Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"The Rat Pack is Back."


Me and the GF have just spent three days in sunny-yet-cool Las Vegas.

What is cooler than the Rat Pack: Sammy, Frank, Joey and Dino. We saw the show, "The Rat Pack is Back": a retro-look at the Copa scene in the 1960s when the pack reigned over sin city.

We had a great time at the show...we sat in the front row and H was included in some of the comedy where Joey Bishop would speak to those in the front row. So much like the shows of my youth when my dad was buddies with so many show-biz Vegas stalwarts.

It's so nice to hear a live 18-piece band, a la the Carson show band with Doc, play the songs and punch in with counterpoint to the crew's jokes. I remember doing similar work in my 20s as a jazz guitarist playing celebrity roasts in LA and Santa Barbara...I wish I had some more pics of last night...more on that later.

Since the weaqther here is so nice this week, I'll go to work on my tan before returning to Canada.

happy new year to all of my on-line friends:
Terry
Bert
GB
Gregory
Alexandra
Tracey
Kazz and the rest of the RW gang.

And especially Annie, who is a good friend.

The real-life people don't need mention.

happy new year!

Friday, December 12, 2008


My Badgers are going to play Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl on ESPN. And I'll be able to watch since I'll be in Ventura, California for the holidays!!!

Back in 1985, when I was selecting graduate schools for music, I chose to apply only to universities rather than conservatories. I wanted a larger school with full PhD programs, and applied to Texas, Cornell, Northwestern, Michigan and Wisconsin. My field was Theory and Composition. All of these schools had solid reputations and were generous about grants and assistanceships to their grad students.


I chose Wisconsin, in large part, because of the large class they wanted me to teach from day one. They offered the best money as well. I never cared much for their music faculty and the program was lacking in organization. But the university itself was all I could have hoped for. Had my grades been a little stronger I would have gone to Yale or Harvard, but I was not really emotionally prepared to crack only the books at 17 years of age. After a 4 year hiatus I returned and smoked the academic from then on.

But the University of Wisconsin was a great place to study. Also, the sports and campus life were just what I'd dreamed of as an undergrad. I had several star football players in my class and for 8 years had season tickets. They were pathetic the first three years, averaging 2-4 wins per season.

But Chancellor Shalala turned the football and basketball programs around and soon I was watching my boring but reliable Badgers playing in bowl games EVERY year. We had multiple Rose Bowls, Heisman winners and at least 8 1000-yard rushers. In hoops the success was similar.

So I still wear my Badger red with pride. As a HS teacher in Minnesota, I always advised my Ivy league aspirants to save 60 grand and go to UW. They could always step up for grad or professional school. The job market has always been so competitive, the brand name on the label is important but secondary to the contents; the portfolio, recommendations, the experience. I was an unsuccessful job seeker, but I blame myself more than the school, which produced some big successes.

Plus, I got to run into Ron Dayne, Michael Finley and Suzy Favor, among others. The Badgers are great to follow and the students are smart, unpretentious and part of a great underground tradition.

GO BUCKY!
I hate this weather!!!

Everyone knows that Canada's cold. Today, in Ottawa it's 22f, in Toronto it's 21, in most of the other provinces, it's between 5-35f if they're near sea level.

But here...it's -9f at noon!. With new snow. I didn't even think it COULD snow much when temps are near 0F. But I've been proven wrong. I went to get a haircut this morning in prep for my California Xmas. Just driving to the mall was brutal. I forgot to warm the car up for 10 minutes before getting in. My hands are falling off and I almost wet myself.

WHY DON'T CANADIANS HAVE GARAGES???? It's not new technology. They have them in the US all over, even in those dumpy fixer uppers. Here, only the elite owners of new homes have them. There absence makes for dangerous visibility due to excessive ice that is all but unscapable in the 0 to -40 range.

To make matters worse, I forgot to unplug my block warmer (if you have to ask, you're very, very lucky) and drove off with an extent ion chord flailing from my hood. When I got home I couldn't plug the heater in because my hands were too cold.

So help me, on my non-teaching days, I'm going to wrap myself in an electric blanket, unplug the phone and hibernate. Here, it's not being a couch potato, it's survival.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The appointment today has lead to the recommendation that I see a neurologist and have an EMT exam. This will take a couple of months up here, of course.

It appears the muscle disparity in my two runner's legs might be a strong symptom of several neurological disorders, some simple (pinched nerve) some more ominous. This might well have precipitated the back trouble. It certainly is a problem for a runner. I call it "arm wrestler's legs". No good if you don't run in sharp circles.

Of course I'm not too sure what to do with my running in the meantime. While in California in mid-December, I'll just do some easy 4-8 mile runs and see if my back, knee or thigh explodes. I'll bike as much as possible. But if I could run 60 mpw with this, I can certainly go 30-40 mpw if the weather's good.

Again, I take this to be a good sign. It might very well be treatable. It's hard to know. Doctors have this way of keeping information to themselves; as if they are teachers and your questions are prying into trade secrets. They're not crazy about even letting you read your own lab results, though I insist upon it.

So again, (not to make excuses) my 2007 and 2008 seasons were compromised. The more training I did, the worse the muscle condition became. I'll be hearing soon from the doctor as to when my tests are to be conducted, and whether or not the neurologist here in Timmins will see me(he's retiring).

Treadmill guy is supposed to pop on over this afternoon. I'm ready to do some easy running, and the treadmill is easy on the back, legs and anything else that breaks down.

Running injuries: the cause is usually undetectable. So one can't help but shotgun the treatment and hope something works.
WED....BEFORE



In an hour, I'll be at my doctor's office. It's -4 out at 3pm; not the kind of weather I like doing much of anything in.

I've been MRId, X rayed and put on PT and several meds since the severe pain kicked-in the second week of September. Yet, only one MD had looked at me for a few minutes. The remainder or the time has been at a nurse-practicianers looking at X-rays, MRIs, etc. All indicate minor degeneration, but that's it.

Since the pain and symptoms are not minor, I want my day in court. I have not been able to point out the locus of the pain, the other symptoms nor answer any of the typical questions regarding back pain. I'm afraid I won't be able to resume an athlete's level of activity without injuring myself more seriously.

I have a photo of my back on a typical morning and two legs with uneven musclulature to be looked at. I need strong pain relief and want to feel I need it in the doctor's opinion (even though mine should matter most). My hunch is that I'll be in and out before I have a chance to do much of anything. Here goes....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Rudolph Hex

Tonight, as we were watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the treadmill was playing Poltergeist.

On "Rudolph," Santa was in a jam at the North Pole(not far from here, BTW) I was munching pretzals, then the heater kicked on. When that happened, the treadmill started up on high speed by itself. It was turned off and the safety magnet was pulled out. There should be no way the belt could move; yet there it turned, humming a high pitch. It was plugged-in, and the surge of the heater must have worked like the paddles on ER.

Repair guy, when he last visited, advised we get a junction box in case of lightning or fallen trees surging up the line. It was on my "C' list of things to do, like replacing the ceiling light that's too high to reach; we don't have a ladder ("C" list also). Moving from apartments to houses in strange towns means a big "A" list, since you get no freebies from the family.

Among other things we don't have yet...

2nd computer for work. B list
flat screen. B list
microwave....A list
snowshoes....A list (it just was bumped up)
a BROOM!.....A list
(we do have have a vacuum and swifters)
an electric guitar for me..A list
Bicycles.....C list (bumped down due to weather)

You get the idea...

We can afford these things, but we're "reluctant" shoppers.

Anyway, the treadmill motor isn't working. I can hear repair guy scolding me already.

In the meantime, there is this "too much snow" problem. I, of bad back, will not run on snow or ice.
Our streets are snow-covered. In Timmins,they do not plow minor streets until the missing children tally reaches double figures.

So I never had the chance to see how Santa made the rounds that foggy Christmas night. Don't tell me, but I'm banking on the red nose coming into play. I'll get the DVD to find out(C list).

Monday, December 1, 2008

As runners, we become very familiar with the look of our legs. Mine have changed over the years. As a teen, I had a sprinter's legs: big quads, well-defined calves and thin ankles.
In my non-running 20s they retained the shape, in spite of running an average of 3 times a week at 2-3 miles per run.
Fast forward to my 40s and I start marathon training. The legs become muscled--very much so--but the contour changes and they are thinner. Nonetheless, I'm familiar with the shape.

This season, I notices a sense of weakness and numbness in the left leg. It seemingly preceeded the back troubles. All spring and summer, I commented on how "tight" and strange my left knee and thigh felt. Then the back troubles started.

Now, I'm running most days on the treadmill, and going 4-7 miles each run. The legs feel OK, though the left leg is still faulty in some sense. I looked in the mirror and asked Heather to look at my thighs. It's become obvious that the left thigh lacks the muscle the right one has. It's probably been this way all year. Never before did I have trouble balancing myself on downhills and turns.

I'm trying to stay positive on this; it's a new symptom that is, almost certainly, connected to the back troubles. The cause-effect chain's unclear to me at this point. Where did the trouble start? It's hard to determine medically. But there is a definate cause for the weak leg--smaller muscles. So, there's something I can do to fix that: orthotic, chiro, more back treatments. Who knows?

So I can show this to the doc as well. It's good to know that it might be something specific rather than being worn-out by age. In the meantime, I'll go easy on the treadmill, do my exercises, and wait.

In time, I'll have a better plan.

This week, we're getting loads of snow. So getting snowshoes is next up.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

RIP: Composers of "Batman" and "The Andy Griffith Show"

Who are Earl Hagen and Neal Hefti? I'm certain many of you don't really know. Earl Hagen was a close friend of my father's. He helped dad get into the TV music business. Neal Hefti was also a friend of the family. Each man passed away this year.

They were both famous composers who wrote music for the big bands, radio and movies. But TV is the claim to fame they share. Between 1960 and 1980, Earl Hagen composed a countless number of TV themes and the background music as well. Much of his music is known by anyone over 40. For example, he wrote the theme to the Andy Griffith show. That's got to be in the top 100 recognizable tune book. Google him and you'll see how pervasive his music is.

But what I remember most is his bare pate, the Tam-O-Shanter he always wore, and the monumental ears. He looked like a character actor form the 40s. You just don't see folks with his features these days. Why? I don't really know.

When I was 9 years old, my father was recording a show at MGM and Earl offered to drive me home. We lived in the same development. It was my first ride in a Farrari. He even let me take the wheel in deserted areas. For someone so successful and talented, he was very unassuming; no ripping off heads in the studio for Mr. Hagen. Golf was his passion, and an unending source of rattlesnake stories, as the Calabasas course had its share. His son Dean was 8 years older than I, but had lots of colorful stories to share with me. You see, Dean was a talented drummer who played with the Spencer Davis band and Traffic; he also did session work for my father.

Neal Hefti wrote the theme for the "Batman" series. He also wrote a number of great shoe-tunes: Barefoot in the Park, Girl Talk, Cute, etc. Like my father, his was a generation of self-taught musicians. At dinner, we always heard the names pop up. Not because they were so successful. Rather, they were a part of my dad's generation of composers. Much of the music of their generation was brightly colored by Hagen and Hefti. They could do it all: arrange the band's parts, write the simple jingles and the complex backgrounds. These days, it's not so common. But what is it I remember? .....The Fararri. And I'm a musician!

So the old guard is falling away. Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My much-awaited MRI results were something of a dissapointment. There's nothing terribly wrong, nothing that's defying age. In short, my lumbar vertebrae are all bulging mildly, but the bulging is considered "unremarkable." Typical for late 40s. So it would appear that treatment is up to me.

The problem is that the pain is sometimes very "remarkable" to me. I know what it's like to have a pain-free back, and I know what it's like to have chronic pain.

As for running, no one's saying to stop. It doesn't hurt when I run, so I'll run. But my experience over the last two years suggests that running much volume at one time (long runs) seems to be closly related to the pain, spasms, assemetry and all else that's been sidelining me lately. Then again, so does taking out the trash...

I'm bothered because it feels nice to have a treatment plan for an injury. "Do this, then that, take these and you'll be better by this date..." That's what I like to hear. But no. I'm in trial and error mode. I could stop running, that might help but I'd go crazy without my daily exercise. I will, of course, do some winter sports this year. But nothing an replace running.

For now, its hit the treadmill. It's softer that frozen 12 degree-F pavement. So away I go.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I'll say it flat-out: I hate those word-verification tests you need pass to post.

Cursive "m"s that looks like "n" or "r" with no additional n,m or r for comparisons sake. Or the g and q that are identical except for a swirl. I've lost a few posts due to cursive complications. After I see tiny words like gyrqgjlnr I start to get dizzy and log off.
Then other times it's so easy...go figure.

If you are posting with me and that happens, feel free to send an email to me, and we can curse the cursive together.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Survived my Second MRI

I've now had two MRIs. My first one was way back in 1990. That horrific experience taught me a few things. The first thing I learned was that, yes, I can be VERY claustrophobic. The second lesson I learned is to come in fully prepped.

What do I mean, fully prepped? Simple, anti-anxiety meds. From yesterday: "yes, I want the atavan...may I have another please...no? I don't WEIGH enough? THAT'S my reward for all of the training? To have an anxiety attack after waiting two months for this stupid test? I guess it's a good thing I brought my own.. After feeling nearly psychotic during the 1990 MRI (though I made it through the hour-long test)...I was taking NO chances.

I have to admit, it was smart of me. I don't know how I would have done otherwise. There were times my head started to swirl in anxiety yesterday, but I was able to remain calm, knowing I had medicine on my side,

Another trick I learned is to count songs and commercials on the radio...though the magnets were so loud, the only song I really heard was "Evil Ways" ..."lord knows you've got to change...blah, blah." I played this around 500 times in several bands and will fail to notice if I never hear it again.

But my best new MRI trick is to open my eyes one at a time: Things appear farther away with just one eye. Things like walls 8 inches from your head. Also, a "mono" view eliminates the sense of near-total enclosure one might get when one is..well..nearly totally enclosed.

The warmth of the pulsing magnet on my back in concert with the drug cocktail in my system gave me a nice embryonic warmth as the final tap of the MRI passed. Later I took a two-hour nap. So yes I learned. Now if only my back felt better things would be fab-ulous.

So, for the MRI-shy folks out there: one-eye at a time, say yes to drugs(and bring a back-up....but only if you really need them:)), and above all, change your evil ways. Jean and Joe are counting on you.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oh My God! My back hurts!!!

As the man of the house, I take out the trash. No biggie, right? It's not all that heavy, and I still have some muscles.

So I lift up the bag, and feel a jolt of blood-curtling pain go up the spine. With each step it gets worse. Yikes! It hurts to step out of the car. It hurts to put on my shirt. I'm shaped like the number "2" again.

And tomorrow's my MRI. Well, the radiologists will think I'm an 85 year-old with the scoliosis and whatever else shows up.

And to think, I felt so good running this week.

"Good Grief"...am I in sad shape.

I just hope I can make it through the MRI without a spasm.
I can...I can...I will.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

MRI Countdown

In two days, I'll have had my back MRI. In a week, I'll have the results. Strangely, I don't expect to find too much wrong with the back. Something's wrong, but I don't expect it to be anything scary or requiring surgery.

It will, represent a kind of transition for me, however. I'll have to decide what next to do. I never dreamed when I started running, that I'd arrive at this point when I might possibly transition out of competitive running. When a job, relationship, social-family life is on the rocks, running is a great mollifier. I've lived in some shabby places, lost jobs, changed girlfriends a couple of times and seen my parents grow too old to do most of what I associate them with.

The running is a palliative. But there's a caveat: I need competition as a motivator. Without that carrot, I might run, but it's just exercise. The highest runner's high I've had has always been running well. This year, I ran two solid half-marathons, but hated running in them both because I knew I might not make it due to injury. I'm still injured and have had a good running career, but what to do next is a strange quandry.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hard Core in Winter.

Like most male runners I know, I scoffed at the advise proffered me regarding the implementation of core-strengthening exercises into my running routine. "Why," I would ask "should I waste time building up my stomach and back muscles when all of the running muscles are already getting daily exercise?"

For years, this logic served me well. When a rash of injuries hits, however, one begins to question EVERYTHING including non-running fitness. My PT now has me doing a battery of core stabilizing exercises and I'm making good progress.

Is this improving the pain in my back or my knee and PF/sciatica problems? No. So it seems to be a trial and error process. It might be that I drove too long with poor alignment and now the faulty wheels are, though-aligned, still faulty. If that's the case only time will help(and that r-word, rest).

But this much I will say: I can do far more push-ups, crunches and all of the other core-related activities with less effort than before. And, this will be a permanent part of my training routine from now on.

There has been snow on the ground for 5 days and soon there will be enough for some nifty winter X-training. It's 23f for a high today, and going down by the day, so I've got to look for the pony, right?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

There isn't much to say about my running. I'm awaiting my back MRI and running a basic 30-35 mpw in an effort to retain my sanity. Some days running feels good, others are a little uncomfortable.

It's hard to forsee a change when thers an ongoing pattern of pain and numbness in the left leg and lower back. But, when I feel good my running seems fine.

There's snow on the ground now. Let the season begin.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Better or not?

As a runner, I've often asked myself precisely that question when injured. I've been running around 30mpw for the past couple of weeks, but my legs don't feel much different from how they were a month ago.

Should I take some time off? Sure. But not running is hard for me since I don't have exercise equipment here other than a treadmill. It's too cold for biking, and walking doesn't seem any easier on my body than running at an easy pace. So I plod along at 8:30 pace on the treadmill, speeding up the last couple of miles, but never going really fast.

What I AM doing is strengthening the back and shoulders. I do a lot of new exercises. Also one of the oldest: I'm up to 50 push-ups at a time. It reminds me of my years at AE Wright Middle School. We used to do so many push-ups during PE class, they became second nature. But now, they're a new challenge. Marathoning can really weaken other non-running parts of the body. It's part of why I'm losing interest in running them: I want to be more fit, not the walking wounded.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CHEER UP..HAVE A JELLY BEAN

I love jelly beans. They come in pure, bright colors, just like the old Christmas lights we had before electrical shorts and indoor fires became a concern to homeowners. Orange, white, green, red, black...nothing nondescript.

Jelly beans have no fat and around 9 calories each, for your standard size. Eat 12 and you've got less than half of a candy bar. They are neat and easy to eat. You can put them in your pocket, in your running shorts, leave them in a candy dish for months and still get a burst of sweetness that never disappoints.

A friend of the family's once sailed his boat from LA to Hawaii and was caught in a gale. For some ungodly number of days, he had to stay at the tiller. What he said got him through the endless ordeal was...you guessed it, jelly beans. It seems he had around 50 in his bag, and allowed himself to eat one every half-hour.

We marathoners often take them on long runs. Carb magic. Some are fortified with electrolytes. They're all good. I buy the generic beans which are dirt cheap yet good as gold when the sweets craving hits. And if you drop one, pick it up and enjoy; the 10-second rule must have been invented for jelly beans. Nothing sticks to them.

In the Halloween spirit, grab a bag. You don't have to be president to enjoy them. So I celibrate the jelly bean! As the teeth penetrate the shell and the flavor sings to the taste buds, you've got a simple pleasure that is fat free. Just remember to brush your teeth!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween's approaching. I don't know about you, but I'm getting stressed over it. You see, it's been 5 years since I lived in a house on Halloween (having been overseas for 2 years and in an apartment for the other two).

We live in a popular "kids" neighborhood, and have been told that there will be over 100 callers on Friday night. That's a lot more than we had back in my Minnesota years. Now if all of the kids were chaperoned by parents I'd be fine. But it's those teens that concern me. Around here, they appear a little rambunctious.

I've never been comfortable around groups of kids; a strange admission for a former teacher. But that explains why the word former is there. It also explains, in part, why I never married and am childless.

This isn't new. I didn't like being around lots of kids even when I was a kid. No, I wasn't one of those kids who thinks he's a grownup and usurps an adult conversation at a get-together. They annoy me. No, I would find a friend and go off and play. Or be by myself.

My life would have been much easier were I different. In college, we would have raucous dorm parties and the only way to handle the chaos and cacaphony was to get inebriated to the hilt. Even then, I'd often go to my dorm room and listen to music with headphones, waiting for the roudiness to stop.

People often consider me snobbish, antisocial and/or unpredictable, since I tend to dissapear from gatherings. If I can get someone interesting onto a semi-private conversation I'm OK. But that's not common when one is as peripatetic as I. I'm the new guy. People don't often approach me since my body language says no. Now, if I'm with a large group of runners or collegues that's not the case. Many would be surprised to read this. But that's how it has always been.

It really hurts your career as a composer, musician, or aspiring anything if you have social phobia, and it really decimated my career. I've tried every med in the book and all courses of therapy, but I have to accept that I am the way I am.

Maybe it's an "artists temperment," but I wasn't an artist at six years of age. Other kids scared me in 1966 and they do in 2008. By the way, I still feel like a kid myself. So we'll stock up on bulk candy and I'll face the noise and chaos of the kids of today.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thought for the day:

I'm not much interested in matters political, but Heather is, and she has the remote. So on CNN they're making a fuss over Sarah Palin's wardrobe that allegedly costs $150,000. I find it hard to imagine any clothes costing THAT much, but if it does, it does. But why should she have to pay for it? As I understand, the makers of her glasses and accessories are seeing huge profits since she hit the airwaves. Whatever happened to freebies? I doubt that Venus Williams or Maria Sharapova pay a dime for their cloths--just the opposite, they get paid like a queen to wear them.

So I say, Obama and Palin look great in their cloths so comp 'em. Heck after a few of my best races, some other runners asked me about my shoes when I got off the victory stand. Adidas should comp ME as well for my effusive praise. Fair's fair, right?

Now McCain needs to foot the bill for his shoes. Sorry John, but you don't have the glam thing going.

Vote for someone on the 4th!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An update...

I'm running three times a week these days. Just 5 miles per run if I feel up to it. Without a marathon or target race, it's hard to get too motivated to run, especially with pain all over. But I'm OK with it. I need the rest...emotionally. I guess I've become a running addict and need to rest up for a while. I suppose it's for the greater good.

I must say it's a little sad, though. Here I have a brand new pair of Supernovas that I was saving for my Toronto Waterfront marathon this year, and in the box they sit. Nearly every runner I ran with back in 2003 has slowed down more than I have. But they are still running, unlike me. They haven't fought father time with the intensity ...running more miles than ever before, with disastrous results. Well, I'll wear the new shoes sometime soon.

This winter, I will X-country ski. When in Rome, right?

Readers...Enjoy each run! It's a gift to be so healthy...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

2008 Season RIP

I won't be racing any more in 2008. It's discouraging. But I went for it and failed. I trained 2,000 mostly painful miles in the first eight months of the year... I should have had my back treated. Rather, I ran on legs that were connected to a badly alligned body, and paid the price. I went in to this year with the mantra of ONE MORE SEASON.


Willing to beat myself up to be in race shape, I ran lots of miles and became lighter than I've been since I was 13, to get near three hours in the marathon. But it's a no-go.

After this year, I wanted decide where to take my running. But something was wrong from the start. I was sore, slow to recover, and in constant fear that the minor pains in my IT band, periformis, shin, and most of all, knee, would intensify and sideline me. I wasn't enjoying my running.

But the first week of my taper, my back pain turned serious, replete with spasms and shooting pain when sitting(which I do a lot of)and a frame that looked cubist in the mirror; dislocated, curved and a little scary. I finally whent to my doctor; he was agahst. From that point on, I knew my chances of running any more races this year were remote.

So it's been a month of anti-everything meds, Physio, getting MRIs and X-rays; I'm trying to keep my chin up through this. But I fought the law of nature by running hurt and running too much. The jury's in. The law won.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I've been back outside running for the last few days, thinking about the past two years of running and it's role in my life.

In short, I believe I've been wrecking my body and spirit by training too much for the marathon. Ever since the fall of 2003, when I ran 3:13 in my second Twin Cities Marathon, I've thought the sub-three was a sure thing. Then I missed a few years of competing, and 5 years later, here I am, with a bad back, knee troubles and a stale attitude. A lot of "what's the point?" self-talk.

When health-care people ask questions about my habits, I'll tell them I run a lot. But that doesn't tell the ugly truth. To most people, 5 days a week at 3-5 miles would be a lot. 7 days a week at 60-plus/a week on chronically sore legs is battering me down. The long runs, speed-workouts and trails are painful. But I need the long runs; I need to run fast sometimes, and trails are fun for most runners. The marathon IS a long, hopefully sort of fast run, after all.

But, I think I'm going to let the marathoning slide after this year. If I run one, it will be more fun and less punishing than the last few years have been. I like half-marathons, and will focus more on them for now.

I may run the full next month, but I shouldn't train this way in future years. For the last two weeks, I've felt like I have some grave disease. Doctors are talking about all the modes of treatment: drugs, massage, PT and surgery. Yet I know with 95%certainty that some extended rest and a lighter training load would be the best remedy for what ails me.

I love running, but I used to feel better and healthier for doing it. Not any longer.

I'll keep running and racing. But my legs are telling me not to run the same way any longer. They've been telling me for two years. I hope I listen this time, but I've been deaf to the messages in the past. So...I might wind up writing the same thing next year.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Deodorant

Today I was downstairs eating lunch when it occured to me that I'd forgotten to apply deodorant after my shower. Not that I smelled; it takes a long day frought with anxiety and chaos to get a real "BO" smell out of me. But it's a part of my routine: I run, shower, shave, brush my hair and add a pinch of "product" (I love calling hair stuff "product", it's so much better than gel or goo), and get dressed. The deodorant comes in during this whole "toilette" process.

Well, I forgot today. Not that I needed to make an impression on anybody. It's just a part of my hygene, and to be frank, I like the scent. I just couldn't focus on my lunch-it was really bugging me. So upstairs I went to be one with my deodorant. I've been feeling like an old man lately with all of my back troubles, so I took my muscle relaxer and anti-inflamitory meds and put on my compression belt. Then I put together a load of laundry, went back downstairs and started up the machine. What happened to the deodorant? I spaced on it...totally forgot. The I went upstairs and got sidetracked with the mail. But...I knew there was some reason I went up, so I thought. After a minute or so, I remembered.

Now I had to choose. Right Guard aerosol, Old Spice stick, or Speed Stick. I love the scent of Right Guard, and aerosol works better than stick. But I grabbed the Speed Stick since it's my least favorite of the three. No social interaction pending, so I used the SS. It was a fine lunch afterwards. I even had another freak occurance: my salad--favorite lunch-- had around 15 dice sized croutons, but one enormously long crouton; it was the size of a sharpie...that long!

I like my back meds. the pain pills don't do much for the pain, but they make me happy. The others help the muscles relax. I'm becoming #1 shaped rather than #2. Still I've got some #7 influence. So the marathon is on hold. I'll run a late fall race...but what? More later, I'm in a fog from my meds and it's bedtime...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Non-Running Topics Coming Soon...

Due to my lame back and all the troubles it engenders, I'll be posting about other things for awhile.
Music is my love and area of expertise.
Humor is fun to write as well.
Old stories about me might spill out if I take too many pain pills.

Who knows?
You'll just have to stay tuned...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

BAD BACK...

My back troubles returned last week and got so bad, I couldn't sit for longer than an hour or so. I went to the doc today; he was shocked at how twisted and convulsed all the muscles and vertebrae were.

That is related to all the nagging injuries I've brought up. But they won't disappear until the back is properly treated. It will take a while to see what works and whether or not I can run the fall marathon. But I'm still planning on it.

My back's been bad for probably 18 months now. It's a little worse today because of a large training volume--especially long runs, which are slower and require many thousands of foot strikes (30,000 per 20-miler).

Last year, I could barely walk after trying some speedwork after a back flareup and it ruined my season. The good news: I'll feel better at some point. I'll be able to run more freely, as I did a few years ago. And at race pace, there's little stress on the back.

But the last two weeks are about healing--not training. I'll run enough not to decondition, but maybe 3-5 miles a crack. Then we'll see if I can race on the 29th.

READER BEWARE!!! All those footstrikes compress the back. Make sure you're not driving with bad alignment, or you'll end up like me!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A good rationale for the three-week taper:

My feet, ankles, shins, knees, hips, glutes and shoulders are on fire 24 hours after my last 20-miler. In three weeks, I can regain the spring in my step while training in reduced amounts. Two weeks? I'd be afraid. Very afraid that I'd not start the marathon on fresh legs. Right now, I run like a true geezer.

I'm starting to think my next avocation will be bowling in the winter and golf in the summer. I know I can go sub 300 in bowling...and still walk down stairs the next day.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Last Long Run

On Saturday I'll get out there and run my last run of 20 miles. The last three months, I'll have had 6 of 20-plus and another 4 of 17-plus. I've done very little intense speedwork, just 4-8 mpw at faster than marathon pace, and only one race.

There have been marathons where I did a lot more speedwork, and marathons where I had more long runs (10 runs of 20 miles or more last time)but none where I had as high a total mileage building up, plus several long runs plus some speedwork. I've had two weak marathons when I had several long runs that were also fast(7:00/pace), but I trained at only around 45-50mpw. My two best marathons were supported by 4-6 20-milers.

So one more 20-miler should be enough, combined with the 60-plus mpw training to have a strong endurance base. The speed is going to have to take care of itself; I've been slightly hurt a lot and decided to forgo half of the normal speedwork. At this point, I don't care about my 10K speed as much as my finishing speed after 20 miles. But after this weekend I'll have to let my body heal and strengthen during the final three weeks.

But the long runs are nice in the sense that you get to pamper yourself afterwards. I like the refueling part of those Saturdays. Then again, there's something to be said for feeling no soreness. I still have a rough time taking an off day. But I'll work some in...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Too Early To Taper

I'd like to start my taper right now. June, July and August add up to nearly 800 miles on these tired legs. I'm four weeks out and my knees and assorted muscles need some rest. So, one more week of regular training, one more 20-miler, then a 25% cut down, including more rest days, will begin.
I don't like this point--4 weeks out. The accumulated training has me feeling beat-up, yet it's really too early to taper. But I will start to make my easy days a little easier so that my last long run next Saturday will feel better than last week's. When I lived in Minneapolis, this was a great time to race and see the fruits of training. But...there are no races here, so I'll plug away this week, then start counting down the days.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We now live in a house. Yes, houses are nice. They afford the advantages of space, privacy, easy access to the door after shopping, laundry, and of course a front and back yard.

Then again, there are now countless domestic projects to undertake. Number one for me is to get the back yard in order. I'll need some agent orange for that by the looks of it. Painting has been completed...I guess that makes the yard number two. OK.

But I really like having laundry at home. It's already affecting my running life. No hand washing my grimy gear any longer. Nice. My other shirts will also have a fresher scent to them since I won't try to stretch the wearing time out of anything.

Soon I'll be meeting neighbors. They'll say that they've seen me running. Or not. It depends on their work hours I suppose. They won't see me running in the winter, though. I'll be on the treadmill. I do hope it's not for 5 straight months like last year. It's nice out today, so all of Timmins can see me run if they look out the window. Or if they take a run of their own. I'll be in the freshly laundered clothes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bolt as a champion...(from RW forum)

As for comparing Ryan Hall's finish with Bolt's, there is a big difference. Hall was in the Olympic TRIALS; Bolt was in the actual GAMES. To celebrate the last 3% of a marathon for making the team does an honor to the Olympic ideal: he would compete in the games. To do so when you're racing in an Olympic final is a dishonor to the ideal. It's show-boating, moreover, it's taunting not only the other competetors, but all other gold medalists.

Bolt is the same age Jessie Owens was in '36 and Bob Hayes was in '64. They also blew away the field and were dignified about it. But they don't give gold for class, do they? Then again, a lot of sprinters are fools...IMO, and the media loves a good fool.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Which track distance attracts the most valuable all-around all-around runners?

Put another way: if you had to build a track team around a few athletes, whom would you want?
Many might say the Jesse Owens-type sprinter/jumper. At an elite level the Jessie Owens, Heike Dreschler, Carl Lewis-type athlete will be a fast-twitch machine: 100m great; 200m great; long jump, good-great; triple jump, fair-great; high jump, fair-good; 400m, good-great, 800, poor-good, 1500 bad-fair; weight events, poor-fair (if they are better than that, you've got a decathlete). 5000-marathon...good luck.
Jumpers might be fast...or not. They are fast-twitch and might be OK in weights, but will stink past the 400 meters in general.
Distance runners 1500- marathon will be OK on the 400, 800 and great from 1500 to 10,000m, and maybe the marathon. But jumps, throws, relays are out of the picture.

So here we are....as a former coach, I'll take the 800m runners and/or the 400hurdlers. They have good fast-twitch AND endurance. A half-mile specialist who can run 2:00 in the half can go 51-53 on the 400, and 23-24 on the 200. They can go 4:35 or faster on the mile and probably around 16:00 on the 5K. A woman who can hit these marks, will make most olympic trials in every running event from the 200-5000. A male HS runner will be a high varsity runner in nearly every event. I was a 2:01 runner in HS and ran the 4X100 relay in CIF finals as well as Cross Country on a powerhouse team.

Today, a Kenyon 18 year-old ran to gold in the women's 800 in 1:54. She would be a USA HS runner still. I have no doubt she could run a conference record in girl's track in everything from the 200m up.

I was an 800 runner who could also do field events in HS. 20'7" LJ, 41'8" Triple, and 5'10 high jump. None great, but I ran varsity in every flat event in my four HS years (never did hurdles). Remember, this is for 800 runners. We had a 4:09 mile who could smoke me in the 800 (1:53), but he was short on fast-twitch muscles and I could nip him in the 200 and torch him in the 100m.

My point: 800 runners can run any distance!!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Running Fast:

I've always been an advocate of doing speed early in the course of marathon training. That way your paces seem a little easier on the longer runs and training is more likely to be effective.

Due to injury concerns, I've been pretty laxed in doing any real speed work. But with 5 weeks remaining (pretaper) I'm going to do a bit of faster running on a more regular basis.


It seems to work pretty well on the treadmill, so I'll do some VO2 on it. It's so much more convenient than finding a track around here. Also, it's easier on the legs.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Race Report: Timmins Golden Trails Half Marathon:

Time: 1:32:28
Place: 10th overall, 2nd AG
Weather: rainy, wet course, cool

I have a love/hate with this race. It's half road race and half trail race. Today it REALLY was a Trail race. I avoid trail races for two reasons: they have hills, turns, boulders and rutted paths that make it impossible for me to sustain a good running rhythm. Today, after a night of incessant rain, there were a lot of slick spots, muddy paths and deep puddles in addition to the shortcomings listed above.

The first half of the race is a series of ascents and descents that are OK because the surface is paved. At KM 10, however, it turns to gravel and gets increasingly serpentine in nature. Also there are some up/down dunes that are near spills waiting to happen and bad for the old joints. The last 5K starts out benign enough; it's exits the trails and hits some nice, long straight streets. But at the 18K mark, we hit a small trail that is really a busy road shoulder. Then there is a full-strength uphill that last year had me on the brink of walking. It is short--maybe 50 meters--but takes a minute or so to recover from...it must be a 10% grade, and it's close to the finish so the lactate is chomping' on most of us with zeal.

A piece of bad news was that someone figured out that the course was a little short lat year, maybe 500 meters. I figured they kept it that way for humanitarian reasons; it IS, after all a slow course anyway. But this year, we had to circumvent the easy, shorter way of finishing the non-track portion (you do a lap on the track at the start/finish)and run a longer route. It probably added 90-120 seconds to the times.

How I ran...I felt crappy at the onset. Sluggish and in fear of the late trail. So I was ultra conservative:
miles 1-5: 35:20. Very slow for me, especially for the fastest part of the course.
miles 6-10: 34:00. I passed a lot of people on this rugged trail portion.
miles 11-13.1: 23:08. This was actually pretty good. It was a mudbath in places and I moved up more on the field.

It's the longest race where I've won AG hardware, so I'm proud of that. Since last year I ran 1:35 on the shorter course, I'd say I'm well ahead of that point training wise. But rain makes the post-race festivities a dud. So...I'll await my hardware in the mail.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

While living in Korea, my arch nemesis was the mosquito. They were small enough to enter through screens, under doors, and god knows where else.

Many a night I'd be reading in peace, only to hear the soft hum of one of those cursed insects. They were so fast, the swatter was of little use.

One night, I awoke to the buzz of one of these aggressive critters on my ear...
that was it. I bought some Korean insect killer and kept it within arm's reach each night. Many nights were spent stalking the mosquito or large fly with the spray in left hand and the swatter in right. Even thus armed, I was often occupied for the better part of an hour before I could get in a good spray--to slow it down--and swat to finish the job. The Korean mosquito seemed to have an innate hiding ability that told it to avoid white backgrounds once I had the swatter in hand.

So I had to think like a mosquito and turn off the lights until I heard something, then illuminate the room and spray and swat. By then it was often past bedtime and my apartment smelled toxic, as I'm sure it was. But I had my kill!

I had to respect the little guys. They were so cunning and quick. And after a dose of spray, they still flew with the same precision of a North American mosquito. But I too had learned more than how to hold steel chopsticks and ask for directions in Korean (never understanding the response). I had become a skilled very-small game hunter.

Now in Timmins, there are annoying flies, but I have no assasine's spray (Heather wouldn't approve), so I use Windex to subdue the flies. Not so lethal, but these guys are amatures...they'll just sit on the window, so Windex is a perfect multi-task aid: just aim, fire, swat, and clean the windows. Sorry, but I only do the insides. The mosquitos aren't much brighter. Am I afraid of losing my swatting chops? Not really. As much as I love most animals, I hate flying bugs. So when the need for a higher performance level arises, I'll be there. Bet on it!

Monday, August 4, 2008

How fast are we really going on our runs?

If you take a look at the right-hand column, you'll notice that most of my miles are recorded at around 8:10/ pace. That's an average, of course, but all in all, if I run a thousand miles, it's taking me 8,167 minutes, give or take.

This sounds slow. After all, every race I run is a lot faster than that, except my first marathon one where an injury forced me to jog-walk the last 8 miles of another.

But the numbers don't tell everything. At the 1.5 mile mark of most of my runs, my watch says 13:45 or slower without fail. That's 9:10 pace. Coming home, the same stretch is run in around 11:40. I assure you, I'm not trying to speed up. It's just muscle warm-up kicking in. So the 8:10 pace is often 20 minutes of 9-minute pace and 40 minutes of 7:50-8:00 pace. Sometimes I go faster, but that is my LSD pace...Pfitz is OK with it; Glover and HH like it, but I find myself feeling guilty sometimes. Long runs are the same way....8:25 for 90 minutes, then 8:00 for 90. Maybe faster at the end--never at the start.

If I wanted my log to be cooler, I suppose I could exclude warm-up miles and say: 8 miles...2 w/up, then 7:50 pace...at least THAT'S closer to marathon pace and I can see it in cyber-ink.

But the bottom line is that if you run to warm-up and include those miles in your time, your "mid-stream" time is faster, and that's what matters, not speeding up mile one. In races, we're all warmed up, hyped and psyched. Mile 1 is often too fast. But in training, mile one feels like I'm trying out a new knee while still asleep. I'm not warm, not psyched and there's no hype. My legs are out there, but my mind's still in bed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ducks: Beware of Runner!

Photobucket


Today, the Gillies Lake duck population took simultaneous flight out of the reeds and nearly into my face! On a 9-miler, my reflexes are a tad dull. The rain kept my eyes squinting and the sound of my approach initiated the flight to safety for the feathered fellows, nearly at the expence of my unprotected head!

Generally, safety measures which I often employ are to sing, yell or clap as I approach duck-populated spots. Guess I forgot today...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rest Day? Good Idea...maybe next month.

My legs are tired. No question. I will rest them. When? Next week would be good.
This week I took off the long run...Heck, I deserved it after 7 weeks of 2-3 hour runs on Saturdays.

So yesteray, I "only" went 10.5. Good. Horray for me again! But a day off?. May 5 was the last one. Maybe the day before my nest race on 8/10. I like to run...but nagging pain I don't like.

I'll take a day off...really. I can do it. I used to be very good at it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Since I whined about the cold all winter, I need to offer up a good word about summer way up here. I've been running for three months in nearly ideal running weather (50-70 f and dry). And the best part is that I don't even need to start early to beat the heat: there's little heat to beat, only cars.

Of course, last year we had some October snow and lots of snow that went down in November, so we'll see how the treadmill holds up this winter. But for now: not much heat, a little rain, and no real severe weather to speak of. But how do I train year round, outdoors? Maybe I'll stay in California a little longer for the holidays this Christmas...

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Timmins Golden Trails Half Marathon (8-10)will be my next race. I ran it last year and found it to be a nice course, but almost never flat and on a paved surface at the same time. Today I included the second half--the dirt trails part-- of the course in my run and almost took a spill twice on the trails.
Lesson: Don't run steep downhills within 48 hours of a long run! My quads seem to recover slowly this year, and this course has some X-country type hills on the trail: short but rugged. The first half is mostly a slow ascent on the streets, but was a lot faster for me. As slow as the course feels, the finishing times were not bad last year...only slowed by a couple of minutes for many. Might be some generous GPS readings.
EDIT: 2008 is longer by .6KM
But it's not a PR course, that's certain.
I'll have to run the trails weekly now to be sure I don't take a header.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Horray for me!

I've never kept such records before, but today I hit 1500 miles for 2008. I'm quite certain I've never done it so early in the year. And another 100KM week for the non-American readers; not Kenyon, but good for me.
And we have a new little house to move into. I hope to run a few good races this year while living in the new digs. But for now, I'm stiff from nearly three hours of running.
But I ate freely tonight at a BBQ....I LOVE long run days.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another cool, rainy day in the North. I took a spin on the treadmill and after a mile warmup, hit 8.5 mph and increased gradually to 9.3. All in all, I averaged 7:00/mile, excluding the warmup, and felt good. The treadmill is always at 1% uphill and I took a few laps at 2-3%. My legs really like running fast and on soft surfaces. But, the treadmill is soooooo boring after the first 30 minutes or so.

So my dilemma is as such: run pain-free on the TM or hit the streets.

Oh yeah, there's another dilemma: why am I living somewhere that's 55 degrees with cold rain in JULY!!!! It's not like I'm in the Southern Hemisphere, for Pete's sake. Oh well..
At least I'm ready for some fast races starting next month. It's been awhile.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Gillies Lake may look like any one of a couple dozen lakes I ran around back in Minneapolis, but here in Timmins it's a crowned jewel. As far as I know, it's really the only place to go for a walk or picnic or run in the city area. Of course, there are only around 30 days a year where you might want to do anything besides running due to the cold weather and incessant winds at the lake.

Today, it was raining and 54 when I decided to go for a 3-mile tempo run at the lake. The path is not fast, due to its gravel composition and windiness, but on a funky July day like today it's good for running since it was likely to be uncrowded. Still there were some folks clogging up the path by walking three abreast as well as the proverbial duck feeders.

<<<"don't feed me on the path"




So, with a few "excuse me"s along the way I took a fast(sort of) run around the lake 2.1 times which makes around three miles. I felt like sludge running to the lake (2.8 miles from home)and trotted back to make for a nice 8.7 mile session.

What gets me is the way I feel so much better when I run fast. I really like getting into a little O2 debt and stretching out. Of course, we can only do that for so long, hence the speedwork. BUt there's only one regulation track in town, and it's always locked. I believe for a fee you can run on it, but I've never seen it in use. Anyway, I'll work on going a little faster a little longer to get the most out of my miles.

Saturday, July 12, 2008




How to Run 20 with Negative Splits

I left for my long run in windy conditions with the occasional droplet of rain. It was a 63-mile week and my body was angry with me for pounding the pavement at an hour when I should be checking the time, rolling over and grabbing another hour's sleep.
I warmed up after a couple of miles and started to plod along at 8:15/pace for the next hour, heading up a logging road that was all mine this morning.

As the sky darkened and the wind reved up, the rain transitioned from nuisance to soaking.

I neared the 10-mile turn-around and heard several claps of thunder. Then I saw a bright flash and heard a closer "boom!" I said "I guess this looks like ten miles", and u-turned immediately. I was an hour from town. The fear of being a human light bulb was put into me.

Without willing anything, my sore back was fine. My temperamental knee was solid. My fatiguing hip-flexors were good as new. In short, fear transmuted me from an aching old runner to a spry athletic youth caught in the rain. My 8:20 miles turned into 7:50s. Had the lightening been worse they might have been 6:50s, but after 5 miles or so the rain abated and a smattering of sprinkles were all that was left to contend with for the duration.

I tacked on a jog around the block (.8 miles) since I might have cut the 20 by a few tenths when I turned around.
Anyway it's done and I feel good. Now I need the lightning effect to relieve pain without the danger. Any ideas?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

<<<<< Tights...


I'm becoming one of them!!!!
When I started running races six years ago, I said to myself: if I ever become one of these guys doing the goofy stretches all the time, wearing knee braces and tights everywhere I go, it's time to do something else.

Well, now I'm guilty on those and many other counts: yes, I do goofy stretches....yes, I wear tights(in fact I get a kind of superman tingle wearing them, but don't tell) in winter races. And NOW, my knee's bugging me and I'm thinking a knee support might be just what I need. And if I miss a day of running, I feel a need to atone for it.
Oh man! I'm a running geek!!! It's true! I fit all the criteria.
I can live with it, it's not a BAD thing. But I've got to conceal it a little...do they sell NASCAR tights?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Run on different surfaces to preserve the legs. It works!.

Since it's been pouring rain, I decided to take my run inside on the treadmill. I don't mind running in the rain, but drivers around here seem to assume the road is theirs solely on such days. But hitting the treadmill is smart for we of the master's mentality (and physicality)anyhow. It's a chance to run on a soft surface and go a little faster without the turns, and downhills that don't do a body good.

Don't get me wrong, an hour on the TM is like an hour at the dentist. No TV program or music soundtrack can diminish the boredom, but 1X/week or two at the most is OK and your joints will thank you. Today, I broke the hard/easy principal by doing 15 minutes of tempo work a day after a 9.5 mile run just over marathon pace. But being on the TM made it feel intense but not punishing on the legs. So I'll keep doing some of my speed on the TM and some elsewhere. My knees appreciate it!

The Tempothon Run:

I've gone hard two days in a row, which is rare, but with the TM it's easier on the joints so I have more lattitude. I do a sort of tempo/ marathon pace combo: the TEMPOTHON PACE. I'll w/up for 3 miles at 8:20 pace, then go 2.5 miles at AT pace(HM/pace) which is around 6:35, then I'll go another three at 7:10 pace. My assertion is that you get many of the benefits of a longer tempo run, since at near-MP, your HR still stays up in the AT range, even though you're running at a more comfortable pace. I noticed this on my HR monitor years ago. That's why it's really valuable to run a few miles after doing a hard speed session--you still get the benefits while cooling do. Long tempo runs at AT pace are too much like races, and require more recovery.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Good news--bad news.

I found a nice semi-abandoned road that traverses a forest area in the hills. It'll be great for some of the 20-milers I'll start doing later this month. There are two lakes on the path, some really nice out of the way houses and a good possibility of seeing wildlife.

Unfortunately, I really only planned on doing a 12-13 miler this weekend to help my legs regain their bounce. Well...like most explorers before me I went longer than planned and was out over 16 miles. Also, the terrain is never flat. There are lots of grades that made my tired old knees and hip flexors--yes we guys use them too--feel the fire then the nasty,"I must be 90 years-old" feeling. But I'll adapt. It's not Pikes' Peak. Besides, if I ever do run a hilly marathon like Boston, it will help. Well maybe, Jan-April it might be for X-country skiing only.

In the meantime, I've got a nice figure 8 course with a bathroom and drinking fountain I pass 4X on each run. It's always nice to have a clean, rarely used WC on the path...

But I'm more likely to see a bear on today's path. And I like the bears!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Why don't runners say "hi" more often? Anyone who has ever run a race can usually spot a serious runner: the shoes, fancy watch, dri-release clothes, and efficient stride and cadence. Yet I'm amazed how many runners, mostly but not exclusively female, refuse to gaze in my direction when we cross paths. Of course, caution is necessary. I understand the safety issues. But come on, we're not on the mean streets of New York or Detroit, and I don't run at night. Some runners make some kind of gesture of acknowledgement and I appreciate that. But why not more? We're a brother and sisterhood of athletes...it's not that scary!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Recovery blues.
It seems in just a few short years, my ability to recover from hard running has waned. This, I don't like. Now, when I do a long run I can still feel it two days later, on Monday. Then if I do an easy run on Monday, the next day I have trouble doing any kind of speed... Argh!

POSSIBLE CAUSES
  1. Too much mileage? In past years, I thought I was running 50 mpw, but now, after remeasuring with GPS, it was more like 42mpw. While here in 2008, I'm older and going 58 real mpw...so maybe I'm just plain old beat-up.
  2. Too fast? In light of the above, it follows that my pace is faster on easy runs then it used to be. I may average 8:05/mile, but the first two are in around 18:00, which means I'm well under eight for 5-6 miles...not really recovery pace.
  3. Too much running alone? Back in the Cities, I ran with two groups. It took my thoughts off any small pains. Now, I run alone nearly all of the time, due to location.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

  1. Vary the surface. Running more is fine at this level. But I've got to mix it up: more dirt, treadmill, grass as well as asphalt.
  2. Stretch and be warm. Before running hard, be sure the muscles are ready. And make easy days real easy.
  3. Race more to be around other runners. Also call those in the area who are at the same level. It's not convenient, but it can reboot the spirit to run with a friend.

Some might suggest SRDs. They don't seem to help me any more than an easy 4-5 mile day. I rest when I'm too busy to run. But I know, sooner or later I'll need to start X-training in lieu of running on some days...BUT NOT YET!!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Monthly miles:

When I enter my daily mileage into the Runner's World log, it tallies my weekly, monthly and yearly miles. So, for this June it reads: 59.3 mpw, 249 miles this month, and 1327 miles for 2008, thus far. Now, I kind of like the monthly totals. They're more forgiving if you've missed 10 miles due to travel, soreness, etc. It's a loophole around the "I've got to hit X number mpw," that we runners fall into.

I'm a big picture guy as an advisor, but don't practice what I preach, so I tend to be a streaker as well as a weekly total hoarder. Not that I run THAT many mpw, but I like to be over 50 EVERY week of marathon training until the taper. Does it really matter if one week is 42? NO! But I'm not so bright with such matters, so I'll go for 50 at the risk of hurting myself.

This week, for example, I was going to cut back but did I? NO>>>>>>I went the same 59 as last week, with the faster long run and 2 days of easy speed. So I was BAD. We all know that come race time, 250 miles last month is better than 125...but does a 70 mile week mean more than a 67 mile week? Hardly.

More miles give me confidence, but so do faster miles and feeling healthy and light, and having nice shoes and a cool racing outfit and some cool gels and a bunch of friends watching and of course, good, cool weather.

This means monthly is good; it's a cumulative GPA, not this quarter's...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

  • Inspired by Summer marathon training:

    Ten Signs that the Humidity is too High for Running

    Here in Timmins, the humidity is mild in the summer. But just ask Pudov in S. Korea what it's like during July and August over there. Since I also lived in Korea 2004-2007 I wanted to compose a list, inspired by running during their monsoon season...In Korea, it's not acceptible for guys to go shirtless, by the way. And the kids love to point and stare at westerners...just to make you more self-conscious.


The List..(drum roll...)


  • Your stopwatch is unreadable due to condensation

  • Your running shoes make that funny wet squeaking sound after your first mile..and it's not raining.

  • whatever body hair you have looks like a Rorschach (yuck!)

  • The singer on your ipod sounds like he's gargling.

  • Your shorts look like body-paint.

  • There are rings of salt around your ankles the size of doughnuts.

  • The sweat in your eyes won't go away. After your run people ask if you've been crying.

  • Your change of shirt give you a fresh, clean feeling. For about 30 seconds.

  • You have this creepy feeling that if you fall, no one will want to help without gloves.

  • You ponder philosophical quandries like, "why do men have nipples?"

Monday, June 23, 2008

Variety: to train well, I've got to mix it up.

Today I was going to take an easy 7-miler, but after warming up fairly well, I decided to go a notch faster on my run.

Why?

I asked myself...." Ron, how many fast runs have you done OFF the treadmill?" The answer is that I've done very few faster than 7:40 pace around here, except ON the treadmill. So I went at a faster pace today. Yes, the knee was stiff...it's an ominous feeling with the occasional pain down there. But, I felt the need to run outdoors at a good pace.

So, after going 7:30/pace for three miles, I finished my run well under 7-minute pace for 4 more miles. I can rest tomorrow, if necessary. But going into a race without running fast is unsettling to me; so I picked it up the same way I would have done with my Minnesota running buddies. I still have a week until my 10K so I should train normally, including the speed, long runs and varying surfaces.

One thing I know about me is that I can go faster more easily than longer.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My left knee, left hip and right groin have all been problematic since April, when I took to the streets after a winter on the treadmill. In other words, I have some pain running, walking and even getting out of bed.

Since 1/1, I've been averaging around 50-60 mpw, with few rest days. My weight is lower than it usually is and my stamina's good, but I feel around 65 y/old much of the time.

So, against every instinct that I have, I'm going to take a SRD this week and lighten my mileage for a fall-back week..maybe 40 miles, with some light speedwork. This isn't radical, I know, but I'm hoping to put a little life into my limbs; it beats having forced rest weeks! I had enough of those last year.

I love to run, and who wants to be sidelined by injury during training. I'm finding that all the marathon training programs I've seen tend to assume that your legs will feel fresh most of the time. Mine feel like a wreck, but I can still run. So, I'll try to leave it that way!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

When I planned this weekend, I said to myself "the hell with the long run." My knee's been hurting, and besides, I'd have 50 miles this week with a 7-miler.

But...I woke up, my legs felt better, and I fit the roads and trails for a spontaneous 12 miler. Only I got lost on the trails and wound up running for over two hours--15 miles--to hit 59mpw and continue my long run streak at 6 weeks. This was to be a fall-back week, and it was, as it turned out. Just not much of one...from 61 miles to 59.5...oh well...next week will have no long run, but rather a 10K race.

To me, the long run of at least two hours is harder on the body than anything else--even speedwork. So I am better served by going 55-65 mpw, with the long run of 18-21 miles being slow and uncompetitive. I go from 8:20 at the start to sub 8:00 later. But I don't do the 7:10-20 pace any longer--it's not necessary with a speed session and high weekly volume...to me, I'm running high volume right now. I wish I could do more, but it's not worth the risk.

I find racing to be a means of getting in super-high quality mileage. But I miss living close to races; it's 4-8 hours each way to all but two local races each year. And after late October, forget it. But I visit my family in California sometimes--I will this Xmas--and it's possible I can sneak in a race.

People around here keep telling me there are bears around, but I've never seen one on a run. Call it a death wish but I WANT TO SEE A BEAR. With all the mines around here, I'm half-convinced it's unsuitable habitat for most wildlife...kind of like Boyle Heights in LA.

For my race next week there are two goals: sub-39:00 and AG victory. It's a small race so both are possible. I need a good time to prove to myself that there's progress being made.

We're going out tonight for some guilt-free gluttony. Oh the beauty of the long run.

And yes, I'm sporting my ankle tan-line with my usual glee.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Here's what I wrote on RW forum in December:

How many miles should a marathoner run? 12/07...

This is THE question in competitive marathoning. Notice I didn't say "elite" marathoning." For elites it's always well into triple figures during training cycles. But I believe a healthy runner who wants to race well at the full marathon requires at least 65-75 mpw/average over 16 weeks, with 1-2 faster days and one long day.

But if you are under 35 or so and you can go 80-100mpw, you can't help but race even better.


That's what I said then, but I've seen some crash and burns on heavy mileage (75-100) and have also experienced a lot of pain building up my long runs from 12-19 miles over the last 7 weeks. So at 60mpw, I'm thinking that 65mpw is about my max After that, the speed can go up a bit. I'd like to keep running all year, and too high a peak doesn't feel healthy to me...And 2X a day isn't necessary for that kind of mileage...too many showers!
I had to get in a bit of interval work today just to remember what it's like to run fast. It's not a big part of my marathon training, but it feels good to move at sub 5K pace for awhile (2 miles). It comes more naturally to me than to run a 20-miler. Since I'm running a 10K in 10 days, it would behoove me to get in some faster running. And it helps the biomechanics at a slower pace. That's a significant benefit.
Now if only my knee would behave! It feels stiff after any run, but doesn't hurt. So on I go...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Today, it was warm and muggy for the first time this summer...63f with 80% humidity, so I ran my long run at an early hour. I felt sluggish and had a stomach ache, but made my run a 19-miler at an easy(8:15) pace. Man...my legs were sore all around. No doubt, this is still a
building-up stage for mileage. So I took an unplanned ice-plunge afterwords in the bath. Wow! That really helped with the soreness.
It was a good training week of 61 miles, with two mini-speed sessions and the long run. I guess I burned off the Moroccan chicken and ice cream I consumed last night. Tonight, it's over to Laura and Ernie's for some pork with raspberry sauce. OK, the first 9 burned off last night, and the last 10 are for tonight...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I'm starting up with my conventional marathon training. You know, a long run, a tempo run and maybe a fast General Aerobic, supplemented with three easy GA runs and a rest day (run 4 with Heather at 10:00 pace). But as the Fall sign-ups approach the question I'm pondering is: why beat up my body on full marathons when a half marathon offers more accurate reflections of fitness and talent 90 percent of the time? It's one thing if you have yet to complete a full marathon, or if you know there's a huge margin for improvement. Also if you have no injury history and/or are on the cusp of BQing.

I want to run well, but out of the seven marathons I've run, three were too warm, one caused an IT band injury and three were OK. That means I've had 4 marathons where I ran much slower than I felt, realistically, I could do. But the post-marathon pain is there whether you had a good race or bad.

On the half, I've had some warm days, but they only made a difference of a few minutes. On a full marathon, a warm day will add over ten minutes--sometimes a lot more--to my time, not to mention the dangers implicit to running hard for over three hours in heat. My last three marathons were in 3:12, 3:31, and 3:28. In all three my conditioning was the same and the courses were equally hilly...it was weather that made the difference.

I've never targeted a half as the big race, but I know that if I'm in shape I' run well, barring injury or extreme weather. Plus, I'll still be able to do the limbo the next day.

That said, I'll probably run a marathon this fall. I'll pray for health, good weather and no unforeseen problems. I guess it's still the super bowl of long running, and I feel I can do better than what I've done. But the HM sounds pretty good when you're at mile 22...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A week after running 15 miles as a long run, I went 18 miles. No biggie. Except, on Monday I ran the trails around Timmins. They're a little bumpy, and those combined with the sudden increase in long run miles left both of my upper legs unexpectedly sore today. I contemplated staying on the treadmill for reduced impact, but today is one of those perfect outdoor running days:55f and clear, except for a few billowy clouds . So out I went; we don't have many of these days in Timmins. But the soreness didn't abate much over the hour of running. Also those shoes have had it--560 miles on my poor adistar cushions. I'll treadmill with them, but the mean streets have seen the last of pair number 3 in my rotation!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

This year in the Great White North runners needn't concern themselves with beating the heat, thus far. I left for my 18-miler at 8:30am, where even in Minneapolis I'd be starting at 7:00 by now. But in Northern Ontario I could have started at 2pm and still run in cool weather. It's so much easier for me to build up the long run distance without the heat being a factor. 50 degrees is an ideal temperature; that way the only challenge is to prepare the legs for the repeated pounding marathon preparation requires.

Some people want a "Rave Run" for their scenery, but in practical terms, a good place to run for me is usually far from spectacular. Today's run was mostly flat, with a few steep hills, half pavement, half gravelly path, uncrowded and included 4 bathroom passes. It made the nearly
2 1/2 hour run feel as effortless as such a run can be. Of course, I'd like to see some other runners out there, but they must go long on Sundays...or at a very early hour.

Today's run concluded a 58-mile week, which also had two light speed sessions. I've still got over 4 months before my marathon in Toronto, but I can feel the improvement in conditioning since my last race. The key for me is not to push the long runs, and to keep the speed work from turning into semi-races.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Today was beautiful out and I had a nice tempo run. The run was 20 minutes at 6:30 pace, and I felt machine-like doing it, which is good. In fact, I don't feel like I was working all that hard. But two tempos/week are helping with my threshold, as well as keeping injuries at bay. Asked about my training routine here's what I said:


When you work-out, there should always be an objective:VO2 speed, general aerobic, lactate threshold, endurance, and recovery. As long as you're working on something, you'll get faster. Most mileage should be general nothing-special runs. But, it's good to have some speed, long runs, etc. I do 1 long run, 2 lactate threshold (tempo) runs, and 3 general aerobic runs per week plus 1 recovery run. So the speed ranges for me are from 6:20/mile to 9:30/mile, averaging in the middle. I don't do VO2max (fast 400s, 800s) since I've had better results from two 20-minute tempos. The key is that you're never well rested if you train well, except when you take a couple easy days before a big race. So chin-up if you have an off-day training. Conversely, great training runs don't guarantee race success either. The key is enough running at different paces. Try not to compete with yourself when training. It leads to injury and mental fatigue.

Monday, May 26, 2008

My god! It's dumping snow and the wind is wicked. As Hamlet said..."the air bites shrewdly"...but a week from June???

Who says April is the cruelest month?
Well on Saturday I went 15.5 miles. It was a beautiful day here in Timmins and I ran my usual long run path, getting lost as usual. There have been some bear sightings so I was on the look out, but nothing unusual was seen but a pheasant. I love the post long-run feeling of mild soreness and fatigue; also the need to eat like a hog. The shower after feels so nice, and I always get a burst of energy during that evening.

My back, on the other hand might have preferred I stay home, based on the Sunday soreness. But now I can go long and really work on my endurance. My pace was est. 8:05 which is a good pace while building up the mileage. Had I been able to do this before last month's half-marathon, I'm certain I would have had a much stronger 2nd half. But I'll have a chance to prove that this fall.

Two days later, it's 32f and windy with snow showers. I hope the pheasant found some cover I'm on the treadmill today. I need the soft surface one more day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The long run and the tempo runs are two of the indispensable parts to any marathoner's training routine. When you race weekly, you can easily afford to dispense with the tempo training. After all, your body's at lactate threshold or faster for a sizable chunk of any race.

Today, I did my first tempo run since my race 16 days ago. I tend to overheat on the treadmill so I keep it to 18-22 minutes at tempo pace. But I know precisely how fast I'm going and how hard I'm working. It feels good to get in an extended high-speed run(up a 1% grade); I feel more race-ready afterwards. But nothing beats a track for that.

Last Saturday, in Ottawa, I ran an 1:40 run, which I'll estimate to be around 12 miles; also my first longish run since the race. I'll try to add a couple miles to that this weekend. At least it'll warm up by then.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Here in Canada...

The gray gusts of wind pushing ice pellets into your face. The feeling that you should have worn heavier gloves. The empty paths shared with only the brave mallard and bundled up pedestrian. That numbness in your thighs, even without any lactic acid. Running face down to protect your eyes from icy intruders. Ah, that's running in Canada...

BUT IN MAY? Mother's day was yesterday, Easter's long gone, the presidential nominees are all but decided. All-Star baseball teams are being discussed and the Indy 500 is up for the weekend. But here in Timmins ON. there s still wind chill to talk about. Not to whine--too late for that--but where's our warm gulf air that made its way into Minneapolis each summer?

Oh well, temps in the 30s are better than the January alternative. Yesterday was 68 as a high, today it's sored to 43 at 5pm; but in the mornings, the treadmill still has an allure. Maybe the cold rain explains why I found some kind of water bug near the refrigerator. It was the size of a hockey puck! Anyhow, I got in a slow 7.2 miles today..as well as a nice windburn.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Finally, 6 days--144 hours--after the half-marathon, I'm feeling ready to run normally again. Tomorrow, I'll go around 8 miles at AP to see if a normal speed, normal distance can be done. Of course, if I'd trained more on the roads with long runs, the recovery process would have been much easier.
Tomorrow's Mother's Day. My Mom is 3000 miles away so we'll use the telephone to talk, but my wishes for all mothers out there is one of joy.
I'll be seeking a fall marathon to run over the next few weeks. Perhaps Niagra?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

DOMS after a half marathon?

Well, it's 72 hours later and I'm only now able to jog a few miles. I need to be careful what I ask for. After the race, I said to Mrs. Ronster I won't be as disappointed in my 1:30 time if I have DOMS; that would suggest my treadmill training and three 10-12 milers outside didn't cut it for preparation. It's easier to accept a slower than expected performance if you're certain that you're undertrained for the event.

I've only had DOMS after marathons with one exception, and that exception a HM where I was way undertrained. This time, I had miles in--that wasn't the problem. I just needed more outdoor runs of longer than 10 miles. A month from now I should be going 15-18 miles on Saturdays, which would make a HM a less traumatic experience.

But for today...3 miles at 10/min pace.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Comeback race
RR: Half MarathonSudbury: The weather's good. It's cool (40f)and clear, but the wind is gusty.I start a little diffident for two reasons: periformis and sciatica pains all week. Also, I haven't run 13.1 miles in 6 months(all at once). All winter(until April) I ran 7-8 miles a day on the treadmill.

The race.We start and my legs feel good. The field is only about 200 and if I run well, I should be in the top 10 or so.I'm around 10th and feeling winded the first few miles, but I start to gain my cadence and hit the 5K in 19:55. Whoops! a little too fast: my goal was around 1:28 or so. I turn it down a notch; after all, I haven't run this far in a long time. A woman was chatting a little with me and I let here go, hoping to catch here the last 5K.10K: 41:06. Well, I meant to slow a little but not a full minute on the 2nd 5K. Still I'm waiting for the 16K marker so I can reel in those ahead the last 5k. I blame the wind for the slow down.A guy in a knee brace behind me passes slowly at 11K. I draft off him. I don't believe for a second that it helps to draft off one guy, but I like to pretend it helps: It's a way of getting back at someone for passing you.

He pulls 100M ahead of me and I "tie the tether" at that distance. We start to pass some of the marathon runners who started earlier. I encourage them and they return the encouragement. There's no more wind in our face, but the slight uphill grade keeps the pace from improving.

10 Miles: I hit the mark at 1:07:48. I'm slowing down. But knee-brace guy is still only 100m ahead. We turn, and I realize my chance at a good time is truly shot: a gradual uphill INTO and gusty wind. Some of the marathoners start to walk when the wind really blows(they have to do this course twice). But we HMers are too close to the finish.At 18K 11.2 miles I can feel the legs start to lock up a little--no fast final 5K for me. I'm getting closer to knee brace guy, but never too close. It flattens out but the wind is steady. I try to speed up, but after a couple of minutes the juice is gone and I just try to maintain form. I finish in 1:30:19.

It breaks down like this in approximation:
5K: 19:55 (6:27/mile)
10K 41:05(21:10) 2nd 5K (6:50mile)
15K 1:03:15 (22:10)3rd 5K (7:10/mile)
20K 1:25:45 (22:30)(7:15/mile) 4th 5Kand 21.1 K (Half Marathon) 1:30:19 (6:54/mile)
It's not the time I was shooting for. But it was a nice race. Almost like a solo long run on a nice day. Sudbury's surrounded by lakes Now if I just DO some more long runs...I was 10th overall and 4th in AG....drats!(but at least we didn't have to wait around for a ceremony. we had 3.5 hours driving to get home).

Friday, May 2, 2008

My HM race preview.

To me, there's nothing more unnerving than to go into a race with little or no idea as to your current state of fitness. In less than two days, I'll be running a half-marathon. My PB is 1:26:42 in 2004 during a busy racing/training season. Over the next year, I ran two HMs a month or so after marathons and clocked 1:28:48 and 1:28:52 in those races. Those races resemble this one in the sense that I'd trained hard, but hadn't run much longer than 10 miles for 5-6 weeks and was feeling not fully healthy; they were, after all after hard marathons.

This time, I'm coming off a winter of treadmill training with no racing and only 2 runs of the 13- mile distance. I'm banged-up feeling because I was not fully healthy when I switched from treadmill to streets at the end of winter. Now, I've got several hot spots--left periformis, right knee, left knee, and left ankle--that bother me after my runs, but I'll feel flare-ups during runs.

On the positive side, I've done weekly tempo runs around HM pace for 5K on the treadmill, and my outdoor runs have often been at close to marathon pace, though they're turny and hilly. My mileage has been higher: over 50/week average for 20 weeks.

Also, the weather has been cool in Sudbury, which helps me big-time. Last year I ran two HMs and both were much slower than my usual times: 1:37 and 1:35. The 1:37, was a race I took a big chance on by running. I'd been injured for 7 weeks(unable to run at all for 4 of those weeks, then only 20/mpw after that. I didn't care about time, ad was happy to make it. The 1:35, was two months later. I was back in decent shape, but the course was on trails and added 3-8 minutes to every one's times. I was in 1:30 shape then.

So this time, I'm not close to great shape, but should be able to put in a decent effort. It's a long drive, so I hope so.

I'm sure I'll laugh at this later. I usually do.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Easy is hard. I never run the recovery pace recommended. I sneak up to the fast end of aerobic pace on most runs. It might be OK for base miles, but now that I'm running at least 20% of my miles at MP or faster, I need to go real slow.......on the recovery days. Yesterday I was in moderate pain for most of my 10.7 miles and thought today would be a URD. But I hit the treadmill and refused to go over 8:40 pace for ANY part of my 5 miles. Guess what? No pain, and a nice run.
It takes discipline to run slowly, particularly when you are around other runners and want to show your chops. But the body tells me that easy is important. Last year I wound up learning the hard way. Not today.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ernie and I------->
I just finished a 10.7 mile run. It was cold(34), windy, and worse yet, my left knee was hurting most of the way. It's days like this where I question whether I'm doing myself any good by running competitively. My pace was faster than planned, at around 7:50 most of the way, but the pain is unrelated to pace. It's easier on the TM, so it's most likely inpact related. I'm ready and willing to run higher miileage than the 55mpw I've been at, but I question whether my legs are able.

Anyway, I burned off the wonderful dinner our friends Ernie and Laura made for us. They had spent the month of April in Florida with their parents and the day they returned to Timmins had H and I over; they simply had to be around people their own age. I know that feeling. As a teacher I grew impatient with high school students; and now my senior relatives, sweet as some of them are, drive me into a catatonic stupor. My dear Mom and her computer questions take the cake!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hard/Easy

One reason I post my daily workouts is to demonstrate the value of the hard/easy principle. Now it might appear that the easy days aren't all that easy, but the pacing is different. In particular, I begin the easy runs at a snail's pace and continue at approximately 8:30 pace until after 3 miles or so, at which point I start hitting 7:50-8:00. But only if it feels good.

Yesterday, I did an indoor tempo run at 6:20-6:40 pace. It took a lot out of me. I'd already run around 10 miles a day at a fair pace, and the fan in our room broke, so I was overheating. But after 21 minutes (3.2 miles) I went outside and ran an easy mile to cool off.

But today, after some soreness the first mile, I ran a nice easy 7.8 miles at 8:10/mile pace(excluding the first mile, which I never count for pace, unless I'm really fresh and warmed-up) and felt strong and smooth. Hard/easy is the key to recovery.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

WILL AMERICAN IDOL EVER END?

When I began to train for my first marathon in 2002, I strapped on my radio walkman and listened to whatever stations I had programed into the thing. One Sunday, during a long run, I pushed the PBS button. No music. "Dang!" I thought. They often feature live concert rebroadcasts by the Minnesota Orchestra (I lived in the Twin Cities) which are perfect for running the lakes.

Rather, there was an interview with TV Guide columnist Joe Queenan. He discussed one of his books. In "Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon," he devotes an entire summer to finding the worst entertainment possible. Why did he feel the need? Because he couldn't believe how bad "Cats" was, and was impelled to seek out something worse. I won't tell you the outcome(though the title gives you food for thought), but I will tell you that the composer--and I use that term liberally--of Cats is Andrew Loyd Weber--the source of American Idol's songlist this week.

Now folks, I don't mean to offend any fans of ALW(I know you paid good money for those theater tickets last time in the NYC) but his music is at best, drab and plagiaristic. It's perfect fodder for the likes American Idol, looking to fill the gap between Dolly Parton week and Neil Diamond week next time. Seriously.

This show starts with 30,000 contestants, and eliminates one each week. This week it was the gal--Carly?--with the world's largest tattoo on her arm, who was at the voters' hindmost. Oh writers! Why must you strike? "Reality TV" has insinuated itself into our culture and I keep living in households where someone--not me-- has been snatched in its ruthless talons and I'm coerced into watching the bloodshed.

They're down to .....6? I don't really know. On line, I see discussions contemplating who will be the NEXT American Idol...I don't know who was the last. Often, it's a semantic banter over the meaning of "idol." Whatever. I just want to buy a big enough house so I can vanish when Michael Bolton week comes up.