Friday, December 19, 2014


After weeks of unsuccessful attempts, I finally got to do a workout on the BYU indoor track. It's usually open most of the time, but lately whenever I've gone down there (even after calling the Richards Building front desk and receiving the assurance that it would be open) it's been closed, forcing me to jerry-rig another workout last minute.

But on this the last day of finals it was open. And who should I see sharing the track with me, but none other than Jared Ward:

Though his last year of NCAA eligibility was 2013 (the story of his final season was pretty bizarre, you can read about it here), I think he is still studying here as a graduate student. He was just jogging some easy laps and I was doing some short intervals, so I actually got to pass him which was pretty sweet. I wanted to talk to him and ask him how his running was going, but he left shortly after I got there (he was probably intimidated by my speed.)

But I felt like seeing Ward was a good portent. My workout was a two mile warm up, followed by 10 laps (1/5 mile each) at all-out pace with one minute recovery. From the splits you can tell it went very well:

1:04 translates to a 5:20 per mile pace, which is a good deal faster than anything I've been running lately. Next week I'll be in Oregon on Christmas vacation, and I plan to use the richer air to try breaking my 5K PR. Since my last race I knew that my biggest weakness was my aerobic capacity; so I've done lots of long intervals and hills to push my threshold. And I was making a lot of progress and feeling good, but I anticipated a problem; when I get down to sea-level and my lungs are no longer what's holding me back, if my legs still aren't used to moving that fast I'm going to have trouble holding that 6-minute-per-mile pace that I need. Hence the use of short-intervals for my final pre-race hard workout.

Now that the work is done it's time to take it easy, carbo-load with mountains of Christmas treats, and enjoy the spoils of my hard work. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Kilometers instead of miles

After finishing my recent cross country race I was feeling pretty burned out so I took it easy for a couple of weeks to unwind. When I started running again I felt like I needed to change something, but couldn't put my finger on it. I went out for an easy run and found after a few minutes that my Garmin was still measuring kilometers instead of miles, and realized this was exactly the kind of change I needed.

I've always measured my runs in miles; I don't know why, I guess because that's the system of measurement we use for everything else. But races are usually measured in kilometers, and my workouts have been increasingly focused on my races, so the metric system seems like a more natural fit.

Another nice thing about the change is that runs seem to go faster when my watch is chirping the splits each kilometer instead of each mile; it breaks the workouts into small increments, and you get more frequent feedback on pace. So for now I'm enjoying the fresh perspective.

Monday, November 3, 2014

USATF Cross Country

I took away two things from the 2014 USATF Utah Regional Cross Country Championship:

1. Cross Country is HARD!

2. Cross Country is definitely my favorite way to race.

I took out the first kilometer in 4:02, which was right around what I was shooting for. I was running hard but not all out, so I felt like I had some room to grow. But then kilometers 2, 3, and 4 had some hills. Quickly I was sucking air and trying not to panic. I had to slow down to about 4:20 per kilometer, but I told myself that it was OK to ease up, as long as I just kept going. The last half a kilometer or so was downhill so I was able to pick up the pace and have a strong finish.

The best thing about races is having other people to challenge you. During the middle portion I was hanging right behind these three guys that really helped pull me up the hills. And near the end a woman was coming up behind me, and I definitely wasn't about to get chicked, so I dug a little deeper to stay ahead of her.

My time was 21:59 (much slower than I had anticipated) but my Garmin said that the course was a little long, so my 5K time was actually closer to 21 minutes. It was fun, though, and definitely reminded me of my old XC days back in High School.

The race was a good indicator of where my fitness is at. My biggest asset right now is my leg strength; I've been lifting a lot in the last two months, and it definitely translated into a smooth, powerful stride. But my biggest liability was my lung capacity; 6:52 per mile on rolling hills was definitely as much air as I could move. I'll have to do some more long intervals to raise that threshold.

Thanks to my bro Court for taking these pics, and Marissa and Keaton for coming out to watch me run!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Perilous Psychology of Tapering

The scary thing about tapering is that at the beginning, when you first start scaling back your training, you feel pretty crappy; lethargic, burned out, unmotivated. The reason is that you are still tired from your last training block, but you aren't getting the same endorphin rush that follows you're hard workouts. It's the worst of both worlds.

But you have to take a break, because your body needs time to bounce back from the trauma that you've recently put it through. So you rest and try to relax. However the race day is soon approaching and you don't feel good yet. This is the scariest part. Because you know that if you were to do the race today, you wouldn't have what it takes to hit your goal. Not only that, it would be pretty painful trying.

After a few days your legs start to recover and you begin to feel restless. Anxious, excited to get out there are give it your all. You have so much pent up energy you can't sit still. And the key to tapering is timing it out so you reach that zone exactly on race day; too early and you're legs still feel like lead, too late and you begin to lose that fitness you've worked so hard to develop.

Right now I'm in that low phase where I still feel kinda crummy but things are starting to turn around. But I've tapered enough times that I know I'll bounce back, so I just need to sit back and have faith in my training.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Out of exile

With the last Diamond League race behind us, the International Track and Field season is effectively over. At the beginning of the summer I gave an intro to some of the key players. And since then it's been exciting to watch it all play out.

One observation is that there has been a subtle shift in the attitude amid the American athletes. For a long time they saw themselves as the underdogs, saying things like "I'm just glad to be in the race" and "I did my best" and "We'll see how things plays out." I think that the east Africans had come to so thoroughly dominate the distance events that winning international meets seemed out of the question for anyone with fair skin.

But this season has been huge for USA Track and Field. it started with Emma Coburn surprising everyone by coming off an injury and winning the 3,000m steeple chase in Shanghai. Then Galen Rupp rocked the Prefontaine Classic by crushing the 10,000m with a world-leading time. And all through the summer, Jenny Simpson and Shannon Robury were finishing on the podium at major European meets in the middle distances. And in Brussels steeplechaser Evan Jager finally broke the American Record and finished strong in third place.

But more important than the wins and the medals is the way the athletes described themselves. I watched a lot of prerace and postrace interviews, and a common theme emerged: they were expecting to win. And if they did they were excited but confident, and if they didn't they chastised themselves for just missing the prize.

This transition is important, because you will only win the race if you believe that you can. Belief is not all you need, but it is an essential component. You must expect it, anticipate it. And after years of being the "best American" in the race, these elite athletes are finally ready to shoot for being simply the "best." And I am ready to watch them do it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Handling The Heat Wave

Much like Hansel, Provo UT is so hot right now. Seriously guys, I'm on fire. With every day approaching 100 degrees, it makes even a simple run pretty tricky. So here are some tips for handling the heat:

1. Run early in the day

The coolest part of the day is dawn, so if you are willing to get up that early (or already do) this is how most people deal with it. I actually don't use this one, because I never feel good before I've had any water or food, but it's popular so I thought I'd include it.

2. Find an indoor track

BYU actually has a really nice air-conditioned track that is five laps to a mile so it almost feels like running on the normal oval (minus the blazing temperatures) and during the summer it is open almost all of the time. I don't think you even have to be a student to use it, so if you live in the area and want to sneak in, I wont tell anyone.

3. Go swimming beforehand

I noticed that this worked by accident last summer, because my friends and I would go swimming on a lazy, hot afternoon, and after being in the pool all day I found I was really refreshed and wanted to get up and move around. I remember one time when I even did repeat kilometers, my hardest interval workout, in 99 degree weather, and it wasn't too bad. I think there is even some science behind this, because Tim Noakes mentions pre-cooling in "Lore of Running", the idea being that if you lower your body temperature a little before the run, the heat will have to first raise it to the normal 98.6, then work on taking you past that, essentially acting like a temporary buffer and giving you more time before you overheat.

4. Get used to it

This is actually crucial if you are planning on racing in any hot-weather conditions. Running in the heat is a skill, one that you need to hone if you intend it to be part of your repertoire on race day. I'm focusing on shorter distances like 5 and 10 kilometers which are almost always first thing in the morning, so I'm not putting myself through much of this kind of suffering. But if you have a marathon or ultra coming up, no matter how early it starts it will almost certainly extend into the warmer part of the day so it pays to act like the Boy Scouts and be prepared.

5. Be realistic

The middle of the winter and the middle of the summer are excruciating in the high desert, so I plan on not being able to run my absolute best during these times because the environment is just so hostile. I trained hard in the spring and ran a great 5k right as the weather was starting to really heat up, and now I'm regrouping and getting ready for the fall when the temperatures will drop and I will be able to train and race at my best.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

2014 USA Track and Field Overview

The Track and Field season is underway and I realized that the races aren't just a series of disconnected events, but rather a sprawling, epic story. There are heartbreaks and heroes, travails and triumphs, and a narrative that spans decades. It's Anna Karenina, it's Les Miserables, only with real people.

Someone recently told me they thought watching people run around a track was boring. It is unless you know who these people are or what this particular race means to them: maybe it's a comeback after years of injury, or another shot at breaking through a long plateau, or a chance for him or her to prove something. And the athletes all know each other, so there are friendships and rivalries and scores to settle.

With so many players it is easy to get lost, so I'm gonna be the "last time on..." that you get at the beginning of your favorite TV show and let you know what you have missed so far. The best way to do that is to highlight some of the most vibrant personalities in U.S.A. Track and Field:

Galen Rupp: The Prince

If his coach Alberto Salazar was the King of American distance running, then Galen Rupp is the Prince, a spiritual son and heir to the throne. Salazar told a 15 year old Rupp that he saw in him the potential to compete at the highest level, and since then his career as been an almost uninterrupted parade of staggering accomplishments: he ran 13:37 for the 5 K in high school, was a five-time NCAA Champion in college, won a silver medal  for 10000m in the 2012 Olympics, and currently holds American records in the 3000m, 2 mile, 5000m, and 10000m. Not a bad for only 28 years old, right? Now that he has essentially conquered the American field, he's set his sights on trying to beat the seemingly unstoppable Africans at the international meets.


Bernard Lagat: The Professional

At 39 years old he has been racing competitively for two decades, and just this winter he set a new American record in the outdoor 3000m proving he can still reach new heights. Each year for the last several years Lagat and Rupp have stolen records from each other, and although Rupp usually beats him in head to head races, Lagat has won more international medals. In interviews he has a broad smile and boundless enthusiasm, and when praised for his many accomplishments he graciously thanks his wife, his children, and God for enabling him to do what he loves. Hands down, a great guy.


Emma Coburn: The Comeback Kid

Wait, is this a model? No, she is a real runner, she just actually looks like this. Emma was the star 3000m steeple-chase runner at the University of Colorado and upon graduation instantly signed with New Balance, but right after she got injured and missed her first year of competition as a pro However, she came back in a big way by crushing the field in her first Diamond League race of 2014. Everyone is excited to see what she can do now that she is healthy again and ready to compete.


Matt Centrowitz, Jr.: The Boy Wonder

He's the guy in the front, which is a place he's used to. In 2011 at just 21 years old, he won the NCAA championship at 1500m, then won the American Championship, then earned a bronze medal at the World Championship. Centro really cracks me up: he talks constantly, bragging, joking around, trash talking, so much so that his teammates at the Nike Oregon Project like to set the pace of their group runs just fast enough that he will finally shut up. He kicked off the 2014 season by dominating the USATF High Performance Classic 1500m.


Brenda Martinez: The Underdog

Out of college no professional team wanted her, so she spent a year trying to figure out where to run and who would train her. Eventually Joe Vigil agreed to coach her which turned out to be a solid investment because last year she grabbed a bronze medal in the 2013 World Indoor Track and Field Championships (an inspiring race that I got to watch live: other runners went out too fast and faded, but she was smart and saved just a little for the end and ended up catching enough people to get a medal.) Martinez is so tough: she races competitively at distances ranging from 800m to 5000m which is an incredible spread that shows her true athleticism.


Will Leer: The Lumberjack

Although he is clearly the most robustly hirsute professional runner, I think the nickname "Lumberjack" fits him for more than just his hair. He has this nervous, wild energy during interviews (he casually swore while talking to Flotrack one time, which I thought was pretty funny because, surprisingly, you don't hear a lot of salty language when athletes talk to reporters.) Also, he doesn't run quite like other track runners: instead of a smooth, effortless stride he takes powerful, deliberate steps, as if his legs are devouring the track underneath. Good in college but not a standout, he has steadily made improvements in the handful of years since and after winning both the 3000m and the mile at the 2013 U.S. Indoor Track and Field Championships, and then winning the 2014 Wannamaker Mile, there is no doubt that he is one of the best middle distance runners out there.


Katie Mackey: The Rising Star

Katie is so off the radar that she doesn't even have a Wikipedia page, but she was the top American at the highly competitive Payton Jordan Invitational 5000m with a P.R. of 15:04 (I dare you to watch this interview and not love her.) She is a 1500m specialist, but if she is flirting with 15 minutes for the 5000m that puts her in serious contention in the longer events. Equal parts ebullience and sincerity, Katie Mackey truly lives the motto of her sponsor, Brooks: Run Happy.

(Perhaps her enthusiasm gets the better of her sometimes, like in this relay in the Bahamas where she just plowed head-first into an Australian runner during a hand-off. I don't mean to put her on blast, because she came back and helped her team get second place, but the Jennifer Lawrence move was pretty funny. Maybe that's part of her charm.)


You might be wondering how to follow the 2014 season because ESPN doesn't cover a lot of running, but there are a couple of websites with great content:

USATF.TV: Live coverage of many U.S. Track and Field events and interviews. Some live events, but mainly behind-the-scenes material like interviews, special documentaries, workout videos, and links to interesting videos on other sites. An indispensable place for all things running. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Race Report: Provo City 5K

Race day started at 6 AM with some Honey Bunches of Oats and YouTubing some classic Disney songs (I dunno why, but I really wanted to listen to that. Maybe because their cheery and uplifting?)

Then I took a shower and shaved my arms and legs-I remember doing the same thing before the triathlon and I think I'm always going to do it pre-race as a sort of ritual. The Spartan warriors used to do something similar by taking off their clothes and covering themselves with oil the night before a battle, and while that probably had some homo-erotic overtones, I imagine it also helped them to get a sense of their own bodies, to confirm to themselves that they were physically prepared for the contest ahead of them.

I got to the start line almost an hour early, so it was nice and quiet and I had plenty of time to get warmed up which was about 25 minutes of jogging in this really swanky neighborhood in north Provo. I thought I had been all over this city, but I had never seen this place; these were mansions with long driveways, fountains, and luxury SUV's parked in each driveway. And at 8:30 AM on a Saturday morning no one was up, so it serene and beautiful and still.

By the time I got back my family was there which was really great. I use to run a lot time but it's taken me a long time to get past injuries and get back into it, so I think they knew how important this was to me personally.

My sister's kids said something funny-a common occurrence. 
Check out that race kit! I just bought it the night before and I was pumped to wear them. I mean, what's the point of running if you can't look cool doing it?
The half marathon was already going and my nephew Tyler got out there at cheered on the runners.

Everyone is checking out my shoes.

Momma bear and her cubs. And some dude in the back stretching.

Own it!
This race has a great gimmick, which is that the Mayor was running it as well, but he gets a two minute head start and the rest of us have to catch him. (Mayor Curtis is the bomb, by the way. My brother and I were joking that we see him everywhere: case in point, I saw him 12 hours earlier at an open-air concert downtown.) Now he's an old guy so I figured I could get him, but two minutes is a pretty long time in a race as short as 5K, so when I saw him at the start I walked over to say hi and casually asked him what time he was planning on running to size him up. He laughed and said he was just gonna get through it. He asked me my goal, I said about 20 minutes and he wished me luck.

That walk to the start is always the most nerve-racking.

Let's do this!

About 300 people showed up-mostly weekend warriors, but there were a handful of serious runners in the group too.

This is a great shot of my shoes: the New Balance 1400. Killer kicks, I've put a couple of months on them so I'm gonna write a review soon.

And they're off!
The race went pretty much exactly according to plan. It was a straight shot down University Ave with no turns or hills so it was about as simple as a course can get. I went out comfortably fast, which ended up being 6:50 for the first mile. From there I just gradually ramped up the pace and tried to hang on until the finish.

I did end up catching the Mayor, about 8 minutes in. He remembered me, though and as I said "good job" he replied, "You too! Good luck going after that 20 minutes!"

About halfway through University Ave crosses University Parkway, and because it is a busy road they had a bunch of cops stopping traffic as I flew through the intersection. I run a lot around town and usually I'm the one waiting for the cars, so it was sweet to see them all stopped for me this time.

Mile two passed in 6:29, and at this point I was starting to feel the fatigue set in. The wheels weren't entirely coming off, but I definitely had to start concentrating on keeping the pace up and fighting off that inevitable feeling that you just want to take it easy and slow down a little. I focused on my form, kept my cadence up, and zeroed in on the finish line that was rapidly approaching.

After high school I switched to running longer distances, so I hadn't run a 5K since I was a teen; the first thing I was reminded of is how quick the race goes by. You have so much training and warming up and stretching and strides, and the actual event feels like a single moment, a brief blur of adrenaline.

The race finished at the intersection of Center Street and University Ave, the nexus of downtown Provo right in front of the courthouse. There hadn't been a lot of spectators early on so most of the race was actually pretty quiet, but at the finish there were plenty of crowds and music and noise. My family had left the start line a few minutes before the gun went off and were going to try to get to the finish before me, so while I was mostly focusing on the finish I also stole some glances around to see if I could find them. At that exact instant, I spotted them and my brother Court grabbed this great photo:

THAT is how you finish a race.
Moments later I barreled through the finishing shoot and it was all over. Five kilometers in 20:37. My goal was under twenty, but being my first race in so long I really had no idea where my fitness was at. It felt good, though, fast, smooth, and not near as much pain as I used to remember from my days on the Glencoe XC Team. Maybe I didn't push myself as hard as I used to, or maybe I know my body better and how to run within myself. My third mile was 6:33, so my pacing was just about perfect- a nice, even split.

Afterwards there was the Gatorade and the congratulations and the sweat and the tired crowds and the euphoria of knowing you pushed your hardest and the relief that it was all over.

Why are my eyes always shut?
It was hot that day, already about 80 degrees.

My Dad, my brother Court, and my nephews Tyler, Keaton, and Alex. 

They had some free food for the runners but there was a huge line so we ended up going across the street to get some breakfast at Gurus (best blueberry pancakes in town). My short shorts got me some funny looks from the waitress, but I didn't have any other pants with me, so she was just gonna have to deal.

My brother had to show me that buzzer-beater from the Blazer game. Amazing.

It's hard to find gluten-free food even at the hippiest restaurant in town.

So cute.

Men, being men.
I wish my mom was in more of these pictures, but as usual she was the one behind the camera getting the shots. Thanks, though, these turned out great.

Afterwards they posted the finishing times, and it turns out I placed 18th out of 287 finishers! Watch out Zephyr Hufflepuff, I'm gonna catch you one of these days.

The whole thing was a blast. Thanks to Mom, Dad, Court, Marissa and the boys for coming out to see me and taking all of the pictures. In a way this race was both an end and a beginning. It was the end of trying to be a runner, of getting strong and working through injuries and figuring out my form. And it is the beginning of running every day, of training hard and racing often. It took me ten years but I finally made it back.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Not nervous

Tomorrow morning I'm running the Provo City 5K.

But I'm not nervous.

I always got nervous before races, so I've been surprised at my current state of tranquility. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited, because this is the first road race I've contested in almost 10 years. But I'm not worrying.

The reason is probably because even though I only signed up for this race two weeks ago, I've been preparing for it since I broke my kneecap in the summer of 2006. Since then I've rebounded from injury to illness trying to get back to where I was. And I've logged plenty of miles during that time, particularly in the last couple of years; in fact, this is exactly why I started this blog, to try to process what I was going through and maybe help a few others who were going through the same thing.

I've ran, for sure, but I haven't raced, because I just wasn't ready before now. Racing is testing yourself, laying it all on the line, being fit and strong and prepared to give an all-out effort. And each weight lifting session, every yoga pose, all of the ice baths and the hours spent trying to find the perfect form were leading me here, and onward.

That is why I'm not nervous.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Are runners jocks?

Meat-heads. Gym-rats. We have a lot of words for it, but do runners fit the bill? I had to ask myself this once I realized just how much of my time and thought went into this sport. Of all my friends I'm probably the one who spends the most time working out, but is that just something I do or does it define my personality? I think there is enough evidence to take this to trial, so let's begin with the evidence against us. First to take the stand is our attire:

Prosecution: My first exhibit is the foundation of the road runner's wardrobe, the racing singlet:

This innocuous garb looks suspiciously like the tank top, the staple of the bro lifestyle!

Judge: Your point is clear. Would the defense like to cross-examine?

Defense: Yes I would, your honor. It's true that on the surface, the singlet is the same as the tank top. But the singlet serves a different purpose: for running long distance, a sleeveless shirt functions to maximize arm mobility and limit chafing, whereas the tank top is usually worn to highlight the bro's 'guns' and show off his tan.

Prosecution: Objection, your honor, the bro community is not on trial today, and the defense's accusations are entirely supposition.

Judge: Objection sustained.

Defense: My apologies, your honor, I will stick to the matter at hand.

Judge: Thank you. I think we're finished with the runner's clothing, will personal grooming now take the stand?

Prosecution: Ever since the landmark case "The People vs. Jersey Shore", it has been clear that shaving one's chest is a pillar of the GTL lifestyle. But many elite runners like Galen Rupp and Dathan Ritzenhein sport the hairless look. What reason could there be other than to identify with this community?

Defense: If I may, your honor. The purpose of shaving one's body as an athlete is to make it easier for the air to pull heat away from your body during hard workouts, keeping your body temperature from rising and therefore bolstering your performance.

Judge: Duly noted. We will now proceed with your closing arguments.

Prosecution: Ladies and gentleman of the jury. Being a jock goes beyond any one detail; we need to look at the bigger picture: spending countless hours working out, lifting weights, stretching, icing, thinking and talking about their sport condemns runners to this distinction. My grandpa used to tell me "if it looks like a horse and talks like a horse, then it is usually a horse." These facts demand you vote guilty.

Defense: As my esteemed colleague has pointed out, there are indeed many similarities between the average runner and a typical jock. Yes, they both spend considerable time devoted to their sport. But they do it not to get the attention of the peers, but rather because of an innate motivation, an inner desire to test one's limits and in so doing come to know one's self. This type of quiet, unassuming introspection clearly contrasts the loud, arrogant bravado of the jock. I urge you to vote not guilty.

Well, there are some of the arguments for and against. I think that each person will have to decide for themselves. Personally I believe that some endurance athletes definitely are jocks (Lance Armstrong comes to mind), but I don't think most runners fit into this group because of their personalities: for example, my high school cross country team was mainly the students in the A.P. classes, people who did theater, and the band kids. But we runners have enough in common with our more muscly peers that we need to be vigilant that we don't accidentally slip into that numbing abyss that is bro-dom.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring has sprung

This morning I watched the Carlsbad 5K live and I started to get genuinely excited about the start of the racing season. There were a lot of familiar names in the race like Brenda Martinez, Jordan Hasay, Bernard Lagat, Dejen Gebremeskel. Some of them we've seen in the indoor track and field season, but not all of them. Running is really a summer sport, so the winter is a time for many to take a break, regroup, and get ready for the season ahead. These runners know each other, and we know them, so it kind of feels like a reunion seeing them meet up again, the friendships, the histories, the rivalries. But for all of the familiarity, there is always a hint of the unknown as new runners enter the spotlight and old faces have new breakthroughs.

For me it has been a long, dark, and cold winter, wherein I worked too much and ran far too infrequently. But now as my schedule opens up and the weather changes I can feel the shift from the heavy and serious to the easygoing and fun. I'm ready to join these athletes in the common pursuit of our personal bests, whatever that may be. I hope you are ready too.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Running and the Art of Film

It's a long-standing joke in Hollywood that Tom Cruise will only do a movie if he gets to run in it. Exhibit A:

And why not? He looks awesome doing it. There are a lot of great running scenes in films, like the ending of "Children of Heaven" where a poor Iranian child competes in a foot race to win a pair of shoes for his sister (spoiler alert, only watch this clip if you've already seen the movie. It's on Netflix Instant right now and it's beautiful):

Another that comes to mind is "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner", an old British film about a troubled teen who finds solace in running while away at a boarding school. This shows it as a sad but contemplative pursuit:


But if running is so great to watch in movies, why isn't it much of a spectator sport? The reason is that the races that are the easiest to film are the most boring to watch. Marathons get some coverage on TV because that is where the prize money is at, but the race is more than two hours long which doesn't make it very exciting until the end. NBC Universal will air Diamond League track races, but watching men run in a quarter mile circle over and over is only fun if you understand what the times of each lap mean (I get pumped watching Galen Rupp knock out a 52 second final lap, but that's only because I have done repeat quarters myself and realize how fast that is.)

Of all the running events, the Cross Country is the most exciting. Pushing up hills, slogging through mud, or jumping over hay bales is way more fun to watch than someone running even pace on the road or track. And with that many people crammed into a tight space you see jostling and pushing for position around tight turns. Also, the length of the races are perfect for viewing: 20-30 minutes is long enough to establish a narrative but short enough to keep it interesting.

So why aren't we putting these races on TV? The unfortunate answer is the terrain makes it too expensive to film. If David Fincher shot a collegiate XC race with a Panasonic and full lighting, you wouldn't be able to take your eyes away from it. Running is kinetic and violent, vibrant and suspenseful. Anyone who has ever raced can tell you, but you will only believe them if you can see it for yourself.

However I think this could change soon. I watched a few XC races this fall and when the picture quality was clear it was really exciting. They had camera-men on four-wheelers following the action, and when there were close, head-on shots you could see the tree's whipping past them and you could actually get a sense of how fast the athletes were going. New digital camera's like Go-Pro's make it easier than ever to film action, and improvements in broadband internet technology should allow us to broadcast higher-resolution images from those cameras to the rest of the world. And if smart, charismatic commentators can explain the rivalries between the runners and the racing strategies as they play out then I believe more people would tune in to watch.

Monday, January 13, 2014

An Inside Look At The Nike Company Store

I was back in Oregon for Christmas visiting my family, and while I was there I decided that while in the heartland of Nike country (my dad's office is literally next door to the Nike World Headquarters) I should check out their product line. In high school I always ran in Nike, but in the year's since I've moved around to other brands and as such I didn't really know what their shoes are like now.

My friend Heather works there, so she got me into the Company Store:

This is where the employees and their friends and families (which is basically everyone in Portland) shop, and as such everything is half price. Everything, no sales, no coupons, just an across the board price cut. Not only that the selection was really spectacular; to prep I had spent a lot of time online checking out their catalog and I saw a lot of shoes in this store that I hadn't run into on the site.

But being the week after Christmas it was a complete madhouse: hordes of New Year's resolutioners trying to find the perfect gear and almost as many young, fit employees decked from head to toe with Swooshes trying desperately to keep things in order.

But in all of this chaos I was looking for just one shoe: the Nike Flyknit Free. The Free is Nike's concession to the minimalist movement, but what really attracted my attention was this new fabric called Flyknit: the upper is actually knit out of this tough, fibrous, stretchy material so it has no seams and a fit like a rugged sock:

I found a sparsely populated corner to do some strides and they felt great. I don't know how well they will handle full-time running but they were so different I had to give them a try.

This place is a little more stripped down than their normal store fronts, but the checkout line did have this great cartoon of Pre:

I will say this for the company, their marketing department is killer because everything Nike looks hip and sleek and mean. Speaking of style check out my Christmas beard:

Overall it was a blast. If you are ever in Beaverton, OR and know someone who works there definitely check it out.