Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Will vs Will

"I believe that in any race you let a guy beat you--and you do let him beat you if you are not absolutely psychologically tuned up to winning at all costs--that creates a precedent that allows you to get beat in the race you care about--that was the sort of attitude that I had...But I had a dual goal in my running, that was to win and to achieve excellence, so I was never happy with a slow,tactical time." Quote by Herb Elliott. We may not win races, but all of us who compete want to achieve excellence in our racing.Elliott touches on a good point in the above quote,for many of us,there often comes a moment towards the end of a race when we allow a competitor to pass us. We may make a momentary effort to "go" with this other person but it's usually a brief and feeble attempt at doing so.In regards to this,Herb is correct when he says that this "creates a precedent that allows you to to get beat in any race you care about." The question we should ask ourselves is,have we come to accept and allow others to go by us as a race nears its end? Are we more preoccupied with just hanging on till we reach the finish line? Let us consider something here: would it be incorrect to say that in the last mile or so of a race that those around you are NOT going to finish in a time that is significantly faster than yours? We probably recognize that it's unlikely another athlete will.If you desire to be stronger and break the cycle of late race collapses I have a few suggestions that will help. First and foremost,you must have confidence in your condition going into a race. If you are the type who races anytime you feel like it or before you are physically ready,then there is not much I can offer here except to say,you reap what you sow.You can't expect to put up a fight if your training hasn't reached the point where you are ready to race.Now,if you have done the training and you are fit,recognize that fact going into races.Next,you must practice and prepare in order to fend off late race challenges. When doing fartlek and other workouts,as you are nearing the end,when the fatigue is beginning to set in,this is the time to pick up the pace for 30 seconds to a minute. Get used to shifting gears as they say, make yourself go faster,keeping in mind that you are holding off a challenger. As you do this,tell yourself to stay loose and relaxed,drop the shoulders,relax the arms,don't in any way tense up.Repetition of this practice is essential in becoming the type of racer you should be.It strengthens you physically and mentally. When that runner comes up beside you in the closing stage of a race, it becomes a contest of wills,his will against yours.You may lose a duel from time to time but it won't be without a fight or for a lack of giving it your all,that's because you've done the work.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

From the Archives,pt.9,The Appalachian TrailRunner's Journal

Off this weekend to run the trails in preparation for a race next month. What follows is an interview I did in 1998 with the now defunct Appalachian TrailRunner's Journal. Some interesting things were discussed and I have included them in this post while deleting other portions of what was then a two part interview.If the following seems a little disjointed it's because I have skipped over alot of the original text.
The Journal: So Dave,how long have you been a Stotan and how did you come to learn about Percy Cerutty?
Dave:I was a first year high school track coach and while attending an invitational meet in Rochester(N.Y.),I ran into a good friend of mine who I hadn't seen in quite awhile,he gave me a xeroxed paper with Percy's picture on it that described what a Stotan was and what a Stotan wasn't. When I read his classic phrase that the human being cannot be reduced to the status of a machine and needs to train in a natural environment,that peaked my interest,I got really excited.Somehow,I can't recall how,I got ahold of his greatest book,Athletics:How To Become A Champion.That was back in May of 1988,so its been 10 years.
The Journal:How did that change your running?
Dave:It just didn't change my running it changed my life. But as far as running goes,I immediately sought out the trails in and around the area I lived(Buffalo) and began training on them 75% of the time.I also made a point of not running on the pavement anymore,I pretty much eliminated any kind of interval track work. As I now look back on it,I became a stronger runner,a better runner. Also, I became like an evangelist,talking up Stotanism to fellow runners,handing out xeroxed sections of his book. Before you know it I had gathered together a group of runners called the Stotans and was publishing a monthly newsletter called The Stotan News. Those were great times.
The Journal:So the concept really took off?
Dave:It did but it was mostly the younger runners who embraced it.Here I was 40 years old and most of the Stotans were in their late teens or 20's. Of course there was Joan Zirklebach,a really excellent master's runner who was around my age,she loved the whole thing,still does for that matter.It seemed the older guys were reluctant to give it a try,I had more than one tell me that they wouldn't run the trails because they didn't want to take a chance of turning an ankle.
The Journal: Did your Stotans do many races?
Dave: We sure did, and we consistently had success,on the trails and on the roads. The mecca for us though was the Finger Lakes Trail System and the great Virgil Mountain Madness Trail race.The trails were located in the Ithica,Virgil, Dryden area of N.Y. Words really can't adequately describe how great it is to train and race there.
The Journal:Did you incorporate your Stotanism into your coaching? By the way, what did you coach?
Dave: I coached freshman cross country runners and all the distance track guys. I immediately found a way to get my runners to train on the trails.Once a week we'd do the trails at a huge park outside of Buffalo,it was amazing how much these guys loved running the trails.Everyone ran better because of this type of training,everyone.
The Journal: What do you feel is the most common misconception about Cerutty and Stotanism?
Dave:That it's all about training hard in nature and eating what some call natural foods. To me,its Percy's anti-materialism views and recognizing that the athlete,when trained in mind,as well as body, becomes the ideal and complete person.
The Journal:Why do you think Stotanism is not embraced by more athletes?
Dave:It runs contrary to what is the accepted norm these days.People may have to leave their comfort zone as they call it.Also,you mean life isn't all about making money,having that big house, two cars, and season tickets to the Bills games? That's radical stuff in this day and age.
The Journal:What is the highlight of your running career?
Dave:Without question,it was attending an all day seminar given by Arthur Lydiard back in the early 90's. What an experience,it was just incredible! He took us through the drills,answered our questions,lectured....I still can't believe I was able to stand beside him,discuss training,ask questions. He was such a gentleman,a quietly dynamic guy. I had him sign my copy of Running The Lydiard Way,I still take the book out from time to time and read what he wrote in it. I recall some years before he came to town I wrote him a couple of letters and he answered both of them. I remember thinking,here was a guy,probably the greatest coach who's ever lived,taking the time to answer a letter from someone he doesn't know from Adam. Try writing a letter to someone who is at the top of their field these days and see if you get an answer.Oh yeah,before going to the seminar I made a point of wearing the first shoes he designed for Converse,not the ones that came later, these original Converse shoes were really light and flexible,I found them in a warehouse that sold nothing but closeouts,well, when Arthur saw them he sort of smiled and said, "those were a really good shoe." It was great.
The Journal: Who do you believe are the greatest runners of all-time?
Dave: Herb Elliott comes to mind but Yiannis Kouros is probably the greatest runner who's ever lived. When I say this to other runners they laugh at me but when I ask them to tell me if they know all the records he's set their clueless. Try 303km in 24 hours for starters,think a moment about how far that is.He owns every record from 24 hours to 6 and 10 days as well as the most prestigious point to point races in the world.He destroys the competition,and these are the best ultra runners in the world, most of whom can run sub 2:20 marathons. The big misconception that still exists regarding elite ultra runners is that they are basically mediocre runners who race long distances. It's pure ignorance to believe that.Do a search on your computer and see for yourself all the records he's set,break it down, look at the mileage and the pace,it's otherworldly,it really is. And consider this,Yiannis can't even get an English language publisher for his book. Meanwhile, the shelves are filled with the same old, same old stuff on running.
The Journal:To finish this up Dave,give readers some advice on how to get into what some call Stotanism.
Dave: It's really simple actually,head for the hills,literally.Stop abusing your body by running on the concrete and the track,go to a park,or better yet,seek out an area where there are Trails,preferably away from the "maddening crowds,"leave your watch at home and just let yourself go. Somehow,some way,get a copy of Athletics:What It Takes To Be A Champion,seek out archived articles that the man has written in decades past.They will inspire,invigorate and change your life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Taking Risks

Humble apologies if you have read the following verse. I had never seen it till someone sent it to me years ago. It addresses a subject that is a favorite of mine,the necessity of taking risks,going for it and living your dreams.Most sources say the author is unknown,I have taken the liberty to edit out the verses that don't pertain to an athletic context.Oh yeah,you will see the word certitude in the second last verse,frankly,I had no clue as to what it meant so I looked up the meaning in the dictionary.I believe in the context it was written it means belief,conviction or assurance.

"To place your ideas,your dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To live is to risk dying.

To hope is to risk despair.

To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken,because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing does nothing,has nothing, and is nothing.

They may avoid suffering and sorrow but they cannot learn, feel,change,grow love,live.

Chained by their certitudes they are a slave,they have forfeited their freedom.

Only a person who risks is free."

As I read this again I was struck by how similar it was to Cerutty's philosophy. I wondered as I often do,what is it that makes us less willing to take risks as the years go by? You'll notice as you get older,many people seem resigned to the life they are living. It's predictable and safe, but too often it's boring. Is it any wonder that we've become a nation of watchers and spectators,drinking and drugging ourselves to a degree that has never been seen before? But,that's other people,that doesn't have to be us.Think about it,take a look at yourself,have you been playing it safe? Do you feel you are living a fulfilling life? I'm not just talking athletically here.Do you feel trapped by your job, the area where you live or the relationships you have? As far as your athletic life goes: You've been talking about training in a way and to a degree you never have before......for the past several years.You've been planning to do this out of state race(s) for the last ten years but......

What are you waiting for? For many it's time to make some changes and truly live.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Resist the Temptation,Stay on Track

"I think there's a great temptation for an athlete to test himself. It's a weakness in every one of us. We like to know if everyday we're improving. That's part of human nature. If a guy decides to go on a crash diet, he doesn't want to see that scale a couple pounds lighter in three weeks time. He's got to be bloody lighter by tomorrow or to hell with it.
The athlete has the same sort of tendency when he's training. There is a terrific temptation to test yourself and to measure your improvement and I believe that's a weakness. I think that you have to resist that temptation and have confidence in yourself and the toughness of your training and know within yourself that it is going to produce results. I'm a great believer in resisting temptation to keep proving yourself to yourself." Quote by Herb Elliott.
Herb is correct when he says succumbing to the temptation to test oneself is a weakness. The athlete that does this may not only be exhibiting a lack of confidence in his training as Elliott states, but may also be allowing his anxiety to get the best of him.I have known many distance runners who regularly deviated from their prescribed workouts to test themselves by going all out in an effort to see if they were, "where they wanted to be". The classic example being the individual who increases the pace during the last 3 miles of his weekly 20 miler down to his 5k racing speed. Doing such things,as most of us know, has the potential to sabotage the success we seek in the future. You see other examples of anxiety getting the best of runners when they do things like: overtrain, not taper properly for big races or ignore impending injury. You can also include athletes who are changing training systems has often as they get new shoes. I recall a friend who used to periodically call and tell me excitedly how he had found THE great training system,then 6 months later he'd call with another one. Chi running,Natural running,Daniel's,Anderson,Galloway,the systems went on and on.
What can be done to avoid giving into temptation and being influenced by anxiety? First off, if you know that your training system is right for you and you have been doing the work that it requires,then write notes on every page of your training log reminding you of that fact.Make it a daily effort to read and consider those notes. Secondly,maybe you do need to do more. Perhaps a light 15 or 20 minute easy jog in the morning during the week will serve to give you the added confidence you need and stifle the anxiety.
Ultimately,it's all part of a mental,as well as a physical toughening process, that occurs when you realize that most people you will race against have not done the type of Stotan training you are doing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Denying Oneself,An Essential Discipline,and Ultimately,the Key To Athletic Success

This article is for the distance runner who desires to run as well as he possibly can.The title of today's post may be awkwardly phrased but is meant to convey an all too often forgotten piece to the training regimen puzzle,the athlete's ability to be disciplined.As I've said previously,far too many self-described serious athletes believe that all they need to do to achieve personal running success is to train everyday.They go about their daily workout and then live and act like your average non-athlete. Athletes,more than ever before,seem to believe they can have it both ways. If you truly want to be as good as you possibly can,then I say this,you must must control,discipline and deny yourself.Ultimately,as you read in the post, "Are You a Stotan?,"having control and discipline makes for a better athlete as well as a person who is prepared to deal with the challenges of this life. The following,in no particular order,are things that the serious athlete should restrict or deny themselves of. I don't expect readers to agree with all of what I'm about to list but here goes:

1.Deny the urge to overeat and to eat whenever you feel like it. One of the least mentioned mistakes that people do to themselves nutritionally is to eat too much. Everyone it seems is hung up on what to eat, not how much they consume.Overeating is terrible for your health long term and unfortunately has appeared to have gained wide spread acceptance among athletes.Also,unless it's a piece of fruit between meals,eat only at mealtime. When you get into the habit of doing this you will find that you enjoy your meals so much more.

2.Deny the urge to eat crappy foods. I'm talking snack foods,junk foods,sodas,etc. Why would any athlete consume the same type of foods that have made this country the fattest one on earth? These foods are no good for anyone!

3.Deny the urge to drink too much alcohol. Check the data,more than 2 alcoholic beverages a day are unhealthy. The long term effects of too much alcohol can be devastating to one's health. Too many runners drink all week and then do it up big on the weekends. Their rationale is that they've "earned it."

4. Deny the urge to veg out on the couch and watch television. How much TV do you watch a day? This is one activity where less is better. The television is addicting, mind numbing entertainment that will eventually make you limited intellectually. Read books,play games,write,do puzzles.Remember what Cerutty said about the necessity of the athlete developing intellectually.

5.Deny the urge to live vicariously through the lives of professional athletes and teams. I've known so many athletes who have an almost obsessive preoccupation with their favorite team and sports. The world stops for them when their team is playing and it gets real emotional when their team wins, or, loses.Hardly healthy behavior going on here,besides, athletes should be doers,not watchers. Obviously, I'm not talking about those who catch a game on the weekend.

6.Deny the urge to think that just running is doing enough training. Are you neglecting weight conditioning and the exercises designed to strengthen your muscles and tendons? Have you given consideration to swimming,certain types of yoga,circuit training and working out on the types of machines that will develop you aerobically?

7.Deny the urge to keep training "through" an injury. At the first sign of injury it is time to evaluate and seek other ways to maintain fitness while allowing the effected part to heal.Too many athletes cannot control the anxiety that comes with the thought of possibly being injured and foolishly continue training.

8.Deny the urge to get down on yourself when you feel that you aren't making progress. Persistence and patience are the keys to success, look at how you've been training,discuss your situation with someone who is knowledgeable about running.

In closing,there was a time when the athlete was known as someone who lived a little differently than most. People would speak of the way they were disciplined and focused on their sport,you couldn't help but detect the respect that people had for these athletes.These people were definitely unique.We should not forget this,if you say you are a serious athlete,it doesn't matter whether you are toeing the line at the National Championships or doing a local road race, you are as legitimate an athlete as any superstar. Finally, denying yourself sort of reminds me of what Cerutty said about sacrifice and how it relates training,when you love what you do,their is no feeling that you are sacrificing anything in the process.Denying yourself is all part of that process.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Are You A Stotan?

It would be safe to say that anyone who has read this blog since it was begun in December 2010 recognize that I am a devotee of Percy Cerutty and his Stotan philosophy(Stotanism). You probably also realize that Cerutty taught more than just a particular way to train. He was the "whole package" as they sometimes say, his Stotanism was, and still is, about a way of living and how one views life. Throw in how one deals with life's challenges while we're on the subject.The following is,in my opinion,a brillant essay on Stotanism written by Cerutty. I'm fairly certain most readers have not read this previously. This is for those who may be a Stotan, wanna be a Stotan, or learn what Stotanism is all about.
"A Stotan is one who hardens,strengthens,toughens and beautifies the body by consistent habits and regular exercises,which are consciously and irrevocably made part of the life plan of the individual,as well as consciously determining that the mind will be cultivated upon such abstractions as purity,beauty and logic. Erudition,in as complete a degree as possible,shall be the lifelong aim: Truth,in relation to all aspects of life,the unending search.
Stotans will,by virtue of their philosophy,be nature lovers,with a respect and appreciation of all evolved and created things.They will appreciate the sanctity of creative effort both in themselves and in others. They will strive to understand the significance implied by reality,will be able to discern the real from the spurious.
Stotans,for all the reasons that their philosophy stands for(viz:hardness,toughness,unswerving devotion to an ideal) would look upon the sea as their pristine element and endeavor to associate themselves with their primeval source of life by going into the sea at least once per month in all seasons of the year. No practice is more disposed to toughen,both the body and the morale,than this.
Stotans believe that neither the body nor the mind can be maintained at a high pitch of efficiency unless sufficient and regular rest is obtained, and aim at a average of 8 hours sleep. Stotans shall so regulate their lives that at the end of a period varying with the intensity of the effort,each shall realize that they have attained,without conscious striving,to a state of knowledge,and a position of leadership in the community(editor:as several Cerutty trained athletes eventually did).It is axiomatic that only the pure can understand purity,only the cultivated appreciate beauty, and only the strong truly measure their strength. Therefore,only the self-disciplined can command genuine respect.
A program shall be aimed at which shall be designed to train each Stotan:-
a. withstand severe physical hardship,to accomplish feats of strength and endurance,to understand orderliness,and the true meaning of intelligence.
b.To know himself as an organism and a personality.
c. To emerge,eventually emancipated,from all dogmas,creeds and beliefs,as well as worldly and unworldly hopes and fears.
d. To habitually function upon the highest planes of thought and physical effort.
e. To place the objective of an alert,informed intelligence,and a perfected body,as primary in Life. And to arrive at the conclusion that all else will follow on.
f. To learn that on this basis the whole world,and all that it has to offer,opens out as a vision,splendid,normal and realisable.
g. To understand that Past,Futures,Fates,Fears,Death,Selfishness,Egoism,Pride,Envy,Hate,and Prejudice can be replaced by Intelligence that controls emotion,dominates destiny,manifests completeness,and exults in life.
h. To understand that in actuality,evolved man is a King,but without the trappings. That Kingship is his right and destiny. That we can make ourselves,in time,all that we would. That we honor real men but are subservient to none.
In addition,Stotans shall train themselves to withstand, stoically,personal criticism,also,skepticism as the necessity or wisdom of such a Way of Life. In this regard,Stotans soon learn they command knowledge,experience,and ability not available to the prejudiced,the ignorant,or the slothful.
There is no giving up throughout life. The first pre-requisite for a Stotan is tenacity.
To live this Way of Life can be hard. It is not for weaklings.It is the Way that is travelled by all the truly great ones.It requires strenuous effort of body and mind."
What can one say about the above except that it contains much wisdom and many things that should be considered and heeded.Among other things,it raises the question,are you in control of your life?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lest We Forget, An Insight From Dr.George Sheehan

I'm always surprised when I speak with runners and they verbalize the belief that all aspects relating to running,including racing, are healthy. The following was written by Dr.George Sheehan and provides an interesting response to that belief.For the few who might not know Dr.Sheehan, he was a long time medical editor and writer for Runner's World as well as a devoted runner himself. He wrote: "The goal of the runner who races is not health. His objective is the fitness necessary for maximal performance. Health is something the runner goes through on the way to fitness. A way station he hardly notices in his pursuit of the twenty to thirty percent of capacity that lies untouched. And health, therefore, is what he risks in training to do his best. Because just beyond fitness and a personal record lies staleness, and with it fatigue,exhaustion and possibly injury." Gut wrenching workouts can make you faster at races but they won't necessarily make you healthier.On a related note, I have often heard people say that so and so is very healthy because he runs marathons. An article published in the Health section of the New York Times a few years back reported that studies were done on runners who had finished a marathon.They found that a significant number of them had elevated levels of Cardiac Tropin,a substance in the blood that is present in those who experience cardiac injury or heart attack.Now I'm not trying to get all Dr.Ken Cooper on you here(see previous post from 2011 entitled, The Trojan Horse Syndrome or Betrayal From Within),running can be an incredibly healthy and health giving activity,but,it only takes a little knowledge of anatomy and physiology to see that a training regimen which includes a significant amount of high stress workouts week in and week out is not healthy in the long run. There is a place for hard training and racing but only when it has been preceded by intelligent preparation and ongoing evaluation.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

From the Archives,pt.8, The Quotable Stotan

Perhaps some of you may recall a book published many years ago entitled,The Quotable Runner. What follows was a take-off I wrote on that format called,The Quotable Stotan, which was geared towards those who lived for the run and appreciated all things pertaining to Stotanism.Also,an effort was made to print quotes that were not familiar to most.
Marty Liquori from Real Running by Marty Liquori and John L. Parker jr., "There are no secrets to running success,anyone who says there are is probably trying to sell you something." How true! If more runners realized this then most of the running books and seminars published and held during the last 20 years would have made very little money.
Percy Cerutty from his book Middle Distance Running, "Suffering and dedication is the only way to understanding,compassion and courage." Very profound. What the man says is true,But, only if the athlete is a thinker and open to the idea that what you gain from a workout is more than something purely physical.
Herb Elliott from,The Golden Mile, "The purifying quality of pain that has to be suffered is like that in confession. You walk away with a clear conscience." In the same vein as what his coach said above,once again,the athlete must be.......
Yiannis Kouros from an interview by Trishul Cherns, "Each horrid event should equip you with the necessary provisions so that you can confront the next one; it shouldn't make you yield. The continuous confirmation is that despair and hopelessness supply you with the means--inconceivable at first, and make you discover hidden unexpected powers. Later, an unhoped for tranquility and sobriety should follow so that you may pursue your goals with precision." Yiannis is a living example of the truth of those words.The key here is not to drive from your mind the details of disappointing performances once they're over. They can be stepping stones towards future success.
Ted Williams from,My Turn at Bat:The Story of My Life by Ted Williams, "Nobody in the history of the game hit more balls in practice,pleasure or dead earnest than I did." Some may think it odd that I placed a quote from one of the greatest hitters ever in baseball, but, to attain success in any sport you must do more than most who say they desire success are willing to do.However, as you will read next,it is not all work and drudgery.
Ron Clarke from The Unforgiving Minute, "The number of miles I have run since I was a toddler would have taken me around the world several times and still I cannot define precisely my joy in running. There is no sacrifice in it."
Percy Cerutty from the essay, What It Takes to Be a Champion, "In the ultimate, if you are to succeed,you must believe in the worth-whileness of your goals,find the means to attain them,and do the essential work, make the personal effort." There it is in a nutshell,the formula for achieving success.I find the key in this quote to be,"you must believe in the worth-whileness of your goals." Those who do believe will not give up easily.
Arthur Newton,ultra great wrote: "Many of the ordinary pleasures of life have to be banished for a long time while you are preparing for a peak achievement." If you really desire success in sport, then you cannot always live like those who don't. This is an often ignored aspect.
Percy Cerutty, "Running as I teach it is not a sport or a physical activity so much as a complete expression of ourselves,physical,mental and spiritual."
In closing,something by Sri Chinmoy,something that we should never forget, "You can do infinitely more than you have already done."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Tribute To Those Who've Stayed With it

Indulge me a bit on this post. As you get older it's inevitable that you get nostalgic at times. The following is a tribute to those "old-timers" who've been at it for longer than they care to mention or may even realize. These are the road warriors who have been a part of the running scene for decades and are still going at it. Still doing the long runs on Sundays,making the sojourn to that special race year after year and drinking beers after races with their core group of road vets.Listen to them and they'll tell you things like this: how the shoe to get back then was some kind of adidas, probably the Marathon Trainer. They'll mention how there wasn't the huge selection available then as there is today. Someone will add that you had mostly adidas,Nike,Etonic and Tigers' to choose from. You're also bound to hear how there weren't as many road races when they were coming up, that entry fees ranged from 7 to 10 dollars with only overall winning female and male trophies given as prizes. It's inevitable that they'll reminisce about fellow runners who have come and gone. Expect to hear classic stories about going to out of town races with the hijinks and post race carryings on included.Listen to them dismiss giving triathlons a shot because they'll say they're more trouble then they're worth.Hear them fail miserably as they try to explain why they're still out there despite declining times and more injuries, however, you'll sense the deep love they have for distance running as they speak. If your hanging with them as the beer continues to flow, expect to be invited to one of "their training runs" held at the ungodly hour of 7am on a Saturday.If you ask them how come so early on a weekend they may say,"that's the time we've always done it, that way we have the rest of the day free." If you go,plan on hitting the local deli for coffee and some kind of pastry after as they talk of the 20 miler scheduled for Sunday. Expect an invite and expect it to get rolling at,you guessed it, 7am. Expect some gentle ribbing when you tell them you can't make it. If you ever ask them the key to getting better,don't be surprised when they simply say, "more running."

Running vets,this one's for you,may you have many more years of running long and healthy.