Saturday, August 31, 2013

Real Ultimate Power

I once read an article by a man who guaranteed that by following a series of simple steps, your blog would become famous overnight and make you filthy rich. He pointed to himself as a case study, having founded a blog devoted to nutrition advice and dietary tips for Caucasian males. He called it White Man's Secret. Within weeks, he claimed, he had millions of unique hits every single day from all over the world. Tens of thousands of women left their husbands or lovers and became his willing slaves. He was elected president of his Rotary chapter and was voted Best Table Topics Speaker at his local Toastmasters five times in a row. And he had done it all by following a series of simple steps that anybody could do.

Most important, he said - or screamed, rather, since everything was in upper case capital letters - was to never apologize for failing to update regularly. People wouldn't even notice it, he said, unless you called attention to it. He recommended treating readers like any one of the members of his now-overflowing seraglio - by playing with their emotions through deliberate neglect. Then, when they were at their most desperate, you would give them some attention. Not much. Just enough for them to become dependent on you.

This, he said, was an expression of power. Real Ultimate Power.


My reason for neglect isn't nearly as insidious. It's because I've been running too much.

A few weeks ago when I visited home I sat down with my dad and a calendar and we made a training program leading up to the Indianapolis marathon in November. At the beginning of each week he wrote the number of weeks left until race day. So, "12," "11," "10," and so on, until "0." Then in each cell of the calendar we calculated how many workouts and how many miles I would need to run to fill a weekly quota. We determined this using Jack Daniels' Running Formula.

I'm not talking about the stuff created by yeast poop. Jack Daniels is a real person. He is a coach with a doctorate in exercise physiology and fifteen years ago he published a book called Daniels' Running Formula. He also popularized the use of a physiological measurement called VDOT, which measures the maximum amount of oxygen used by the body. I have had my VDOT measured a couple of times by exercise physiologists, and both times the process was extremely uncomfortable. They put you on a treadmill and stick a tube in your mouth and then pinch your nostrils closed with a clothespin. You then start running, and the treadmill speed and incline increases every minute or so until you can't run anymore.

The last time I did this, the researchers told me that my VDOT was seventy-point-three. Jack Daniels has a specific workout plan for nearly any VDOT number. And so seventy-point-three was the number my dad and I were using when we filled out the calendar.


Here is what Jack Daniels says I should do in a typical week:

Sunday: 13-15 miles at marathon pace (5:40/mile); 2 miles warmup, 2 miles cooldown.
Monday: 10 miles
Tuesday: 12 miles in the morning, 4 miles in the evening
Wednesday: 8 mile recovery run
Thursday: 2 mile warmup. 2x12 minutes of anaerobic threshold pace (5:20/mile). 4 mile recovery jog followed by another 12 minutes anaerobic threshold pace (5:20/mile).
Friday: 12 miles
Saturday: 12 miles in the morning, 6 miles in the evening

When I read this I thought that Jack Daniels was nuttier than squirrel shit. Obviously there are some people who disagree; there are some out there who think this is easy and no big deal. Fly them.

I've stuck with it nonetheless; and the odd thing is, it seems to be working. My runs are getting easier; workouts are getting better; I feel more prepared and more motivated. The only problem is that during the day I'm too tired to do anything else. I get up in the morning around six and am usually done around seven-thirty. For the next hour or so I stretch a little bit and drink chocolate soy milk straight out of the carton. I put a towel on the living room floor and lie there sweating, and sometimes put on music I checked out from the library. For the past month or so I've been listening primarily to jazz - Duke Ellington, Earl Klugh, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, to name a few. I listen to some classical stuff as well. This morning as I laid on my sweat-soaked towel on the floor, I listened to a sonata by Ravel. It was heavenly.

Then I go to work and feel the slow burn in my legs for the rest of the day. In a way it feels almost pleasurable. And then when I get home sometimes I run again. Sometimes I will see other people out there running, and wonder about whether they are faster than I am.

Some would call this insecurity. They're probably right. In any case, I like to call it competitiveness.


Speaking of competitiveness: A couple of years ago a girl told me that one of her previous boyfriends had run a marathon in two hours and thirty-two minutes. At the time, that was faster than I had run a marathon, and so naturally I became insanely jealous. It didn't help that I was hopelessly in love with this girl. The fact that she had dated someone with a faster marathon time was an insult to me.

For the next nine months I trained like a banshee and that summer I ran a marathon in two hours and thirty minutes. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was convinced that when I told her my marathon time, she would rip off all her clothes with uncontrollable passion.

That never happened. The next time she saw me she didn't even take off her sunglasses. Things have been pretty much the same.


By the way: When someone wants to run with you, wait for a really cold morning and tell them that you want to run then. At the last minute they will come up with an excuse not to go.

You know why? Because running in the cold sucks.

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