Thursday, March 25, 2010

9 Foolproof Ways to Get Faster

I hold within these sentences 9 fool proof ways to run subtract seconds from your average per mile pace. These secrets are so secret I had to close my eyes even to type them. All 11 of the Colonel’s herbs and spices can’t believe how secret these secrets are. The lost city of Atlantis just called to ask about these secrets and I told it (them?) I couldn’t say and then pretended they had they wrong number. To which they said ‘we’re cold and wet down here. Can’t you just help us?’ to which I said ‘maybe you should have thought of that before…’

But I’ll share them with you now.

I hate to disappoint those in the southern, non-snowy climates but these secrets only apply to us cold weather folk. Sorry. You don’t get mounds of snow and polar bears snowboarding by your windows for three months out of the year so….you can wear your bright colored clothing and go screw yourselves. These secrets are climate specific. These are for us northerners who prefer to dress in shades of brown, forest green, and blue and like our cars, and everything else we own, rusty.

Every year, about this time, my per mile pace starts subtracting seconds. It depends on the distance of the run, of course, but those gains can be anywhere from 15 seconds to 40 seconds per mile! Why? I’m not very bright so it took me four long years and lots of clinical research to create the following list. It’s obvious now to me why I get faster every spring.

Each one of these things, by itself, will shave some amount of time and it is notated to the right. You can apply all or pick a la carte to experience your own time gains. To standardize the secret list, I assumed a 10 mile distance. Get ready to find El Dorado!

Super Secret Get Fast Tips (close eyes before reading)

1. Melted snow leaves running paths flat, hard, and clear. (-15 seconds per mile!)
2. North Face thermal jacket finds a home at the back of the closet for the next 9 months. (-5 seconds)
3. Remove wind pants/wear shorts instead. (-4 seconds)
4. Remove YakTrak and/or buy new running shoes now that you are doing abusing your “winter” pair. (-3 seconds)
5. Replace Seasonal Affective Disorder with spring allergies. (-3 second net gain)
6. Panic sets in as race approaches. You stop missing runs. (-3 seconds but climbing!)
7. Rotting, ditched, recently uncovered animal carcass odor smells like creeping death on running path. (+ 3 seconds as you make crinkle face Ewww noise but still pause to gawk at the remains.)
8. You stop saying “fuck it, it’s too cold out” before skipping a run and returning to the couch, TV, and your stretchy, elastic-banded fat pants. (-2 seconds)
9. Re—hydrate with New Coke. (indeterminate but probably -75 seconds)

See how easy it is to get faster? Why waste your time with intervals? Take off some layered clothing, stop skipping runs and VIOLA!, you’re faster! Yasso can kiss my asso. I shaved a good 30 seconds off my 10 mile pace in the span of six weeks just by following those 9 rules without doing a single 800. (Okay, maybe I did a few 800’s but I didn’t need to and that’s really my point.)

This isn’t the only secret I have. Come fall, I can help you rake those pesky leaves TONS faster than how you are doing it now. (Hint: Rule #1: Wait for first snow fall.)

Now that I’ve shared them, please forget them immediately. They are super secret and thus, not to be known. Don’t make me send Jimmy Hoffa after you. (Yes, he’s alive and living in Atlantis with the cast of Mad About You. Paul Reiser says 'Hello'.)

Happy trails.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Five Knuckle Shuffle

You know what? I don’t need your dirty minds around here. You can just leave.

I’m talking all serious today. I have knuckle troubles. What would you call a post in which you discuss your knuckles? Knuckle Under? Knuckle Kerfuffle? Knuckle Fuckle? See? What I came up with isn’t so bad now is it?

If embarking on the last year of my 30’s while simultaneously attempting to set PR’s in every race while treading dangerously close to the over training line isn’t enough stress, my body – normally a model for off-color bachelorette party masculine soaked greeting cards (think cowboy hat and holster and nothing else) – is starting to revolt. Hip bones? Puh-leeze, they’ve stopped agreeing with my weekend long runs a few months back. Forget sleep Sunday night. A few Advil and some Biofreeze works for awhile then, it’s tossing and turning the rest of the night. Sore hips and side sleepers don’t go together. Who has Propofol? Paging Dr. Murray.

Now, the knuckles, of all things, have taken their turn to express their displeasure. I wake up every morning over the last several weeks with at least five knuckles swollen and painful to bend. After a nice, hot shower, much of the swelling goes away. But, what the hell? I’m 39 not 59 or 69 or 79. The joints shouldn’t be swelling up yet. I like to think that my knuckles are merely reacting to the years of bar brawling I like to pretend I’ve done. That sounds cool. It’s like when I get an in grown toenail and limp around the house telling the family that my foot “is flaring up over all the ass I’ve kicked.”

Fortunately, my knuckles aren’t needed to run…no matter how many times I’ve been called a ‘Neanderthal’ and asked if ‘I get grass stains on those knuckles.’ So, the training goes on…

Sunday’s 17 mile long run was completed haiku style.

Long run broken down
Five seven five segments each
Seventeen miles done!

That’s three segments of 5 miles, 7 miles, 5 miles with a Gu and water break between each for you knuckleheads not familiar with (irregular) haiku. (I know I didn’t have a seasonal reference.) I enjoyed making a normal run into an expression of Japanese poetry. I felt really international…like when I watch Gung Ho on TNT.

I’ve been cracking my knuckles all morning trying to come up with a way to do an Iambic pentameter run for this weekend’s 18 miler. Don’t worry, I’ve got the Dirty Limerick style run covered.

But it’s really this knuckle swelling that has me vexed. What could it be? Am I arthritic between the hours of 4 AM to 9 AM only? This wouldn’t be entirely unusual for me as I’m known to be extraordinary between the hours of 9 AM to midnight. After midnight, I revert to slightly above average for a few hours.

I’d like to figure this one out…so then I can move along and solve my Rosy Palm problem.

Happy trails.

Sunday = 17 miles @ smooth 7:13 pace.

The week ahead:

Today = 5.5 miles with 3 x 800.
Thursday = 8.5 miles
Saturday = 18 miles
Sunday = No sleep Saturday night.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Devious Plot Revealed!

I almost bought it. Hook. Line. And Sinker. I was thrashing on the line just about to go over the edge of the aluminum boat, take a mallet to the head, and plop into the fisherman’s cooler.* Then, I realized what was happening. This guppy turned into a shark, severed the line and swam away just in time.

Nice try, Beardsley.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I recently celebrated a birthday. Don’t think I didn’t appreciate all of your ‘Happy birthday!’ comments (there were none). It’s really a testament to your character (you have none). I’m not going to go on one of those contrived ‘why didn’t you get me any presents’ rants but, as I stood there being sung to by a trio of familial carolers, the empty void of Gifts Not Given was distracting – and infuriating - to say the least. I made my birthday wish with furrowed brow and angry heart and plenty of open space on the table where gifts could have been. It’s said that, if you reveal your birthday wish, it will not come true. So I won’t. I’ve been Mr. Nice Guy until now but, after this latest slight, just wait until your birthday. It might look like chocolate on your birthday cake. Heck, it might even taste like chocolate. But that ain’t chocolate.** Revenge is best served applied like a thin veneer of frosting I always say.

The parade of Gifts Given came next. Maybe not a parade so much as a processional. Maybe not a processional per se but more of a strolling elderly couple heading for the Metamucil aisle. There were two gifts. Two. There are three ‘others’ in my family. So it appears they each chipped in to get me 2/3 of a gift each. That’s okay. I appreciate the effort. Besides, who’s counting? Who’s doing fractional math to make a point? Not this guy. (I just wonder what it’d be like to be driven 2/3’s of the way to school each morning. Sex? What would 2/3’s of an effort look like?***)

One of the gifts was a tool for which I can clean with. No kidding. Score! Second gift...well now, this is interesting. Is that….? Why, yes it is, that’s BEARDSLEY! A signed poster from the man almost personally responsible for my failure to win the 2008 Boston Marathon.****

I was taken aback. Was this a cooling off, a détente, between the titans? A gesture of civility? Perhaps a personal admission of responsibility for what occurred on Heartbreak Hill in April of 2008? Did Mrs. Nitmos intervene to resolve the issue before things spiraled out of control?

The writing reads: “To my greatest nemesis Nitmos, You’re the best. Keep up the great work you do! Dick Beardsley 2:08:53 Boston ‘82”

And this is where I found myself tethered to the line and, internally at least, thrashing about like a fish out of water. I looked at the poster. The furious tension that I’ve been carrying around for the last two years as a sub layer to my normally sunny disposition dissolved. I felt a renewed and refreshing sense of calmness. The omnipresent desire to squash kittens with the chipped heel end of an old army boot temporarily replaced with an overwhelming urge to plant dandelions randomly about town and drop off donations to an orphanage under the name of Anonymous. Sunshine? Yes, please, but only if it’ll make the clouds extra puffy like little balls of cotton candy holding their own little balls of cotton candy.

I was at the edge of the boat. My body smacking against the aluminum side. Mallet raised and poised for the strike.

And then it hit me. Not the mallet but the realization of what was happening. I was being placated. Pacified. Appeased. Mollified. Quelled. (Add your own word here…it’s easy with a thesaurus.) Robbed of the very anger that drives me towards redemption.

This was no gift. This was a Trojan horse sent into my home to slay me from the inside. IN MY HOME! WHERE MY WIFE SLEEPS…AND MY CHILDREN PLAY WITH THEIR TOYS! A devious plot to destroy my drive, my passion, my motivation. Détente, my ass. More like intente…to mess with my head.

Notice the sly reference to 2:08:53 on the poster. That’s my goal Bayshore time!***** I’m being mocked! I thought about crumpling the poster, ala Rocky crumpling Clubber Lang’s photo upon obtaining the Eye of the Tiger in Rocky III, and tossing it into the bin. But it’s kind of a neat poster. And Mrs. Nitmos went through all of the trouble and all…

So, I’ll just hang it on my wall as a reminder. The world is cruel. Folks don’t send internet strangers birthday gifts. Legendary runners hope your hamstrings snap before you best their PR.******

Something SNAPPED alright. The fishing line you were using to land this fish. You created a shark, Mr. Beardsley, and he’s swimming your way.

Nice try.

Happy trails.

P.S. Save your belated 'Happy Birthday’s'. The damage has been done. I wouldn’t refuse delivery of a belated gift however. I’m not a jerk. Get your own poster here.

*Like one of my “dates” twenty years ago on a roofie.
**When’s the last time chocolate had bits of corn in it?
***Roughly, two minutes.
**** Besides training and ability.
***** Minus an hour.
****** Plus an hour.


17 miles this weekend in the cold and rain. Should be fun!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Schm-Irish

I’m not wearing any green today. I’m not Irish. I’ve never been to Ireland (though I’d be happy to go if you’re paying). In fact, I’m told we have some Scottish somewhere up at the top branches of the family tree. Don’t the Scots and Ires have some sort of blood sport rivalry anyhow? Eh, don’t care. I’m not Catholic either. And, though I’m sure Patrick was a complete angel and one of the finest humans you could ever want to meet, I’m not sure what was so saintly about him. Did he win a big soccer match for team Ireland one year?

Nope, no green here. It’s a day like any other. And, yes, I’m one of those guys.

We did dress my filly in green. If it saves her a few pinches, I guess that’s a good thing. Besides, it’s more for the other kids’ protection than hers. She’s the type to punch some innocently teasing child in the face. And then ask questions later…probably while standing over the recently punched kid, with the blood spewing nose, still clenching her fist. Daddy taught her that. My colt likes to play Call of Duty. Sometimes, he’s not sure who he should be shooting at in the fog of war. I like to remind him that he should just open fire on everyone. ‘Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out.’ If I don’t dispense this advice to my foals’ tender ears, who will?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against St. Patrick’s Day or Ireland or Irish folk. Dress up in shamrock hats. Drink green food coloring. Whoop it up. Knock yourselves out. For me, however, a day isn’t a holiday unless it comes with a free day off from work. No day off; no celebration on my part. Valentine’s Day anyone? No thanks.

I’ve never been sensitive about my heritage. I did have occasion to run into someone hyper-sensitive about their heritage once. It so happens, he was Irish though I didn’t know that at first. And since this is Patty’s Day, why not share that story now?

Several years ago, I was sitting on the couch at some in-laws house “celebrating” his kid’s tenth birthday by trying to stay awake watching the NBA All Star game and checking my watch every five minutes to determine the socially acceptable time to leave. Some guy, a friend of the relatives or something, was sitting there watching the game modeling fashionably green shaded camouflage pants, shirt and hat. Keep in mind, despite the camouflage, I could see him perfectly. He really popped against the white leather couch though I didn’t have the heart to tell him.

At some point, this complete stranger decided to start sharing his person views on black people. Let’s just say, he didn’t seem to like them. Every highly-successful, multi-millionaire black player was belittled with a withering, disgusting comment from the dude without a job and an aversion to soap.

I ignored the first half dozen or so remarks. It’s a child’s birthday party. Let it go, right?

Finally, after fifteen minutes of non-stop racial commentary, I looked over at him and said, “I feel the same way…except about the Irish.” Now, I had no idea this guy was Irish. Before I said it, I knew he might be Irish. But I could have picked any other group. That was just the first name that came to mind. I was simply trying to make a point.

As the kids raced around the house full of birthday cake and presents, this highly visible, green monster stands up and says to me, “I’m Irish, you want to step outside?”

All that I could do was laugh. It was completely surreal. Fortunately, my laughter broke the tension and seemed to remind the camouflaged racist the he was at his friend’s house at his friend’s child’s birthday party. Now might not be the best time for a whiskey fueled bar fight.

Thank God, too. It would have been him standing over me with a clenched fist while my nose spewed blood. That would have been a real lesson for my kids: Don’t fuck with the Irish. They’d probably wear green every day thereafter.

I would have still taken my chances though…unless it came with a free day off.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

(No, I don't want to step outside.)

Saturday: 4 x 400m (1:19, 1:19, 1:18, 1:17). Starting small on the intervals.
Sunday: 14 miles @ 7:06 pace.

This week: 3 x 800m w/warm-up/cool down, 8 miles tempo, and 17 mile long run.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Elbow Room

It sure is getting crowded around here.

In 1977, Jim Fixx released his book, The Complete Book of Running, and helped usher in what has become known as the first great running boom. Millions of non-running Americans took to the streets with their running shoes, shaggy hair trapped under red, white, and blue headbands, and mustaches. It was the era of disco. And what better way to look groovy in the leisure suit than with a nice, svelte, runner’s physique. Also, considering the state of the economy and the gas shortages, it probably just seemed like a prudent idea at the time anyhow.

I remember those years. One of my first encounters with the sport of running was in the late 70’s as a wee elementary aged lad with the block’s best bowl cut and mischievous just-wait-til-Devils-Night smirk. (Kids don’t do “Devil’s Night” anymore, do they? Shame.) I watched my neighbor, a doctor, run circles around my block for seemingly hours on end. It looked so exhausting. And uninspiring the way he huffed and puffed around the corner and back out of view. We watched, ate popsicles on the porch, and mocked his perspiration levels and challenged each other to touch….no, wring out…no, drape his running shirt over your face. Ewwwww. You know, stuff like that. Double dog dares that usually ended with someone having to do something unsavory and humiliating with the runner’s perspiration.

Plus, he wore those unnerving split side running shorts. Even in the 70’s, those were uncool. I don’t know what he was the doctor of but it certainly wasn’t Fashion.

Looking back, I think this particular memory had a lasting impact on my running life. Or, more accurately, my lack of running in my early life. I was always a natural runner. On playgrounds and school races, I finished near or at the front. They always played me at forward in soccer so that I could run back and forth across the entire field, never tiring. My older brothers couldn’t catch up to me after I slugged them in the back for no reason and took off down the street until their angry footsteps faded away.

I played soccer, baseball, basketball, sandlot football but never considered track or cross country.

A few years after we moved away, the running doctor from my neighborhood had a heart attack and died while running. My parents shook their head and repeated What a shame several times. My dad theorized that he shouldn’t have run so much. His heart couldn’t take it and just gave out. When you’re nine years old, a comment like that can leave an impression. From the safety of our car window, I’d see other folks out running and wondered when their heart would give out. Running just to run, not to chase a ball or play a game? It seemed pointless.

Then Jim Fixx died of a heart attack in 1984 at the age of 52. While running.

You would think that would just about cinch it for me: Two dead runners, so close together in age and circumstances, and me at such an impressionable, youthful age. Nope, this kid wasn’t going to grow up to be a runner. I didn’t want my heart to give out. We only get so many beeps of the heart right? And yet now, nearly three decades later, here I am circling the neighborhood – heck, circling the town – and dripping with sweat. I run three or four days a week. I really don’t play much basketball anymore like I did a few years ago. That seems pointless.

So why do I run now? I can’t really explain it. It seems natural. In fact, I think I should have been doing it all along. I didn’t start running regularly until the age of thirty. There was a dormant runner within until then, repressed by unfounded fears and, probably, the omnipresent night terrors created by those side split shorts of Dr. Runner.

I’ve heard this era, the last several years or so, called the second great running boom. In 1984, at the time of Fixx’s death, there were approximately 170,000 finishers of an American marathon. Twenty five years later, that number has more than tripled with most of those gains occurring this past decade. More importantly though, the percentage of runner’s wearing side split running shorts has decreased. Thank God for that, at least.

Of course, there’s plenty of data out there dispelling the myth of the doomed heart of a runner. In fact, there’s enough evidence touting the benefits. But how many of us still hear about the ‘damage we are doing to our knees’?

With so many runners these days, the existing races can barely hold them all. New races, new marathons are popping up everywhere. Old races are expanding their field size. It takes careful advanced planning now to get registered for one of the well-publicized races. I missed out on Boston in 2010 simply because I figured registration would roughly follow the timeline it took in 2008. Wrong. It filled a few months quicker than just two years prior.

I had to jump on the Bayshore Marathon, a small town little-known marathon if there ever was one, as registration was going to fill within a month!

And now I received notification that the Chicago Marathon, which just opened registration a month ago and one I’ve been considering for this fall, is already across the 30,000 applicant threshold. A few years ago, that would have maxed the race out but recently they expanded to 40,000. I guess I’ll have to make my October plans now, before the snow even melts from this winter.

Races sure are getting crowded. Not as much elbow room these days. I’m okay with that though. I’m not one that thinks races should be confined to the truly dedicated. As we know, there are run snobs out there. The weekend warriors and the run-walkers are welcome too. It’s a great sport to be enjoyed by all.

Just not in the side split running shorts. Think of the children…and their double dog dares.

Happy trails.

After Tuesday's post, I thought I better make this one at least 90% taint free. I think I owed it. So, you're welcome for the lack of taint within!

Nice 5 miler on Tuesday with Garmin timed 2 x 1/2 mile repeats of 2:40, 2:47. Working my way up slowwwwllly after a harsh winter of limited speed work. Next week, 3 x 1/2mile (or 800m if I go to the track).

7.5 miles today.
4 x 400m track repeats on Saturday with warm-up/cool down miles.
14 miles on Sunday (cut back week!)

Monday, March 08, 2010

How To Celebrate A Successful Long Run

Or, How Not to Celebrate A Successful Long Run depending on your appreciation of a cow's ass.

I ran 16 miles this Saturday. Okay, for a marathoner, not that big of a deal. We frequently run 16 miles. It’s part of the biz. But I haven’t gone that far in a surprisingly long time. My last full marathon was last May in Cincinnati. Damn, that was 10 months ago! For the half marathons this past Fall, I think I went 15 miles max in training for both. So, 16 miles? Yeah, I was as interested as all of you in how the body would respond.

Conditions were perfect: 42 degrees, sunny, largely clear sidewalks, little wind. I still wrapped up in the wind pants. Habits are hard to break.

The first 10 miles went great. I kept a nice, easy feeling 7:12 pace. I sang out loud to favorite songs. There was the odd air guitar and air drumming thrown in to the amusement of passing motorists. I even had that brief, euphoric feeling about 8 miles in. You know the one. That feeling that washes over you in the early stages of a long run and convinces you that you can run all day, hell, even SPEED UP during the last few miles. Yeah, I AM the man. Look at me, I’m a machine cranking out these miles.

Then, of course, reality sets in. After 10 miles, someone started strapping two pound weights to each of my hamstrings every mile. By thirteen miles, I remembered that I WASN’T the man. That I hadn’t gone over 12 miles more than three times in the last three months and that two of those were on the soft, self-propelling treadmill. I had Treadmill Mileage Delusion (TMD – won’t you give today?) disease. Full blown.

One of my great weaknesses as a runner is hydration. I never drink enough. I often realize that I’m dehydrated about 20 miles into a marathon when my calf muscles start cramping up and I involuntarily lay by the side of the road in a fetal position lapping rain water from a pothole puddle as hundreds of well-hydrated marathoners step over me on their way to the finish. Or I find myself being cradled on a surprised mother’s lap breast feeding as her recently head butted baby flails away through crying shrieks on the ground next to us.* After 14 miles, I had that desperate need to drink. Without an engorged breast around (and, really, is it so much to ask to have an engorged breast around when someone is training for a marathon? With chocolate milk, please?), I started looking for melted snow and an oasis of ice water.

The last 4 miles were covered in a disappointing 7:30 mile pace. Considering it was the first of the longer long runs of the year, I’m still satisfied with the results. Sixteen total miles at an average 7:19 pace. And no restraining orders!

Then, of course, the munchies come on. I need to eat. Lots. So, how do you celebrate a successful long run? Really, there is only two ways. (1.) Beer (obviously). Or (2.) eating ridiculous amounts of food.

And here’s where a critical decision went haywire. We had a breakdown in the Nitmos home. You’ve heard the old saying the ‘You should never go grocery shopping while hungry’? Well, you should never allow a runner coming off a long run to choose dinner. A bartender has a responsibility to take the keys away from a drunk patron. A spouse also has a responsibility to prevent a famished runner from picking the dining location.

I chose bulk food. Yes, a buffet. A filthy, bacteria-riddled buffet filled with lukewarm, fly tickled food overflowing the troughs. The kind of place where most of the folks perspire just getting their food. The kind of place in which sweat rolls off the ankles with each chew. I should have known better but, at that moment, it just sounded sooo good.

But here’s where it got worse. Not only did I choose a buffet but, for the main course, I selected a cut of their finest steak. Bulk. Steak. From a buffet. You can see where this is going right? I ate a bite and crinkled my face. Something tasted…off. I ate a second bite and then re-examined the meat. This is steak, right?

Now, I know that a buffet is not going to buy the choicest cuts. No doubt, the buffet is getting the steak from an area closest to the cow’s ass. And not just a regular cow but probably the cows that go ‘Ooom’ rather than ‘Mooo’ if you know what I mean.

Here’s the thing, I’m pretty sure that I was eating the cow’s asshole. Or, since that’s a ‘hole’, I guess I was eating the taint. Steak isn’t supposed to be shaped like an onion ring, right? That should have been the tip off.

I finished the meal. Filled my belly with all the taint I could eat. Received my courtesy penicillin injection and bonus two minutes in the “anti-bacterial chamber” on the way out, and vowed never to return.

Be careful how you celebrate a successful long run. With great long runs comes great responsibility. Decisions should be left to the spouse. Learn from me…don’t get stuck with a mouthful of taint.

Happy trails.

*It’s true. I have the restraining order to prove it.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Wherein I Promote Anarchy

I believe it was the never-ending Summer (also Spring and Fall) of 2008 in which I read Don Quixote and then proceeded to tag every post with a “wherein…” subtitle like Cervantes did in his Tome of Infinite Boredom.* Now, for the first time, I bring you an actual “Wherein” titled post! What a day for you. Cervantes is probably rolling over in his windmill.

I’m feeling a little cranky today. As such, I’m going to ruffle a few feathers with something that increasingly annoys me as I scan the running blogs. I’m in just that kind of mood. And what better way to relieve the annoyance than to foist it onto the rest of you. I’m a person with a computer after all!

Is it me – and it probably is – or does it seem like everyone and their horse Rocinante either (a) thinks they are an “online running coach” or (b) is following the advice of an “online running coach” without ever having met the person?

First, I should draw a distinction between what we ALL do – offering our personal tips, tricks, lessons learned, experiences, etc. into the general knowledge breach – and what “online running coach” does, which is recommending detailed training plans and/or specific work-outs to a less experienced runner looking for that magic elixir of speed and/or endurance.

Perhaps the problem is that I put the term Coach on too lofty of a pedestal. I have spent way too much of my youth and early adulthood watching sports and believing Bo Schembechler and Sparky Anderson were descended from Mt. Olympus to provide a boost to my local athletic teams. To me, a Coach is an achieved position. It implies that you have special insights into the sport or activity that another does not/could not possess. The Coach has gained this knowledge through engagement amongst the best athletes at the highest level of the sport. Simply, they just Know Things that the rest of us don’t because they have Been There/Done That.

As an example, I’ve mentioned before that I coach my filly’s youth soccer team. I coach the team. But I am not a Coach. I don’t have any special insight into soccer. I’ve played before. Many times, in fact. But I’ve never competed – or achieved – at any level that qualifies me as a Coach. Basically, I’ve just played more than a group of second graders so my knowledge base is broader (though not by as much as you would think, sadly.) I always bristle when one of the kids, or parents, calls me Coach ____ . I always think I’m not a Coach but it’s just easier to let it stand, no?

I compare the loose use of the term “coach” to that of “chef”. To me, a Chef, like a Coach, is an achieved position. You don’t just walk into Olive Garden, grab an apron, and now you are Chef Donnie the Ravioli King because you put in your 40 hours a week making square pasta which, after all, is more than anyone else does. No, you are a cook. A Chef is a designation for a highly-trained, highly-experienced, and/or highly-educated cook.

If I had a sensitive gastro-intestinal tract, I wouldn’t trust my G.I. happiness to Donnie the cook. I’d want a Chef for that. Similarly, I wouldn’t trust my hamstrings to Chuck the Online Running Coach simply because he’s run a few more races than me.

But many folks do. And now I’m seeing them report injuries and muscle strains. Some are unable to run and are missing races. Doesn’t a coach really need to be there to see you run? To watch how you are handling the work-outs? To get to know you intimately, on some level, in order to best understand how to build a personal training program? A program just for you? Not a program that worked for them. Plus, shouldn’t the coach have actually achieved something besides, basically, running more than you and at a slightly faster pace?? Running is more personal than that. There is no cookie-cutter formula to success. Or am I just being cranky today?

You all know more than you think you do. My favorite running quote comes from Dean Karnazes who opined:

“Listen to everyone, follow no one.”

To me, that is the best advice. Survey what other folks are doing. Try your own work-outs. Something that works for you may not work for someone else. Do not accept pre-packaged training plans and then, when they aren’t working out, feel like a failure. Through trial and error, discover what works for you. A runner really must be a leader. Don’t be “coached.” Be your own Coach.

Throw off the shackles of preset training plans. Delete the impersonal email plans from Chuck the Online Running Coach (who has run only 3 more marathons than you, anyhow.) If someone is calling themselves a running Coach, look closely at their accomplishments. What special insight do they really have? My guess is they are more of a cook, just with more kitchen hours than you, than a Chef. And they are breaking eggs on your knees. Listen to them but don’t follow them.

In short, I’m proposing coachless Anarchy. Otherwise, you just might unwittingly be playing Sancho Panza to someone’s coach hallucinating Don Quixote.

Coach Nitmos

Happy trails.

*If you want to read an interesting and exciting book of equally ridiculous length written during a similar era of serial publishing, I suggest Count of Monte Cristo. Mainly because, well, something actually happens that couldn’t be compressed into a short story.


Razz @ Running Off At The Mind is organizing a curiously titled virtual race. Go there. Sign up. Have virtual fun. There are fabulous prizes. I believe the deadline is tonight. Do it. Do it now.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Har Har

Soooooo….where was I?

At last we spoke, your hero was heading out for some much needed R & R at a Northern Michigan resort for warm suds, cold suds, and some belly laughs sans children. It’s taken me this long to report back because, frankly, the unwinding that the weekend provided is still occurring if, sadly, slowing to a stop. Several hours lost in a hot tub and/or hovering over a cold brew (or other drink) has a strange transcendental time-traveling effect, ala Lost, on me. Time moves quickly and often out of sequence. One moment, I’m splashing in the tub like a toddler with one of those adorable little baby laughs with my legs spastically kicking out. Then, I’m Don Juan Nitmos as I romance Mrs. Nitmos with one of my patented early 80’s electric bugaloo dance moves (which, ironically, also involves spastic leg kicks). Then, like a teenager, I find myself laughing at fart jokes told by a surprisingly filthy-mouthed comedian. Once time unspooled, it just kept going and going and going like one of those hilarious handkerchiefs from a clown’s lapel pocket. I’ve only now started to stuff the stress and aggravation back into my pocket knot by knotted handkerchief.

If only life could always be a warm soak with fun little bubbles constantly running up the testicles…

While in TC*, I made my annual pilgrimage to the local book seller to investigate his wares and purchase a broad sampling of literature through which I’ll spend countless hours this year on the toilet refining my brain while expunging my waste. That’s called a “win-win” scenario. A nice smattering of writers from Eliot to Cather to Dostoevsky to Roth to collected short stories all to provide entertainment during my private time on my stool sans children (but, sadly, also sans fun little bubbles…) I like to think that, as Willa Cather goes in one way, it forces Beverly Cleary and her damned mouse on a motorcycle out the other.**

Also, while enjoying a warm soak (and fun little bubbles tee-hee), I resolved to alter my writing style to a more manly, Hemingwayesque testosterone-driven, short, choppy sentences, preposition-filled style. At least, temporarily. So, here goes…

The comedians performed on Saturday. They were funny. One after the other, they insulted Sarah Palin. And joked of unspeakable things at Waffle House. After dark, in cold lines, we waited for Roseanne. The crowd was impatient and chilled. The doors opened. Entering in a rush, we took our seats and prepared for the 90’s flashback.

First, The Great Controversial Liberal introduced her. He didn’t dress for the occasion. Stretch pants? Yes. The camera, seemingly repulsed by the leisure wear, couldn’t capture the image well.

Roseanne appears like an aging Pippi Longstocking. A mish-mash of clothing that, if you met her on the street, you would think belongs to a bag lady.

It’s midnight. Most are asleep. We laugh a little but not a lot. Amusing, yes. Hilarious, no. Back out in the cold we go. Back to our rooms….our warm tubs…our fun little bubbles. /hemingway

Between shows, Mrs. Nitmos managed to capture my enthusiasm for reasonably priced well drinks at a local yuppie pub. (Pay no attention to the date stamp. Camera error) Though I’m not wearing stretch pants, the camera also seems unable to stabilize the image…mainly due to my awesomely energetic thumbs:

Happy trails.

*Traverse City for you non-Michiganders.
**You can save your Richard Gere joke. Already thought of it.


The Big Melt appears to be, finally, officially on in these parts. I do not expect to take any more runs on the treadmill in 2010. That’s the plan at least. However, I did take my final treadmill run – a 15 mile long run – on the mill this Sunday timed to watch the Olympic 50k cross country ski race and the start of the USA vs. Canada hockey game. Every run complete for February! I’m over 200 miles for the year during my annual slow down/maintenance months. I call that: A Good Start! March brings a shift in intensity. Longer long runs and the introduction of a second day of speed work. Hooray for March! (Also, someone cool with two thumbs turns 39 this month. This guy!)