So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Thoughts on the Two-Hour Marathon

Runners, especially recreational ones, focus a great deal on the achievement of personal best times. And it doesn't necessarily have to be races; our weekly or daily courses often fall under the same sort of scrutiny. Even if you're not thinking about it's likely your consumer-grade GPS receiver certainly is.

When it comes to most runs the improvements come quickly and often in great leaps, almost on the order of "tall building in a single bound" stature. But as time - or distance - progresses, the gains are smaller, more hard-won, and often more sweet. Especially if it's a "barrier" mark for mortals like the 40-minute 10K or qualifying for Boston.

Barrier performance times, in most cases, are built on society's shared mental model at that particular time. Many considered the four-minute mile to be impossible based on human physiology; the perception of perfection based on the seamless bond between the second-hand stopwatch in it's circuit around the watch face and the runner's progress on the track surface makes the four-minute mile even now a badge of honor for distance runners. The latest barrier to be discussed since Dennis Kimetto's lowering of the world best time for the marathon has been that of whether a sub-two-hour race is possible.

The two-hour marathon lacks that same romantic punch of the four-minute mile, though. The time doesn't match any aspect of the distance, whether it's spoken in imperial or metric (and for what it's worth, the marathon *is* a metric distance). But it wasn't too surprising to hear that two rival shoe manufacturers have initiated a project to prove in reality what has been theorized over the past ten years...

Is it possible for a human to run 26 miles, 385 yards (42.195 kilometers) in less than two hours?

For most all of us mortals, the two-hour marathon is the stuff of fantasy, kind of like our chances of flying to the moon. Perhaps even more fleeting, since it seems most anything can be accomplished with a lot of know-how, a lot of grit, or at least a whole lot of money and access to someone who's willing to let you try. The marathon still requires its participants (recent tales of Honolulu notwithstanding) to get out there and put one foot in front of the other; only so much performance enhancement can be purchased.

So what if we look at the advancement in human running performance as a mathematical calculation? Well, the difference between Kimetto's world best and two hours is a little under two and-a-half percent increase in performance. Going back to mortals like me - that's like starting with a 5K in seven-flat per mile (21:45) and dropping it to 21:14.

You would have to run 4:39 each mile for 26.21876 miles...just to stay with Kimetto's best. To break two hours you would have to run five seconds faster. For each mile. All 26 and a quarter of them.

So who are the chosen people for this sporting "moon shot?" Of the three athletes, two have personal bests in the single-digit range from a buck-fifty nine. One ran a PB a half-percentage point off the world best, during the same race it was made. But, world best increases over the past decade have been - like personal bests - hard-won, at about three-tenths of a percent on the average. Paul Tergat's 45-second chop being pretty much the outlier.

If I assume that all of the resources of this shoe company are brought to bear to *legally and ethically* prepare this troika to go under 120-minutes, I'll forecast based on single-race improvements of 0.6-percent.  That's using Paul Tergat's 2:04:55 performance difference over Khalid Khannouchi's 2:05:38 mark.

The slowest of the three runners, with a personal best of 2:10:41 (almost six percent slower than the world best) would have to run consistent personal bests for the next seventeen races.
The least experienced - in his sixth year of racing and having placed sixth at the 2010 CCC - is only nine races away from breaking two.
The fastest would have to consistently break his own world-best by 42-to-45 seconds during the next five races to go through the barrier.

A two-hour marathon is physiologically possible, but for it to be credible and ethical I believe it will take a decade, not a year. And I really don't think a shoe company is going to be the prime mover behind it when it happens.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Mindfulness Over Matter

There's no place like home.  The visit with my loving bride (and grandchildren) to parts north provided many memorable moments, sights, relaxation of a sort, and ample time to do what I occasionally miss...observing the (small) human condition.

I should know better, the painfully obvious truth that even when genetics and parenting are (almost) common, that still, no two children are alike.  My two grandchildren are two-and-a-half years difference in age but almost worlds apart in behavior.  Tell my eldest grandkid to take on a personal care task or a small chore and it's most likely going to be done in an efficient manner and without too much oversight.  The youngest, however, is a totally different story.


Blame it on the video game.

If it's time to brush teeth and dress for bed, the controller is dropped long enough to dash up the stairs, throw on an oversized sweatshirt over the denim jeans.

Um, did you brush your teeth?

Zip back up the stairs, return a minute later.  Okay, while the kid has front teeth missing (and actively trying to remove more in order to extort the tooth fairy, I might add), but the breath that could knock over a horse still persists.  Methinks a lack of emphasis is evident, so this old guy (with his own fair share of dental history) goes up to observe the process.

This time included a quick swish of brush under the faucet and swab of the remaining pearlies.  No paste.

Stop.  Squeeze some paste onto that brush.  More.  Brush.  Stop.  Count to ten on each tooth.

Plants Versus Zombies.  Laundry Versus Lounging About.  When it comes to a seven year old I can tell you which one is going to win.  Removing clothing from the dryer and folding seems like a Herculean effort, which takes four times to be done properly.


"Don't know how."  The older kid gently contradicts, confirming the old coach's suspicion.  Just before I considered invoking grandparental authority and blowing up the television, my son took over the controls.

Mind you, I understand a seven-year-old focus of attention is short, but it's made more so by the world of
"other cool stuff."

Even adults are prone to a lack of mindfulness.  Suzanne's lost more credit cards, cell phones, planners, drivers' licenses and other gadgets than any single woman has a right.  It's not that she's forgetful as much as it is that she'e trying to transform her to-do list into a "ta-da" one.  Sometimes I have to bring up the issue of mindfulness, being in the moment, compartmentalizing what's going down until it's done, then going on to the next thing.

When we talk about mindfulness we can look at three primary elements: our attitude toward the activity, the attention we pay to it while we're in it, and our intention.  In the new year the gyms and roads are going to be filled with folks who are doing something about what they weren't doing in the past year.  Good on you, friend.


But are you going into it with the same outlook as a trip to the dentist for a root canal?  The first days of the new workout routine are not always fun, especially when your breathing and heart rate elevate, your muscles, lungs and head ache, and the scale just can't seem to go down.  It might appear that everyone at "Fit-O-Rama" are looking you as a complete freak who shouldn't be there.  No, you do need to be there.  Even when the scale doesn't move and the stretchy  pants continue to strain.  It didn't take you one day, or one mega-burrito, to the state you're at right now, so it might take a few days to see some change.  Ladies, for you it's even more slowly than for guys.

During treadmill time, are you talking to the person on the mill next to you, or looking at the television?  For the love of the Buddha, stop, already.  Keep an eye on that heart rate or the distance, or the calories, but bury your brain into what you're doing.  I know I love to play music when I'm doing my easy runs on the mill, but I'm also taking a close look at the timer so as to know when to adjust the pace or elevation.

Is there a target you're shooting for, a weight goal, a race date, or a little black number?  If there isn't, go out and fix one.  Put it on the fridge, write it on the mirror, stick that calendar on the wall.  Those bad days will be small bumps on the road, and you're going to have many fellow travelers near by.  Take the time to look around...then look within.  And get it done.