Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Runner's List of New Year's Resolutions

It's a common occurrence in the media and elsewhere to disparage the idea of making New Year's Resolutions. Their rationale is that no one keeps them anyway so why bother doing so? To me this is flawed reasoning.You mean,just because you didn't keep them in the past it is not worthwhile to ever again consider or write down things that you wish to do or change about yourself? It is as they say,worthy.Change happens and any direction taken towards positive change is a good thing. What follows is a list of resolutions one runner has made,what are yours going to be?
1. I will follow my training schedule all the way through this year. I am not going to drift off into some type of free form,do as I please routine midway through as I have done in recent years.How can I reap the racing benefits if I don't follow the plan?
2.I will actually use a training log.This is one I've been telling myself I'm going to do for years.I begin with good intentions but get lazy and undisciplined and gradually give up, telling myself that a log is really not necessary.I say this despite the fact that runners much better than myself  use one.Once again,it all boils down to discipline.
3.I will make a concerted effort to go under 3 hours for the marathon one more time. Isn't that the benchmark for us average Joe runners?  It takes planning and total commitment but the journey to that goal makes us better runners and people,if,we allow it to.
4.I will seek out new places to train.I wouldn't say that 'familiarity breeds contempt' but it's good to challenge ourselves with new areas and terrains.As I said the other day,runners tend to be creatures of habit and that may not always be a good thing.
5.I will try running different types of races.Once again,it is essential for runners to venture out of their comfort zone from time to time.
6.I will stick with a regular and appropriate weight training routine.It is a proven, essential part of a runner's training regimen, that among other things,contributes to a runner being less likely to become injured.
7.I will not drink alcohol to excess.Why am I still doing this? You'd think I was addicted or something.
8.I will stop eating junk foods and foods that have no real nutritional value.I will also not overeat which is more destructive to one's health then most people realize.
9.I will give something back to the running community. As a runner I am overly concerned with ME,my training,my diet,myraces,etc. I will volunteer to help at some local road races or mentor some novice runners or...........
10.I will reread the greatest running bio ever written, Pre! by Tom Jordan. It will inspire and remind me of what guts,passion and total commitment really are.I'll read the book slowly and thoughtfully,considering each word. I'll also at some point watch the DVD on his life called, Fire on the Track.

Seems like Monday night might be a great time to start it all off by going long.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Runner's Quirks and Habits

Those of us who live for the run and have been at it a long time tend to have our habits,rituals and quirks.You know,like when you see another runner at the park or the track and you find yourself looking at the kind of shoes they are wearing.I found myself doing this just last week,I was discreetly checking out this guy's shoes when he suddenly says to me,"those (Asics) 2160's your wearing were a good shoe." While were on the subject of shoes,the reason I still had a pair of 2160's is because I bought 2 pairs as they were bringing in the "new and improved" 2170's.Runner's tend to be very loyal to a shoe that works for them and want to have them around as long as possible.
Ah, the relationship a runner has with his shoes:
I won't mention names here but I know runners who won't even drive their car to a workout in their training shoes.
Then their is the extreme reluctance to discard the old ones.When their training days are over the shoes are relegated to casual, walking around footwear.
This all makes me think of race tee shirts,there are ones I've had for decades,they are worn at just the right race or training session. I told a younger runner who had asked me how long I had been racing,"This may sound like a cliche or something but I really do have race shirts that are older than you."
There is specific gear and apparel we wear to races as well as a certain kind of bag or sack we carry them in.
Perhaps alot of these quirks and habits exist because we distance runners are creatures of habit.I mean,don't we all have a pre-race routine? Don't these pre-race routines vary to some degree in relation to the distance to be raced? There is a distinct difference in the pre-race preparation before a 5k as opposed to a marathon.But either way,we have a specific type of routine we do before each race.I recall that prior to longer trail races I would always dilute a bottle of Twin Lab Ultra Fuel with water and eat a Power Bar 3 hours before the start.Speaking of Power Bars,remember when they first came out you could only get them at Bike shops? I digress. Runners are very particular and specific as to what they eat and don't eat before a race.The same goes for what they drink.
Runners who have been at it for awhile and would be described as experienced are locked into the training systems they have followed for years. They are very unlikely to go with the hot new training system that's being touted.They'll tell you they've been around long enough and have seen them come and go, besides,they plan to stick with what works for them.
Similarly,runners have certain races they do year after year,they are the highlight of their racing season. I think of the Belle Watling Club in Buffalo where several members have gone to the Boston Marathon every year for 35+ years.
The social post race and post workout rituals, the "watering holes" where runners go and drink and tell stories,relive great runs,races and experiences.It's all part of what makes distance running so special,people who share a love for the purest of all sports,distance running.
If any of you have rituals, quirks or habits you'd like to share, send them along.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cerutty on Success

Those who have been fortunate enough to read the excellent bio on Percy Cerutty called Why Die?, know that his childhood and early life involved much deprivation and hardship.This experience molded what later revealed itsself as the good and bad qualities of an adult Cerutty.The man knew failure,but more importantly,he knew all about success.What follows are some of his thoughts on success:
"Success is an abstraction.There is no actual or concrete thing called success.There are only successful people,successful ventures,etc."
I would add that one man's idea of success is not necessarily another man's.
"The first step on the road to a personal success in something is to believe that success should be,at some time or another normal for us,and to set about the work of achieving it."
Confidence and a belief in the worthiness of your quest is essential.
"If you would be successful,first examine yourself as to type,and potential ability.Then list your weaknesses.You can take your gifts for granted,since it is easy to develop them.It is your weaknesses that you must work on."
How many of us did this when we began?
"Achieving success is like climbing a mountain.You can stand off from afar,and glimpse the summit.But if you are wise,you will quickly turn away from any such contemplation and start organising yourself,and getting on the way."
This is why there is value in setting short term goals.Also,our "big"goal can at times seem unattainable and far off if it is the only one we have set for ourselves.Cerutty has this to say about too much contemplation of your long term goal when he writes:
"It is more important to study the path immediately before us than to spend much time gazing upwards."
"The practical man,once he has glimpsed his goal seldom talks about it.He gets busy in taking the first steps towards his goal."
"Be glad for setbacks,disappointments.They teach us more than a fortuitous success."
If we are open and allow them to.
"The greater the failure the greater the stocktaking that is needed."
"Experience is essential.Be prepared to put in the time and effort gaining it."
Patience is essential, as they say--'the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.'
"The old well-proven paths of industry and deep thought are are not the well-proven paths to success for nothing.The paving stones of the path may vary but generally they are found to be intelligent work,persistence,concentration,dedication,erudition,resilliance,and devotion to an idea."
So well put,the above are indeed the keys.I like his naming of intelligent work as a key.Too many distance runners just hammer away giving little thought to what they are doing and what they want to accomplish.They could get so much farther if they considered the type of training they should do to reach their goals.
As the New Year aapproaches,is this the year that you totally go for the goal you have only been considering from "afar off "?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Runners--Don't Overstress!

Overwork,not listening to your body--the two things that can lead to the burnout or breakdown of a runner.Avoiding them means the athlete can continue on his path to distance running excellence with fewer injuries and delays in achieving his goals.
Tom Osler,writer,veteran runner and racer, has the credentials that command respect. We've referenced Tom before on this site,for those who don't know him,take a moment do a search and you'll see that he is someone you should pay attention to.Here he offers some suggestions on what habits athletes should incorporate into their training program to reduce the likelihood of what he calls overstress.As usual,I will offer a few comments after some of his suggestions.
"1.Frequent easy days---Some athletes train hard every other day,running easily on the remaining days.This makes good sense,as it tends to insure recovery."
"2.Flexible mental attitude--there is no surer path to injury,poor health and bad racing than a stubborn dedication to a strict training schedule. Common sense must always prevail and a schedule must be abandoned or altered as the need arises."
As I have said many times before--the athlete who won't back off when all the signs are pointing to the fact that he should,is most likely succumbing to uncontrolled anxiety about the impending race.
"3. Good Diet--The runner should attempt to get his nourishment from fresh natural sources."
Fresh and natural are the keywords--if you wouldn't put a low quality gasoline in a Rolls Royce,then why are you putting junk food and other foods with ingredient lists that go on for 4+ lines in a body that you want to perform at its best?
"4.Wear good shoes---A poor shoe is a sure source of injury.The shoe should have a soft flexible bottom to absorb road shock,the elevation of the heel is critical."
Forget the fads,the trends with an agenda,a light flexible shoe has always been the way to go.Avoid the 'gumboots' and the shoes that claim to 'correct problems' the runner has.
"5.Quit races when exhausted--Long distance races can be brutal on a runner's health."
I believe this fact is most commonly overlooked by those who race.Races are very stressful and not healthful to the runner.By not healthful I mean racing a 30k or say a marathon is more destructive to the body then constructive.Of course, if you prepare properly and take the time to recover you can facillitate a healthful recovery.Gutting out a marathon after going out too fast in the beginning and suffering the last 10 miles is just plain stupid.Maybe for some it is missplaced machismo.Use your head--respect your body.
"6.Watch your weight--A gain in weight of even a few pounds places a heavy additional strain on the runner."
Another fact that is often overlooked.More weight,more stress on every part of your body,bones,heart,.....
Call the above preventative medicine for the runner.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What Makes a Good Coach?

Coaches,most readers I'm sure have had one at some time in their lives,perhaps some of you do now.A coach can make a lasting impression on an athlete,hopefully that impression is a good one.Unfortunately,nothing can destroy a love for athletics like a bad coach.
As we get older and become parents we want our children be guided by intelligent,sensitive coaches.
A very good coach,Joe Vigil,provides some criteria below as to what constitutes a good coach.After some of his criteria I will offer a comment or two.
1. "A coach must be thoughtful and imaginative."
How true. He must be able to assess and evaluate his athletes and make changes accordingly.
2. "A coach will act as a tutor initially, and then eventually allow the athlete to introduce his/her ideas into the plan."
This is especially so for the older,more experienced athlete,this belief was also advocated by both Cerutty and Lydiard.
3. "A coach must have good technical and practical knowledge in all aspects of running."
Not as common an attribute in distance running coaches as you might think.
4. "A coach must be able to communicate this knowledge and experience to the athlete."
What did Cerutty once say: if the coach can't do it,he can't teach it? Perhaps it would be better to say,if the coach hasn't done it,can he teach it?
5."The athlete and coach eventually become a team and share in all aspects of training and proper direction for living."
This is the ideal coach,I think of the late John Wooden among others.
6. "A coach must be able to assess ability and determine a person's potential."
No easy task,it's a skill,some call it a gift.
7. "A coach should inspire, motivate and lead the athlete in all training and competition."
And,a coach should support an athlete and offer only constructive criticism when they do not perform up to expectations.
8. "A coach must never use athletes to further his/her own reputation."
A great point,the coach often takes the credit for the success of his athlete but never takes the blame when they're injured,often habitually.
9. "A coach must be absolutely honest so that the athlete may be able to rely on his/her decisions."
A no-brainer,the world has seen enough of dishonest coaches,particularly on the professional level.
10."An athlete must respect the coach's experience and judgement just as the coach must respect the athlete's ability and determination."
11. "The coach and athlete must get along well,both on and off the track.It is vital to enjoy a good laugh together as well as discuss the technical aspects of training and racing."
It's because of these kinds of relationships that athletes talk about their coaches for decades after.
12. "A coach should be a guide,philosopher and friend.He/She must be positive and always constructive with criticism."
Amen to that! We need more coaches like this today,thoughtful,sensitive and philosophical.
13. "A coach must be enthusiastic and easy to talk to.This enthusiasm should be infectious and should lead to greater training and racing."
Yes! Leave having a fear of your coach to football and other such sports,this type of coach has no place in distance running.
14. "Above all, remember that if a good coach can stimulate an athlete, so can an athlete stimulate a coach to good coaching practices."
I'm sure lots of you recall the teams you've been on that had an energy when you were at practice,it seemed to flow back and forth between team members and the coach.
If you have,or have had a good coach,be thankful,they are not as common as you think they are.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

To Live a Life Fully

Percy Cerutty believed quite correctly that with the body properly trained and honed, a person was best able to take on the challenges of this world. Consider the following:
"That without strength,efficient organs,intelligence and an absence of secret fears man is only a parody,and for him life cannot be fully lived. He does not dominate his enviroment,it is the enviroment that dominates him.Such a man is not free. Only the mentally free and the physically strong can live this type of life to the full.Nature ordains it this way.There is no catch to it.Nature favors the fit."
There is a confidence and self-assurance that just seems to be a part of the person who trains his whole body on a regular basis. I am not only talking about getting in your daily five miles here,I'm talking about other exercises and types of training routines which ultimately challenge you and build character.Consider the above and ask yourself, are you doing enough?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

One Day Delay

I spent the last 2 days in Asheville,North Carolina and along the Blue Ridge Mountains scouting out potential locations for a New Portsea homestead. Due to my arriving back late Wednesday,the scheduled post will be on Thursday.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Grown-up Runner's Christmas List

Christmas is a special time of year for many reasons and gift giving and receiving have alot to do with why it is so special.
For me, getting gifts at Christmas brings back memories from years ago when it was a simpler less complicated time.
What follows is my Christmas wish list,emphasis here is on wish,but hey,there's nothing wrong with wishing.
1.How 'bout an English language version of Yiannis Kouros' book he wrote years ago that chronicles his remarkable 6 Day Race in New York City. Against all odds and at one point,horrible weather,Yiannis set a record for that distamce. Are there still some hardcore runners out there who don't know he is? He is in my opinion the greatest runner who has ever lived. He owns every point to point ultra record as well as every one from 24 hours to 6 days. Consider 303km for 24 hours for starters.Break it down and see how many miles that is in a day. Go to Wikipedia and take a moment to read over the records he has set and the prestigious Ultra races he has won. Google Yiannis and read some of the accounts of his races. Yet this man can't get his book published? I mean they're publishing Dean K's books,why not Yiannis'? If you have not seen the documentary on Yiannis entitled,'Forever Running', you really need to buy it,today! This man is one of a kind,unlike any runner you have ever read about or seen. Last time I looked the site Zombierunner was selling the DVD.Oh yeah,Chris McD., I'm still waiting for that story you told me you were going to do on him.
2.I'm showing my age here,how about more marathons with fewer entrants,say 200 or 300? I'm tired of the congestion and confusion that comes with the thousand plus marathons.Making your way through a sea of people every which way you turn and go,waiting in lines for most everything and running for several minutes before you pass the starting line gets old quick.You younger runners may have never experienced the calm and lack of confusion that accompanies the smaller marathons.
3.I'd like cheaper running shoes. I think I'm finally a believer in the recommendation that you need a new pair every four months but,come on,100 plus dollars for new ones? Despite marketing research to the contrary, I still don't believe the majority of runners can easily afford the cost of  changing out shoes every 4 months.
4.I want a running magazine that is like the way Runner's World and Running Times were in the 70's.They were performance oriented,maximum performance oriented magazines. They had quality interviews with great runners,people like Lydiard,Clayton and Sheehan were doing monthly columns.Yeah,I understand that magazines have to reach the biggest audience to survive but this is a wish list isn't it?
5.I want a charismatic American runner like Steve Prefontaine to arrive on the scene,someone to get this country interested in distance running again,especially the young kids. As Dick Kendall once told me,if the sport doesn't involve hiting,catching,dribbling or throwing a ball, the people aren't going to be much interested in it.
6.An injury free year.A year where I can move up the mileage, and at times the intensity,and not have my body rebel.
7.One more great racing season,heck,give me one more truly great race and I'll be happy,I shouldn't be greedy.
So there you have it, my Christmas list,what's yours like? Feel free to send some of yours along to the comments section at the bottom of today's article, I'd love to read them.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Before Your Next Big Race

We all know that evaluation and re-evaluation of all things pertaining to an athlete's training and racing is essential. I mean, who wants to make the same mistake over and over again?
Jon Sinclair,a former U.S. champion in Cross-Country and at the 10,000 meter distance,co-authored a book that gives a checklist of what we should ask ourselves after we have run an important race.The emphasis here is on important. This is a race that you made a point of really preparing for. I'm not talking about your generic weekend 5k road race here. For many,you can use the following after a recent marathon,but again,it can apply to any distance.
After some of the points I will offer an opinion or two.
1."Will I eat differently? Will I drink more fluidls during the race?"
Not drinking enough during a long race,especially a marathon,is a common rookie mistake. As a running mentor of mine said decades ago,if you feel thirsty during the marathon,it's too late,you're well on your way to becoming dehydrated. As far as eating? I still remember these guys eating big pancake breakfasts 3 hours before the Revco- Cleveland marathon.What were they thinking? The advancement in fluid replacement drinks and energy bars,etc. have been a Godsend. Eat a nice quality meal the night before in a relaxing,peaceful enviroment.
2."Will I rest more? Will I build a longer taper into my training schedule?"
Here is another common mistake made by all runners.Although some experienced runners would never admit it,continuing to train without backing off prior to the big race is proof that they are succumbing to pre-race anxiety or nerves.Take the marathon; you have been focusing all year on this race and you can't bring yourself to do a calculated taper before? Studies have shown that if you don't run a step for a week you lose only 5% of your overall fitness.
3."Will I run more mileage or less? Will I do more speedwork,tempo runs or resistance training?"
In my opinion,runners,particularly in the longer races like the 30k and up,don't do enough aerobic running.This pertains especially to the weekly long run. You do 20 milers all year to prepare for a marathon? What about the other 6 miles? This is my personal opinion but the longer the distance to be raced the less the emphasis should be on speed(interval) work.Now I am not talking about tempo runs,fartlek and training over hilly terrain and time trials,they are essential to long distance race preparedness.
4."What will I do the same or differently next race to prepare myself mentally and physically?"
Ah,the million dollar question for runners who want to race well. These are the the kind of questions you ask yourself the morning after THE race over a copy of coffee while wondering how many days it will take for the muscle soreness in your legs to go away.
5."Will I train exactly the same for the next race?"
I don't know about you folks but no matter how well I raced I always think I can "tweak" the program a little to do even better next time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Philosophy of Commitment,pt.2

In considering yesterday's post,we are again reminded that the qualities needed to find success in athletics are the same ones needed to succeed in "the world." I believe this fact is sometimes forgotten.Most people tend to think that if you are not winning championships,setting records or are a member of some national team then a total dedication to distance running(athletics) is,well.......extreme or inappropriate. Of course, I quickly add that your involvement in sport does not give you license to neglect family or other obligations.Sadly,over the years I have seen athletes do just that.They have not developed the moral precepts and values that Coach Vigil notes are essential to success in sport and life.However,no matter your level of skill in your chosen sport,your dedication to, and the pursuit of excellence in that sport is a worthy endeavor.
Consider the following by Vigil:
"It doesn't matter what your goal in life is,you must develop a sense of purpose.To participate in sport,to study,and to train is to believe in something.It is this relentless quest for excellence and the unyielding belief in yourself that challenges you to strive and overcome.During the process,the individual becomes transformed and inspired to new heights of achievement.You must develop a deep vision and total commitment because then,and only then,will you develop a deeper perspective of life in general."
I don't know about you but I find the above profound and most insightful. For instance, it is so true when Vigil says you must develop a sense of purpose in your life. From my experience in the psychiatric field, I've seen countless numbers of people drugging and drinking to excess because they were just going through life,they had no purpose, no passion. Look around at the people who live long,vigorous lives,these are most often the people who are doing something they love.
What you may already know is that there is much more to distance running then simply lacing up your shoes and heading out the door.Yes,it's a physical sport but it should also be a thinking man's (person's) sport.I've known alot of great runners in my life,many of whom were not what you would call people of character,many tended to be shallow and egocentric.Unfortunately, they  were never taught or recognized the totality of what this sport has to offer and the lessons that can be learned from it.Ideally, athletics should make you a better person in all areas of your life.
So,are you really committed to achieving athletic excellence? Have you made it a priority in your life? If you haven't, you should consider doing so today! I say this because you will reap more than the physical benefits.As Coach Vigil writes: "The decision to go after a goal is the key to success.The determination to stay with it is what brings out the quality of excellence."

As a reminder,new posts will be published each Wednesday and Saturday.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Philosophy of Commitment,pt.1

"Every Man Must Find His Own Philosophy---His Attitude Towards Life"--  Lin Yutana
It is vitally important to establish a training system that works for you.Your training system has to take in how you are physically,what you're goals are and how much time you can dedicate to achieving personal athletic excellence.
What follows are some more words of wisdom from Coach Joe Vigil on becoming the best you can be.For those who might not be familiar with Coach Vigil: he has a doctorate in exercise physiology and has coached and lead his team,Adams State College, to an unprecedented 19 national championships (14 in cross country).He has coached internationally at the Pan American Games,The Olympics and the Cross Country World Championships. Obviously,the man knows distance running and has much to say about all aspects relating to it. I find it interesting that most runners I've encountered over the years have never heard of Coach Vigil.
In his mind, an athlete must establish the worthiness of his seeking athletic excellence.If a distance runner believes that his running is just a healthy supplement to his life then chances are that's what it will be and remain. As we've said here before, when running is a part of your being,a part of who you are,you don't put it on the back burner of your daily life. You'd no sooner do that than you would disregard eating,sleeping or working.Those who Live For the Run don't view running as a frivolous activity.Vigil reveals that the quest for success in life and sport are intertwined.
Coach Vigil states the truth when he says the following:
"Philosophy for life and philosophy for athletics are one and the same. It is essential that those who have a dream or vision of accomplishing a goal or task in life develop a set of guidelines or values which will become their philosophy--their roadmap to a destination of victory and success.You must be willing to inquire and understand the most comprehensive principles of reality that are available to you.It is this love of knowledge about your sport and the search for it that directs the course of action which becomes your philosophy,like a huge umbrella hovering over you and constantly reminding you of what your purpose in life and sport is all about."
After reading the above I asked myself,"Is it any wonder that Cerutty entitled one of his books,'Sport is My Life'?"
Due to time constraints I have to cut this article short but I will post the remainder of it tomorrow.
Coach Vigil has some really unique insights that I'm sure you will find most helpful.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nine Necessary Qualities Needed to Achieve Athletic Success

Dr James Loehr writes that there are nine qualities an athlete must have to attain athletic success. Read the following and evaluate how you stack up against the nine steps. Are there any areas you need to work on? The comments made below the numbered qualities are by Joe Vigil, the outstanding former distance running coach at Adams State College
An athlete must:
"1. Be self-motivated and self-directed.
Motivation and direction comes from within.
2.Be positive but realistic.
The athlete's tradenark is a blend of realism and optimism,with an eye always fixed on success,on what can happen and what is possible.
3.Be in control of his or her emotions.
Anger,frustration,and fear must be controlled or they most certainly will control you.
4.Be calm and relaxed under fire.
Athletes don't avoid pressure. They are challenged by it and are at their best when the pressure is on and the odds are against them.
5.Be highly energetic and ready for action.
The athlete is his own igniter and can do this inspite of fatigue,personal problems or 'bad luck.'
6.Be determined.
They are relentless in their pursuit of  goals.Setbacks are taken in stride as they move forward.
7.Be mentally alert.
Athletes are capable of long and intensive periods of total concentration.They are capable of tuning in that which is important and tuning out that which is not,regardless of the pressure.The athlete has attention control.
8.Be doggedly self confident.
The athlete must display a nearly unshatterable sense of confidence in their ability to perform well.They do not succumb to self defeating thoughts and ideas.
9.Be fully responsible.
The athlete must take responsibility for his or her own actions.There are no excuses.They must be fully aware that their destiny,as an athlete,is in their own hands."

An excellent comprehensive list with relevant,thought provoking comments by Vigil.
So what areas do you need to work on?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Marathoning Tactic

The mind and the marathon;controlling your emotions and anxiety is critical to racing that distance well. Don Kardong offers a technique you may want to consider in the future if you have had troubles in those areas in the past. Kardong,an excellent distance runner and writer, finished fourth in the marathon at the 1976 Olympics.Sadly, he was denied a bronze medal because the winner in '76 was  years later found to be a "druggie." Consider the following:
"I have a theory on marathon running,where a rational approach is so important.During the first ten miles of the race,I try to disasociate myself from what I am doing.I talk,joke and daydream in ways that remove me from the race. But after 10 miles,my consciousness re-enters the picture,and concentration begins.From that point on,the problem is concentration,and the feeling is one of acute association with the task at hand.I switch from automatic pilot to manual control,and through the last part of the race I pick off those people who have over-associated,i.e.,who have tried to concentrate from the start.The people who disassociate(daydream) the whole way are never in the race.I believe the combination of passive with active running is the most effective mental condition for marathoning."
As one who has been guilty of "over-associating" in marathons in the past, what Kardong says makes sense.I recall being on what he describes as "manual control",being too preoccupied with how I'm feeling right from the start of the race, in the state of potential panic where I interpret something going on with me physically as being potentially disastrous.It's exhausting physically and emotionally.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Personalize It!

It's the how to train books that take up most of the space in the running section at your local bookstore.Readers to this blog realize that a "one size fits all" approach to training is not always a good idea. Lydiard recommended that runners take his schedule, which build strength and fitness progressively, then personalize it to fit their strengths and weaknesses.
Bill Bowerman,Nike co-founder and great Oregon running coach offered these related thoughts on the subject: "If someone says, 'hey,I ran 100 miles this week,how far did you run?' Ignore him! What the hell difference does it make? The magic is in the man,not the 100 miles."
 As far as the mindset that further or faster is always better he offered the following:
"runners tend to think the farther and faster they run in training,the better it's going to be for them...A runner can have just as much success,if not more success,by finding what his limit is in relation to his progress.It just doesn't make sense to think,'I'm going to be successful because I have run farther than anyone else.' "
The go to guy on running physiology,Dr.David Costill, sums it all up in this excerpt from 'What Research Tells the Coach About Distance Running', "It is unlikely that any one type of training will produce perfect results for all runners since the combination of anatomical,physiological and psychological factors which compose the distance runner are too divergent."
What Costill and Bowerman recognize is that slavishly following someone elses training regimen or a schedule taken as is from a book is unwise and can be counter productive to a runner's development.The answer lies in the runner evaluating his progress and discerning his needs along the way. This requires an athlete who is not only knowledgeable but thoughtful and patient as well.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

One Thing You Must Not Forget

As human beings we are all capable of change,mentally and physically. The big question is, do we want to change and do we believe a change can actually happen?
Emil Zatopek,who won the gold at the 1952 Olympics in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters and the marathon, has something to say about this:
"By a persistent effort of will it is possible to change the whole body. The athlete must always keep in mind this concept of change and progression; he must never accept his limitations as being permanent,because they are not."
Emil was living proof of the validity of that quote.The logical question is, are we accepting our perceived limitations as being permanent?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If You Are Thinking of Running a Marathon Consider This

Without a doubt the marathon is the distance that has the highest number of ill-prepared entrants.Something happened many years ago that led to this distance becoming the be all end all for runners.Whether it was Runner's World or people like Jeff Galloway, or the programs that seemed to appear overnight that said they could get you from zero miles to the starting line in 6 or 8 months,the marathon experienced a huge increase in participants. By appealing to people's desire to climb a type of personal Mt. Everest we saw the emergence of "coaches" only to willing to help them on their journey while making money in the process.
If you are a thinking,discerning runner you recognize that racing,as well as running a marathon, is something that should be done only after years of preparation. I know that flies in the face of those who believe that there is always a better, faster way, but, if you want to do it right and have a long running career, then you must be patient.Nothing can speed up the benefits your muscles,tendons and joints get from seasons of mileage and time out on your feet.Years ago everyone was shocked when Carlos Lopes,at age 37,won the gold medal in the Olympic marathon.When asked what was the secret for this success at such an age,he said that his whole distance running career had prepared him for the marathon.
While we're on the subject of age,far too many young promising runners,those in their 20's, prematurely begin racing the marathon. They either ignore or are unaware of the fact that as we age the drop off in performance times lessen as the distance lengthens. So what's the hurry?
I say ignore the marathon hype,race a variety of distances over different terrains and settings,see what you can do,find your ideal distance,then,when you've put in the time,laid the foundation,make the move to the marathon.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lest We Forget: The Basic Requirements For the Stotan Are

Consider the following by Percy Cerutty:
"1.Realization that,as Wordsworth the poet says, 'Life is real,life is earnest'.which denotes that there is no time for wasteful ideas and pursuits.
2.In place of wasteful hobbies there commences a period of supervised and systematic physical training,together with instruction in the art of living fully.This replaces previously undirected life.
3.Swimming will be done all year round.It is obligatory to swim in the open sea at least once every month. This especially strengthens the will and builds resistance to quitting the task ahead.
4.The programme implies the cessation of late hours.Amusements,both social and entertaining,should be reduced to a minimum and then only in the nature of relaxation from strenuous work..
5.To become a leader it must be accepted that the first requisite for leadership is being able to give wholehearted loyalty,obedience and support to the leader at the time.
I hold that the human being cannot be reduced to the status of a machine--and I attribute the success of the athletes who received their early training at Portsea on my specialized fartlek methods,not so much to the initial ability of the athletes,but to the form of training we favour at Portsea,and the terrain we train upon.The introduction of resistance in the form of sand and hill is too important to be ignored and the track can never fulfill the lack nor the scientific formula replace 'natural and instinctive' effort."
As I've said before,it's hard to believe there was once an athletic coach who wrote things like the above.I especially appreciate the quote: "there is no time for wasteful ideas and pursuits." I was thinking that most of the above would be excellent advice for the college age athtlete.
For the rest of us, the question we might ask ourselves is,are we wasting our time and ultimately our lives? Consider,Commit,Plan--then Proceed with a Dedicated Discipline.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I don't mean to be critical,think of this as an observation with a question: why is it that everywhere I turn I see people talking on cellphones? Be it in the car,going into a store,in the store,going out of the store,walking down the street, I see people on cellphones. What is most disturbing is the number of people I see texting while driving.There is no doubt in my mind that cellphone use is habit forming, and to many,addicting. However the purpose of today's post is not to rant about cellphone use and abuse but it did give me the idea for what you are about to read. Today we consider the necessity for athletes to "hibernate" periodically,to get away from it all; away from the noise and the busyness of everyday life. Cerutty addresses this subject quite nicely in the following excerpt from one of his early writings.
"Few or no animals would appear to function without periods of rest. Many have periods of hibernation. Man can benefit similarly.For many years I practiced this principle.At least twice a year it is good to get away from it all.This does not mean tearing off to some social place for a round of fun. Hibernation is when we go to some remote place and rest.I conceive it as perfect when we assume a hut or cabin,with or without companions,where we are 'snowed in'.There is food,firing,books.We lie about,resting alot; eating a little,reading resting,dozing,perhaps chatting a little.After two or three days a man will leave and return to 'civilisation' like a giant refreshed."
To the above I'd add that your place of hibernation should have no TV or other electronic conveniences like radios and cellphones.If you do bring someone along with you make sure that they understand fully what is,or better said,isn't going to be happening.Solitude and having the opportunity to think and rest allows you to "recharge your batteries",to consider things you might never have considered if you hadn't taken the time to "hibernate".

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Training:Putting Down the Foundation,pt.3

In this third and final installment on base training we get to the heart of this all important part of your training schedule.
"For those of you who are looking to increase mileage to 50 or 60 miles per week max, it is advised to increase the bulk of your mileage on two of your weekday runs(refer to Tuesday and Thursday of the schedule below) and on the designated long run done on the weekend..As for the 'traditional' Sunday long run, it is not an absolute necessity that you must do it every weekend. Something else to consider,if you plan to run marathons I would certainly encourage you to at least work up to a 23 mile long run.It has always baffled me why those training for the marathon would only go as far as 20 miles on their longest run.We've all experienced the pain of those last 6 miles(or less),why not acclimate yourself to the distance before hand?
Some things to watch for as you get further into your base phase: becoming fatigued and/or feeling listless. As fitness improves,your resting pulse lowers. It is not a bad idea to check it each week. They say if your pulse is faster than usual when you wake up,it may indicate that you need to take it easy for a day or two. Perhaps this can all be prevented by trying to sleep a little more as your training volume increases. It is not a crime to take a day off or halve your mileage for a particular day. The saying, 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure',is definitely something you want to keep in mind during this phase.
The following is a sample of what a beginning training program might look like. I would assume that readers have been doing some running prior to starting this. Of course this schedule can be adjusted to fit your level of conditioning.Remember to plug in the out and back exercises referred to previously.
Sunday: 1 hour and 15 minutes of easy running.
Monday: 30 to 40 minutes easy fartlek.
Tuesday: easy running,1 hour.
Wednesday:steady running, 45 minutes.
Thursday: easy running 1 hour.
Friday: 30 to 45 minutes easy fartlek or a run over a hilly course.
Saturday: steady run from 20 to 50 minutes,or,take the day off.
Well,there it is,a base program devised by Arthur Lydiard decades ago.A system that is time tested,proven physiologically and by race performances. As far as distance training fundamentals go---'there is nothing new under the sun."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Training: Putting Down the Foundation, pt.2

We continue this series on the most important part of your training schedule, base building. How you do this type of training,how well you do it, meaning,how long and if you do it the way you are supposed to,will determine how the rest of your conditioning and eventual racing will go. I continue:
"It is suggested that the runner have several out and back courses where he can accurately measure his time.I find this 'exercise' devised by Lydiard to be ingenious in its simplicity and practicality.The purpose of it is to develop your aerobic threshhold. Here's how it goes: run out easy for about 20 minutes or more(depending on your fitness) then turn around and return. The key to doing this practice is to run easy,comfortably;making sure you don't become 'winded'.If it takes you longer to return to your starting point then most likely you went out too fast. Again,the aim of this workout is to improve your aerobic threshhold. Also remember that if you have to back off or feel winded doing this, then most likely you ran a portion of it too fast and went into an anaerobic state.Do these measured courses twice a week,as you become fitter your times will become faster. This happens because you are achieving an increase in your maximum steady(aerobic) state as a result of your improving physical condition. As fitness develops,lengthening of the courses are necessary. Initially this workout requires control and discipline because you have to run a certain way,resisting the urge to go too fast. The more you do it though,the more natural it feels. The improvement in your aerobic fitness is subtle but you'll be surprised at how well this exercise works.
By the way,many like to use time as a yardstick for measuring their workouts instead of miles.Lydiard recommends this,especially in the beginning stages of your training program. It's easy to get preoccupied with mileage thus losing sight of the real purpose of the base phase. I have found that experienced runners seem to instinctively know how fast they're running so translating time into mileage is no problem.
In regards to increasing mileage,accepted thought is that a 10% increase per week is fine. Of course,each runner is unique and this percentage may not be right for you.Listen to your body,especially when you get towards the maximum mileage you want to achieve. You may want to increase at 5% or keep your mileage the same for a few weeks or even drop down a little one week before increasing it again.
Another question often asked when formulating the base phase: should I run twice a day? Lydiard states that if time allows and it doesn't take away from your main workout then a second run is good.He believes that one longer sustained run is better than two shorter runs. The longer running is best for developing the capillary system and increasing your oxygen uptake.
Varying the distances run each day is advised.Needless to say,different places to run,even if it requires a little travel time,makes the aerobic phase even more enjoyable.
Once or twice a week your course should take you over some hills and/or involve some easy fartlek. The hilly course should not have hills that are too steep or too long. The fartlek should be comprised of easy 100 to 200 meter 'pick-ups' interspersed throughout an easy run.Again,consider your level of fitness as you formulate your workouts for the base phase. I have known runners that have no problem running a hilly course during the early stages of their base phase while others,less fit,need to wait before doing so. It all boils down to the phrase, 'listen to your body.'"

This ends part 2 of Putting Down the Foundation. The third and final section will be posted tomorrow(Sunday). I apologize for not posting this section last Thursday as I said I would but work related issues prevented me from doing so.
Many have asked recently what I thought of the cancellation of the NYC marathon. I had two thoughts on this: first off, it was as they say,a no brainer,it needed to be cancelled. But here's where race organizers and the mayor of NYC went wrong; early on, or at the latest halfway into the week, it was obvious that there was an incredible amount of damage and destruction.That was the time to cancel the marathon. By waiting till Friday thousands of runners from all over the country had already arrived in the city, they'd spent their money on getting there as well as on hotel accomodations.By cancelling the race when it was obvious to everyone but a few,these runners could have been saved alot of money and time. One wonders if the fact that the NYC marathon generates 350 million in cash for the city played a factor in the late decision,a decision that was made after there was an increasing outcry from the public to do so. Mmmmm.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Training:Putting Down the Foundation

Due to intense pressure from sources I am unable to divulge, I am dipping into The Stotan News archives to give you a schedule for base training, or building a base as some call it.. Seriously folks,I thought it would be nice to get a relatively brief and concise schedule out to you. To me, this is the most important phase of your training. I have known many distance runners who have completed only this part of their schedule and still raced well.
Perhaps you have finished your fall racing season or just done a marathon; you've taken a few weeks off while giving yourself extra rest days combined with some very easy running, now you are thinking about 2013.I assume that as a thoughtful runner you have been evaluating how things went this past season,what went well, what didn't and what you could have done differently.I say this because it seems that most runners always believe they could have done better even when they've done pretty good. I guess it's the nature of the beast as they say.Make no mistake about it---building a base or foundation is essential to not only successful running but also to staying happy and healthy as a runner. From the archives dated 9/30/97--written in the wilds of South Wales,N.Y.on Fish Hill.
"Every single sport has fundamentals,the basics that have to be mastered before you can progress to the next level. For instance,in weight lifting,proper technique must be learned to lift the weights most effectively. More importantly though, you can't lift the heavy weights until the body is ready.This of course is accomplished by increasing the poundage gradually during training over a period of time. Running is the same way. The body has to gradually get used to handling an increasingly heavy(stressful) workload. It may come as a surprise to some coaches and running theorists but this is not accomplished in a month or two. In a time when people want results as soon as possible,it's very unfashionable to suggest that laying the groundwork(base) for a successful running program should take a minimum of four months.When building a base is done right,you minimize the chances of becoming injured or burned out plus you have the potential to produce your best possible racing performances.More importantly though,running will be what it always should be,enjoyable.
As a reminder to those who may have forgotten or those of you who still believe that running fast is the only way of racing fast,consider what Arthur Lydiard discovered and taught: aerobic(base) work increases cardiac efficiency,raises oxygen uptake and creates capillary development.You may recall that the more capillaries developed the better,this means more oxygen can be taken in and utilized. Aerobic training also strengthens and conditions the heart,lungs and legs. This is why it should not be rushed and why someone is defeating the whole purpose of aerobic training by racing during this phase.Once again,the fundamentals,imagine the weightlifter saying,"I've been training for a month,let me have a go at that world benchpress record."
A commonly asked question in developing the aerobic base is,how much mileage should I do? Famed exercise physiologist David Costill says that from his studies he believes between 75 and 90 miles per week is sufficient. He adds that if you do more,you are running for reasons other than achieving maximal fitness. Both Cerutty and Lydiard wrote that 100 miles per week is ideal for the marathon runner. However,both add that this number is not written in stone. If 50 or 60 miles is what you run that's fine too. What counts is how you do those miles. Lydiard suggests doing the base phase as long as possible. To me, from 3 to 6 months seems reasonable,especially when the rest of an ideal training schedule will take up to 4 additional months."
This ends part one of the base phase. Part two will be published tomorrow(Thursday). There may very well be a part three but as of yet I am not sure. I believe you will find what follows to be informative and helpful.It may be new info to some and a needed reminder to others.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Another Way To Experience a Morning

An Early Friday Morning Run

Dawn breaks over the trees in Chesnut Ridge Park,
it's quarter to six on a Friday morn.
Alone as I lace up my shoes,
it's perfectly still except for the birds greeting a new day.
The air is crisp and pure,
neither warm nor cool.
I am alone yet totally at peace,
running down a pristine trail banked by trees and ferns.
I realize what is truly important,
I understand why I am here.

May we never lose our connection with nature.So much can be gained and  experienced from that connection.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

You Can Leave Your Watch Off

Awhile back I was getting ready to do an easy 7 mile run. As I went out the door I realized I had spent almost 10 minutes looking for my watch. While running I wondered, what was the urgency for having a watch on this run? It was over a familiar area,it wasn't a tempo run or time trial,so why the need for a watch?
I started thinking how wearing a watch less for runs would be a good idea. Consider this--ever go out for what you believe is going to be an easy run over a route you've run many times and found yourself checking your time at certain points along the way? Have you looked at your watch and thought, "I'm a minute and half off where I usually am at this point," then picked up the pace either consciously or subconsciously? What was originally intended to be an easy recovery run then became something else.
How many of you have done tempo runs,intervals,or time trials and found yourself obsessively checking your watch as you go? I certainly did it at one time and have seen countless other runners over the years doing it.
I think it would be wise if many of us rethought our use of watches in training and used effort as the gauge instead of timepieces. Cerutty once said: "Elliot may run faster than me but never harder." It is the effort put out that determines the time,so why the preoccupation with timing and the reliance on it has a determinent as to whether or not you had a "good" workout?
Of course the watch can be an aid to training but it is often the disruptor,inhibitor and discourager to training(forgive the grammar). Who knows why we sometimes run fast and smooth one day,and not so fast and smooth another.In some ways I think that it's just part of the way it goes in training.We shouldn't allow ourselves to be discouraged by these ebbs and flows,it's all part of the process.
Free up your training,try leaving your watch at home.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Some Stotan Secrets

Over the years I've gotten many inquiries as to what I thought of Larry Myers,the designated heir to the Stotan legacy and  author of Training With Cerutty.I tell everyone that the book is excellent because it's loaded with Cerutty quotes and that you have to respect Myers because,as the preface states, Perc had designated him to be his successor. Unfortunately,it appears that it didn't go well for Myers because he appeared to drop out of sight in the early 80's.However,before that time he wrote 100 Stotan Secrets---Training With Cerutty. It obviously was inspired by Percy and contained many good quotes by him.Much of what is in "Secrets" is worth paying attention to.Consider the following:
"A great coach inspires confidence in his leadership demonstrating in his own person what he wants an athlete do at practice and on the athletic field,realizing it is the intensity of effort that gets the results,not merely the effort being a slave to a printed training schedule. 'If a coach can't do it,he can't teach it' remarked Cerutty"
The above view on coaches seems almost unimaginable in this day and age. I don't believe I ever had a coach who actually "took us through our paces."
"Coaching hundreds of athletes over the years taught Percy Cerutty that it takes a gifted distance runner between 5-8 years conditioning and at least 10 yerars for an average athlete to reach their potential."
In the age of wanting results as soon as possible,the above time schedules may seem like a lifetime to many.Patience is the key.
"When a group of athletes train or run together,there is a lot more momentum build up throughout a workout,developing the 'soul power' one only vaguely thought existed from training alone."
Amen to that, there is something very special about training with a group of runners who all desire one thing,running success.For you Buffalo natives,remember the old days when groups of runners trained together in preparation for the Skylon Marathon?
'Never look backwards dwelling on past failures and defeat letting it get one down,but endeavor to move forward on the highest creative plane,focusing your energies on the future,working hard for winning and success,placing no limitations on yourself reaching, upwards to the stars and beyond."
Dwelling on past mistakes and failures only conjures up negative feelings.
As someone once said---"we can do infinitely more than we think we can."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Angry Al's Take on Lance

Sometime yesterday I got a call from my old friend Al,nicknamed Angry Al by all those who know him. Al has written two articles for this site in the past,opinionated and intense,he is always a good one to get you thinking,even if you don't agree with him. Everyone seems to be talking about Lance these days,his "fall from grace,"at least to me,far surpasses what happened with Tiger Woods. I say this because with Tiger,he never really connected on the personal,emotional level like Lance did.It is not a stretch to say that Woods was aloof and distant from the public while Armstrong has never been.Here Al offers a blunt appraisal of the recent events surrounding Lance Armstrong.

" Some questions: who in the top echelon of sports like professional bike racing,track and field,elite marathoning and road racing aren't using, or haven't used, performance enhancing drugs(peds)? The rumors and reports that attest to the fact athletes are using have been circulating for years as do the number of positive drug tests. Is there anyone out there naive enough to think that any of the 25 top finishers at the Tour de France didn't use p.e.d.'s prior? Are there still people who don't know that you can take performance enhancing drugs before a competition and avoid detection? And speaking of taking p.e.d.'s and avoiding detection, consider the following.
Have you ever wondered why a female marathoner was able to decimate the world marathon record with a 2:15? In a space of 7 months she ran a 2:17 and the 2:15 while never coming near those marks again. And please, spare me the she's been injured excuse,these injuries are often caused by maxing out your body over a period of time while using,ask Mark McGwire and Regina Jacobs about that one. How come "Flo-Jo" obliterated the world marks for both the 100 meter and the 200 meter in 1988 with times that no one has come close to before or after? Anyone recall Ben Johnson practically standing up as he left the blocks and still being able to set a WR in the 100 meters? Low 26's for the men's 10K,mid 12's for the men's 5k,2:03 for the men's marathon, how many of those times and the others I mentioned before were run 'clean'? Call me a cynic but I doubt any of them were. That's just the way it is these days in the world of big time athletics,there's tons of money to be made by lots of people.Again,some might say they drug test these athletes so how can they be using? As I said, thanks to modern chemistry,detection is very difficult,especially when you know when you will be tested.Obviously,more has to be done to find the cheaters if the governing bodies of these sports are going to catch them. I wouldn't look for that to happen anytime soon.Perhaps I'm more of a realist than a cynic.This all brings me back to Lance and the big question. Hasn't he said that he never failed a drug test? I don't believe I ever read in the News that he had. By the way,that wasn't the big question.The big question is,what was the reason or reasons for the seemingly obsessive investigation of Armstrong over the last few years to prove he used p.e.d.'s? I haven't seen that being done with other athletes.
I conclude with this---
Do I think Lance used,yeah,just like all the others in the Tour do. I think this because it is common knowledge in the biking world and a year can't go by without one or more of the top riders getting busted.Is it ok to cheat because everyone else does? Of course it isn't.
But my question remains, why the fixation on Lance?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Getting Philosophical With Cerutty

Cerutty taught the necessity of staying relaxed while running and provided useful instruction on how to physically do so.In the following, which is a testament to his ability to think "out of the box," he provides some reasons for athletes not being relaxed.They are things that one would not usually consider but they should cause us to stop and think.If anything, the following is provocative.
"I go further,I hold that as long as people retain fixed prejudices,rigid ideas,and convictions,lack a sense of humour in their attitudes to themselves,their fellow men, and life in general,there must be,and will be,tensions which extend from the mind to the physical body and its movements.
So relaxation,in the last resort,if we would be perfect,depends upon,firstly,freeing the mind of all restrictive attitudes and beliefs,and adopting,if it is possible, the carefree(but not irresponsible) attitudes of the child,trusting in our instinctive likes and dislikes,responding to,and giving to others,kindnesses to others more than ourselves. In a word--living fully,freely,with as little restrictions upon our good impulses,in particular,as possible.
Never was it more truly said that to enter the athletic kingdom of heaven one must become as a little child."
Although Percy denied any allegiance to a particular faith,the last sentence from this excerpt is his rephrasing of a passage found in one of the Christian gospels.
It is an unfortunate occurrence that as we get older far too many of us become cynical and negative,we lose the innocence and enthusiam for life we had as youths. I believe this is why so many turn to other means to find happiness, such as adopting unhealthy habits like alcohol and drug use as well as the endless quest for entertainment and satiation. We must not forget to appreciate the "little things" in life,the things that most take for granted(family,health,etc.).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nothing New Under the Sun

"There are no secrets to running success,anyone who says there are is probably trying to sell you something." Marty Liquori( former 1500 meter Olympian,outstanding American miler and the 3rd high school student to break 4 minutes for the mile).
New books,new training formulas,new gadgets and new accessories will never replace the tried and true path to distance running success--- the passage of time,persistence and mileage.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Take a Look at Yourself

Part of the process of becoming a champion,or at least achieving some degree of personal athletic success,is having the ability to look at ourselves in a critical way.Are we really who we think we are? Have we  been doing the necessary work or are we just "been playing the game?" Of course it's easy to find fault in others but not so easy when it gets personal.
Consider the folowing:how active are we in trying to improve ourselves? Except for the fact that we work out,are we basically living the same kind of life as the guy who is a spectator watching endless hours of television, eating and drinking whatever they want? When was the last time you read a book,did some study on the science of your sport as it pertains to you,went to a seminar or did some disciplines that could improve you physically as well as mentally? I've known alot of people who thought they were much more committed to running then they really were. I know there was one point in my career when I did. It took a look at the stopwatch and reading Cerutty's writings to wake me up to reality.                                                                                                                                      In many ways, for those who seek athletic excellence,it's almost like a calling. Why else would you pursue something that offers,for most at least, no financial gain and minimal amount of recognition? It's because there's something deep inside of you that wants it.and it's as worthy to you as any goal that's out there.
Cerutty touches on this subject as he tells us that we must evaluate ourselves in order to adequately evaluate our rivals.
"Thus it is far better to study oneself than to study others.When we have mastered ourselves as persons:accepted our weaknesses ,and tried seriously and conscientiously to overcome them: when we have discovered by trial and error(such as by tests,pitting ourselves against standards) we can then have a chance of reasonably evaluating ourselves as against our fellows."
"When we have mastered ourselves"---that's a process that takes time and effort,but,it's a labor of love if you have a love for what you are doing.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Something To Think About

Sometimes,certain things that seem to be unrelated to the subject of running really are. As the title of Lasse Viren's legendary documentary declared:"Running is My Life," a life that is intelligently committed to athletics should bring more than just pr's,records and medals.It is hoped that there would come an appreciation for life itself. A life that is not dependent on material possessions and the endless array of activities and entertainment.The following is a call for some to get back to the basics where true peace and contentment are found.
Inspired by Daisetz Suzuki---
We humans are too concerned with things.
Activities,things and too many people clutter our lives.
All this clutter causes us to lose sight of the beauty,the simplicity of this life.

Listen in an open room undisturbed by man made devices.
Do not be afraid of what you might hear or think.
We have forgotten to listen for the beauty.
The beauty of the ocean waves upon the shore or the wind through the trees and brush.
Accept and embrace this beauty which is life.
Leave behind the clutter and confusion we have created.
Only then will we truly experience the beauty of this life.

The Sage

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Quotes To Consider

Don't we all need encouragement and insightful quotes that can help us along the way as we strive for athletic excellence? Quotes that,among other things,make us think and consider? Contemplate the following:
"A man shows what he is by what he does with what he has." Anonymous
So true! Only in distance running can a less naturally talented, but harder working runner,beat a  more gifted one. Here's to the distance runners who didn't let a lack of foot speed and God given talent stop them.
"How a man plays the game shows something of his character,how he loses shows all of it." Anonymous
Add to that-- and how he deals with setbacks along the way.
"Only the man himself knows his limits,and he's no runner unless he pushes himself to the limits." Herb Elliott
Why am I not surprised that Herb Elliott said that?
"It matters not how long we live,but how." Anonymous
So,so true.As I get older I realize the truth of that quote even more.
"Set a goal--then get rid of those things in your life which keep you from attaining that goal." Anonymous
Very Cerutty. What's the saying? "You can't have it both ways"?
"Oftentimes the roughest road may be the best way to where you want to go." Anonymous
Don't be too quick to curse the difficulties and obstacles,they very well may be the builders of strength and character.
"No life ever grows great until its focused,dedicated and disciplined."
Three essential keys to success.
Have a great Sunday---go long!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's that Time of Year Again

For me,when the fall season arrives,I think of marathoning. It's probably because years ago in Buffalo the marathon to do was the Skylon marathon.Starting from downtown Buffalo,it went across the Peace Bridge into Fort Erie in Canada and along a road right next to the Niagara River all the way to Niagara Falls(Canada).I remember very well the Sundays myself, Ralph Zimmerman,Joan Zirkelbach,Harvey Sipel,Freddie Gordon and many others would do our long runs along that stretch of road leading to Niagara Falls. The Skylon course served as the Olympic marathon trial's course in 1980 and 1984.Those were definitely the days my friend(s).The following is from The Stotan News and deals with the subject,Reasons For a Poor Marathon Performance. Some of this may be familiar to you,then again,to many,it may not.Either way,those who intend to run a marathon should read the following and consider it carefully.
"Those who don't learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them." How true that statement is! Yet runners,especially marathoners,too often make the same mistakes....too often.
The reasons for a poor marathon experience are really quite simple to identify. Some you have control over and some you don't. #1.Bad weather. Not much you can do about that. I've known runners who've bagged their race the morning of due to the weather and picked another one somewhere else a week or two later.In the fall it seems like there is a marathon every weekend not too far from where you live.#2.Starting out at a too fast per mile pace.This is something that should only happen to inexperienced marathoners but.......#3.Insufficient hydration and electrolyte replacement before and during the race.If you dehyrate and/or run out of fuel you're done,plain and simple.Months of training down the tubes because you didn't do a basic but necessary function,a physiological neccessity.#4.Not doing the proper pre-race preparation.So,you've done the 20 milers in the months before your marathon,the only problem is the race is 26.2 miles long.What in the world is going to get you through the last 10k?  You don't have to go to the extreme but running 3 or 4, 24 to 26 milers in training are essential,IF,you're running to do well.#5. Last but not least,perhaps the biggest reason for sub par marathons is due to not tapering properly before the race.You think the conditioning gained from months of serious hard training is negated because you intelligently taper down the workload as your marathon approaches? Again,months and months of training wasted and a possible great finishing time is lost because you weren't rested and fresh on race day?
Now that's not only a shame, its pure foolishness.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Internal Motivation

Humble apologies for not posting yesterday as I had previously announced I would,circumstances beyond my control prevented me from doing so. Wednesday's article will be published as scheduled.
Canadian coach Brent McFarlane answers the question as to where an athlete's internal motivation comes from. He says: "Each athlete is responsible for providing his own internal motivation.And nothing can compensate for the lack of will to fight when the situation demands. In every race,there may be one moment(or more) when the runner wants to quit and needs internal motivation to survive the crisis.Otherwise,the penalty is defeat.There is no defeat,no failure like ceasing to try."
Two thoughts come to mind when I read the above:first,the internal motivation,to some degree, can be developed and nurtured through workouts,time trials and races.Ideally,the athlete keeps in mind that this is what he wants to develop via those three scenarios(workouts,time trials and races) before he starts them.
Secondly,very insightful and perceptive is Mr.McFarlane's statement that,"There is no defeat,no failure,like ceasing to try." How true! Ever have the realization that you just sort of gave up at some point during a race? Losing or racing below expectations is bad but knowing that you didn't give it your all makes you feel like more like a failure than a loser.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Post Delay

Due to training at Umstead State Park in Raleigh yesterday, Saturday's regularly scheduled article will be up on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Question For Arthur

The coach for all ages,Arthur Lydiard. Words of wisdom from the Master. When asked: "In addition to the proper training,what can a runner do mentally to prepare for competition?"
Arthur said:" The best psychology you can use on an athlete is to make sure he understands why he's doing everything he's doing.So that physiologically,mechanically,he's clear in his mind as to his approach.If he does everything he has to,he's the guy who goes out to the race with confidence.It's the guy who doesn't understand what he's doing who has a problem. He guessing at his training,invariably doing too much anaerobic work,and he's never sure whether he's at his peak or not.He can't balance or evaluate his training. You don't need to say,"You can beat that guy"to the person who balances his training. He knows damn well he can beat him,or he knows he can't beat him,one or the other,because he's done everything corectly."
The above make me think of the training I did during my high school and college years. I never understood the whys of the workouts I was being given,then again,I never asked.In retrospect,seeing as how long ago it was, I sometimes wonder if my coaches really knew?The overlooked components to competitive success,realizing what your workouts are accomplishing and recognizing when you are peaking.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

On Racing by Percy Cerutty

In the following, Cerutty offers some profound insights into racing as well as advice as it pertains to a  runner's competitive season.Provocative, thought provoking stuff here.After each paragraph I'll offer a comment or two. Percy proclaims:
"The athlete should be aroused simply by the idea of competition. This should be enough to make him emotionally ready, and draw on what has been developed through practice."
Aroused, an interesting choice of words but I know exactly what he means. Have you ever been so ready,emotionally and physically to race? Have you been so confident of your condition that you couldn't wait to to test it out? I have, but not nearly enough as I should have.
"This arousal can be hampered by worry about the race or the competition,lack of interest or staleness. These are the enemies of good racing. An athlete can put in months of grueling,exacting workouts and then be defeated by them in a race situation."
Optimal,peak condition should greatly reduce the chances you will "worry"excessively.
"When serious racing season is underway,races take priority. Training should be limited as much as possible,usually to no more than a little sharpening work on the grass. The runner has to save his best efforts for the race. Many waste them in time trials and workouts."
Isn't that the problem with the majority of elite and serious American born distance runners? Who haven't you known that hasn't continued "interval" sessions into their racing season? Lydiard tells you not to,Cerutty says the same,so why are they continuing? It would be easy to blame bad coaching but don't you think it could be something else? Try anxiety or fear, try an unreasonable belief controlled by emotions that send the message that if they don't continue to bust their butts in training they're going to lose their edge.
"If the runner has trained properly and is "mentally tough,"the race should be run as fast as possible. Since the runner's physical condition doesn't change very significantly in the space of a week or two,if the runner is doing his best,his racing should not fluctuate much from race to race. They should be progressively faster."
Progressively faster--if---you haven't been leaving your best on the track doing foolish workouts mid-week.
Notice the little tie in with this past Wednesday's article?
Positively essential advice by Cerutty for anyone who is serious about racing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lest We Forget,Some Thoughts on Conditioning and Physiology

As athletes,have you ever found yourself  not backing off or resting when you know you should? I may have written about this before but I knew a runner who had a tradition of racing Boston and then doing another marathon 2 weeks later. When I asked him if this was wise, he responded with:"I've been doing it for years." Today this guy is a shadow of the runner he once was,plagued by back problems,he has now entered the ranks of the fun runner. Other athletes I've known who viewed backing off as something akin to being a "wimp," have long since taken up cycling or gotten out of athletics altogether due to recurring injuries. Our bodies are incredible,they can tolerate a huge amount of abuse for long,extended periods of time,but,there comes a time when they will break down. For reasons I've never understood, many seemingly intelligent athletes don't understand this physiological fact.What follows is something by Edward Frederick who has written extensively on physiology and the runner.He gives us the specifics of what happens when we rest and what it accomplishes. It is more than the commonly held and simplistic notion that we're just getting some rest. He begins by letting us know that running can be "an exercise in destruction." Frederick continues, "Each time we run, we tear ourselves down. Muscle tissue is torn. Mitochondria,the powerhouse of the cells,swell grotesquely. Metabolic wastes accumulate. Blood sugar levels drop.Dehydration occurs and,along with it,excessive losses of electrolytes upset the delicate balance required for efficient muscle and nerve function.Muscle glycogen is depleted.As duration and intensity of the workout increase,the damage becomes more pronounced.
However,in the period between runs, the body attempts to recover and rebuild.
These two phases---destruction and regeneration---together constitute conditioning.The two can never be separated if conditioning is to proceed in a positive direction."
For far too many coaches and runners,those last two sentences are perhaps the two most forgotten principles of training.Optimal conditioning can only happen if adequate time for regeneration is allowed. It is my belief that most serious competitive runners do not give themselves enough time in that department. Frederick then lets us know what happens when an intelligent training,racing and regenerative program is put together: "In any program of running,the body is systematically broken down and rebuilt. And each rebuilding leaves the body a little stronger than before.These incremental increases amount to the development of a progressively stronger body,capable of more and faster running. That is,if it's done right."
Of course,the key word here is if. I'm always amazed at runners who can't understand why they are not seeing more improvement in their performances or why they feel chronically rundown.Runners who are in their prime should be seeing improvement in times.Instead of looking for the magic training system they must be aware of the needs of a body that is often stressed through rigorous training. This takes time, effort and study,something that many athletes are unwilling to do.
More on this subject to come.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Do You Have Championship Character? pt.2

It is said that particular personality traits can be indicators as to whether or not someone will achieve success in athletics. Last month we examined a few of them, today we'll look at three more.Many thanks to Doctors Tutko and Ogilvie for the research they did on this subject several decades ago.Remember,these traits may be present in all athletes to some degree but stronger in those who achieve success.Comments by yours truly will occasionally appear in parentheses after.
1.Believes one must be aggressive to win.
(Although there is the portrayal of the "laid back" distance runner this doesn't mean that they don't possess a fiery determination and aggressiveness.It is a mistake for those outside the running world to believe that only the contact sport athletes possess these qualities).
2.Releases aggression easily.
3.Enjoys confrontation and argument.
(An interesting finding,something I wasn't aware of but it definitely fits in with what,at least in part, constitutes aggressiveness).
4.Sometimes willing to use force to get their way.
(I can see already I'm falling a little short in the aggressiveness profile).
5.Will not allow others to push them around.
6.May seek to "get even" with people whom he perceived as having harmed him.
(I worked with a psychiatrist years ago who had contact with athletes who excelled in their chosen sports and he said that they were not always people of exemplary character,that often they were very self oriented).
1.Has unfaltering confidence in himself and his capacity to deal with things.
2.Confident of his powers and abilities.
3.Handles unexpected situations well.
4.Makes decisions confidently.
5.Speaks up for his beliefs to coaches and players.
(Such a necessary trait is self-confidence. Regarding #4, ever find yourself waffling on a decision you've made?).
Emotional Control
1.Tends to be emotionally stable and realistic about athletics.
2.Is not easily upset.
3.Will rarely allow their feelings to show and their performances are not effected by them.
4.Not easily depressed or frustrated by bad breaks,calls or mistakes.
(Not easily frustrated,patience is the key).
Consider the above,are there any areas we need to work on?