Category Archives: Running

The Horror of Outlying Data

A week and a half ago, I set a PR, and it’s caused nothing but anxiety.

Specifically, I ran my typical “short” training run (a 5K), and did it in 25:54. That’s 15 seconds faster than my previous fastest 5K time. Yay?

Then, because I can make anything negative, I started analyzing. The run was phone-timed and -measured, which can certainly be wrong, so my first thought was that the time was wrong this time too. It was also a full minute faster than any 5K run I’d done this year, which is suspicious—I’m still getting into running shape but time improvements have been happening in dribs and drabs rather than big chunks. And my previous best took place in a race rather than training, and I’m normally a lot faster in races. Adrenaline, you know.

But I reviewed the route the phone measured, and it didn’t seem terribly wrong. Moreover, the run felt fast, at least for me.

So I’m willing to accept, at least tentatively, that that’s my 5K time now.

But then the bigger, more fundamental anxiety kicked in. Because I’ve run now 4 times since then, and I haven’t come close to that pace. So now I’m wondering: Is the magic gone forever? Have I peaked, and now I’m just going to have to desperately chase that one pathetic moment of borderline competence forever, even though it continues sliding further and further away?

There may be legitimate excuses. One of the runs was a long one, so I wasn’t pushing the pace. Another took place in 90+ degree heat, and I did it with the interval training feature (AKA chases) of Zombies, Run! on, so it’s not really a pure comparison. Most amusingly, one of the runs featured a bit where I tripped on rough ground and fell, only I almost recovered and it took me about seventeen steps to actually hit the ground. Even before the fall I was pre-exhausted and not trying to push the pace, so I’m OK with that one.

But still… It would be nice to have some supporting data to back up my first-ever sub-26-minute 5K. Or a certificate. Maybe a nice quiche, even. Something to make me feel like this is something I can actually do.

World, get on that.





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May Goals: What, This Again?

It’s been a while since I’ve set some goals, for reasons that are fairly logical, but now that life is slightly settling it’s time to get back to it. They’re not super-well organized or thought-out, but I’ll use that old “I just moved states and I’m still trying to get everything sorted out” excuse. So with that in mind, here’s my goals for the month:

Weight: 243.428, as a 7-day average. The move, thus far, has been good for this particular metric, due mainly to diet: It takes a bit more of a commitment to eat junk here, and having a traditional office job takes away a fair amount of opportunity. Or maybe, it’s just the novelty of being in a new place that has helped. I hope it’s the former.

Pull-ups: 6. I technically managed this once before—In February, my Chicago gym had a month-long pull-up challenge. I haven’t hit those heights since, but if the weight comes down and I work consistently, I think it’s broadly feasible.

Crow pose: 20 seconds. I haven’t worked on the crow pose consistently in several months, ever since I figured out how to kick-up into a wall handstand. But the crow pose was something that really helped me to do that, so I’m hoping it will also help me to do an unsupported handstand. My previous best was about 15 seconds.

Dips: 8. My new gym does have a quasi-dedicated set of bars for dips. OK, not really; it’s one of those angled things with a foot rest and a cushion for back extensions, but it’s got parallel bars sticking out of it. I’ve only done 4 so far, but it’s early days.

Biking: Bike the county. As I’ve noted, the county that I now live in is criss-crossed by bike paths. Next month, I want to do the whole county: basically, biking to Jamestown, Spring Valley, Fairborn, Yellow Springs, and Cedarville. (And Beavercreek, but as I can’t really get to Fairborn without passing through, we can take that as read.) That may be slightly over-ambitious, as it’s five rides and I’m only in town for three and a half weekends this month. We’ll see.

Running: Two goals here: First off, build up to an 8K long run. I really only started running for the year in April, but I’m doing 5Ks consistently, so I’m ready to build. The second is an 8-minute mile. I have no idea how that will go: I haven’t done a timed mile since about junior high. I have no idea how a mile pace would be different for me from a 5K pace.

Writing: I need to write (outside of my job) daily. I may make an exception for the travel weekend (especially the day when I’ll be driving from Long Island to southwest Ohio) and the other race day I have.

Transition from transitioning to living: Basically, this entails starting to build the connections that humans have when they live in a place. (It’s also been strongly encouraged by my employer, which should help.) I’ve actually started the process of volunteering at a place, although that hasn’t yet gone well; their website has a volunteer application form, but no information about how to turn it in. We shall see how that goes.



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Filed under diet, Goals, Running, writing

Let’s Get Ironic with Running!

So, yesterday was Global Running Day.

Now, I don’t particularly care about such things. It’s a made-up event (although, as British comedian David Mitchell once noted, all events are made-up) that doesn’t actually have any meaning to meaning. Whoever made it up (which, as it turns out, is New York Road Runners) do it for their cause, or attention, or to give themselves and others something to talk about (a legitimate concern for publications that have to constantly be talking, regardless of whether they have anything to say, and yes I’m resembling that remark there) but that’s fine. Lots of people say and do things that I don’t pay attention to.

But I did happen to notice Global Running Day, and yes I took part.

Not because it was Global Running Day; just because Wednesday is my normal long run. (10K in 53:50, which is certainly the fastest I’ve done that length, although I’ve not done that length all that often.

The ironicy bit goes to a similar, equally made-up event: Bike-to-Work Day. Which isn’t exactly a day, but one of several depending on where you live, and more recently I think it’s been a full week (at least in Chicago) but that’s not the point.

I don’t currently bike to work, since it’s literally impossible. (Not in the sense that I can’t bike; in the sense that I work in my living room, and my bike lives in my apartment complex’s laundry room, so it’s impossible for me to ride my bike and get any closer to my office than I already am.) But, when I worked outside of my home, I was a bike commuter, on a schedule that ranged from a couple times a year (when I lived 30 miles from my company) to nearly daily (when I lived 3-5 miles away from the office.) I was at least an occasional bike commuter for about 12 years.

And yet, I managed to never ever bike to work on bike-to-work day.

Again, not intentionally; either I had a repair to make that I didn’t get to in time, or the weather was bad, or I was tired and chose not to. Whatever.

So despite genuinely liking biking and regularly performing the activity that inspired a dedicated day for it over more than a decade, I never participated in its dedicated day, but having only been running for three years, and only tolerating the activity, I’ve managed to participate in its dedicated day the first time I heard about it.

Tie me up and call me Dave Coulier, because Alanis Morrisette wrote a song about me.


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Goal Update: Was May Quiet or Loud?

The answer is, I don’t have a clue.

It was an eventful month, what with my second OCR of the year (and first where I was running with an eye toward doing it as quickly as possible). Almost immediately after that was another bit of travel, which lasted only two days but required two weeks of preparation and a couple solid days of recovery and which could be wholly lifechanging (and could be wholly depressingly life-keeping-the-same, depending on results that I won’t know for several weeks). So it’s been a month of high anxiety and high anticipation.

The goal front has been quiet, although there’s some good stuff buried under it. To wit:

Weight: The good news is, I’m at lows for the year, with my 7-day average down about 3 pounds from the last month. There’s some slight concern because the month as a whole was pretty lousy and the drop came entirely in the last week or so, but I shan’t complain.

Running: Even though I don’t have any specific goals for running apart from “run enough so I can run in races,” this is an area that’s going distressingly well. Last week I did a 5K training run in 26:37. That’s not a personal record but it is the fastest I’ve ever done a training run by a pretty long ways. It’s not really isolated; my training times have seemed to be faster this year than last. That’s pretty weird, because I’ve done less running training this year than last and I absolutely haven’t been feeling good while running. Confusing.

Monkey Bars: Well, not actually. One of the classes I take is the Weird Shit Workout (not its actual name) that involves all sorts of strange and hard and funky forms of movement. One of the more normal (though still not super-common at my gym) is upside-down pull-ups. From day one I’ve been able to do at least a few, but getting into the position was always tough—I’ve been able to do toes-to-bars for a while now, but I couldn’t get fully upside down without stepping on the bar mid-way for support. The teacher’s been cracking down on that, and this month I’ve finally been able to do it. Sometimes, at least. I’m not 100%.

Other Weird Shit: More nerve-jangling than a new physical skill: yesterday in said Weird Shit Workout we did a variation of box jumps with a Bosu on the box. Which I did, a couple times, and had several bails. The height was probably not much more than what I normally do (which, for all you accountants out there, is 24 in.; we put the Bosus on the 20-in. side of the box) but the apparent (but not really actual) instability was terrifying.

Climbing: There was a V2 that I made really good progress on, completing several tough swinging moves at the bottom but ending a move or two short of the top. Then I lost two weeks of climbing, and the route’s been re-set, so no more. (Also, in that two weeks, I seem to have lost every shred of ability I ever had, and that was never much!)

Pistol Squats: This is something I added to my goal list as an idea without any immediate expectation of putting much work into it. But one of the classes that I take regularly involves 1-legged burpees, which (if done at the hardest level) starts with a pistol squat. I’m not there yet, but I feel like I’m actually getting better, which is pleasing. This is also a class that usually has a crow pose section; that’s also showing improvement (or, at least, was; a 2-week gap seemingly erased all progress I made ever, but I’m hoping that was just rust on the first day back.)

This month has one or maybe two (or maybe 1.5) OCRs. The one is the Spartan Super in Chicago. The half or one depends on the precise schedule of a freelance gig I have at the end of the month; it’s a local one, the Winnetka Superhero Dash, which is mostly a 5K but it’s got a few additional obstacles or activities, plus it’s close enough to bike to. We shall see.


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Filed under Climbing, Goals, Obstacle Course Racing, Running

Goal Update: Mixed Results

April was… interesting.

A lot of the month was really rough—in addition to some general malaise, I had some shoulder issues that made everything pretty tough. Then I had a really good week, and then things kind of fell apart again but maybe not so bad.

Anyhow, the details:

Weight: Down about 2.5 pounds for the month.

Climbing: My tracking document says “#11 turned corner.” That actually means something. One of my current projects is from the recent competition that I didn’t do, but they’ve kept all the problems up from. It happens to be #11 and it’s a long and cool-looking one. You start on the inside of a cave, and then come out of it and turn onto an outer wall, but the grip that you’re holding on when you’re making the 90-degree turn is backwards at first glance. (The key is to swing your entire body around between moves, rather than trying to do it all at once, and I know that doesn’t really make sense, but deal with it.) Anyhow, I’ve got a bit more to do—the route has a few more moves and the top grips are a bit tricky for me, but it’s progress. Not that necessarily “counts”—the route’s just a V1—but I’m okay with it.

Cooking: In addition to the two recipes I already wrote about, I also tried and liked Curried Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes. I’m not paleo, although I think there are principles that are worth taking on board.

Running: Training’s going good, even though I’d like to be doing three runs a week and I usually only get two. My long runs are up to 9K, which I did last week in the aesthetically pleasing time of 48:48.

Crow Pose: I think this is dangerously close. There have been a couple times where I held it for a couple of breaths. Actual breaths, not like the super-quick huff-and-puff-because-you’re-panicking breaths. Before long, I may try timing it.

Other: I’ve started incorporating a small amount of yoga into my life. It’s probably simultaneously too much and not enough; I only do it once a week (in the sense of a full yoga workout, although the moves find their way into other workouts in a small way), and I don’t like it so I don’t want to do more, but I’m not sure I’m doing enough to really get any benefits. We shall see.

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Filed under Climbing, Cooking, Goals, Running, Training

Goal Update: I Guess I’m in Training Now

February went well.

I didn’t complete any goals, but there were sudden, almost disconcerting, bouts of progress on a lot of them. I think that might be because this month is when I started registering for races for the year, which starts to make it all real, so there was a bit more motivation to eat right and work out. More eating right than training, really, but still.

Some highlights:

Weight: My weight (on a 7-day average basis) dropped 7 pounds, which isn’t bad.

Climbing: This was the really weird one. I have not been climbing well this year at all. Then, about a week ago, things started clicking—there were about 8 problems that I’ve been trying and not been able to do, and I finished all of them over the course of a couple climbing sessions. And I even flashed (climbed the first time I tried it) a V1, which is above what I can typically do. (Although I might not have; I reached the top grip but it’s possible I was meant to grab the top of the physical wall to finish it, which I didn’t do. It was also a pretty short problem, but I’m still counting it as a win.) In fact, I’m sort of unsure of what I need to be working on next—there are only a couple that I’ve been working on that I can’t now do, so I need to figure out the next routes that I’m want to work on.

Trader Joe's Pesto and Quinoa

Trader Joe’s makes things seem practical that may not be.

Cooking: I added another recipe to the repertoire, Chicken Pesto Quinoa. Although I don’t recommend doing what I did, which is buying pesto mixed with quinoa and using it as the pesto. Just get regular pest.

Handstands: My gym’s got a class that I’ve dubbed “the weird shit workouts.” It entails a lot of quadripedal movement, inversions, jumping, and other nontraditional gym movements. I still can’t do a handstand, and I don’t know how close I am, but I definitely got better.

Running: Not really a goal, but the weather was decent for a couple weekends so I got started on training running a bit earlier than I expected. In 2 runs I’m up to 10 minutes of running endurance without any real difficulty. As I recall, last year it took a few weeks of running before I was able to get any kind of endurance at all. Based on the early runs, I’m planning to get up to a 5K in probably 3 or 4 runs and then build from there.

More weird stuff: The weird shit workout has included a few other things I’ll be incorporating into my goals. One of them is an upside-down pull-up: swinging your body up inside the bar and then doing a pull-up with your legs up and your head down. The other is jumping from monkey bar to monkey bar, rather than swinging—I actually managed a couple of these, but I think more are feasible.

(Edited to add) Stair Climb Challenge: This changed a bit. I originally planned to do a timed stair climb, three times at my gym (21 flights total) as a progress indicator. But that never wound up happening, since just climbing stairs is boring. But one of the trainers at my gym developed another one that fits well: a combination of rowing and stair climbs that totaled 3,000 meters rowing and 20 flights of stairs. My baseline time for that was 19:22; the goal I created after that is 19:00.

Creation: Dad’s Little Book of Rage is going well; I’m up to 43 of an estimated 49 pictures done. Well, “done.” A lot of them need some additional bits that I’ll be adding, or they’ll need some pretty significant changes because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to make things when I started and they need to be brought in line with how I’m doing them now. Still, several I’m pleased with. Or annoyed by. (I don’t know why WordPress isn’t letting me rotate them, so sorry about that.) Anyhow, the creation streak is at 65 days and counting.


Trader Joe’s makes things seem practical that may not be.


A rare four-panel image, involving parkour, watermelons, and persimmon attacks.

Tiger getting tranquilized

Some main characters fantasize about being tigers getting hunted.


It’s a pain in the ass to try to make a construction-paper replication of a stained-glass window of Jesus, with a corpse’s disembodied head being kicked through his stomach.


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Filed under Climbing, Goals, Running

Farewell 2015

Oh, golly gee, an end-of-year wrap-up. How original!


Looking back at my goals for the year, things didn’t go all that well. So instead, I’ll focus on the positive.

Some accomplishments for the year:

  • I learned to climb a rope. Not quite well enough to do it under muddy race conditions, but it’s a first time ever.
  • I added bouldering to my workout mix. It’s not my main gig, but it’s a lot of fun and good for my mental state to do something cool and learn a new skill. It’s hard to gauge precisely its impact physically, but I think there’s some benefit.
  • I did two Spartan Sprints, a Spartan Super, and a Badass Dash.
  • At one of those, I successfully climbed a 6-foot wall unaided. It’s not the Big Wall that gives the site half its title, but it’s a start.
  • I improved my 5K time by 15 seconds.
  • I upped my longest running distance to about 7.5 miles.
  • I was part of a team that completed a 200-mile running relay.
  • After a year, the blog is still going fairly consistently. I’m still trying to figure out precisely what the site is and what I want it to be. Originally I intended it to be a pure comedy site, and I definitely still enjoy that—but I also like writing legitimate thoughts (and even approaching journalism on a couple occasions) and event reports and using it for more personal goal-setting-type stuff. The multi-billion-dollar book deal that was supposed to come out of the blog (all of my publishing experience tells me that’s how things are supposed to work) hasn’t happened yet, but it will.
  • I’ve done some periodic contributions to a couple other sites, Obstacle Racing Media and Sportody.
  • I’ve demonstrated, without a doubt, that isolation isn’t a good environment (I work at home, where I live alone, so…) and am taking steps to fix that, though they’re slower than I’d like.

I’m sure you’re deeply excited to know that I’ll be posting goals for 2016 tomorrow, but until then, don’t be stupid and drive if you get wasted at a New Year’s party tonight. And don’t kiss anything at midnight that has visible sores.

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Filed under Badass Dash, Climbing, Goals, Metapost, Running, Spartan Race