it would really only take a couple months of cranking it up again to get close to 5. Any thoughts out there, or should I just act my age and give it up?
Saturday, December 1, 2007
However, I took a look at recent 5K races and compared some of the same folks. Time differentials for the same people ran from about 30 seconds to as much as a minute slower today compared to previous (better weather) races. Thus, what I'm trying to say, is that I might have actually been close to 19 minutes, and probably could have easily made my goal of sub 19:20 under better road conditions.
Anyway, unless Kaila wants to run another race, I'm done "racing" for the "season." I do have one bit of unfinished business, though. I need to beat my best mile from last year, which was 5:49, and I only have a 5:51 so far this year. Based on this recent 5K, I think I should be good for around a 5:45 or maybe better at this point. If the weather lightens up a bit (winter storm tonight and tomorrow), I will get back on the track next weekend, and give it a try.
After today, I started thinking about "retiring" from running again...........