Category Archives: Uncategorized

Post-Locomotion Libations, or Things That Work, of the Liquid Variety

Spring is notorious for variable weather, and as the weather changes, the choice of post-race hydration may need to do the same. FWIW, herewith are three faves:

Cold weather often means starting out in lots of layers, stripping them off as you start to sweat, then staggering around steaming into the chill air as you cool down.   Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know exactly when to start putting those damp layers back on; way too easy to find oneself suddenly on the edge of hypothermic as the body furnace shuts down and  running clothes turn into cold compresses. Years ago a post-race exposition featured giant vats of hot soup being ladled out by residents of a nearby native American reservation (thank you, first residents), and boy did that hit the spot! Ever since, my cold weather apres is a cup of soup and the most convenient is Lipton Cup-a-Soup.


Yeah, it ain’t my Brooklyn Grandma’s recipe, but it’s hot and salty (electrolytes anyone?), with just enough fat and carbs to start recharging the ol’ blood stream. And all it takes is a packet, a cup and hot water. I’ve even made it up with hot tap water, in a pinch.  All the better when consumed while soaking in a toasty hot tub!

The onset of spring’s warmer weather though, can quickly send some of us to the fridge for a post-race beer instead. On the surface it seems like a great idea – water-based for hydration, loaded with carbohydrates, and that refrigerated chill helps cool an overheated core, if either the weather or your performance has been hot enough to make that an issue. However…a little research reveals that alcohol is a diuretic, so consuming it tends to make the body shed liquid, right when you need to re-hydrate. Solution? Non-alcoholic beer; and lucky for us, there are plenty on the market these days, including the prototypical O’Doul’s, copies from big brewers like Busch and Coors, along with smaller brands like Kaliber (from the makers of Guiness), Paulaner, St. Pauli and a host of craft breweries (a quick web search came up with over twenty varieties). My favorite so far is Heineken’s 0.0.



Properly chilled, I doubt I could till it from the regular variety (at least not until I’d consumed enough to feel the buzz, or lack thereof, that is). Drinking responsibly never tasted so good!

Neither of those float your boat? For the best all-round post-race toss-down, how about chocolate milk? Taken cold or hot, depending on the time of year, it’s got liquid for hydration, carbs to replenish what you’ve been burning and protein to get the muscles started on their exercise-induced regeneration. Ending your run at a remote trailhead, or a parking lot far from a refrigerator or convenience store? In our part of the country, Horizon sells these nifty single-serving cartons that do not need to be refrigerated until opened!


For above-freezing days in the winter, I park one of these in the shade beneath my car before a run, and it’s nicely chilled when I get back. Other times, toss one in a cooler with some ice (and maybe one of those Heinekens, just in case). If you’re feeling social, prep that cooler with several bevvies and set yourself up at the finish line or trailhead with two lawn chairs – some great post-run acquaintances have sprung up from no more effort than that.

Whatever post-run potation you prefer…drink up; you’ve earned it!

The Art of Running in the Rain (or ‘Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, partie deux’)

April being the month of showers, an event back in 2018 comes to mind, where weather was forecast to be in the low to mid 30’s F, with steady heavy rain and serious gusting winds.  At mid-pack pace, I’d be out there for a good four hours, so this was definitely gonna be a gear-critical day.

Figuring the regular ¾-length compression tights would leave too much flesh exposed, I opted instead for a full length pair I’d brought along for casual wear. Fast forward to a couple of miles out in the rain and their stylish light-weight fabric started sagging and bagging. Couple more miles and the butt-covering portion had sopped up enough water to become a noticeable dead weight hanging noticeably below where it was supposed to fit.

Given that weather forecast, gloves were definitely in order, and figuring plain fleece would absorb too much moisture, I’d opted for a pair of thinner gloves with a wind-stopping nylon-hood sort of feature that could be pulled over the fingers to approximate the warmth of mittens. That nifty nylon hood kept the wet out for, oh, a good 30 seconds or more, after which the stretch material beneath it became thoroughly soaked and lost whatever insulating properties it might ever have.  Which meant my fingers were too stiff and bulky to retrieve a gel from a pocket without removing a glove, which I promptly did, only to realize those gloves had actually been keeping my hand considerably less-frozen than hanging them out naked in the downpour. Seconds later came the further realization that thanks to the glove’s soggy stretch- fabric, it took a full stop and an eternity of pushing, pulling ,shoving and tugging to get the sticky shrunken mass back onto my hand.

Thus was the rest of the run spent alternately struggling to pull up my tights and begging spectators to put my gel flasks back in their belt-holders for me after fueling – which ended up occurring about a quarter as often as necessary, thanks to the frozen claws.

The lesson learned is an old one – never try anything for the first time during a run that counts. The big event should be the big event, not a Myth-Busters experiment, so test out all gear beforehand, under the most realistic conditions possible (in this case, I suppose I should have stood under a gushing hose in a walk–in cooler for an hour or so, but even I’m not that sick).

So, what does work in the rain? First off, a cap with a long, stiff brim, especially if like me, you need to wear glasses. Head tipped forward, brim pulled down low, I swear I never saw anything on that April day that was more than about 8’ in front of my toes, but my glasses stayed clear (which is a good thing ‘cause there’s no way I’d’ve been able to wipe them off in the downpour).

Another sure thing – wool socks. Wet or dry, they keep the piggies warm (and fight blisters to boot).

And finally – forget the waterproof jacket!  My two cents is, if you’re running, you’re gonna get wet from the inside anyway, so anything with enough water-repellency to keep the cold water outside and the warm moisture inside is good enough. What really matters are pit-zips! That nifty little invention lets you vent heat and moisture where they build up the most, while keeping the actual vent openings about as well hidden from vertical precipitation as anatomical geometry will allow. Pit zips be the bomb; jackets without them are the pits!

Avoid hypothermia, keep your hands useable and your vision clear, your head down and your feet moving till you get to that bundle of warm, dry gear you’ve stashed at the finish.  Sometimes that’s the best we can do, but it’s still called…running!

Is Running Relevant?

Amid the tragedy of a pandemic and its terrible economic fallout, it seems almost irresponsible to be writing about running. Whether you call it a hobby, a sport or an obsession, aren’t there more important things to have on the mind right now than going out for a run?

Of course there are, but the world is not an either/or kind of place. For all but the most deeply central (health care workers, first responders, home care workers and others; thank you one and all!) it’s possible to give adequate attention to the crises and still carve out a little time for other things as well.

Plus: our limited, tentative, developing knowledge of Covid 19 suggests that it, like so many diseases, hits hardest those who are already unwell. And while some folks cannot avoid the conditions that put them at risk, there are many who have the potential to improve their health and so become less vulnerable. Regular exercise is a strong component of getting and staying healthy, which in turn allows help to be focused on those who need it the most.

If that is not enough justification to keep the conversation going, here’s another twist. Before running yesterday I was studying a problem on which my architect colleagues had asked for help. Looking at the drawings and questions I could readily see the challenges, but the solutions I was thinking of were predictable, and not really an improvement. A little later though, chugging up a steep grade with the sweat pouring out of every pore and the sound of my own breathing drowning out the playlist in my ears, something else popped into the old noggin. ‘Change this wood frame to steel, hide the frame up on top of the panels, assemble it on the shop floor and use the exposed spots of the steel frame to attach suspending rods, and bingo, Bob’s your uncle!’

Now I was a student once (a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…), and I know that ideas which look great in the dim din of a tavern or the heated atmosphere of an all-night buzz-session are rarely as attractive in the light of day, but over the years I’ve found that mid-run ideas have a much higher survival rate. This particular endorphin-powered light bulb was just as illuminating when I got back to my desk and drew it up, and when I talked it over with a colleague via Zoom, as it had been when it mushroomed up out of a 5-step running cadence. So….

  • a moderate fitness habit can help you stay healthy and less vulnerable to even a predator like Covid 19.
  • It can also help to keep the bad events in perspective, strengthen the spirit and allow optimism to thrive – a healthy mind is a more-effective mind.
  • Repetitive motion activities can free creative regions of the brain to do their best work, which can result in useful ideas, in whatever field one endeavors.
  • Running is one of the simplest, most accessible (we’re talking moderation after all, not Olympic Trials) ways to achieve all those benefits.
  • It’s good for you, it’s not bad for the environment, and it might just lead to a good idea every now and then.

Conclusion?  Even today, running is worth thinking about, talking about and doing.

Go for it!

Running Both is Funnest

After writing last time about slow running for those just getting into the habit, I was interested to see a recent column, The Art of the Easy Shuffle, by David Roche. For those who do not know Roche, you should check out his work in the print or on-line editions of Trail Runner magazine, where he combines knowledgeable analysis of the most-current medical studies with his real-world experience coaching athletes of all levels. You can also find his coaching service, Some Work, All Play at

Anyway, in that recent column, Roche was recommending that experienced runners incorporate a significant amount of slow running in their training plans. Even for the most hard-core, Roche pointed out, slow running is a way to build total volume (geek speak for ‘miles per week’) with less risk of damage to the body. Aerobic fitness (the body’s ability to draw oxygen out of the atmosphere and get it to the muscles to fuel their work) is another proven benefit, with studies showing that the maximum potential to increase that fitness comes from lots of aerobic exercise (at or below the level sustainable for an hour or more, i.e., low to moderate effort) not from the more intense anaerobic exercise (output above that level, i.e, running hard, and thus fast).

Great technical knowledge and great for the hard core, but a recent run reminded me of an altogether simpler reason for running slow – it can make you hungry to run fast again!

Pounding out a 10-mile mid-week run was decently satisfying, and there was plenty to pay attention to – checking the heart rate to make sure it was still averaging below 140, self-correcting stride to avoid heel strike, pulling the head back to keep eyes up and neck tall, taking time to see the sights – but as the GPS read off eight miles and then approached nine, it felt a bit like medicine to be choked down. What a relief then, to crank the dial up a couple of notches at the start of that final mile, a little more when GPs showed just a half to go, and all the way to 11 (for all you Spinal Tap fans out there) for the final quarter. Yeah! – that felt great, and because the first 90% of the run had been moderate, it felt downright easy. There was no pain, no worry about damage, and very little fatigue. Best of both worlds, you might call it.


So; try slowing down for a good part of your regular running (maybe as much as 60 of weekly ‘volume’). But if you’re feeling well and healthy when you get to the final ten percent of a run, allow yourself the pleasure of really blasting it. Feel the air moving past you faster and faster, experience the world narrowing down to just you and the pavement (or dirt if you’re that kind of bear). Maybe get your body forward a bit; more on the toes, less on the heels. Consciously lengthen each stride at the same time you push-off harder to fit more strides into each minute. You’re well-warmed up by now, all systems operating at capacity, so put everything you’ve got onto the ground as you approach the day’s target distance – whatever that is for you – and remind yourself of the simple joy of being alive and active in the physical world.

Running slow is fun, running fast is funner. Running both is funnest.

See you out there – from a safe distance!

Slowing Down – Whether We Like It or Not

In this time of Covid, some of us are finding our lives slowed down, with work hours curtailed, trips cancelled, commutes compressed from hours to seconds (for those lucky enough to be able to work from home).  Seems like there may be a few folks out there using some of that time to start – or get back to – a running habit, which is a great way to ameliorate the stress and stasis of their situations. For those folks, the Follow Dog has one suggestion above all – Slow Down!

“Wait a minute; running means going fast doesn’t it – I mean, isn’t that the difference between running and walking?” – Nyet! We say; a big, fat, ‘nyet’ to that!

The difference between walking and running is the stride – in walking one foot touches down before the other lifts off, so at least one foot is always in contact with the ground and bearing weight. In running, on the other hand (well, we’re not actually running on our hands, that’s another activity altogether), one foot pushes off before the other touches down, so there’s a moment in every stride when the runner is totally airborne. This can lead to speed, of course, but not always. What it does always do is require more and different muscle activity than walking, which requires – and therefore can build – greater strength and cardio-pulmonary capacity. It can also burn off tons of nervous energy, break our brains free from worries, help us to relax, sleep better and thus to be more effective at all the other things we do during our days, which is the best reason possible to get lace up those sneakers.

An earlier post (Slow and Steady, 9/4/14) talked more about this, and recommended beginning runners go as slow as possible for as long as possible, then build from there. That approach is even more valid right now: we do not need any more frustration than we already have, thank you very much!

So if you’ve got time on your hands (no, I’m not going there a second time), maybe try running, and if at first it doesn’t seem to work for you, try slowing down till you find a pace that fits. When life gives us lemons….

P. S. – The ‘oh yeah’ part: as some of our lives are slowing down, for others (health care workers, first responders, parents of young children), life has just gotten way more intense than ever. If you’re one of them, THANK YOU . For those of us who are not, let’s look for ways to help. And in the meantime, observing local restrictions and keeping a generous distance apart while exercising will ensure we’re not unnecessarily adding to their workload; it’s the least we can do.

An Off Day, A Day Off

Yesterday’s run started OK – legs tired and stiff, but I expect that for the first two miles anymore, given age, and the extra miles I’ve been putting in since work was curtailed by the Covid-19 situation. (I’m not discounting the social distancing we’re all following right now, by the way, but I’m fortunate to be able to run on streets and paths where keeping mucho-distance from others is really easy, and fresh air and sunshine are pretty integral to keeping healthy and strong, if you ask this dog). Mile three was back to normal but it was downhill (the wrong kind of downhill) from there, a struggle to complete even slow mileage as the ol’ gas tank was clearly on empty.

Turns out there is only so much work my body can take, so this morning I settled for a walk around a nearby lake amidst a wet late-season snowfall. Stepping off the path I so regularly run, I wandered to the water’s edge, where slush dripping from tree branches pock-pocked rhythmically on the water and geese eyed me with suspicion. Moving slowly and stopping frequently I could scan the sandy bottom, where crawfish shells rested and a golf ball hid from the clubs of any locals intent on practicing their swing.

Farther along I walked a sandy stretch I’m used to seeing filled with toddling toddlers in the summer, now silent and smooth except for the toothy imprints of my trail shoes. A smattering of saplings which have sprung up from the muddy margins displayed their graceful curves against a misty distance, and even the nearby highway noise seemed muted by the density of moisture-laden air.

Heading back to the house ready for some coffee and warmth, I felt a great appreciation for the change of pace, the sights and sounds and smells. Not better than another run, not worse; just different. And different is good, in almost all things.

“Infinite variety, infinite combinations.” Those Vulcans are no dummies.

An Important Issue

And now, for a change of pace (yes, that is a running pun; an ‘rpun,’ perhaps?).

I’ve just finished reading Trail Runner’s 2020 ‘The Dirt Annual,’ an extra-thick magazine filled with stories about running and runners, and want to shout its praises.

While it naturally contains impressive tales of distance and exertion, this year’s selections have clearly been chosen to illustrate what the cover’s tag line aptly calls “The Soul of Trail Running.”   Mira Rai’s upbringing in a remote Nepali village nearly untouched by industrialization or ’modernization’ is eye-opening, and contrasts wildly with Ricky Gates’ crew sharing a magic-bus style run adventure starting within arm’s reach of Silicon Valley. The free-spirited deep-dive of Italy’s exhausting Tor Des Geants is buttressed by the ritualized extremities of Japan’s Mount Hiei monks, whose run/walk feats dwarf any ultra-marathoner you have ever heard of.

Claire Walla’s quick anecdote about abandoning all pretense of good sense for a spur-of-the-moment R2R2R of Arizona’s big ditch and then the ‘Parting Shot’ page featuring a child’s inspirational note during her father’s Bigfoot 200 endurance run both dilute any taint of hero worship with their humanity, reminding us that humor and connection are critical ingredients of the trail running recipe, as well.

Throughout, the stories place the head trip above the physical. Whether it is Tom Riggenbach dedicating first his teaching career to the Navajo Nation and now his post-career life to running as a way of enhancing their community, or Jim Eisenhart sailing the world to find new places to run in solitude and nature, the point is clear and the evidence broad: running regularly, and long, is a common feature of human culture, a way in which diverse folks experience the world in all its variety and a path (rpun alert, again) to becoming and remaining as fully alive as one can be during our brief strut upon the stage.

It’s not for glory, it’s for the journey. Trail Runner issue 139/2020, ‘The Dirt Annual.’ Get it. Read It. Live it.

A PR, Any Time You Want It

Look over the starting crowd at any running event, and you’re sure to spot the runners who are out to win. They’re the stony-faced guys pushing to the front of the crowd, wearing one layer less than everyone else, no matter what the weather. The gazelle-legged women whose shorts and tops would be someone else’s swimsuit. They’ve warmed up and fueled up and geared up to run out in the open, with no one ahead and next to no one around. The fortunate few who honestly believe they have a shot at being first over the line – and more power to ’em.

(Currently trending for trail runners: FKTs, which basically mean you are in competition with anyone who’s ever, ever run that route before, or ever, ever will in the future. Talk about narrowing the field of contenders!)

Some runners could honestly care less about any of that; they’re just out for the fun and camaraderie of the sport – and even more power to them.

Most of us though, are somewhere in between those extremes. We love running for the running, but also wouldn’t mind some props now and then, some mark of achievement to record in our logs and remember as we’re sweating on the treadmill. For us, one of the most rewarding results to chase is a new PR – a Personal Record at a given distance or challenge. (I know, some like to call it a PB for Personal Best, but me, I can’t get over the association with lunch box pbj sandwiches).

A PR is something realistic to aspire to and work toward, but what happens when a runner reaches that certain age where nature takes its course and PRs become distant memories? Must every event be a reminder that we’re all getting older every day? Not necessarily, for there’s a sure way to guarantee a PR – choose a new event!

With turns and grades and surfaces, every course is different (especially if you’re into trail running, where distances are never exactly as advertised, and even very similar distances can have drastically different profiles and challenges), meaning every new course is a new benchmark.

So any time you need a bit of ego-boost, find a new event, go out at a your best pace, and you’ve got a new PR.


Bonus Round: since that event is new-to-you, chances are excellent you’ll learn something about the particular course or field that will allow you to come back next year and beat your time, for another PR.

“…and double Score!!”

Colder Boulder Smolder

The Bolder Boulder is a marvelous Memorial Day event, with over 40,000 citizens running a densely-spectated 10K course around the town towards a hero finish that has them all entering the University of Colorado’s 53,000 seat Folsom Stadium via the team tunnel, to cheers and big-screen finish-line stardom. Not content with doing their splendid job of managing the logistics on that one, the BB crew also offer a December run, the Colder Boulder, with an unusual format.

For those who run the BB and then enter the same year’s CB, they sort you into starting waves of folks who finished within two-minutes of each other. That means you toe the line with a whole pack (there were 92 in my wave this year) of folks pre-selected to run at very near your pace – more or less the way it always is for those pesky elites at the front of nearly every other event. Now, nothing says you have to get all competitive about running the CB, but if you do happen to feel the urge, there’s a built-in pace group all around you.

CB is also a much smaller event (it’s December, it’s 5200’ above sea level, it’s Colorado, so, yeah there is that…) but still has the same Bolder Boulder vibe. Pre-race milling-about is inside the cavernous Folsom Fieldhouse (right next to the stadium) and you get to use the same restrooms the football teams do, troughs and all (sorry ‘bout that part). It’s warm inside, with coffee and stuff, and the waves are really well organized so you can choose just how much or how little time to spend warming-up out-in-the-cold (Dog never said being a runner makes sense). Once your wave goes off, the course weaves around the picturesque CU campus and if you can raise your head from watching the footing and navigating the pack, there’re glimpses of the fabulous the Flatirons only a few blocks away. Temperature this past year was in the low 30’s, but dry and calm, so great conditions for running hard in a singlet and gloves, as long as you managed that warm-up wisely. (That’s the smolder part in the title; with good planning, this  could be your fastest 5K of the year)

Don’t get to use the stadium for this one, but you do get to run through a wide opening into the end of the field house and sprint down a chute with spectators on both sides, so still a pretty rewarding finish. Followed by refreshments, gear pick up for those winter layers and a chance to watch the next wave come in while you cool-down without having to worry about getting cold.

So if you’re within tripping range of Boulder, try it out, and if you’re a race director somewhere else, consider the Colder Boulder format as a fun variation to keep your runners energized between the big events.

Thank you Bolder Boulder crew!

Compress That, Buddy!

In a recent on-line article about compression gear, the author cited a bunch of studies on elite runners and concluded– wait for it… that there was no conclusion. No scientific consensus on whether compression has benefits or not.   Well, this never-been-elite-and-never-gonna-be is ready to disagree!

Back in 2013 I had pretty much ignored the ads for compression clothing, figuring they were just another sexy way for manufacturers to part runners from their money. It seemed obvious to my innocent mind that having to stretch that heavy fabric every time my legs bent or straightened would bleed-off precious energy which was better applied between my feet and the ground.

But…I was also on the verge of quitting marathons. Not because my times weren’t progressing (they were, though only very gradually and not consistently), but because running 26.2 just felt plain wrong. Despite having followed a ramp-up training plan to build strength and endurance, every marathon left me feeling more mangled than majestic. Gutting out those final miles on legs that refused to respond, then staggering around for several days like a stiff-legged zombie, I figured I was simply not cut out for it. Until the horrific Boston bombings happened; after which my entire cardiovascular system wanted desperately to line up in Hopkinton the next year and join the hordes of other runners and spectators to show the world that those two impotent losers had not accomplished a damned thing.

Knowing I’d need all the help I could get, I scrunched up my tight little fists and sprung for a pair of CW-X ¾ length compression tights, after which – drum roll please….

What I did not experience was any sensation of resistance or wasting energy. My mental image now is that, just as much as your motion in one part of a stride stretches the fabric, the springy stuff acts to snap your leg back in the other, so fifty-fifty.

What I did experience was a big difference in how my legs felt in the later stages of long runs. Where before the heavy muscles around the thighs had been flapping and flopping like to tear themselves from the bones, now they were solidly in place, and because of that they maintained more strength longer. Day-after was the real kicker though, with noticeably-less leg fatigue and stiffness after running in compression than without.

Third conclusion? A couple of months after getting those tights, I wore them for an official marathon – and PR’d by over 15 minutes! I’m not saying that was all the compression tights (it was a downhill course, after all), but could I have kept up that pace in the last 6.2 if my legs were feeling flayed from the bones like I’d learned to expect? Not on your Lycra.

Since then I’ve worn compression tights for pretty much every event over half marathon distance. (But not for training; training is about applying stress to induce growth, so I save the stress-reducing super-gear for actual events.)

Thus sayeth the Follow-dog: get yourself a pair and see how they work for you. I’m already sold.

P. S. – Compression socks? Haven’t tried ‘em for running (I’m hooked on wool socks by Darn-Tough or Smartwool) but do use them after a big effort, for comfort and quicker recovery. Compression sleeves? Sleeves are a great layering option for warmth in marginal weather, have never tried compression up there. Compression shirts? Not with my mid-section, thank you very much!