Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ageless Running

As I was running a long loop through the trails last weekend, I felt much the same as I did running the Finger Lakes Trails 16 years ago. To me,nothing had changed,mentally or physically.I can't say enough about the beauty and uniqueness of running the trails,but, that is not the purpose of this post.The following quote by Dr.George Sheehan puts into words what I was thinking as I ran, "My fight is not with age. Running has won the battle for me. Running is my fountain of youth,my elixir of life. It will keep me young forever. When I run,I know there is no need to grow old. I know that my running,my play,will conquer time." So true.

Monday, September 26, 2011

On Physiological Testing and the Runner

I was reading recently where physiological testing was being done on some elite U.S. distance runners. The hope was that it would yield info that would highlight strengths, as well as areas that needed to be worked on in order for the athletes to achieve optimal performance. Decades ago former world record holder in the marathon(for 12 years),Derek Clayton, offered the following in response to what he thought about the extensive testing he had completed under the supervision of Dr. David Costill. According to Clayton, his test results were mostly unremarkable for a world record holder.He commented that he was happy that he hadn't been tested early in his career and been given those findings. He said: "Being tested would have eliminated the elements of the unknown. It would set limits that may only exist on machines that measure physiology rather than psychology.It is what a runner thinks he or she can do that creates success." So true! Derek closes with this statement that all of us should keep in mind, "Natural ability and determination are must haves,however, of all factors involved in distance running,I would say that the most important is determination." Where most give up,successful runners and champions persevere.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Surging and Herb Elliott

Ah, to be in the kind of condition where you are able to throw in periodic surges during the course of a race. If you haven't read the post from July 28th entitled, Ticking Golden Moments by Roger Bannister,I would encourage you to take a moment and read it. Bannister gives an excellent account of Elliott's tremendous 20 yard victory in the1500 meter race at the 1960 Olympics. A race, where despite Elliott's margin of victory,the first six runners in that race broke the existing Olympic record. From 1896 till 2000, only two runners had faster Olympic 1500 times than his. One of those times by the way was just a little over a half second faster. One of the keys to Elliott's victory was his surging tactics. His first lap time for that race was :58.5,then :59:5, then 56:0, plus :41.6 for the last 300 meters. The following is excerpted from the 1963 edition of Modern Track and Field by J. Kenneth Doherty: "The crux of the race lies there. Elliott was third at the half, running easily. But then, quite unexpectedly,he put all his energy into one tactic. The pace had been averaging :14.7 for each 100 meters. Now he spurted to run the next 100 meters in :13.2,the third lap in :56.0,and one more 100 meters in :13.6. The competition then collapsed behind him.Elliott slowed to :14.4 in the last 100 meters." Needless to say, much preparation went into Herb's training that made it possible for him to employ the surging tactics that he used at the Rome Olympics. We, who desire to race well, should try to develop this technique during the course of our training. What follows are a few quotes from Herb that I'm sure will be a help in our effort: "Percy urged the advisability of impressing an instinct for surging upon my subconscious in the belief that when I became tired during a race I'd react automatically by exerting more effort and making a burst. The change of pace would upset the competition while at the same time allowing me to feel that I held the initiative." The mindset he had in working on this technique was described by Elliott in the following: "Most athletes imagine themselves at the end of their tether before they're even seventy-five percent exhausted. I was so determined to avoid this pitfall that if at any time I thought I was surrendering too soon to superficial pain I'd deliberately try to hurt myself more." Some running and racing wisdom from one of the greatest of all-time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Pioneer of Long Distance Training Speaks

How many out there know who Tom Osler is? Tom is probably best known for his book, Serious Runner's Handbook. Anyone who loves running should own it. However, his self-published book written in 1967, The Conditioning of Distance Runners,introduced to the masses the necessity of aerobic mileage and proper peaking in order to be ready to race your best.In 2009, after 47 years of running an estimated 88,000 miles and 1,540 races, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Osler has put in the time and paid the dues. With a mile p.r. of 4:54 he proved that "miles make champions" as Arthur Lydiard used to say. I say this because when he upped his mileage to 70-75 miles a week, he found success beating runners with much faster mile times while winning a variety of marathons and ultras including the National 50k Championship.What follows are a few insights from Tom that I'm sure you will find helpful. Asked what he would change in his first book Osler said: "I once recommended training on roads,now I'd recommend running on soft,natural surfaces like grass or trails." Amen to that,grass and trails for training are the key to a long running career and minimizing the chances of injury. When asked what was the most common training mistake he responded by saying:"It is easy to ignore the early,mild signs of overtraining and train hard after a bad race. This can push the runner into a slumping spiral,and even cause an injury." Osler had this to say regarding what he liked about racing: "I enjoy that moment in the race when you must use willpower to overrule the body." What does he enjoy most about running? "Running offers both pleasure and pain. There is nothing like the purification of the soul through running.Running helps you connect with what is important in your soul." Well said Tom!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Raw Dogs, Living the Stotan Life

What follows is the first of what will be a two-part post. Back in the 90's I wrote an article that was about a group of runners who called themselves the Raw Dogs. Their origin and where they have gone since then is fascinating. They are the best examples of people who have embraced Cerutty's philosophy and are living the Stotan life.This will be a recap of what I originally wrote about them with an update to follow shortly. After years of no contact with them I recently spoke with one of the members and it was quite revealing and inspiring to hear what the Raw Dogs were up to. To begin,the two founding members were originally with me in a Western New York area group I led called the Stotans. They broke off for reasons I'm still a little uncertain of but let's just say it was probably due to personality and philosophical differences between two factions within the group. There is no question though that both groups were and are zealous in their devotion to Percy Cerutty and what he taught.I should add that the name Raw Dogs was co-opted by them when during the course of a conversation I had referenced that name which a friend Harvey Sipel had told me about previously. The following was written sometime in the mid-90's.
"The "Dogs" have a core membership of six, associates and other runners can increase the total number to close to twenty. At one time group runs were done once during the week and on each weekend day. Once a month they'd head out to the Virgil,N.Y. area on a weekend to camp and run along the Finger Lakes Trails. Gut wrenching runs that involved lots of hills and fartlek were the norm. Participation in area trail races were viewed as a necessary evil to gauge ones' degree of fitness. The highlight of each season was a 21 mile race called the Virgil Mountain Madness, an excellent test of speed,toughness and endurance.
The "Dogs" despise what they perceive as the commercialization of running.Comfortable,durable running gear is favored over the colorful polyester outfits that are the norm these days at local road races. No $100. running shoes,boxes of Powerbars or stacks of Runners World are to be found amongst their ranks. Athletics:How To Become A Champion is their Bible as is the other works by Cerutty.About two months ago five of their members packed up their belongings and moved to Dryden,N.Y. The impetus for this move was to be closer to the Finger Lakes Trails which go for hundreds of miles throughout the northeast. They have rented a five room cottage and some have taken on jobs for a nearby Ithaca landscaping company. Talk about a leap of faith! Crazy? Maybe. Sacrifice? Not to them. They take literally the teachings of Cerutty that says there are no sacrifices in the pursuit of excellence while doing something you love. The "Dogs" now chase their individual goals while in a group enviroment. A few have indicated a desire to make the 1998 U.S. 100k team while another wants to race the Pikes Peak marathon. All want to race well at certain trail and road marathons. They all are in agreement that they want to go far into the Cerutty philosophy and see where it takes them. Workouts now center around a 15 or 20k time trial each Wednesday and 4 hour plus run/hikes on Saturday and Sunday. At their cottage the "Dogs" have turned their biggest room into a place for weight and strength training. Pictures of their heroes cover almost every area in that room. And just to let you know that it's not all work and no fun for the boys,weekends bring many guests and much "partying". The large tent in the front yard and what appears to be empty cases of beer would seem to confirm this statement. For those who desire to be a part of this group it is by invitation only and that comes after a lengthy process where a prospective member proves his mettle on the trail and by what he sincerely professes and by how he lives.In closing, the Raw Dogs" commitment to "walk the talk",disregarding what many close to them may think, is why they are featured in this month's issue."
Next post, an update, a move out west and where they are now.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why We Run and Race

I've been out at Umstead State Park in Raleigh this weekend getting my monthly fix of trail running.Tomorrow I will have the first of a two part post that typifies what living the Cerutty way is all about. There is a group of people that were once a part of the Stotans with me but eventually moved on. I was happy to get an update on what they've been up to a few weeks back after almost a decade of not hearing a thing about them.The following quote is well said by Brutus Hamilton who was a coach,writer,athlete, and philosopher.For a little added info I should say that Brutus was the winner of a silver medal at the Olympics in the decathalon and a former Olympic track and field coach.What you are about to read reaffirms what most of us hopefully already know or feel.
Why We Run and Race
"People may wonder why we like to run distance races. What fun is it? Why all that hard,exhausting work? Where does it get you? Where's the good of it? It is one of the strange ironies of this strange life that those who work the hardest,who subject themselves to the strictest discipline, who give up certain pleasurable things in order to achieve a goal are the happiest. When you see runners lining up for a distance race in some meet, don't pity them, don't feel sorry for them,better envy them instead. They are completely and joyously happy in their simple tastes,their strong and well-conditioned bodies, and with the thrill of competition before them. These are the days when they feel they can run on forever,the best of days when they are running because they love to. Their lives are fuller because of this competition and their memories will be far richer. That's why we love to run. That's why we do run. There is something clean and noble about it."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Pain

The following was written by Dr.George Sheehan who was a long time contributor to Runner's World. Dr. Sheehan was unique in the sense that he was more than just a guy who wrote a monthly column answering medical questions submitted by runners. He was also an excellent runner,philosopher and prolific writer. His book, Running and Being is considered a classic. I really miss the fact that there isn't someone like him around today to answer the medical concerns we runners have. The following quote is informative,insightful and profound as it pertains to the subject of pain and running. As an aside,until I read this I didn't know the physiological origin of pain. Doctor Sheehan wrote:" I do not seek pain,but when it comes I accept it. Pain is simply a symptom of lactic acid accumulating in my muscles. You could as much say I like lactic acid as I like pain. Pain is a private affair. My pain cannot be felt by another. When I am in a race I know the others around me are also in pain. But each of us is in a separate cell. I can never quite know what the runner next to me is going through. There is but one answer to pain: go out to meet it, plunge into it,grasp it as you would the nettle. If your instinct is to withdraw,you are done. There is always the chance that you will push through it into an area of calm as the eye of a hurricane." Have you ever been in a race when at some point you felt like withdrawing from the pain?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What It May Take

On Becoming A Champion by Percy Cerutty
"One of the evidences of greatness,either to be or arrived at, is the ability to live a solitary life,if need be. The person desiring success or greatness may find that they must act as if they abandon the world(as others know it): they must renounce all the petty goals and pleasures(as others understand them) and give themselves over to the task as they see it with as complete a dedication and subjugation of the self, as far as comfort and subsidiary goals are concerned,as if the whole matter was one of life and death. So, if you're not prepared to go it alone,if you are not able to stand firm on your decisions,if you do not feel you will go on---cost you what it may--if you do not have that almost constant need to strive higher,success may well elude you." Yes, as Cerutty writes so insightfully, achieving what you perceive as success in your running,or your life for that matter,takes a commitment that not everyone is willing to make. To many, the above quote may seem extreme but to those who desire greatness, it is not a call to sacrifice,it is a valuable insight and guide to achieving your goals.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Marathons and Hydration,pt.2

Hold on there! I know what you're thinking, pt.2 on marathons and hydration? Yes, what follows is info that you are probably unaware of, info that could potentially improve performance and your ability to recover from the marathon and other long races. Again, we have data from Dr. David Costill, an exercise physiologist who has done more testing and research on runners than any other person in this field in the U.S. It is said that when running or racing long distances what you drink should be more of a concern than what you eat. Think about this, you burn around 100 calories per mile and it takes 35 miles to lose a pound of flesh while you can lose a pound of fluid in two miles,even faster if it's hot. Costill wrote: "When a man loses 2% or more of body weight by sweating, his ability to perform prolonged exhaustive exercise is impaired." I've known many runners who have foolishly refused to properly hydrate during a race because they thought it would disturb their "rhythm",or, it was too awkward to drink while on the run. Something else you may be aware of but for those who aren't, Dr Costill found in his testing that our thirst is not an accurate guide to our fluid needs. He also discovered that a runner can't fill his fluid needs during the course of a run or race. Consequently,we have to make it a priority to properly hydrate during the longer run and races. Dr. Costill wrote, " in laboratory tests that required about eight pounds of sweat loss,we found that thirst was temporarily satisfied by as little as one pound of water. Total replacement of body weight may take several days unless the runner forces himself to drink more than is desired." Is it any wonder that Costill believes a daily weight check is a more accurate indicator of dehydration than thirst? Perhaps the one thing that might cause the most concern in his findings, "chronic dehydration can drastically damage a runner's endurance capacity by lowering his tolerance to fatigue, reducing his ability to sweat,elevating his rectal temperature and increasing the stress on his circulatory system." From reading the above, there is no question that in the past I have been negligent at times of not properly rehydrating as well as not consuming enough fluid during long races. How 'bout you?

Friday, September 9, 2011

From The, It's All Been Said

The following is from 2003 and was a type of "call to arms" for Stotans and others to commit or recommit to what they had learned in previous years.At the time I perceived a weakening of resolve in certain Stotans, who as they became older, had appeared to compromise the teachings they once believed in. Also,some were going after every new training theory that came around the bend. In retrospect, what I wrote seems a bit extreme but the intention was well meaning.Perhaps the following might provide some things for all of us to consider.

It's All Been Said---" Athleticism in my view is not a sport,it is a way of life. It is only the athletes who truly live and can savour life in all its aspects. Only those who excel in something physical yet exercise the mind can ever hope to be balanced and to live balanced lives. What profits a man if he makes a million and ends up dead at fifty. It is not the arrival that is important but the journeying to. The athlete lives now,right at this moment." The preceding quotes are from Percy Cerutty's, Athletics: How To Become A Champion. Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder Herb Elliott once said that Percy was more of a philosopher than simply a trainer of athletes. This fact is what makes Cerutty still relevant today.How many coaches these days are teaching that athleticism is life? Zero! As I have said repeatedly, you are either totally into it,or.....your not. There is no half-way here. The sad thing is that it seems as if the majority,including self-described serious athletes, are not. Acquisition of money,toys and possessions,plus satiating every desire, takes precedence over living the athletic life. Athleticism,as Cerutty taught it, is supposed to encompass all facets of one's life. There are far too many people who believe athleticism pertains only to your workouts and competition. How wrong they are! It is also about how you approach,view, and live your life. What am I getting at here? Folks, we've been shown the way,the search is over ,it's all been said. Don't be like the rest of the world, doing what they do,wanting what they want,chasing after every new fad trend,idea and coach. Cerutty wrote about THE way in his books, Athletics: How To Become A Champion should be read and studied by every person who claims to be a serious athlete. Where Cerutty shows the hows and whys of the athletic life,we find that there are teachers who provide athletes with the fundamentals of training in every sport. These fundamentals are time tested and ageless. If you need to,go back and relearn what they taught, Stop wasting your time with those who say they have found a new and better way. And to you runners, Arthur Lydiard discovered the fundamentals of distance training. It could have just as easily been someone else who experimented and found the way. As fate would have it, a onetime shoemaker from New Zealand did the work and put in the time,thank God for that(and Arthur). Leave the complicated systems,the v-dots and the lactate thresholds for the running hobbyists. It appears that the rest of the world is ready to embrace every new,hyped idea that is sent their way,we know better,in large part because of the two men I've mentioned above,be thankful and content with that fact. In closing: The choice is yours. Nothing more needs to be said. Read,study,write and practice.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Marathons and Hydration

To me there is something special about fall marathons. When I used to live in the Buffalo area there was an excitement in the air as runners trained at Delaware Park and did their long runs at Chesnut Ridge or on a portion of the Skylon marathon course which went along the Canadian side next to the Niagara river. The air was cool and we all had a common purpose that we obsessed over and talked about.By the way, the Skylon course was the site of the '80 and '84 Olympic marathon trials. In continuing our posts that relate to marathon preparation we offer a few things pertaining to hydration during a marathon. It is not intended to be a complete overview on the subject but it is hoped that it will offer some info that can be helpful. Exercise physiologist,Dr.David Costill (see Aug.18th post) says what most experienced runners know, and that is, if a marathoner waits till he's thirsty to take fluids,than its probably too late to replenish himself sufficiently. Also,to minimize the chances of dehydration,Dr. Costill recommends a pint of fluid should be taken 10 minutes before competition with about one-half pint ingested every 10 to 15 minutes during the marathon. Something often overlooked is that in order to prevent stomach problems, as well as a way of maximizing the absorption of the fluids into your blood, the drink should contain less that 2.5% carbohydrates. Sugar laden drinks spell potential disaster for a marathoner.I'll close with this bit of "fluid"related advice from Arthur Lydiard which I should have heeded before a few of my marathons, "Drinking alcohol within 12 hours of a race is unwise. The alcohol is absorbed by the red blood cells,inhibiting the absorption of oxygen." This is coming from a man who loved to drink beer.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

From the Archives,pt.1, The Pro-Athlete 2010

The following article is from The Stotan News and was probably written sometime in 1990. Although at first glance it may just look like a satire or take-off on the exorbidant salaries and greed that are a part of the major U.S. sports,running was very much on my mind when I wrote it. Despite appearance fees,prize money and sponsorships that have become more available in recent decades,most runners will never be able to make a living from their sport,let alone become rich from it. There's a belief that has seemed to exist forever within the running world that most participate in it because of a love for running,not a desire to get rich.I've believed that and still hold to that belief. Personally,I think that paying a football player 40 million "up front" and the balance of his 100 million dollar contract over 5 years,as was done recently,is obscene and unwarranted. As I'm sure you all know,contracts like this are commonplace to basketball and baseball, as well as football. To those who say players need to get what they can because of short careers or because the owners are making tons of money I say this,everything needs to be scaled back. One reason,tickets to games are anything but affordable these days for the average Joe. Also,have we not learned that the more money in a sport,the more corrupted it becomes? Doubt this? As one example,look to the spike in drug use of all kinds among the sports where there is alot of money to be made.In retrospect,it's funny how I noted 2010 as the date in the title,I say this because I thought back then that the extremes I mentioned were still going to be years away from becoming a reality,how wrong I was.
The Pro-Athlete 2010--The Shape of Things to Come
The news of Michael "Nike" Morgan signing with the New York Yankees rocked the sporting world as he agreed to the richest contract ever when he signed for $250 million over five years. Morgan,baseball's most prolific hitter,is no stranger to grabbing headlines and creating controversy. Just six months ago he received $29 million from Phil Knight,co-founder and CEO of Nike, for legally changing his middle name to Nike. This time though Michael appears to have outdone himself. What's raising the eyebrows of owners throughout baseball is not the size of the contract but the perks included within it. Some of the perks giving other owners and league officials fits are: 1.) Ownership of a luxury box at Yankee stadium plus 25 dugout level seats for all home games. 2.) Inclusion of his masseuse,bodyguard,trainer,dietician and coach on the Yankee payroll. 3.) Private hotel room and dining facility for all away games. 4.) Input regarding all coaching appointments. 5.) 7% ownership of the team. 6.) Permission to end his season early if the team is mathematically eliminated from play-off contention. The last 3 items have caused league officials most concern. Yankee brass state, "Mike "Nike" Morgan is a person of integrity and we feel privileged to have him as part of our family." They dismiss statistics that point to an 85% drop-off in performance by players who sign rich long-term contracts. Mr. Steinbrenner,owner of the Yankees said: "Mike told me he loves the game and money is not that big of a deal to him." No word yet on the rumoured increase in ticket prices at Yankee Stadium which are already the highest in baseball with cheapest seats going for $75.
To the above I say, ah,the simplicity and beauty of running.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

More From Emil

"I consider running--distance running in particular-- the healthiest of all competititive sports. The marathon is not the most arduous sport, as it's commonly known, but the most perfect sport for the human organism. Muscle elasticity,commitment of will,and preparation of the nervous system are all required in a single long run.The ability to recover from stress--not in an armchair,but while actually running--is equally important. The person who can put all these abilities together is a hero,who can rightly congratulate himself on the achievement. Medal or not,such a runner has proved his mettle." a quote from Emil Zatopek. Those who might want to dismiss the above quote should keep in mind that it was made by a multiple gold medal winning Olympian who was one of the hardest trainers to ever grace a track.
Happy to be back up and running,more posts to follow.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Technical Difficulties

My modem went down late yesterday so I won't be able to post till Sunday. Sorry for the late notice,will have something on Sunday and Monday. I'm anxiously awaiting the bio by Keith Richardson on fell running legend, Joss Naylor,it's available only through sources in the United Kingdom. The man was a phenomenal mountain runner. Check out the archived Sports Illustrated article from the early 70's that's about the time Joss ran the Pikes Peak marathon, a great article.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Words From Emil

For years I didn't know a whole lot about Emil Zatopek. I was aware of the fact that he was a hard training Olympic gold medalist who ran with what appeared to be poor running form. I came to discover that he was much more than that simplistic perception. He was a kind,courageous person who was also one of the great runners of this past century. For those who don't know, Emil won 38 consecutive 10,000 meter races,he set 18 world records in distances between the 5k and 30k. He also won 4 Olympic gold medals and one silver. I would be remiss not to mention that at the 1952 Olympics he won gold in the 5k,10k and marathon while setting Olympic records in each of those events. I should ask this,what do you think the chances are of that ever happening again? Oh yes,on that gold in the Olympic marathon,it was his first time racing that distance. When I said Emil was courageous I wasn't only referring to what he did on the track. He spoke out publicly against a repressive Czech government and was condemned and persecuted for doing so. He also had a knack of providing some interesting and provocative quotes.On the line before the start of an Olympic marathon he said this to some of his competitors, "Men, today we die a little." I don't know about any of you but that is something I'd rather not hear before racing a marathon. Emil was well aware of the essence of running when he said: "A runner must run with dreams in his heart,not money in his pocket." So much for being concerned with sponsorship,appearance fees and prizes. On the reality of racing, "It's at the borders of pain and suffering that the men are separated from the boys." This last quote is one that can apply to life as well as the disappointments we may encounter in our running and racing, "What has passed is already finished with. What I find more interesting is what is still to come." Well said.