New Houston Hopeful interview: Tamara Karrh

Tamara embodies a kind of runner that I was just talking about yesterday with Coach Sandra: she is a runner who has moved her status from recreational to elite without losing her love of running in the process. Once you step up training and start having to work it around other life commitments — of which Tamara has many, including four young kids — it’s easy to start to experience training as a grind, a burden. As Tamara says, “A lot of it is just the love of it. I love the training…it’s something that I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to each and every day.”

I should note that Tamara is no longer technically a “hopeful”: she qualified for the Trials with a 2:40:22 last fall. This weekend she’s going for the A standard, a 2:39:00 or better.

For the full interview: Houston Hopefuls > Tamara Karrh

Runner survey: results and analysis

The results of my casual (meaning non-scientific) survey of race participants are in. 403 people responded, which I think is a good sampling. They hail from across the spectrum of runner types, from absolute beginners (“Newbies”) to professional elites (well, three of them; I wish I knew who they were).

Download the survey: “What do race participants want?”

Although I “advertised” the survey in many venues (NYRR, USATF and Running Times Facebook pages and the message boards, as well as via Twitter), I suspect that close to half of the responses originated from the Runner’s World online forums. I shamelessly spammed those forums when responses started dwindling at around 180, and they picked up to a wildly healthy clip in the hours and days after hitting

Note that I am not a professional survey maker, nor do I know a thing about statistics. I am a regular person such as yourself. Meaning an amateur.

Groovy pie charts, tables and highlights make for easy comprehension.

Since I have heavily notated the PDF of the results, I won’t post analysis here. If you’re that interested, then click the link below. I will note that there are some excellent ideas for race directors contained herein, and I was very surprised by some of the results, others not so much.

Survey respondents had some great observations and ideas. Like these!

Anyway, once again, in case you missed that first link — read it for yourself by downloading it here: Survey: “What do race participants want?”

Once again, I offer my thanks and gratitude to the 403 runners who took the time to complete the survey.

Blog: Washington Ran Here

Here’s a new blog I made my way to via a circuitous route. I think it was Angry Runner.

Anyway, she’s funny. And interesting. And fast.

In which I seek solace from a dead poet

I recently purchased Tim Noakes’ seminal work The Lore of Running. I had to put something into my Amazon cart to get free shipping and I’d always meant to buy this book. So I did. It can best be described as a compendium of running physiology, but shot through with a whole lot of wisdom.

Weighing in at 931 pages, it’s not a book I can see myself reading through cover to cover. Instead, I keep it on the dining room table and once or twice a day, when I’m having breakfast or lunch, I dip in and read a few pages. Today I ventured into the chapter entitled “Training the Mind”. I thought I’d pick up some tips in preparation for the day that I line up for a race again.

But it seems I could not escape my current predicament, even by studiously avoiding chapters about injury. There, on page 556, a section entitled “Psychology of Injury” began. On the next page was a subsection: “Typical Response to Injury,” which enumerates the mental stations of the injury cross in a form that would make Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proud (except…what, no bargaining?):

  1. Denial: At first, the athlete refuses to accept that the injury has occurred and simply denies its possibility. Examples of runners who ran to their deaths, denying that they could possibly have heart disease, are detailed in chapter 5.
  2. Anger (rage): When the injury can no longer be denied, the athlete becomes enraged and blames either the doctor, a spouse [ed. note: oh, yes — that’s why runners should always hitch their wagons to other runners, who will call them on their shit], or some third party for the injury. Occasionally, athletes will blame their bodies for this betrayal and may even subject it to further abuse, for example, by continuing to run. [ed. note: or, in my case, by consuming tremendous amounts of wine.]
  3. Depression: When denial and rage no longer work, the athlete moves on to the (penultimate) state of depression.
  4. Acceptance: Finally, the athlete learns to accept the injury and to modify ambition to accommodate the inadequacies of the mortal body. When this occurs, the athlete is likely to be over the injury.

That last line bears repeating, in case you missed it: When [acceptance] occurs, the athlete is likely to be over the injury.

Isn’t that tragic?

But probably true.

I am almost afraid to note this, since I’ve had so many false alarms over the past couple of weeks. But I think my original problem (crippling muscle knots) has abated almost completely and I have actually replaced that problem with a new one: a pulled adductor muscle. Maybe it’s a compensatory injury from my wonky walking, but I’m more apt to blame it on the insane pedaling I’ve been doing on the stationary bike over the past week.

The past few days (and especially at night and first thing in the morning), the adductor magnus, or maybe it’s the brevis, hurts a lot. I did three hours of cross-training yesterday, 2.5 the day before, most of it on the bike. Today I didn’t do anything other than take a hot bath and, earlier, wander the aisles of Bed Bath and Beyond, not buying things (sometimes I do this for no apparent reason, sort of a reverse osmosis consumerism). If I do anything tomorrow, it will be going to the Y and trying out my water running equipment. But if that irritates the problem muscle, I won’t proceed.

So. To review. The good news is that the original problem seems to be going away. The bad news is I have a new problem. But I’ve dealt with adductor strains before — I even trained with one for 10 weeks — and they are not a big deal. I know this particular monster and it’s not that scary.

Might this be a light I see? I know better than to hope when the right thing — the only thing — to do is to simply wait. I almost hate to trivialize T.S. Eliot by applying his words to something as lightweight as a running injury. But, on the other hand, I think he had a lot to say about accepting hardship and even quietly embracing it as a worthy experience unto itself (if one accepts that things that are worthwhile are not always necessarily pleasant):

I said to my soul be still, and wait without hope; for hope would be hope of the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith. But the faith, and the love, and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: so the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

“This is nothing.”

That’s what Jonathan said to a despairing me the other night as we embarked on another possibly pointless home/amateur massage therapy session to try to treat whatever is ailing both of us.

He’s right. Read this.

Thanks, TK.

New elite masters blog: Susan Loken’s Running Journey

Susan Loken (who I believe is 46) is a three-time winner of the USA Masters Marathon Championships and a two-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier. She was one of the first fast amateurs who I became aware of, because she passed me during my first marathon, the 2007 More race in Central Park. She didn’t just pass me — she practically singed the hair on my arms off, she was going so fast. I did some reading about her after that race and was inspired to find that, like me, she’d taken up running late in life. Unlike me, she’s gotten a lot faster (and at a much faster rate).

On a lark, I got in touch with her to see if she was trying for a third Trials qualifier and if she’d be willing to be interviewed for the Houston Hopefuls project. The good news: Yes and Yes. The better news: Susan started a blog earlier this summer to document her own progress of building up for this goal after two-odd years of taking something of a hiatus from competing at her usual high level.

Read on: Keep Believing: Susan Loken’s Running Journey

New Houston Hopeful interview: Heather May

This one’s with a twist: Heather has qualified for and raced in the Olympic marathon Trials twice already, making her our first “Trials veteran” in the series. Yet her experience has not dampened her enthusiasm for going after a threepeat. Having become a marathoner as much out of ignorance (“I’ve run 10 miles. Now what do I do?”) as out of a desire to qualify for the Trials, Heather’s path as a Trials-calibre runner has been both fraught with peril and filled with opportunities for self discovery.

For the full interview: Houston Hopefuls > Heather May