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Showing posts from 2011

Drawing the Arrow, Some Reflections on our Historicity

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"Consider the herd grazing before you. These animals do not know what yesterday and today are but leap about, eat, rest, digest, and leap again; and so from morning to night and from day to day, only briefly concerned with their pleasure and displeasure, enthralled by the moment and for that reason neither melancholy nor bored. It is hard for a man to see this, for he is proud of being human and not an animal and yet regards its happiness with envy because he wants nothing other than to live like the animal, neither bored nor in pain, yet wants it in vain because he does not want it like the animal. Man may well ask the animal: why do you not speak to me of your happiness but only look at me? The animal does want to answer and say: because I always immediately forget what I wanted to say--but then it already forgot this answer and remained silent: so man could only wonder."
--F. Nietzsche "On the Advantages and Disadvantages of History for Life"

In this lovely pass…

Rethinking How to Train, Continued

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"The true romance which the world exists to realize is the transformation of genius to practical power." --R.W. Emerson, "Experience."

One of my fundamental philosophical convictions is that intelligence is primarily about attention. The reason why attention is so important is because we have limited "bandwidth" for processing. Sure, people who score high on the SAT maybe have a bit broader (or more intense) bandwidth than the rest. However, given the amount of information that we all have at our disposal for living, the relative difference in processing power among individual minds pales in comparison to the question of what those minds decide to process. This question of what we decide to devote our minds to is essentially the question of attention. Since this is such an important question, it's important that we turn a bit of our bandwidth to it every now and then.

Yeah, I'm basically talking about thinking outside the box. Or at least in a di…

Each Good Effort

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The following is a guest post by new contributor Nader Abadir. He has his own blog, Sneakers and Books, which reflects on his religion and running. Check it out.

You will enjoy this one.

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I don’t like to admit it, but I started running to lose weight. Worse yet, I got past the initial hurdles because I was captivated by the story of a famous “Ultramarathon Man.” Worst of all, I picked up that book because the dude on the cover was ripped.
I suppose these are “admissions” because I’d feel cooler if a Zenish statement -- like “Runners run.” -- had applied to me all along.

Like many new, middle-aged runners, I was active as a kid. I played organized baseball into my teens. I never hit for power, but was always proud of my speed. Mookie Wilson, Vince Coleman, Tim Raines, Lenny Dykstra, Rickey Henderson; these were the guys that got me excited. I had never heard the names Pre, Kennedy, or Rogers. “Salazar” evoked “Luis.” From about age 14, my afternoons, weekends and nights wer…

Technological Devices and Focal Practices

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LLD is happy to present a guest post from friend Zach VanderVeen, author of The Garden of Forking Paths blog on database design and philosophy. Zach has written a couple of posts before. Hope you enjoy!

The unity of achievement and enjoyment, of competence and consummation, is just one aspect of a central wholeness to which running restores us. Good running engages mind and body. Here the mind is more than an intelligence that happens to be housed in a body. Rather the mind is the sensitivity and the endurance of the body. --Albert Borgmann I recently wrote a post, in which I suggested that the problem with technology is that it can drown out important kinds of reflection. We often focus on how to get things done faster and more efficiently, not why we should do so. We separate the journey from the destination, or the means from the ends. But it's easy to complain about technology without showing how we can free ourselves from the tyranny of efficiency. Even if we were all able t…

A Runner's Take on Occupy Wall Street

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"Let us then place belief midway between certitude and nihilism. Let us see it characterized by trust, by affection, by a sense of novelty and by hope. Those traditions, especially religious, which have told us through the centuries that we know, for sure, the objects of our belief, have violated not only the character of genuine belief but also the mysterious openness of genuine religious experience. It is a deep tragedy that so much of our energy is expended in explicating and defending caricatures of our once viable traditions. ... [S]elf righteous interpretations of what is fundamentally inexplicable have divided us one from the other and cut us off from the human quest. In sociological terms, belief must cease its relationship to finality; it must turn to the future instead of the past." --John McDermott, The Community of Experience

I do not often write directly about politics on this blog, primarily because philosophy and running are escapes for me from an overwrought …

Richland Creek Loop

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I run the same five miles pretty much every morning.

The beginning of the loop takes me through my neighborhood in West Nashville. Our part of town is half-industrial, half residential. Colonial-style houses from the 1920s mix with warehouses and rebuilt ranches from the late 70s. I start south on the road just west of the busiest street, 52nd Ave. It is straight, and though there are a few stop signs the traffic is light enough for me to keep my rhythm through the intersections.

A half mile ahead, 52nd Ave is cross cut somewhat violently by the mad and throbbing whirl of concrete overpasses that is I-40. I duck left one block, then head under a pigeon shit encrusted overpass. Usually I can cross the next couple of streets without breaking stride, and a quarter mile later I am at the intersection with Charlotte Ave. Here, I stop and wait for the cross lights. By this point the creakiness of early morning has worn off, and I've adjusted to the early morning chill.

When the light cha…

On Art, Intelligence, and Training

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"In art as experience, actuality and possibility or ideality, the new and the old, objective material and personal response, the individual and the universal, surface and depth, sense and meaning, are integrated in an experience in which they are all transfigured from the significance that belongs to them when isolated in reflection. 'Nature,' said Goethe, 'has neither kernel nor shell.' Only in esthetic experience is it also true that nature has neither subjective nor objective being; is neither individual nor universal, sensuous nor rational. The significance of art as experience is, therefore, incomparable for the adventure of philosophic thought."
 --John Dewey, Art as Experience


For Dewey and the pragmatists, analytic reflection, however necessary, is insufficient for intelligence because analytic reflection is always dissociative. Analysis always selects from experience, cutting it open by attending to this and not that. It makes progress by fixing cert…

Rethinking How to Train

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My training philosophy is shifting.

For the last four years, I trained like a mule. I focused on two things: piling up weekly mileage and tempo runs. The virtue of my plan was that it was simple. Run as much as you can and then do some faster stuff on tired legs. Every now and then I would make a half-hearted foray into hills or some mile repeats, but mostly I just piled up easy volume and moderate tempos and fartleks, week after week.

This approach got me post-collegiate PRs at every distance. I got stronger and faster. It worked, in a way. But a few things began to bother me.

First, my marathon only improved a little over 2 minutes--a mere 4 seconds a mile--over the course of 4 years [if you are doing the math, that is one second per mile per year!], even though I had essentially doubled the volume of running that I was doing. Second, I wasn't making legitimate progress towards the two goals I had when I started this whole project back in 2007: beat my college PRs and run under…

Looking Back

I've never done one of these sorts of posts, but I've had a chance lately to go back through the logic to think about some of the better pieces I've written over the last couple of years. Since I started writing the blog, I've written 130+ posts--most of them over the last two years--and run over 5000 miles.

Anyhow, here are some of what I consider the highlights:

How it works
This is how it works:

Training is doing your homework. It's not exciting. More often than not it's tedious. There is certainly no glory in it. But you stick with it, over time, and incrementally through no specific session, your body changes. Your mind becomes calloused to effort. You stop thinking of running as difficult or interesting or magical. It just becomes what you do. It becomes a habit.

Workouts too become like this. Intervals, tempos, strides, hills. You go to the track, to the bottom of a hill, and your body finds the effort. You do your homework. That's training. Repetitio…

Staying Motivated

Something I wrote a while ago on staying motivated on our local message board is being passed around online (just recently on the I <3 to run facebook page.) Thought I would claim it for posterity, though of course like all good thoughts, this is not just mine.

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There are no tricks. Run because you have to. Run because you love it. Run because you want to be fast. Run because you want to be skinny. Run to find some quiet time. Run to sweat. Run to eat. Run to hear your heart pound in your ears. Run because you're a runner. Run because you gotta keep the streak. Run because you don't know why the hell you're running. Run because you fought with your partner. Run because your job is shitty. Run because you got no money. Run for the sunrise. Run for a race. Run because it's impossible. Run because it's easy. Run instead of doing the laundry. Run instead of watching TV. Run because no one else understands. Run because the cool kids do it. Run because you're …

A Good Run.

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Good runs happen when you least expect them, and sometimes when you most need them. Tonight was a good one.

Lately I have been feeling knotted up in my running. My body seems to be working at cross-purposes, the muscles creaking, inflexible, and out of order. I can sense strength beneath all the struggle, but it rarely shows itself. My psyche gets like this, too, its different parts at war with itself. So much energy is wasted on unseen and absurd battles, inchoate and internal strife.

The incredible thing about a great run is that the body simply loosens up and begins to go. The feeling is effortless because there is no internal resistance. These are the moments in which we feel as if we are born to run. What we mean by this is simply that running can be a state in which living is not a chore or a task, but simply a happening. Instead of fighting against life, we are born into it and "borne" by it, floating upon it. Experience responds to effort in harmony, as in a song. Ef…

Running and Two Aspects of the Body

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ESPN recently published its body issue, which has some pretty amazing photos of athletes in the nude. The pictures are a reminder of how the activities that we do form and shape our bodies--and how our bodies also move us to certain activities.

Runners are pretty body-conscious folks. This can be positive and negative. Being more attuned to our bodies means that we are more reflective about what we put into them, how they are resting, whether they are gaining or losing weight, how they look in a mirror, etc. This attentiveness to the body can be healthy. It can also be unhealthy, as the high incidence of eating disorders among competitive runners sadly attests.

One way to frame this attention to the body is through the concept of control. Distance runners are, in a certain sense, making an effort to control their bodies. Through training we sculpt and shape the body around a very particular purpose: running fast over a long distance. As every runner knows, the body is not always a com…

Toughness as an Act of Imagination

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"When watching for that distant clock to strike, our mind is so filled with its image that at every moment we think we hear the longed-for or dreaded sound. So of an awaited footstep. Every stir in the woods is for the hunter his game; for the fugitive his pursuers. Every bonnet in the street is momentarily taken by the lover to enshroud the head of his idol. The image in the mind is the attention; the preperception ... is half the perception of the looked-for thing." --William James, Principles of Psychology
When we talk about being mentally tough in running and racing, it is often unclear exactly what we mean. Most commonly we seem to imagine the tough individual as the one who can endure the most pain. Ascetic philosophers and religious figures through history have seen the encounter with pain as purifying in a certain way. Pain allows us to test the strength of our will by providing an obstacle to it, allowing us to distinguish the actions we choose from what has become …

Interview: Andy Anderson on Breaking the Longs Peak Speed Record

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[Editor's note]: Andy broke this record again in August of 2012, taking an additional 4 minutes off the time. You can read his account of that run here.

*  *  * At some level, it is possible to claim that every race is equally difficult. After all, every race is run to exhaustion. However, imagine that the effort you were about to undertake was an all-out run up and down the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. Not only that, the race would involve scrambling up 5.4 grade climbing with thousands of feet of direct exposure. Finally, the race would take approximately the same amount of time as a world-class marathon. Such an attempt might make you think that indeed some races are harder than others.

At any rate, this was precisely the situation that Andy Anderson faced as he attempted to match Chris Reveley's 1979 Longs Peak round-trip speed record on August 23rd. Here's a thread from Fastest Known Time that gives the statistics on Andy's record (2:02:54 - …

Expertise, Politics, and Problem Solving

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The passage  below is an excerpt from Paul Goodman's "Applied Science and Superstition," written in 1951. It is both quaint and prescient. He gets the problem quite right, but sixty years later, the scale of the problem has been incredibly transformed:

In the century-old debate between Science and the Humanities, the humanities are now a weak opponent. They are not sure of what they are and they do not seem to have much of use to offer; whereas science looms in the fullness of success, it has made new advances in theory, and its technological applications have transformed the modern world. Yet sadly, perhaps just because our humanities are so weak, we have been losing the basic humane values of science itself. Having lost our firm credulity about what man 'is' and what society is 'for,' we have become confused about what is relevant, useful, or efficient. Thomas Huxley and Thorstein Veblen were thinking of a 'scientific society' where people were c…