Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Running in the Snow

Here's what I looked like when I got done today:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Why do we treat White Collar Criminals different ? Let's put Madoff in jail..

A few years ago, I took a white collar crime course at UNH, a precursor to my current (half-hearted) pursuit of a graduate degree.

I was struck not so much by how fraud is perpetrated- human nature being what it is, that's not so hard to understand. What amazes me is how our response is different for different types of crime.

Let's take the crazy man in the Philadelphia movie theatre who shot a man because his family was making too much noise during 'The Curious Case of benjamin Button'. He's been charged with every crime they could think of, which is not a bad thing. He took out a gun and shot a man because his children were talking over Brad Pitt. Story here No one is going say, 'Hey, that guy that walked into the theatre with a gun in his pants ? Let's make sure we don't set bail so high he can't get released.'

However, Bernard Madoff perpetrated a 50 BILLION dollar fraud. Charties have collapsed, one of his seed investors has committed suicide, and each day, another tale of woe is heard from individuals or organisations that have lost everything from their retirement money to 95 million dollars of their endowment (NYU).

Madoff is still living in his apartment and apparently walking around the streets of NYC, free on 10 million dollars bail. Why ?

I understand the legal system, and the importance of having a legal process. Bail is an important part of that process. But in cases of white collar crime it shocks me that we allow the defendant to use funds which are alleged to be ill-gotten and often are a direct result of the fraud they are charged with to affect their release from jail pending a hearing, as well as paying lawyers. It is true that assets are often seized as soon as charges are filed, but in this case Madoff has already confessed to committing the fraud, yet is using his own real estate as collateral for the release.

Given that he has indicated his guilt, why is he free on bond ? He should be sitting a jail somewhere, not walking around NYC with three of his homes as collateral. It's a given that those homes will eventually be sold to try and recover pennies or ha'-pennies on the dollar he stole from trusting investors.

That's right. This guy is a thief. He's like the guy that breaks into your house when you aren't home. Except instead of stealing your flat-screen TV and helping himself to your leftovers he steals your house, your 401K, your car, admits to it all, and then gets to walk around NYC while you try to get from one soul-crushing second to the next without killing yourself.

The common burglar probably doesn't make bail. The 50 BN (US) thief, makes bail and goes back to his swank apartment.

I'm not saying a judge should use his own prerogative to override the law. But I do think bail in white-collar cases needs to be reassessed.

Or I have a better idea. Let's stop calling it white-collar crime. Let's just call it crime ! And let's start treat people that steal 50 billion dollars worse than people that steal a car. I think Madoff's crime ought to viewed by our legal system as far worse than any other non-violent crime.

He should be in jail, suffering. Somewhere cold, damn, with lousy (but edible and adequately nutritious) food. He deserves no better. After all, he's not an accused thief. He's a confessed thief.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why Music Anyway - An East Coast Liberal Learns to Live with Nickleback

Today was a pretty decent day here in CT weather-wise if your goal was to get in a workout. It wasn't so good if you wanted a white christmas- amazing how almost all the snow was melted this morning.

We got up, opened stockings, had traditional breakfast, opened presents, took a Lathan-style walk, then took turns doing workouts and trying to enforce the nap time and zone. Pictures here

When it was my turn, I cranked up my iphone to Dark Horse. I wanted to do a sort of time-trial effort on the mountain bike on the Hammerfest bike course and then do a run that would take me on the Branford Road Race and Y Walk and Run courses.

I got off to a really good start, and had a really good workout. The two loops of the bike course were hard, the first one was faster than the second, and what seemed like a mild breeze at my back seemed like a strong headwind in my face- no doubt being on a 20 pound bike had something to do with that...

I got off the bike and started running, and I was running really well, and I was definitely into the music.

But I have to admit that enjoying Nickelback's music is a little embarrassing sometimes. I've always been pretty attuned to the lyrics in the music I listen to. While I can't listen to music that sound horrible just because the lyrics are awesome, I can get turned off to music with lyrics that really bother me. Yeah, Sweet Home Alabama is a great song, but the words, well, I just can't stand the lyrics.

The funny thing about Nickelback is that I love working out to the music. And the worst part of it is, that when they are at their drunkest, most debaucherous, and most mysonginistic is when the music is at its best. The lyrics are often sophomoric and seem to appeal to the 17 year old boy the band has got to be assuming is in all of us. Yet the song Burn it to the Ground is at its best at the point where the lyrics go 'No class, no taste, no shirt and shit-faced.' While Dark Horse is not entirely given over to this, the songs that have a higher value- Never Gonna Be Alone, especially- don't always carrying the same impact, and leave you having a sort of weird, metallic, scratchy-voiced Air Supply flashback.

There's nothing boastful about finding enjoyment in a song like Something in Your Mouth. And I couldn't help but think about how many people view music as uplifting, spiritual, something to help a person find contentment, even completeness. I get this- I can feel a little bit of that when I listen to Gregorian Chant, Ravi Shankar, even (forgive me) Alanis Morissette.

But something Yo Yo Ma was saying on public radio last night connected the dots for me as I was running. He was talking about how he dislikes CDs because they are a possession. They do not allow for a dialogue, but rather enforce a monologue. He's running a contest allowing you to participate in his music: by collaborative sampling of Dona Nobis Pacem.

And that's the thing. When I listen to Nickelback, or Nine Inch Nails (whose lyrics are far more complex) and other bands making those kinds of music, I am establishing a two way dialogue. This is loud, in your face music. these people are shouting at me, and I'm shouting right back, not with my mouth (unless you hear me singing along), but with my legs and arms. What draws me to Nickelback isn't the women-as-sex-objects or let's drink ourselves stupid lyrics, it's the balls to the wall energy and emotion.

I'm not a highly talented athlete. I work hard, I try to race hard. And this music, well, it puts me in that emotional/physical space I need to be in. It's a tool.

Yes, I enjoy the music. Even if the lyrics rub me the wrong way, I do enjoy the music.

And there's nothing wrong with that. For all the right reasons...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

USATF Amends Headphone Rule

INDIANAPOLIS - USA Track & Field has amended Rule 144.3, which pertains to the use of headphones and other electronic devices, to enable race directors to choose to allow the use of headphones by runners in non-championship races.

Approved at USATF's 2008 Annual Meeting held earlier this month in Reno, the rule now reads:"The following shall be considered assistance and therefore not allowed:

"(f) The visible possession or use by athletes of video, audio, or communications devices in the competition area. The Games Committee for an LDR event may allow the use of portable listening devices not capable of receiving communication; however, those competing in Championships for awards, medals, or prize money may not use such devices."

The rule previously had banned the use of headphones by all runners. While headphones remain banned for any athlete competing in a USA Championship, they may be allowed by race directors in other circumstances, at the discretion of each race director.

Enforcement of the previous ban was in the hands of race directors, with some enforcing the ban, some simply urging runners not to use headphones and others not enforcing it. Rooted in a concern for athlete and volunteer safety, the rule had drawn passionate feedback from all sides, including from runners who hated the rule and runners who loved it; from volunteers who had seen the logistical difficulties of having participants wearing headphones; and from race directors who supported it and others who had had encountered logistical difficulties enforcing it.

"The difficulty in enforcement was part of the reasoning," USATF Rules Committee chair John Blackburn said. "However, several good-sized races have demonstrated that they were able to enforce the rule. There were strong opinions on all sides of this discussion, both understanding the issues related to athlete safety, race organization, difficulty of enforcement. This resolution appeared to be the best position for USATF overall."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Big Snow

We got a 'big snow' yesterday, which means that we had about 28 hours straight of one form of precipitation or another. But the heavy stuff fell between noon and five and we ended up with about 6 inches of snow and the rest of what fell was a weird spritz of rain, sleet, freezing rain and mix that added no accumulation.

For here, that's a big deal, although in Rochester, where I last lived prior to Branford, you could get 6 inches of snow and they might not even send you home early.

I like running in the snow, and I was planning to run this morning with one of my teammates, Michael D'Adetta at 9. He emailed Friday to ask if we were still on and I said yes.

I got up early but didn't want to shovel before the long run, which was a mistake. Margit decided not to leave the driveway for me when I got back. We'd shoveled once yesterday, but it was a lot of work and I felt bad that she'd felt compelled to do it while I was getting my workout.

Michael and I ran for a little over 1:20 and I added another 11 or 12 minutes on each side. The traffic while we were out there was some of the heaviest traffic I've ever seen, which added an unwanted complexity to what was an otherwise enjoyable run.

What's interesting about snow running is what a good workout it is. Your legs really have to work hard because you get the solid plant-energy return-stride equation. You can't baby your style, but you also just don't get the push off on each stride and it makes for a lot of work. Climbing hills is an extra challenge.

But while it's harder, it's not really hard. People always talk about slipping and falling, but when you're used to running in the snow, that's not really an issue. I'm mostly worried about cars sliding and hitting me.

Even though it was sleeting or something when we were running, it was an awesome day for a run, a great workout, and except for wishing I'd shoveled the driveway beforehand, no regrets.

I'll still take 80 and humid any day. Or rather most days. Not today, and not for while. Turns out I like running in the snow.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christopher Martins 5K Road Race

Well, here I am, sitting watching the Patriots game. My shins and calves are sore, my season is finally, pretty much unquestionably, over.

Last year, I ran a 17:45, and was 10th in my age group, according to the race results. It's funny, I went into today's race thinking I'd run a 17:39 last year.

It was cold- really cold, and with a sharp wind. I was wearing racing shoes, and I couldn't get my feet to warm up at all, which meant that my calves, at the far back end of a long season, got more, and not less sore as I warmed up. I was a little concerned. I know how this race is- you have to run pretty hard in the first mile, run to that turn-around, like you really mean it, or you will be out of the race by the mile mark.

They had one of the personalities from Channel 8 there and after some pleasantries, he handed the microphone over to the MC and he started the race instructions with "We'll be counting down from 5."

The was a wheelchair athlete in front of the rest of the start, and we assumed they'd be starting him off before the rest of us, so we were unprepared for the next thing which the MC said, which was "4".

At two the wheelchair athlete attempted to haul ass, but unfortunately it takes longer for him to get started than for us, and I have a feeling he got engulfed at the start.

The start goes down State Street, pretty much all of it, so there are a lot of people that surge out early. Like most well attended 5Ks- over 1500 people- there were a LOT of people who ran by me early, and I was fighting just to stay in the race, or at least that is what it felt like. On my right was some guy who had to be in his fifties, then Yemisi ran by me. That actually made me relax a little. Yemisi is fast, but she goes out really hard and usually if she goes out and passes me in the first half mile then I'm in good shape pace-wise, and I'll be able to pass her back before the mile mark.

As we ran down the street, I started to lose contact with he lead group. This was expected, yet still ever so slightly frustrating. I wanted to finish top twenty, and so many people in front of me, but I was also passing people.

Just before we turned, someone clipped my feet. Then hit my elbow. Then tried to go inside me on the right. I knew the four people coming up on me were going to end up running faster, but I don't like having my feet clipped that late in a race- nearly a mile- I don't like being bumped- so I accelerated and made that corner and the next one before I let anyone by.

Once you make it around those two corners, it's one hell of a long way the other direction.

But a little adventure first. We hit the mile marker and the woman at the marker said '5:07'. I said, very loudly, 'Holy Sh!t !'

Brian Talon was good enough to say 'She's wrong, it's 5:30.' I was profoundly grateful to Brian, because 5:07 ? That would have probably been a disaster-inducing meltdown.

The second mile is just hard. You run, and run, and run, and you just never get to the turn. There were people all along the way, cheering, and that was great, I needed it. I was struggling, or felt like I was struggling, although I was neither passing nor being passed. I think maybe two people passed me in the second mile. You reach that mile marker and you're still running in the same direction. You finally see the lead people turn and that turn looks like it's a forever from where you are.

I made the turn, following four guys, all of whom would gap me a little bit. We wound our way through a set of short turns and then we were headed towards the unlit 'Mezcal' sign. And finally we were back on Main Street, headed towards the finish line. I could see the cones, but not the Christopher Martins awnings. The guys in front of me just weren't coming back to me.

And then I saw the clock, partially hidden. I could see the 17: but not the seconds. Bogus for me. I thought I had plenty of time to finish under 18:00, but who knew, so I gave it everything I had until i had crossed both mats.

17:43. Two seconds better than last year. 22nd overall, 4 places higher than last year and 4th out of 204 in my age group.

I guess I have nothing to complain about. I certainly didn't knock it out of the park, but it was another solid race, another race that was faster than last year, and I had a good time hanging out with friends after the race.

No, nothing to complain about at all.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ironman Hawaii Coverage

One of the athletes profiled this year presents the enigma of sports. This is a man who is at the peak of his very demanding profession, and he made it clear that he feels going out and competing in the Ironman puts him alongside 'the best athletes in the world.'

He also said that he 'hates to run, hates to bike, and hates to swim.'

I guess I can understand that, sort of. I can't say I still hate to swim, but I know there was a time I did. As I (slowly) get better, I hate it less.

But still- he hates all three sports- and he's racing Kona ?

Now that's dedication to an idea....

Friday, December 12, 2008


I just want to say thanks- although he'll probably never see it- to Chris, who was in the LA Fitness today in the lane next to me and took the time to deconstruct the two problems with my stroke in record time.

He was dead right, my pull, just changed to something like a swimmer's, is still too short, and I don't kick enough, and these are things that I'm working on. But Margit drew the straight line that I was thinking about as well when I was in the pool after Chris took time out of his workout to help me.

My problems stem from my awkwardness in the water. Much like the strength training session last Sunday, my biggest issue in the water isn't lack of strength, my short stature, or my lack of experience as a swimmer. It's just a general lack of coordinated action.

As Margit said, 'I generally think of you as the opposite of someone who has coordination problems.'

Practice. And not just practice, but practice of good form. There's a reason I can throw a tight spiral but still struggle in the pool. One I've done thousands of time from the time I was old enough to hold a ball. The other- still learning.

It's funny. I'm 43, and I have to admit to myself that I need to learn something that's simple and basic to thousands of people- that I'm the swimming equivalent of the guy who can't throw a spiral, or in a straight-line for that point, and that I need to discover basic coordination in the water.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

5K Training

Tuesday, I was back on a coached plan, and found myself on a treadmill doing five 90 second race-pace efforts in the middle of a 45 run.

I think this is good prep for a 5K. You have to, early in the week, remind yourself that you are going to be do something intense come race time. Ever time I've run a 5K this year- and there's only been a few, it's been a wake-up call as to how far away from that kind of effort I've trained- with good reason.

I'm not a 5K runner. I'm twenty pounds heavier than when I ran track, at least ten pounds heavier than when I ran 5ks every weekend. I'm old.

But I was trying to work the treadmill, trying to visualize myself on the Christopher Martin race course as I ran each effort, visualizing a different part of the course and trying to image myself running as faster as I am humanly possible of running. I've never been one for visualization or any other psychological methods of either training or racing, but hey, I don't have speed, so maybe I can trick myself in to pulling an impossible effort out of- thin air.

When I finished Florida, I wanted to immediately start focusing on this one last 5K. I really want to run well on this super-flat and fairly course just once.

But after having other good races along the way, it's not quite such a burning desiring at the moment, and maybe that will help. Having a good Nutmegman (thanks, Mandy !) took pressure off me to have a good Florida, and for the most part I did. Maybe stealing a win in a small cross-country race takes some of the pressure off having a good Christopher Martin, and I hope so, because the only one putting that pressure on me is me....

Strength Training Session

My coach, Eric Hodska held the first of three strength training sessions on Sunday morning at his house and it was great.

I'm like most endurance athletes. Ask me about strength training and I'll tell you I think it's really important. Ask me if do much of it and I'll say "Well..." I actually think last year I did a fair amount, but that's a fair amount for me, which equates to not enough.

When Eric announced that he'd be holding these sessions, I decided right away that I should go. I have a bigger goal next year than I've ever had- you read it here first- a 9:59:59 Ironman. Can I get there ? Who knows ? Can I get there without strength training ?


So on Sunday morning I hopped in the car and drove in the year's first snow down to Trumbull. Let me say right off that Eric did a great job with this. There were six of us there including two of my Force Five Sports teammates, and Eric had been planning on having us do some of the training exercises in his back yard. He easily adapted to the snowy conditions and never missed a beat.

I'm not going to go into the details of what Eric did or rationale for it, but I will say this. Eric did a great job of first laying out what the endurance athlete should be trying to accomplish with a strength training program, what constitutes good and not so good types of exercises and how form and function go together. He struck a good balance between educating the group and evaluating the individuals, and I think we all left with four giant sets worth of exercises that are really going to target important areas for the endurance athletes we are, but with a better understanding of good technique and form.

I also had to admit that while I'm normally a pretty coordinated individual, I have a walk and chew gum sort of problem. Any exercise that requires me to move my upper and lower body in different directions at the same time creates an instant problem. You want to laugh ? Ask me to do lunges some time. I can throw a football across my body running full speed, spike a volleyball (college women's net), but I can't swing my arms up while throwing my foot forward and down. Go figure. I was the klutziest person there.

Which was okay. Practice makes, if not perfect, at least passable.

Look at my swimming...

Thanks, Eric- great session. Hope some of you reading this get the opportunity to attend one of his sessions.