A few minutes with Jenny Simpson

Jenny (Barringer) Simpson’s running résumé is so impressive that it’s difficult to choose among the highlights. A 2008 Olympian in the 3000m steeplechase, breaker of numerous collegiate records and one American record, and, most recently, gold medalist in the 1500m at worlds — the first American woman to win gold in that event since Mary Decker-Slaney won it in 1983. Needless to say, I was thrilled to get a chance to sit down with her. Incidentally, Simpson won the Fifth Avenue Mile this year.

When you win a gold medal and walk down the street in the event’s home city, do people recognize you?
That was one of the strangest things. I left the stadium to go to dinner that night. Even on the way to dinner there were people stopping us on the street for pictures. It wasn’t just Koreans, it was people visiting, all kinds of people.

Was that odd for you?
It was very strange. Of course, I’m very flattered and want to be accomodating  and take pictures with people. But it’s just so strange to be walking down the street and having people say, “Oh, my gosh! You won the gold medal. Can we have a picture?” Two or three days later, my husband and I were supposed to meet each other at a train station. We couldn’t find each other and once we finally did find each other we needed some help in order to make our train on time. The security guard was more than happy to accomodate us because he knew that I’d won a gold medal. It’s just so strange to have a security guard working in the train station know who we were.

When you watch a race, everyone’s wearing Nike kits. But you went with New Balance. How come? What did they offer you that someone like Nike didn’t?
I had the beautiful luxury of being in a situation where I had several different companies that I could visit and ultimately choose from. It ended up being a scenario very similar to college. If you’re good in high school and you get five full scholarship offers, at that point you’re deciding what the best fit is for you. I felt like I had full scholarships from all of these places and at the end of the day I was able to decide who was the best fit for who I am and what I want to try to accomplish.

What I found in New Balance was an incredible family. From the moment I met these people I felt that they genuinely wanted to be a part of making my career as great as it could be. I wasn’t necessarily simply a vehicle for their product. They were able to communicate that to me the best. I know that they have a lot of resources, but they keep their team relatively small. All those things were really attractive to me.

They seem to reward loyalty with loyalty. When you look at someone like Khalid Khannouchi, who’s been with them since the mid-nineties — they’ve supported him through eight years of injury. It’s really kind of amazing.
One of the main things I considered when I was looking for a college was how many people went on to compete professionally after going to there. What’s the success, the longevity of their runners? So when it came time to choose a sponsor, I wanted to compare the relative size of the company to the number of people that they sponsor. New Balance is impressive in that they are incredibly loyal to the people they sign. Through the good years and bad years they take ownership of the people they signed and who’ve been with them for years. I just think that’s a really honorable thing to do.

If you run for a shoe company like New Balance, but you can’t quite find a pair of shoes that works for you, will they customize shoes for you?
Absolutely. And with New Balance it’s even easier because their factory is in the US. It’s not like you go get fitted and then they send it out to China. You can walk to the factory in Lawrence, just outside of Boston, and they make your shoes for you there. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to walk to the factory and see the people working on your shoes and on your products. That’s a whole other inspiring side of the company. They’re true to their message in that they employ US workers and keep it US made. That meant a lot to me.

I’m interested in the fact that you moved down in distance. That’s unusual. You were an outstanding steeplechaser and then moved down to the 1500. What drove that decision?
I’ve always wondered if anyone else leaving college has ever moved down. I can’t think of anyone.

Well, there’s you and Anna Pierce.
That’s true. When I was racing in 2009, everyone remembers when I went to Prefontaine and broke four minutes in the 1500. That was really a game changer for me. In that moment we realized that there was a whole other part of middle distance racing that I had an aptitude for. I went on and finished my track and cross country seasons, just as we’d planned to do.

But I always knew in the back of my mind that I had this great ability in the middle distances. So when I no longer had the opportunity to stay in Boulder, I was looking for a coach. I know how to train for a steeplechase and for a 5k. What I really don’t know is the highly specialized skills for the 800 and 1500. I looked for a coach specifically for middle distances and found an incredible match in Juli (Benson) Henner at the Air Force Academy. She’s done exactly that: taken the things I’m already good at and made me so much better.

Do you miss the steeplechase?
I do miss it. I miss it because I was so familiar with it. I miss it because I had a lot of success in it. The 1500 can be a little bit of a crapshoot. You go out and know you have a certain ability, but tactics are so important in that race. A great example is Brussels. I ran 4:03 and that’s a really great time. But I was in back, near last. So it can be really trying in that sense. You can have a great time, but a poor performance. Or you can win, but people will accuse you of racing a slow time. So in that sense you have to hold your own, and just own that you’re good at this event and that you’re going to keep getting better.

The steeple is more consistent as far as running similar times, and the event itself is definitely not as deep as the 1500. So if you’re running around seventh in the world you’re always going to place somewhere between fifth and tenth in the world.at the world championships. It’s a very different dynamic in that sense. More predictable.

All I know is that every time I watch the steeplechase, I’m always afraid for the runners. It looks so hazardous, especially when you go over the water jump.
I know! It is. I used to say that the steeplechase is the NASCAR of track and field because everyone comes to watch the crashes.

Have you raced any road miles?
I’ve never run a road mile. This is my first one. I’m very excited.

How do you think it will differ for you from a tactical standpoint?
Everyone is going to be missing that comfort of knowing exactly where you are every step of the race. When you’re on the track, you know in every moment, “I have 520 meters to go, I have 150 meters to go.” We’re so comfortable running those curves and knowing where we are. So I think it’s going to miss that level of comfort. Given how deep the field is, how good the field is, this year, I think it’s going to turn into a really exciting race.

How will you warm up for this race?
I do the same warmup for every single race and workout. I start with a short run and some dynamic stretches. Then I’ll run really easy for 15 or 20 minutes and then start my drills and my strides. All of that is really standard and set in stone. The one thing that isn’t set in stone is when you put on your spikes. That’s determined by the event. If it’s something like the world championships, where we have to go through a lot of call rooms, I’ll wait until we get into the call rooms to put on my shoes. If it’s a really relaxed race like Rieti, I’ll put on my spikes while I’m still doing my warmup.

Is that a mental transition you’re making as well, when you put on your spikes?
Absolutely. You put on your spikes and everything from that moment on is faster, a little bit more explosive, more intense.

Here’s a fly on the wall question. Those of us who are amateur runners don’t know what happens in a championship race. Beforehand, are you all herded into the same room together? What’s actually happening before we see you all out on the track?
I’m kind of a nerd, probably. But I always thought it would be interesting to write a short story just on that process, going from the warmup area to the track.

We don’t know what happens. We see you come out…
Yeah, it’s kind of a black box thing.

Are you thrown together, or are you given some space?
It depends on the venue. I’ll use the last world championships as an example. We go into the call room around 45 minutes before we go to the start line. At a typical race, that’s usually not long after you would start your warmup. So we have a 50 minute warmup and then we have 45 minutes in these call rooms.

You have to sit around for 45 minutes?
Yeah. We go into the first call room and they have to check everything. They check your bibs on the front and on the back. They have to make sure that all your logos are in compliance. They have to make sure you don’t have anything in your bag that you can pull out that’s noncompliant. Then they check your spikes, they check your uniform. They go through all of this for every single person in the field. They divide all those jobs between call room one and call room two. When you’re in call room two, there’s typically a place for you to do some strides, run around, do some drills. Call room two is where we all put our spikes on.

But while you’re in the first call room, you’re literally sitting in a small room with all the people you’re going to be racing. It’s usually really quiet. It’s kind of tense. By the time you get to call room two people are kind of shaken out again, they’re doing their strides, putting their shoes on. At that point — this what you all see — in our warmups, with our backpacks, we all walk out onto the track. At the point we usually have about five minutes, just enough time to put in one or two strides before we have to take all of our clothes off and step to the line.

Well, you don’t take all of your clothes off.
I should say all of our warmups off.

If you took all of your clothes off it might increase track and field viewership.
[Laughs] That’s true!

I want to ask you about the 2009 race in which you broke the NCAA 5k indoor record*. It was the most bizarre video, because it looked like you were running the race alone. I remember wondering how you kept up that effort while running solo. How do you run like that when there’s no one else around you to push you?
That was such an unusual situation for two reasons. For one, I was racing by myself. The other other funny thing about that video is that no one knows that anything’s going on.

Right! There are guys wandering out on the track. No one knows what’s happening.
Exactly. Something else that was unusual about that race was the track. It was something like 308 meters. A really strange distance. So the splits are in different places all around the track. There’s no way for an athlete by themselves to know the splits for a 5k going around that track. They designate someone to run around the track and give splits. I’d separated myself from the group and so the guy giving splits had to decide, “Do I give splits to the girl that’s winning or to the rest of the group that’s racing?” He made the decision — and I applaud him for this — to give splits to the majority of the group and let me go and do my thing. But at this point I’m at 2k, not even halfway into the race, and I have no information about how I’m running.

The absence of knowing where I was in the race or how fast I was going actually made me run better. It made me run so much better. I think it was a combination of no knowing — the bliss of not knowing — and the fact that I had this little bit of fear. I set out that day wanting to run 15:20. I knew that was going to be difficult to do. So I had this feeling, “If I slow down I don’t know if I’m going to be on pace anymore.” So that drove me to keep picking it up every lap. It was funny, too — my coaches are very calm, collected people. But they started looking more and more frantic each time I came around. And I was thinking, “Oh, my gosh. Is this not going as well as I thought it was?” I felt really under control, really good.

Did they think you were running too fast?
No. They were so excited. They thought, “Man, she looks so good! She’s running every single lap better and better and better.” So I just misinterpreted their reaction. They were all excited about what was going on. So it was for reasons of ignorance that I kept running harder and harder and better and better. When I crossed the line and saw 15:01 I didn’t think that was right. When you’re racing out there by yourself, I think it’s so important — and I said this about the 1500 in Daegu — to focus on yourself and how you feel. People ask me all the time, “What are you thinking about?” I’m thinking about running, what I’m doing, how I’m feeling. If you focus on yourself and forget about the time or the people around you, you’ll get the most out of yourself. That’s how I run solo races.

*I can’t find the video for this race. If anyone out there has a link, please share it!

Running dreams? I got running dreams.

Early on Monday morning, around 3:30 am, I awoke with my heart thudding out of my chest. I’d been having a nightmare. I have nightmares rarely — maybe two times a year — so I know I’m particularly anxious about something when I do. In this case, I was out on a run, but it was at night. I was running through a nearly-empty parking lot when I spied, emerging from the bushes, a huge bear. It was lumbering right toward me. I hid behind a small car, peeping through the windows, only to see the bear coming closer and closer. As I was debating whether or not to try crawling underneath the car, the bear started coming around to my side of the car. [cue me waking up screaming]

Trust me. You do not want to have this particular dream.

While I’m not totally sure what that was about (I have so many sources of anxiety in my life at the moment!), I suspect it had to do with my long-delayed followup with an endodontist scheduled for later that day to discuss a suspicious issue with one of my lower teeth. I won’t bore you with the details, but it turns out that I have extra roots in my lower teeth, which can look like massive disease on an x-ray. She thinks it’s nothing and sent me on my merry way. I think she knew I was pissed off last time I saw her because she didn’t even charge me.

So, while sometimes the bear eats you, sometimes you eat the bear.

This morning I had another bad dream, but it hardly qualified as a nightmare. Nightmares are not usually funny. In this one I was competing in a huge outdoor track meet. The stadium was full and I was arriving with my team for the opening ceremony. One of my teammates was freaking out because she’d forgotten her inhaler. It was Shannon Rowbury. My first thought wasn’t, “What the fuck am I doing in a meet with Shannon Rowbury?” (which it should have been), but instead, “Shannon didn’t tell me she had asthma. I wonder why.” That was followed by, “I guess if I’m here then I must be pretty fast.”

I was wearing lemon-yellow sweat pants. Not snazzy track pants even. No, they were the awful, thick kind that you’d pick up at Wal-Mart to prepare for an eating binge, an extended bout with the flu, or to be vomited on by a baby. Or all three.

Yanking them down, I discovered that I’d neglected to put on my shorts. [cue crowd going wild]

Racing at the Armory

Strap on those spikes and slingshot those hairpins! The schedule for Armory races is up. While I don’t plan to race in these, I may go out and watch: New York Armory Racing Schedule

If I knew you were runnin’ I’d’ve baked a cake

For everyone running the Loucks Games in White Plains next month. Now you’ve got your own cake! Sort of.

From CakeWrecks.com

Here’s the original song. (Warning: Play at your own risk. The incidence of brain stickage is high with this song. I can’t be held responsible for any acts of homicide, puppy kickings or property damage that may result from your having listened to it.)

Random crap

TK calls these posts “Ellipses…”

I call them a great way to unwind on Friday afternoon, after the steam whistle has blown. Toot!

The Green Mountain Relay, and my commitment to it, is becoming more of a reality every day. I had to register and input my most recent (terrible) 10K time. Then I had to pick a shirt style (because that is the most important part of all of this — how I look).

Now I’m scrutinizing the various “race leg” sets and, like some clueless roundeye who’s wandered into a Dim Sum palace, I’m pointing helplessly at a few and saying, “Yes, I’d like to run these! I have no concept of exactly how running extreme changes in elevation, for around 18 miles over a 24 hour period — some of those miles in the dead of night — will affect me. But, dammit, I’m choosing with confidence and authority!”

Oh, right. It's the Green MOUNTAIN Relay.

The way it works is, the race is 200 miles long, divided up in to 36 “legs.” They are numbered (surprise!) 1-36. On a 12 person team, each runner will run three legs, evenly distributed. So, for example, runner 1 will run legs 1, 13 and 25. Some legs are harder than others, and a couple of them are fucking brutal. I’ll let some 25-year-old studs claim those.

But I am nevertheless among the masochistic majority, clamboring for the three-leg sets that are on the “hard” side of the spectrum. And I may not get one of the harder sets, since it seems I may be one of the slower team members. I still don’t yet know how I feel about this piece of information.

Also, on a related and disturbing note, the phrase “baby wipes” is beginning to appear frequently among team member communications. What have I gotten myself into?

So far, at least in email, the team is a fun crowd. (I’ve met two of them exactly once, although we’ve been members of the Running Blog Mutual Appreciation Society for quite some time.) Someone shared this photo snapped during last year’s race (this man was not on their team, by the way).

According to co-captain TK, "It was some freak running down the highway we saw while we were all in the van. It was the funniest thing ever and we all mocked him from the confines of our vehicle."

Edited: When I saw this photo, I knew this man reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t think of whom. This morning, it hit me. He looks quite a lot like a running Ron Jeremy. (That Wikipedia entry is worth a read, not the least of which because it reveals the existence of something call the Adult Star Path of Fame, located in Edison, NJ.)

On a totally different topic, I am cleaning up on the 2009 shoe closeouts. I’ve picked up Saucony Fastwitch 3s for $40 and Asics Hyperspeed 3s for $55 (Holabird Sports). Holabird doesn’t like grabby people, so they only let you buy one pair of the Hyperspeeds. I’m going to put Jonathan up to buying another pair (or maybe I can drop the cloak and dagger and just place a separate order). At this point, I’m doing almost all of my training in “racing” shoes (7.5 oz or lighter). I can’t imagine how I used to train in 12 oz. tugboats.

My shorts (or, rather, the elastic) have all decided to expire at once too. My mesh “comfort liners” have taken to flapping about like sails. I’m already showing way to much flesh when I go out as it is. I draw the line at sunkissed butt cheeks. I’ve got four pairs of new shorts on the way from Running Whorehouse.

I managed to destroy the watch face of my 301XT last week. I knocked it off the counter and broke the glass face right up the center. The watch still functions, but I’m sure it’s not waterproof anymore. I’m quite annoyed that Garmin thought it was a good idea to not only make the front of a sports watch out of glass, but actually raise the glass so it’s guaranteed to shatter if it gets hit. Great job!

On the running front, I’ve had nothing but good workouts this week (two of them, rather than just one; playing with fire), despite the freak heat wave, and I was zippy on my 7 mile recovery run this morning. So I don’t know what to think about Sunday’s 15K race. Maybe I’ll do well, despite my doubts.

Joe has posted about the upcoming Masters Mile at the Louck Games in White Plains early next month. I’m skipping it since it’s just a few days after the Long Island Half Marathon. I know my limits. But I mention it here because, like a lot of outdoor track stuff, not many people are aware that it’s there for the running. The more the merrier. I’m screwing up my courage these days to perhaps try a track race at Icahn.

We shall see. But, again, people, it’s out there, and that’s why I mention it. These are open races, no invitation or qualifying time required. Take advantage or this stuff will go away. And then you’ll have a bunch of sad people noisily clacking around in spikes.

Boring vacation photos: Crater Lake, Eugene and environs (featuring bonus Prefontaine Classic coverage)

After the relative calm of Ashland, it was on to some high drama at Crater Lake. Or not. We did learn one fact fairly quickly: the snow sticks around at Crater Lake for quite awhile. The lodge had only been open for about two weeks when we arrived and there was not only nowhere to go hiking, there was nowhere to walk either. Snow was still piled up 12+ feet around the parking lot. So about all we could do at Crater Lake was gawk and drink. And that was fine.

The Crater Lake Lodge

The Crater Lake Lodge

The view from our room

The view from our room

So, here’s the deal on the Lodge. It’s a weird place. Not really an old lodge, but more a rebuilt approximation of someone’s idea of an old lodge. Apparently, the original lodge that was built around the turn of the century was put together by monkeys using knives and forks. Between shoddy construction and a lack of insulation, the place had a terrible reputation and eventually fell into such a state of disrepair (and structural risk) that it was slated for leveling.

Then it went through a refurbishing around 1990. There were no original plans, so the owners (then the Parks Dept) redid the place to have an original “look and feel,” which, unfortunately, means tiny bathrooms, and hideous furniture and bedding, apparently.  The net effect is that one feels no desire to spend time in one’s room, and, since everything outside is covered in snow, the only other option is to head downstairs to the lounge and dining room.

Fortunately, the lounge features a decent selection of beers, wine and cocktails. And dinner at the lodge makes up for the crappy room. I had duck; Jonathan had venison. Both were outstanding. Score one for the lodge restaurant.

Cinder cone atop Lava Butte

Cinder cone atop Lava Butte

Oregon has a rich volcanic history. That sentence alone sends me into such a profound state of torpor that I won’t pursue that thought any further.

Koosah Falls, between Crater Lake and Eugene. The water is really that color of blue.

Koosah Falls, between Crater Lake and Bend. The water is really that color of blue.

Our next overnight stop after Crater Lake was Bend. I have no idea how to describe Bend, since I couldn’t find a distinct identity for it while we  were there. The B&B proprietor was a bit uptight, which wasn’t a great start. Then we attempted a run and discovered that “map” in Bend is more of a representation of future urban planning than current geographic status. We attempted to go to the Deschutes Brewery, but it was as noisy as any Manhattan pub, so we instead opted for a Thai restaurant, which was good, although they mixed up the order and gave us an order of Drunken Noodles that was so hot that it may have been spiked with hydrochloric acid.

So, Bend was no great shakes and we were glad to leave after a night.

The next stop was Eugene, for two nights. Eugene is a college town, and we were staying in a rented bungalow in College Hill (close to Washington Park), which was actually pretty charming. While there, we visited the Raptor Center (a home for raptors who can’t survive in the wild for one reason or another), did a hike, and then spent Sunday morning at Hayward Field watching the 2009 Prefontaine Classic.

Looking down on Eugene from some random viewpoint

Looking down on Eugene from some random viewpoint

A hapless bald eagle at the Raptor Center. This was a wonderful place, and we ended up hanging around the birds for close to three hours.

A hapless bald eagle at the Raptor Center. This was a wonderful place, and we ended up hanging around the birds for close to three hours.

I won’t go into exhaustive details as far as the Prefontaine Classic is concerned. I’m sure there are plenty of excellent recaps out there in the usual places, such as LetsRun and Flotrack. But I do have some shots worth sharing.

Hayward Field is interesting. It’s set up for world-class track meet activity, with this taking the form of huge “warm up” areas. They have a special warmup tracks (both a loop and a straightaway), as well as a giant warmup “field” including open space and areas for privacy tents and massage tables. The back of the stands overlooks this area and it’s a bit like going to the track zoo. You can stand over the warm up area and gaze upon the track stars doing their little pre-race routines.

I have to admit that I felt a little sorry for the meet participants, having to suffer the indignity of being scrutinized by loser douchebags like ourselves. But it was fascinating to be on the observing douchebag side of things.

Here's Kristin Wurth-Thomas doing some dynamic stretches.

Here's Christin Wurth-Thomas doing some dynamic stretches.

Shalane Flanagan and Erin Donahue. Both would go on to run badly. Flanagan looked tense and unhappy warming up (we wondered if she was injured). Donahue just looked nervous.

Shalane Flanagan and Erin Donohue warming up. Both would go on to run badly. Flanagan looked tense and unhappy (we wondered if she was injured). Donohue just looked serious.

The meet featured some great performances and races. For me, the highlight was the women’s 1500m race, which was loaded with great names. I was rooting for Jenny Barringer, the college phenom who I think will continue to do great things during her professional career. She did not disappoint in this race. Here’s a shot of her late in the race, hanging back in ninth place, right behing her 3000m steeplechase rival Anna Willard.

Barringer bides her time on lap number three.

Barringer bides her time on lap number three.

And here she is during the last few seconds of the race, during which she rocketed forward in an attempt to nip the winner, Ethiopian Gelete Burka, at the line. She missed by just .01 of a second. But in the process ran the third fastest time ever for an American woman at that distance, breaking 4:00 and slashing 8 seconds off her PR and nearly 6.5 seconds off the college record. Go, Jenny, go.

Just .01 seconds shy of the win for Jenny B.

Just .01 seconds shy of the win for Jenny B.

That’s all for now. Next up: Corvallis and the Hood River area.

False starts made worse

This little tidbit appeared in the New York Times today. It seems the IAAF is proposing to do away with “do over” false starts. For the unitiated, here’s a basic primer:

A false start happens when a runner literally “jumps the gun” at the start of a race. Imagine six 400m sprinters lined up in their blocks. They’re crouched down with one knee on the ground. The starter (the person holding the gun) says, “On your marks.”  Next, the starter says, “Set” and all the runners’ butts go up in the air, knees off the ground.  Then there is a short pause, after which the gun fires, and the runners start running. In a false start, a runner — let’s say the runner in lane 2 — starts running after the starter has said “set” but before the gun has been fired. When this happens, the gun is fired again to signal to the runners that a false start has occurred and everyone makes their way back to the start to try again.

The accepted rule today is that first false starter is forgiven. However, if in the same race there is another false start — let’s say that this time it’s the runner in lane 5 — that second false starter is eliminated from the race. The first offender, runner in lane 2, suffers no penalty.

There are obvious problems with this. For one, it can be abused by a savvy runner. A runner is free to commit a false start on purpose, with no repercussions, increasing the chances of eliminating a competitor in a second false start. Also, false starts tend to rattle runners. If you watch track races, you’ll see the racers going through all kinds of exercises to focus on the task at hand. Some of the rituals (slapping themselves seems to be the newest trend) seem ridiculous, but I believe they serve a purpose and that a break in concentration in the miliseconds before the racer is ready to perform has got to take its toll.

The proposed change would drop the “first time forgiven” approach, immediately eliminating the first person who false starts. On its face, it sounds like a good change. But it fails to take into consideration the vagaries of race starts. By this I mean the variations in the time between “set” being called and the gun being fired. Watch enough track and field meets and you’ll notice that some are rife with false starts. Why? Usually because the starter “holds” the runners too long. Imagine being lined up in your blocks, then told to (get) “set,” and then being held for two or three seconds. Every muscle is twitching to get started, but the gun doesn’t fire.

I’ve watched meets where there are multiple “two false start” races, which is truly tragic. And it’s usually because there’s some geriatric standing there with a gun, holding runners way beyond what could be considered a reasonable pause. For awhile, I began to develop a conspiracy theory that this trend was a deliberate attempt to add drama and tension to televised coverage. In fact, for me it had the opposite effect, as I was forced to sit through many wasted minutes of false start coverage at the expense of more expansive coverage of longer events (“Wow. Watching Carmelita Jeter walk slowly back to the blocks and spend three minutes slapping herself is great, especially when it means I only get to see the last three minutes of the men’s 5000m race.”)

But I don’t really think these things are deliberate. I think it’s simple ineptitude. Worse, no one at these meets seems to notice that there’s a connection between delayed gun firing times and recurrent false start problems. The long hold times continue, and so do the false starts.

I think it’s fine to change the false start rules, but only if a standard “hold” time is adopted. That might mean automating starters, replacing humans with slow trigger fingers with a machine that will always fire a gun, say, exactly one second after “set.” But it need not even come to that. If you can find a starter who can say “a thousand one” and pull a trigger, you’ll probably reduce an enormous number of false starts with that action alone. Failing to address the common cause of false starts  just puts more pressure (and punishment) on athletes, and will likely go one of two ways: either we’ll see the same number of false starts or they’ll drop off — right along with race times, as runners hesitate to get out of the blocks quickly for fear of being booted out of the race.

"Mr. Ski Gloves" and other mysteries…solved!

I posted about a person I see just about every day, walking in the hottest of weather wearing Michelin Man ski gloves*: At random points in his perambulations, he drops to the pavement and does pushups. I guess the gloves are to protect his hands. Still seems like overkill, though.

The forecast for tomorrow’s half marathon in Connecticut is for 70 degrees and around 80% humidity. I suppose it could be worse (and it has been in past years, or so I’ve read). Fortunately, much of the course is reported to be shaded, so I’ll just focus on getting the water down my throat rather than the front of my shirt and taking it easy on the hills.

I will be one of 274 women in the 40-49 age group running (perhaps more, if there are race day registrations) tomorrow. I recognize one name from the NYRR races — someone who always beats me by just a minute or two. I want to try to reverse that trend tomorrow (although by her recent race times, it looks like she’s impervious to heat).

We’re promised a post-race “beach party,” which I hope means ice cream and beer (don’t ask me why I make that association). Way before noon! Sometimes, when you get over the whole taxes, home repairs, needing to hold down a job thing, being an adult is a lot of fun. Anyway, I’m hoping this “party” will make up for the fact that I need to get up at 4:30AM tomorrow morning to drive an hour and engage in strenuous exercise in high humidity.

Before I go, I want to praise Tivo. Because of Tivo we’ve been able to watch every single match in the Euro 2008 Football cup, at our leisure, in the evening. And we have about 30 “track and field” broadcasts scheduled to record in the coming weeks, Olympic trials from Eugene and otherwise. Heaven. Sheer heaven.

Also, since I’ve been making very little progress with weight (or, rather, butt) loss lately, despite running 90 miles a week and dropping my caloric intake to around 1500 a day, I decided to give the whole “your body will go into starvation mode and hold onto fat like it’s going out of style” theory some credence. For the past week or so, I’ve been experimenting with eating more (and more frequently). And rapidly losing fat. Who knew?

*Originally reported as “mittens.” I see now that they are in fact gloves.

Meet Report: Reebok Grand Prix

I took some really awful photos and even worse video. The video is boring and the photos are blurred. I suppose I should read the manual before being allowed out of the house with my camera.

Anyway, here’s a report on the Reebok event last night. Sure, you can read all about the results on some of those other sites. I’ll give you information about the things you really wanted to know about.

For instance, who knew Jamaicans were so nuts for track and field? We arrived to discover that the audience was basically 8,000 Jamaicans and us. They were an ebullient crowd — cheering for the high schoolers (who seemed well-represented by family and friends in the crowd, many of whom were dressed to the nines) and the elites alike.

And there were many, many Jamaican elites running, especially in the shorter events. They received enormous support, although the crowd was great in acknowledging pretty much everyone. And I do mean everyone

We had lots of thunderstorms moving through last night and at one point the events were delayed for about 45 minutes. The MC, Lewis Johnson, did a good job of keeping us all entertained by asking people to come volunteer to sing their national anthem in a “sing your national anthem” competition. We were treated to the U.S. anthem, the Jamaican anthem (of course), the Trinidad-Tobago anthem and China’s anthem.

Not surprisingly, Jamaica’s got the best response, although not the least of which was because the song sounds like a song you’d hear sung at a Dartmouth football game in 1936. It’s very much a “rah! rah! rah!” song that you’re supposed to sing along to. Much better than Trinidad-Tobago’s, which was more like a funeral durge. Who writes a national anthem in a minor key?

Once the novelty of that wore off, we all just sat there looking at the rain. But then, the announcer screamed, “Ladies and gentlemen! Lane six!”

And, lo, there was a squirrel running in lane six. Right toward the finish line. The squirrel bolted forward, then stopped just short. The crowd applauded. The squirrel reversed. The crowed applauded more. The squirrel turned around and raced across the finish line. The crowd went completely batshit, like the squirrel had just broken a world record! It was hilarious.

In short, it was more fun than I’ve had for $36 in a long while. I’m definitely in for more of these, especially if the crowd’s Jamaican again.

It’s hard to know what to highlight because there was so much talent out there and some very exciting races. Some of the best races were the high schoolers, especially the relays. Other notable events were the men’s 3000m steeplechase, the men’s 800m, the women’s 5000m, the men’s 5000m, the women’s 100m and, of course, the sub-10 second battle between Gay and Bolt.

Some good reports and photos, plus results:
RunBlogRun’s report
USATF News
Selective recap on LetsRun.com
Some good quotes from the athletes
Prettier pictures than mine
NY Times on Bolt’s new world record
Complete results

Like a horse race…but with people

We spent a little over five hours last night watching some of the best track and field athletes in the world run, vault and throw heavy objects last night at the Reebok Grand Prix on Randall’s Island.

Full report later, but the best was saved for last: the men’s 100 metres, in which Jamaica’s Usain Bolt broke the world record. So we saw the fastest man ever recorded, running about fifty feet in front of us. Very exciting stuff. I’m hooked on track meets now.

I’m off for a 20 miler with 5 at race pace. Ugh.

More later, after pancakes.

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