The state of the sport

MarathonGuide.com has come out with its annual review of US marathon statistics. It’s all here: biggest races, AG participation, finishing times and trends, trends, trends.

I can summarize with something you did know — and something you probably didn’t know: Marathons are getting bigger. But did you know that marathoners (meaning the average Janes and Joes) are getting faster? I did not know this.

Podcast FAIL

I’m hoping of the handful of readers I have out there, one of you will be able to clue me in on how to easily (and cheaply) record a telephone conversation as a podcast. Idiots do this every day, so why can’t I figure it out?

Here’s my badass setup: a Plantronics USB headset/mic (model Audio 470 USB, if you must know) and a Samsung NC10 netbook running Windows XP Home Edition v. 5.1.

As I wrote to Matt of the the Dump Runners Club (who I’ll be highly annoying to in person in about a month at the Green Mountain Relay; I’m sure he’s campaigning to not be in my van even as I type this):

I’m trying to get a series of interviews going with masters women who are trying to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. I want to interview some of them by phone and present those interviews as podcasts (MP3s or whatever the format usually is). Only thing is, I’m retarded when it comes to this stuff.

I bought a USB headset/mic and attempted one call (with my SO) using Skype and something called Hot Recorder. What I got was hilarious. I sound normal. He sounds like Mr. Snuffleupagus on quaaludes. I attempted to work with the file in Audacity, but all I get is a short screech.

Inspired comparisons like this shouldn’t go to waste in an email, so I thought I’d post it here for maximum comedic mileage.

But after the laughter fades, the issue remains: when it comes to podcasting, I don’t have a fucking clue about what I’m doing. Can someone out there help me? Please. Help me. These women have lots to say and I’d like you all to be able to actually understand what they’re saying.

Dreamers Wanted

I’m looking for a few good women. Women who are attempting something that is a longshot, if not in all probability impossible.

Approximately 200 American women are able to run a marathon fast enough to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials, a race that rolls around only once every four years and whose top three finishers will make up this country’s Olympic Marathon team.

Most of these women are young, meaning in their 20s and 30s. But every year a handful of them 40 or older make it into the race. In 2008 there were 14 such women, including a few notable past Olympians: Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Colleen De Reuck and Linda Somers-Smith. For 2012, the USA Track and Field Association has lowered the standard by a minute from 2:47 to 2:46. Yeah. This time it’s going to be even harder.

Here’s who’s in so far for 2012. Are you fortyish and trying to get on this list? Are you willing to talk about it? If so, I’d really like to hear from you: raceslikeagirl@optonline.net

About the project

I will be doing a series of interviews with masters women marathoners who are attempting to qualify for 2012. The basic criteria for my interviewees are that you:

  • Are or will be at least 40 years of age by the 2012 Houston Trials date.
  • Have not previously qualified for an Olympic trials race.
  • Have not yet qualified for the 2012 trials.

I started posting queries about this just yesterday, thinking I’d be lucky to find one or two beyond the one candidate I had already. As it turns out (much to my delight), there are more of you out there who fit the above criteria than I’d have thought. You are coming out of the woodwork, but I’m continuing to look. This could be quite an extensive series.

If you fit the above criteria, please get in touch with me. I’ve heard from one or two people who don’t fit them all, primarily former qualifiers who are going for it again. I’m open to including them as well for a more rounded view. But the one common criterion I’m insisting on is age (first bullet point above).

I would like the interviews to be equal parts inspiration, personal observation and practical knowledge. To avoid a bunch of generic interviews, I will plan to get some background information from you, which I’ll use to put together some questions customized to your background, current status, etc. You’ll have your choice of doing the interview via email or over the phone as a podcast.

This is a personal project that I fully expect will be published on my blog (then probably picked up by some running blog aggregators). However, I’m also exploring a few other potential outlets that might garner a bigger audience (which wouldn’t be saying much).

While that would be nice, I’m not going to sit on these interviews should the process of working with other media outlets mean a long wait time between interview and distribution. I want these interviews to see the light of day sooner rather than later and I’m proceeding with them regardless.

Pass it on.

Training: April 26 – May 2, 2010

This was not a great week for either training or racing. That’s okay, as my expectations were low going in (although I then had to lower them yet again as the weather changed). I’m posting this more or less as a formality, since details about the week can be found in earlier posts:

I’m not thrilled by the fact that the one event that resembled a “goal race” was shut out by horrendous heat and humidity. But it is what it is. I’ve still got a couple months’ worth of totally new racing experiences to look forward to: track racing at Icahn Stadium, a cross-country race and then the ultra relay in Vermont. So I’ve got lots to look forward to.

Then I buckle down this summer, get the mileage back up and start my preparations for the fall, which I’ve decided is going to be all about getting good at racing half marathons.

Pleasure Dawdle: Long Island Half 2010

I ran this race as a low key training run for reasons previously stated. I ended up with 13.25 miles in just over 2:05, or roughly 9:30 pace. Average effort was around 80%.

Well, it was hot and humid today, just as predicted. I’d resigned myself to not racing it, although a few minutes before the race, when it was only in the mid-60s I toyed with the idea of doing an all out effort. Then I decided against it; it’s not like you can race the first 10K, then change your mind. Once you’ve exerted yourself in conditions like these you’re in it for the haul, meaning the damage is done and running slower after a fast first half will be a lot harder than if you’d jogged the whole way, which is essentially what I did for most of the “race” today.

If you enjoy running on barren, completely exposed major roadways, then this is the race for you. But if you decide to take it on in 2011, be sure to get there early! We were trapped in a sluggish, single lane of cars crawling toward parking for at least 15 minutes after getting into the park entrance. Jonathan finally gave up and bolted from the car at 7:20.  Unlike me, his plan today was to race and neither of us had a clue about where the start was. It turns out the race start was a five minute stroll from where I parked. He took the long way around. We wouldn’t see each other again for another three hours.

Somehow we managed the separation and, in our own ways, both had a grand old time. Jonathan came in (he thinks) 13th overall, having managed an unofficial 1:20:03. He was, of course, unhappy with this, whereas I was astonished, considering the conditions and the fact that he hasn’t actually been training for a half (or even a full). His paces were very even. I think it was among his most successful races, but he doesn’t share this opinion.

In terms of his performance in a relative sense, one of the many quirks of this race is that obtaining “results” consists of lining up to use a machine into which you enter your bib number, which then burps out a printed receipt of your time and pace. But you have no idea how anyone else did. We assume he won the M50-59 AG, but won’t know until the award shows up (or doesn’t) in the mail eventually. Edited: Well, he won M50-54, but was beaten by a 58 year old!

There was apparently some drama at the start line. Jonathan was lined up  near the front, and right before the start the race director surveyed those in front and pointed to a man who obviously didn’t belong there (very overweight) and demanded that he move back, which he did. Then he approached a woman who in his estimation also didn’t belong there (although Jonathan said he didn’t think one could necessarily have made that assumption by looking at her). The RD demanded she move back as well, but she resisted. So he ripped her tag off and disqualified her on the spot.

Jonathan said the calling out of some vs. others seemed random and inconsistent to him, as there were other people on the line who didn’t belong up there. I suppose it’s the RD’s prerogative to decide, perhaps for safety reasons, who can and can’t be in the first row. But ejecting someone seems excessive. My guess? The LI race director is just another power mad jerk.

I was way back in the middle of the pack at the start. At 8AM we started walking toward the start mats and the women behind me were exclaiming how we had “perfect weather.” That’s when I hit “Play” on my MP3 player.

This is the first race I’ve run with music and let me tell you, I understand why people do it. Jogging for 13+ miles can be really boring. I knew this already, which is why I have an MP3 player in the first place, although I’ve heretofore been a purist when it comes to mixing music with racing. But I figured if I was going to play contented midpacker for a day, I may as well go whole hog and do it with headphones jammed into my ears. For today, I chose my “Sunday Run” mix (see below). It’s what I listen to on Sundays. Easy decision.

The first few miles ticked by without incident. I distracted myself with judgmental assessments of the wide range of tattoos that surrounded me. There were lots of “tramp stamps” to be seen, but I was most impressed with one woman’s “Farm / Ancient Rome” visual pastiche along her upper back, the centerpiece of which was two pigs with (and I can’t explain this, so don’t make me try) a large Doric column emerging from their spines. The other highlight was the woman with two tattoos on her calves: a Star of David (left) and Christ on a Cross (right). Mixed marriage?

The colorful visual treats so held my attention that I was taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of the 5 mile mark, only noticing it because that was when the sun emerged from the clouds, necessitating that I move to the shady side of the street, where I ran with a few 10K race stragglers. At mile 8 we turned into a headwind and for once wind was a refreshing, cooling force rather than an obstructive, energy sapping one.

I picked up the pace then, figuring on upping effort for the remainder of the race. Even in that weather, running the last 3-4 miles at higher effort wasn’t going to kill me. Anything I can do at this point to acclimatize myself for the coming summer months is going to help. At 9:30, or around mile 9.5, the sun came out for good and it was beating down on us. I was running at around 80% at that point and started to pick things up, primarily to get this over with.

I started passing people, although other people were also picking things up, so I had lots of company. One thing I noticed was that most of the (much younger) people around me weren’t running all that hard. Meaning they weren’t really racing. I used to notice this when the pace I ran today was my race pace way back when and it used to drive me crazy. It still happens in some NYRR races, where I’m about to eject an internal organ, I’m working so hard, but I’ll sometimes be running with guys who are chatting about where they had dinner last night. But nothing like this in terms of sheer numbers. My point is that I suspect a lot of “average” runners could run much faster if they tried. I don’t know why they don’t. Maybe because it’s very uncomfortable? Yeah. I’ll bet that’s it.

At mile 11.6 I saw my first heat-related casualty, a guy who looked to be in his mid-20s, slightly overweight, flat on his back. He was surrounded by cops who hadn’t bothered to try to get him into the shade and were otherwise making no visible effort to get him cooler. I listened for sirens, but heard none. Then at 11.75 miles I spotted Guy in His 20s #2. This time the cops were raising his feet (he was passed out cold), but, again, no ambulance.

The final straw was a man I saw at the 13 mile mark, clearly in big trouble. He was falling, then getting up, then falling again. The spectators seemed to find this funny, like he was some sort of trained bear. I found it alarming, but lucked upon a volunteer about a hundred feet along, around a curve. We had the following exchange, which would have been comical had it not been so frustrating:

Me: “There’s a runner down at the 13 mile mark. You should call for medical help.”

Him: “Where?”

Me: “The 13 mile mark.”

Him: “Way back there?”

Me: “No, a hundred or so feet back, just around the curve.”

Him: “Oh. I thought you meant mile 13 of the marathon.”

Me: [Confused look] “They’re the same finish.”

Him: [Dashes off]

The LI event uses some sort of newfangled tracking system — an RFID strip is attached to the back of your bib rather than to your shoe. A little ways before the finish I spotted a trash can in which to dispose of the transmitter that would indelibly record my finishing time were it to pass over the finish mat. Still, I was surprised to hear my name called as I neared the finish — and pronounced correctly yet again (the planets must be in alignment) — so that was weird. I’m hoping they were just looking up bib numbers as we came in, as I don’t want my cruddy finish time recorded. Because I’m obsessive that way.

Edited: Dammit. They managed to record my time somehow. I have no idea how that happened. Mystery solved: there are two strips on the back of each bib.

I’m a little tired now, but no more so than I’d be after any hot midlength run. For once I did the smart thing. For once.

Some news stories (and a blog report) from various races today. It wasn’t pretty out there today:

Sunday Run
Someday – Shawn Colvin
6 Underground – Sneaker Pimps
Blink – Yuji Oniki
Can We Still Be Friends? – Todd Rundgren
All I Really Want To Do – The Byrds
Modern Girl – Sleater-Kinney
Learning To Fly – Pink Floyd
September Gurls – Big Star
Bound By The Beauty – Jane Siberry
Fireflies (Live Version) – Fleetwood Mac
Rikki Don’t Lose That Number – Steely Dan
Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? – She and Him
Walk With You – Ringo Starr
Singing In My Sleep – Semisonic
Knocked Up – Kings Of Leon
Big Nuthin’ – Maggie & Terre Roche
The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead – XTC
Time Stand Still – Rush
Home by the Sea – Genesis
Livin’ Thing – Electric Light Orchestra
Beach – Mew
Where The Streets Have No Name – U2
Apocalypso – Mew
Don’t Let Go The Coat – The Who
Figure Of Eight – Paul McCartney
Looking For Water – Carl Craig
Switch On [Featuring Ryan Tedder] – Paul Oakenfold
Fruit Machine – The Ting Tings
Paranoid Android – Radiohead
Airbag – Radiohead
Inni mer syngur vitleysingur – Sigur Ros
The Shock Of The Lightning – Oasis
Finer Feelings – Spoon
Read My Mind – The Killers
Nailed – Bob Mould
It’s All In My Mind – Teenage Fanclub
Souls Travel – Bettie Serveert
Miracle Medicine – Jason Falkner

Listen on Rhapsody

Against my better judgment…

We picked up our bibs on the off chance that tomorrow we get up and it’s perfect weather. But even if that’s not the case, we’re going to the Long Island race site tomorrow morning. If it’s hotter than the ninth circle of Hell, I’ll probably skip the race altogether (I’m bringing a book in the event that my better half decides to run it).

If it’s not quite that hot, I’ll do it as training run. I figure I was going to do a run tomorrow up here anyway. At least on a course I’ll have ample supplies of water and Gatorade.

My plan is to run at 75% max. Given the conditions, that may very well mean a 10:00 mile or worse. Who knows.

But there’s no chance of my racing this thing. It’s sort of liberating not to care. But I’m still disappointed.

I’m convinced now that the only safe month in which to schedule a goal race, at least on the east coast, is November. But I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong this fall.

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