Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rust Buster

Well hello there, internet. Has it been a week already? Between classes starting, a rust buster race, and a unexpected taste of spring, I hadn't noticed.

In light of my attempt to be more interesting, here are some thoughts that may or may not digress from running. But hey, come on- I'm not a running machine, tiny audience!

Please excuse, then, this brief digression. Much like Derek Zoolander, I'm not much of a philosophizer, especially when it comes to running. I'm not much one for analysis and I generally avoid questioning things too deeply. I think Kenny Moore and John Parker said most of what there was to say about motivation and analysis, but occasionally, something (usually outside the realm of running) strikes me as related to this hobby of mine. With your patience, I continue:

I came across this quote at the beginning of an MGMT video and it didn't take long for me to connect it to running and runners. Mistakenly attributed to Mark Twain, it was written by Friedrich Nietzsche, who isn't one of my favorite thinkers because he's so damn smug about his atheism. Generally, I don't have a problem with people whose religious views differ from mine, but I dislike evangelicals- whether they're baptists or ardent atheists. Anyway. . . the quote runs thus: "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster, and if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

This might be the long-winded English major in me, but this struck a chord with me. Readers of Parker might make the connection between the monsters in Nietzsche's quote and the demons from which Parker's Quenton flees. There's a measure of fear and mortality in distance training, I think. Tom Derderian wrote an article years ago about the connection between death and runners. It does seem strange that the kinship should exist, especially when so much of being a good runner is control, relaxation, and acceptance. I think if you had to pinpoint the connection, it would be in the acceptance both attributes require. It's easy to see how becoming too preoccupied with the demons that impel us to train like we do would be disastrous. It's why I've always said the existential angst put forth by many of our number should be reserved for high school sophomores and musicians. I certainly don't consider it daily or even monthly, unless something like Nietzsche's quote makes me confront it.

However, it is the second part of Nietzsche's sentence that got me going. ". . . if you gaze for long into an abyss, the aybss gazes also into you." I think the solitary nature of training changes us. As others have noted, we devote huge amounts of time and energy (mental, physical, and emotional) to improving fractionally. We stare into the abyss of infinity more often than most citizens of this republic of ours, and we're confronted with our limits whenever we give forth a truly maximum effort. I think the annealing or the callousing of distance runners occurs during this unblinking gaze into infinity.

What, pray tell, does all these mean? I'd be bullshitting everyone if I said anything other than "I haven't a goddamned clue." So, for honesty's sake, I haven't a goddamned clue what all this means. It was just something that occurred to me as I was walking home from the dining hall. I don't have the capacity for greater insight that any reasonably serious runner doesn't have, save perhaps a certain shamelessness in wondering out loud. I should stop, I think, before I give the impression that I'm a cerebral nutcase. The 99.99% of the time I am not writing here, I think very little about my running. When I'm actually running, I don't think I think about it at all.

You know what? Here's the log for the week:

Monday- Noon- 3 up, 8x400 indoors with a huge group, trading the lead, avg about 63.6, with 1:40 jog rest, 3 down. Bruce gave us the option to do up to 10, but with my workout two days ago then a decent long run, I decided caution was the better part of valor. Wore my milers, did hurdle mobility with Eric and Peter after. Very easy workout, felt really good.
7PM- 36min indoors solo, a conservative 5mi.

Tuesday- 3PM- 10mi River Loop in 69, first 7 with James. 9PM- 36 minutes easy indoors with James, probably closer to 5.5 but whatever. Insurance mileage!

Wednesday- Classes started today and of course I didn't wake up early enough to run before my first class. 1PM- Misjudged the loop I was doing from the house, 58min solo, pretty easy pace, meant to do 45-50min. 9PM- A pizza-stuffed 46min post work run + 4x150 buildups indoors in milers and a less-than-smooth 200 in 29.7. A cautious 15 on the day.

Thursday- 4:30PM- 3 up, mile race in a Multi-Team meet vs Umass Amherst and Sacred Heart. I ran 4:12.94 to just barely eke out my teammate Rob Gibson for the win in a very good rust buster. They started the clock by the track late (the timing clock was correct) and while I usually don't look at the clock when I'm racing, I snuck a peek as we went through the 400 and was surprised to see 60-61 since the pace felt very easy. I figured if I stayed smooth and didn't press, I'd stroll through the half about 2:03-2:04 and have myself a pretty decent race. Unfortunately, the reason the "61" felt so easy was that it was really a 65. After a half-mile in 2:11 (which I of course didn't know after the race) a Umass guy took over and drastically stepped up the pace. I waited until we were through 1200 then took the lead and moved hard. I paid for it a little in the last 150, but actually felt really, really strong until about 50m to go when the rig set in. Rob came up on me in the stretch but I was able to barely hold him off, with Rob getting a nice 4:13.00 PR for his efforts. Rough splits (gotten after the fact): 65.5, 2:11.5 (66.0- taken at 805m) 3:14.0 (62.5) 4:12.94 (~59.0) last 805m was 2:01.5, which is a pretty solid close. Last year around this time I ran a 4:11.7, but went through the 800 around 2:04 and rigged. 3 down. 9PM- 4 easy with Peter, Elliot, and Terence, who all set PRs in the 3k (8:25.7, 8:46.9, and 9:05, respectively). Peter looked real good winning from the front.

Friday- 3PM- 8mi River Loop with the whole team for the first time in forever, 53min. 9PM- 4mi River Loop with James, forgot to bring my watch, calves sore near the end.

Saturday- 13 easy with Eric and James through Brookline and Chesnut Hill, mostly, 87:40. Plenty of solid 6:20-6:30 miling here, felt good. 45 DEGREES OUT! That's t-shirt and shorts weather for the first time in a long time!

Sunday- 2pm- Indoor track workout with the middle distance guys. 3 up, 2x(600, 400,800) then 400, 600, 400 with 2:20 jog after the 600s and 400s and 3:20 jog after the 800s.

600 1:34
400 62
800 2:09

600 1:36
400 61
800 2:11

400 61
600 1:32
400 60.5 (Note: Bruce told me to make sure I "stayed well in control" for these last 3 intervals, to which I responded by promising not to go a tenth faster than 60.5. True to form, I hit a controlled 60.50, so there.) 3mi down.

Tot 90

All in all, a great week of training. Before the mile race, running under 33/200 didn't feel hard, necessarily, but it felt both fast and awkward. It was nice to open up just a little today and run a little faster than I have been, and it was equally nice to have that faster running be as easy and in control as it was. I think my next race will be a mile at the Terrier Invitational on the 30th. The rust buster was quite good in that I recovered from it very quickly and closing in 2:01.5 for ~805m didn't feel like anything out of the ordinary.

Well, congratulations! You've made it to the bottom of an obscenely long post! I apologize for any eye strains reading this much on the computer might have caused. I hope everybody is having fun out there!


  1. work (run) intelligently not necessarily harder (until you race). most important listen to bruce!

    best to you and your team mates.


  2. Good post, Craig. Also, nice race. That's awesome that 4:12 felt relatively easy and controlled!

  3. Nice opener sir... I know you must be itching to get close and under that 4 flat barrier.

  4. chipping away at it a little at a time!