Saturday, August 19, 2017

Never Quit Quitting

Apparently you have not met me. I have very long list of regretful runs I would love to tell you about.


This was written on the shoe laces of my favorite running shoes I bought back in 2009. It turned out to be the worst running advice I ever got. The only place digging deep every got me was at the bottom a very deep hole clutching a pair of ill-fitting socks I got for winning my age group.

“Just do it! Never quit! It’s all mental!”. As runners, we are inundated with this kind of overzealous motivational bullcrap. Maybe some people desire some extra motivation, but I am here to tell you that you can do too much, run too far, push too hard. Sometimes quitting is the smartest thing to do.

You might be wrong Nike.
The man pictured quickly passed out due to lack of oxygen.
I guess that comes from the outside.
And the change that happens is called:

Everyone has an internal “governor” that limits the amount of effort we can put out before we start doing damage to our bodies. Often this governor is dismissed as a “mental limitation” that need to be conquered, but in reality it is essential to successful running. Sure, maybe some people's governors are set too low, and could use some extra motivation to train or race hard enough to achieve their physical potential.

But the most successful runners have their governors set just right. They get just the right amounts of stress and recovery and their bodies respond by getting stronger and faster. Often this is referred to as “listening to your body”.

Good advice if you are running from a fire.
Really stupid for a marathon.
I guess all those people with multiple sclerosis are just making bad choices

Then there are those who tell their body to “just shut up” and always overdo it (like me). They always end up run down and/or injured. In this context, an “overachiever” is not a good thing. I remember finishing the “Run for the Donuts” and collapsing in a heap. A young girl there pointed at me, “Look Daddy! An overachiever!”. It was not a compliment.

It will be the orthopedic surgeon who will tell you
 that you are DONE running... for good.
The quote is attributed to Ray Zahab.
He got an "F" in physics class

I started running races about 14 years ago. I’ve dug deep. I’ve pushed through pain. I ran the extra mile. Now I really wish that I hadn’t. Here is a list of my overachieving souvenirs:

  • A permanent knot in my left calf from when I “didn’t quit” in the Umstead Marathon
  • A scarred right hamstring from “just doing it” in the Salem Lake 30K
  • An achilles tendon that feels like rusty barbed wire from when I “didn’t stop when it hurt”
  • Swollen arthritic knees from “exceeding my mental limitations”
And for what? I’m only 47, yet every morning I awake limping, and clutch the handrail walking down the stairs. It’s a little late, but I have finally realized that staying healthy and feeling good are WAY more important than setting a PR or finishing a race.

With these aches and pains as constant reminders of the costs of overdoing it, I am finding this running culture of “exceeding limits” to be quite obnoxious.

Yes, your body can stand that stress fracture in your foot just fine.
You just have to convince your mind
that finishing that half marathon was worth 8 weeks in a boot.

So I am starting the “Whimpy Running Club”.

For us, DNF stands for “Directly to Next Fun”
DNS stands for:  "Do No Self-harm".

Our motto will be “Never Quit Quitting!”.
Who wants to join?

Don't be stupid. Join the Wimpy Running Club, where:


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Top 10 Running Hazards of Summer

We are the in depths of the North Carolina summer, which is a great time to quit running and stay indoors. But if you are one of those dedicated runners who insist on running year round, here is my Top 10 List of Summer Hazards to watch out for.

1. Dehydration

Running in NC in August means sweating. You will be losing fluids like a fire hydrant that got knocked over by a U-Haul truck. But exactly how much are you sweating and how much do you need to drink to replace it?
Here is a formula that looks very scientific but is completely made up:
Sweat Rate (ml / hour) = 750ml × (dew point- 16°) × (body weight kg) × (distance in km)
Let’s say you are a 150 lb person running 3 miles in a dew point of 74°. By my calculations, you will lose 50% of your body weight! If you are going to shrink to half your normal size, your shorts will probably fall off. So bring along a tiny pair to change into.

You will know you are properly hydrated when no more water fits down your throat
To replace fluid loss, I highly recommend drinking 64oz of water an hour, 24 hours a day, whether you are running or not. You are probably getting severely dehydrated just reading this column, so please, go drink 10 tall glasses of water right now before continuing.

2. Hyponatremia

Woah! You just drank way too much water. Are you experiencing nausea, headache, confusion, and fatigue? Those are common symptoms of reading the Godiva president's column (hey, they force us to write one EVERY month!). But those are also symptoms of hyponatremia, so call an ambulance. Also stop reading this column immediately.

3. Horse-flies

I used to live in Youngsville, where the biting flies were really bad. All day they would knock on the front door, yelling “Come out! We are hungry!”. So I became somewhat of an expert on them. I learned that repellents do not work well on horse-flies, because they hunt by sight rather than smell like mosquitos do (this is actually true). They are attracted to movement which make them a bane to runners.
One thing that does work is “Deerfly Patches”. These are sticky patches that you wear on your hat. The flies get stuck there and die. Running around with dozens of dead flies on top of your head serves as a terrifying warning to the other flies not to mess with you.

Deerfly patch

4. Ticks

I recommended the following things:
  • Avoid tall grass
  • Wear long pants
  • Use an insect repellant with at least 30% DEET.
Of course, none of those things will prevent you from getting ticks. Even if you haven’t left the house in week, you probably have a tick crawling on you right now, most likely in your private areas. Be sure to watch for signs of Lyme disease which include vague symptoms such as headache, joint pain, fatigue, ennui, and Netflix binge watching. I recommend getting a prescription for antibiotics for the rest of your life.

5. Mosquitos

Because of the mild winter months in NC, and plentiful supply of people trying to enjoy the outdoors, mosquitos in NC are old, slow and lazy. They have no reason to expend the effort to try to bite a runner, when there is an outdoor concert somewhere with thousands of stationary targets. So they are not much of a threat to runners here.
Beware if you travel north, however. Mosquitos there only have a week to live, which makes them unbelievably voracious. They would eat our horse-flies for breakfast. When I ran a trail marathon in northern Michigan one summer, I declined when someone offered me bug spray. Boy was that a mistake. Despite going as fast as could, I could not outrun them, and I had so many mosquito bites that I passed out from blood loss at mile 16. True story.

6. Spiders

If you are unlucky enough to be the first person down a trail in the morning, you will realize that spiders are out to get us. Instead of trying to catch flies or other bugs, they stretch their webs deliberately across the trail at head height to catch runners. You will run face first into a web and become blinded, stumbling around trying to clear webs out of your eyes, only to run into more and more webs until you are unable to move. Then the spiders haul you away to be eaten later.
So always run with a friend, and make sure he or she runs in front.

7. Summer Track

It’s a little known fact that Carolina Godiva Track Club was started in 1975 when a drunk english guy dared somebody in bar to go outside and run around in circles as fast as they could on the hottest part of the day. Some other foolish people joined them, and they continued doing it for the last 30 years.
But that still does not make it a good idea. Did you know that from May through August, 30% of all emergency room visits in Durham are middle aged runners who attempted to sprint 100m? It’s true.

8. Shirtless Runners

This needs no explanation.

9. Copperheads


There are over 37 species of snakes in NC, and most long time residents can quickly and accurately identify all of them… as copperheads. Some “experts” will say there are “good snakes” which are harmless to people, but they are wrong. We know copperheads are masters of disguise and there is only one type of snake in NC, so when we see any snake we shout “COPPERHEAD!”.

Over 10,000 runners are killed by the deadly copperheads in the state every year. That is pretty much what park rangers do all day, is drive around and collect bodies of dead runners. The nature “experts” will say that if you see a copperhead, just leave it alone and it will not hurt you, but again that is not true. Copperheads are EXTREMELY aggressive. Even if you manage to escape one, they will track you down and find out where you live. They will sneak into your house and hide live ticks in your underwear.
Deadly Facts About Copperheads
  • They have tiny vestigial legs that they only use to kick puppies.
  • In one tenth of a second, they can bite you and/or correct your grammar
  • They will throw pizza boxes into the recycling bin
  • They will hack your facebook account and post ads for knockoff Rayban sunglasses.
  • They will always turn any conversation into politics


10. Cross Country Teams

These pesky creatures seem to hatch in June and can be found swarming Umstead Park in July and August. These hordes of young runners sometimes travel in large packs, taking up the entire trail and refusing to yield to oncoming runners. Unfortunately, repellents do not work on them.
They do make these sticky patches however…

Cross Country Runner Patch

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