How many of you have noticed the myopic obsession that is the nutjob right of the political spectrum?
When Bush was in office it was the far left nutjobs who could only focus on one thing – getting Bush out of office (a complete waste of energy in the political arena in my opinion) and now, for the last four years, the far right has WASTED all of it’s energy trying to find ways to get Obama out of office – to the point of complete absurdity, I might add – with the “where was he born?” and “why won’t he unseal his college records?” threads of discussion which do NOTHING to help the American people to get their government back from a Congress which has only the interests of it’s corporate sponsors at heart and presidents (a long line of them) who are co-conspirators with Congress to hollow out the Constitution of the United States.

While special interest groups focus on single issue attacks that accomplish nothing, the Washington elite erode our rights right in front of our eyes with the complicity of the main stream media to ensure that our attention is diverted elsewhere, while it happens. I’m sick of it. When are people going to wake up to the political reality that both the Republicans AND the Democrats are nothing more than two heads of a monster that WE created by not paying attention and holding their feet to the fire? Instead, (and in a day and age where information is EASILY attainable on any subject) we allowed Congress and George Bush to begin a systematic attack on our rights after 9/11 and then continued to allow Congress and President Obama to not only continue that attack but escalate it to the point where we not only have lost our privacy rights in the 4th amendment but we now have lost the right to normal jurisprudence in the form of charges, trials, etc.. The attack on our privacy rights is continuing (all in the name of security of course).

The recent rash of emotionally charged attempts to “stop the violence” is simply a continuation of an ongoing war on our freedoms. While the American people are distracted by the media, the government steals our money, sends Americans to fight wars that haven’t been declared by Congress (per the Constitution) and which are distant because the media doesn’t show us the ugly truth of these wars (as they did during Vietnam). While Americans focus on trivial and meaningless topics that are a symptom of how our government functions, the disease is left untreated and we all are worse off for it.

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Whether you want to race a short race or a longer race, the results of your endeavour will all come down to your training and race preparation. How you train and how much you train will differ depending on the distance. A 5k requires a different type of training than a half marathon as does a 10k or a full marathon. Whether your goal is simply to finish, or to hit a specific time goal, you have to train properly. For the 5k, it’s pretty simple – if you just want to finish, run several times a week for 3 or 4 miles and you should be fine. If you want to set a time goal then you will want to add intervals. 

What got me to writing this particular blog entry, however, has nothing to do with 5k’s or 10k’s. It has to do specifically with half marathons, which alot of runners aspire to but seem ill prepared for. I have raced many half marathons and completed 3 this year alone, setting a PR in each of those races. The REASON I am writing this is because some runners seem to believe that the HM is simply an extension of the shorter races and that they can continue with lower mileage and have a successful race. It isn’t important what your goal for the HM is, but that perception will leave you with a bad race and possibly injured. 

If you want to run your first HM and your goal is simply to “finish the race”, that is fine, but some runners believe they can run 10 miles per week and then show up on race day and be good. They can’t. They may finish the race, but then again the odds are that they will be far slower than they anticipated and will be on the course much longer than anticipated or they simply won’t finish at all. 

AT A MINIMUM, training for a HM should include a base mileage of 25 miles per week with a long run that equals the distance of the race – and that is absolutely bare bones training – no speed work, no tempos, just mileage. And that is if your goal is simply to say you finished. But shouldn’t the runner want to finish feeling strong – with a feeling that not only did he or she accomplish the goal of racing the HM but also that they actually defeated the race. After all, racing is all about racing against ourselves and our own expectations. If I go into a race (as I did in September) with the goal of finishing with a 6:45 pace and I then finish with a 6:56 pace, then I’ll be disappointed, despite the fact that I set a PR – I didn’t reach my goal. In that case, it was a matter of not eating properly before the race (I believe). I’ll find out in February. 

If you want to race the HM and want to feel GREAT at the end, then you need to do more than the bare minimum. Base mileage should be in the mid 30’s or higher – more is better but only to a point, depending on how good a shape you are in. I took the period between training for two HM’s to increase my base mileage which is now around 50 miles per week. I WILL hit the 6:45 mark in my next race and part of my strategy for doing so involves higher mileage. 

If you want to set a specific time goal for your HM then you are looking at an entirely different type of training. Besides increasing your base, you will also need to work in tempo runs and intervals or fartleks to work on your fast twitch fibers. You will want to EXCEED race distance by at least a couple of miles on each of your long runs and because of the additional strain on your body from added miles, as well as more difficult workouts, you will want to work in a “light” week, where you run fewer miles and don’t do tempos/intervals so that the muscles can heal while you do easy runs at whatever pace your legs feel comfortable at. There are many good plans out there for the HM but they all require solid base mileage – the most important key next to proper nutrition for a successful race – no matter what the distance. I’ll keep up the high mileage, the long tempos and the intervals for 10k’s and 5k’s as well but I’ll structure them differently for the distance I am racing. 

So, this is why I wrote this blog post. I want YOU to have a successful HM and I want to stress that the best chance you have for that to happen is by having solid base mileage that is high enough for the race you are intending to race. Please don’t go into a half marathon with a 10 or 12 mile per week base and the intention of simply finishing, expecting that you will feel good coming out the other end. You may well be able to, but the odds are against you. 

Good luck and keep running!

First off, I want to state that I have nothing against the wealthy. In fact, I wish I could count myself amongst them. Unfortunately, I can’t, but that is besides the point. I want to lay out why I think those who CAN count themselves as being fortunate enough to be considered “wealthy” should pay a higher tax rate and I would also like to state as a non wealthy person, that I am willing to pay more in taxes as well – as long as Washington finally gets it through their collective idiocy that we NEED to cut spending.

Ever since the 1960’s when LBJ and Congress took it upon themselves to combine social security with the general funds, those who have been paying into it have been getting hosed. No corporation in the country would be allowed to pull such a thing on it’s employees with their retirement moneys, but our Congress and the president at the time decided they could get away with it. I mention this because part of the discussion going on now has to do with the Republicans demanding that “entitlements” be looked at in a comprehensive plan to balance the budget. What they apparently refuse to recognize, of course, is that Social Security (and medicaid) would  be solvent if they had simply left it alone and not included those funds in the general funds. Instead, “social security” has a bunch of worthless IOU’s that the government has no hope of ever being able to fulfill. This has absolutely nothing to do with why the wealthy SHOULD pay more in taxes (as should everyone else) but it is a sidebar to the overall discussion.

The reason(s) the wealthy should pay more in taxes is because for the past 30 years, they (and the Congress they own) have worked to increase their wealth by funneling more of the money of the nation upwards into their bank accounts, while simultaneously using Congress to make the rest of the population less wealthy. That is my basic argument and I will lay out the specifics as follows.

The “trickle down theory” The trickle down theory, as proposed by Ronald Reagan was a wonderful, Utopian idea. If we tax corporations and the wealthy LESS, then the money they save in taxes will “trickle down” into the economy and create jobs. Except, that’s not what happened. What really happened was people. People are greedy, merciless creatures and those who benefited from these tax breaks kept the money – plain and simple. And not only did many of them keep the money, they also moved it into offshore accounts where they could hide it and not be taxed on it in the future. This was really the first step in the war on the middle class. I don’t think Reagan intended for it to occur, but it did. The wealthy saved a ton of money on taxes and kept it for themselves. Unfortunately, even though this didn’t work as envisioned, the Republican party is still pushing this agenda of “trickle down” economics even though it has been shown for 30 years not to be a complete failure. Over the intervening years, the wealthy have simply increased their wealth while everyone else has simply gotten less wealthy.

NAFTA and other “free trade agreements”. There was a time, not that long ago, when manufacturing was BOOMING in America. In the late seventies, as a teenager, I was able to find a job virtually at will at any number of manufacturing facilities near where I lived. NAFTA changed all of that. This agreement (along with others to follow) allowed multinational corporations (and their ceo’s) to move good paying jobs with decent benefits (middle class jobs) to overseas markets where they could pay a pittance in wages and benefits and reap the benefits of higher profits. That is AWESOME  for the corporations and their CEO’s – not so good for American workers. As with the theory of trickle down economics, the money moved up the totem pole and the people lower on the totem pole simply felt more pressure from above.

The rest of us simply don’t have anything to give. I’m willing to allow Congress to increase my retirement age in order to help the government get the budget under control (see my thoughts on social security/medicare above), but why should the very people who benefited (by way of lower taxes) be able to continue to receive a lower tax rate while simultaneously asking me to work even longer (I’ve already got 35 years on the tax rolls and counting) than the 50+ years I am already stuck with? The wealthy can retire whenever they please. They don’t HAVE to work 50 or more years if they choose not to. I do. I don’t hold any grudges in that respect. Like I said, I wish I were wealthy too, but it didn’t work out that way. So please, be my guest, increase my social security back to 6.2% instead of the ridiculous 4.2% that it currently is because hey, we have to pay for our futures. 

Interest income – here is where it gets really sticky. There is an “income” tax rate which the wealthy already pay a fairly decent amount on but when it comes to realized income on investments, not so much. This is where Buffet had it right – we should charge more in taxes on investment income. Why? Because people who make money off of the stock market and other investments (and that DOES include me – though to a much lesser extent) are benefiting from the work of average people. IBM or APPLE or whomever only see an increase in profits because they have a decent product and because they require their people to continually improve on their performance. Essentially, their stocks make them money because the people who aren’t rich, work harder. Increased productivity is a wonderful thing but the people who are doing the actual work don’t benefit like the people who invest in their company’s. In fact, in real terms, their wealth is declining at the same time that those who benefit from their work are seeing record profits from that work. That, to me, seems like a fair reason to ask them to pay more in taxes on that income. Also, people are selling out of “dividend” stocks because their taxes on those dividends might go up? PLEASE! I hope my dividend stocks go up! In fact, I might buy some at bargain basement prices. I’ll be happy to pay the extra tax just because I made more money.

Finally, I want to say this. The wealthy should pay more in taxes because THEY created the system that allowed them to benefit so generously in this nation. They bought Congress. They bought the presidency. They got EXACTLY what they wanted by ensuring that people favorable to them got elected and NOW they got “citizens united” from the supreme court – a gift that will surely continue to keep on giving.

Many people will disagree with  me and I’m not saying that those less fortunate shouldn’t pay more in taxes, but I definitely am saying that the wealthy have to stop their complaining and pony up. They got wealthy BECAUSE of the system that they put in place and they should damn well be willing to pay more so they can keep the gravy train rolling.

Old Toll Rd. Trailhead to Mt. Monadnock Summit.

This is the first time I’ve chosen to blog about one of the hikes that my wife and I have gone on but it seems appropriate, since I enjoy writing, that I should give my thoughts, etc… on the trails we hike. We have hiked Monadnock frequently this year but also have hiked Mt. Wachusette (easy hike) and Carter Dome (not so easy). I hadn’t hiked for probably 15 years before this year but my wife finally got into it and we started hitting the trails. I’ll try to give my trail reports based on how we felt the difficulty, etc… were. My wife was completely new to hiking this year and though I haven’t done it in many years, I am a long distance runner so getting back into it wasn’t too challenging. Anyway – onto this trail report….

At the trail head

The trail head has two possibilities when you arrive. You can simply walk up the Old Toll Rd which is graveled and flat and lasts for a mile, or you can follow the Old Halfway House Tr. which more or less mirrors the road but does meander into the woods a bit. We chose the latter, since there seemed to be a fair number of hikers on this particular day, despite the cold and windy conditions (30 degrees and windy at the base). The Old Halfway House trail was very easy and we could hear larger groups of people through most of this portion of the hike on the road which was never very far away. Once the trail passed the end of the Old Toll Rd, it intersects with the White Arrow Trail which was our ascent to the summit. Within a short walk (quarter mile tops) we arrived at the site of the Old Halfway House….

site of the Old Halfway House

This was an interesting area with some historical context and bits and pieces of the foundation that used to house the hotel that resided here in evidence. After snapping a couple more pictures we moved into the meat of the hike.

Like many of the hikes we go on, this one seems to follow what appears to be a steep riverbed that in wetter times of the year may be extremely difficult to navigate. Of course, the forest service is good at redirecting water coming of the mountain so I’m certain it is quite passable even then. The trail is very rocky and in sections, very steep…

On the White Arrow Trail

Along the way some of the rocks were carved into MANY years ago with dates going back more than 100 years. it is kind of cool to be following a trail that you know someone from over 100 years ago was on and took the time to let you know they were there.

Since Monadnock is a relatively small mountain (3165 feet), It wasn’t long before we were above treeline. I have to comment here that Monadnock, set off the way it is from the White Mountain range and towering over valleys in all directions, offers some tremendous views as you ascend it’s rocky face. It offers not only the granite that is the underpinnings of New England for you to admire, but also some Mica, and a fair amount of iron in the cracked remains of boulders that once tumbled down from further above. There are also large chunks of quartz on and off the trails as well as some large veins of quartz within the granite itself.

On this particular day, as we got above treeline, the wind was really whipping and at times sounded like waves crashing into shore as it hit the immovable face of the mountain. After getting some beautiful views in the forest below, we were faced with the virtually lifeless (though not completely so) granite underpinnings of this mountain. The wind was truly intense and we were bundled in layers and had to add one more as well as ski masks to keep from freezing (such is hiking a mountain in New England in late November). Even with my insulated Thinsulate gloves, I felt the cold coming through but it wasn’t unbearable. We pushed on….

As you can see above, in this picture, it gets quite steep here but there it is an easier climb than it appears and my wife, who read that this was a “difficult” hike, didn’t think (after the fact) that it really was THAT difficult. Not that I would recommend this hike for a first time jaunt but for someone with a few relatively tough hikes under their belt, this is a fabulous hike. The views are great. The scenery on the mountain is awesome and it offers enough difficulty to keep it interesting.

Once we reached the top, I began to take notice of some of the other carvings in the rocks, which go back more than 200 years. I couldn’t help but have that transcendental moment where (as I looked out over the vista)…

that I was seeing the world as those intrepid travelers of the past must have seen it more than 200 years ago and beyond. From this vantage point, the world seems almost unspoiled. The mechanisms of modernity fall away and become forgotten when you are looking out at the world from the top of a mountain and all you can see for miles and miles is the canopy of the forest. There is one or two caveats to that, of course. Mount Wachusett is not very far away and easily discernible to the southeast, as is the skyline of Boston on a clear day – which is VERY COOL. This was one of those days. Boston was beautiful in the distance, the towers of the Prudential and the Hancock standing out in stark relief to the rest of the landscape which is valley in all directions, surrounded by even more mountains.

A view from the summit of Monadnock

If you have never hiked this particular mountain, which is located in Jaffree, NH – I highly recommend it, no matter which trail(s) you choose to ascend by. My wife and I have been up (and down) the more heavily traveled as well as the less heavily traveled. They are all enjoyable but if you like a little more privacy in your hike steer clear of the White Dot or White Cross trails (especially in summer) as you will never have any time to yourself. The Cascade Link to Pumpelly or up the Spellman Trail (I’ll detail these at a later date) will offer you a more secluded hike but be prepared for alot of people at the summit (except on days where the wind chill is WELL below ZERO (as was the case today). We saw almost no one at the summit – probably because it was far too windy and cold to remain for long. Monadnock is the second most hiked mountain in the world (surpassed only by Mt. Fuji) and you are going to see many fellow travelers along the way

I highly recommend this hike. Enjoy!

I occasionally listen to Rush Limbaugh – mostly for a laugh because he’s a huge moron and some of the funniest stuff can come out of that overgrown head of his, but also because i get to remind myself what it is about the “core” of the Republican party I truly hate. That “core” of course, would be the hard core, religious right, of the party. These are the people who truly piss off most Americans because their views are so out of sync with the other 80 or 90% of the electorate. Your average, middle of the road American, doesn’t want to hear what they have to say because it’s all hate. Hate for the gays. Hate for freedom (if the freedom you want doesn’t agree with THEIR supposed morality). This particular show happened to be about why the gop lost so badly in this past election cycle…. So, I’ve broken it down for you GOP. Here you go…

1. Immigration… You LOST the Hispanic vote. Why? Because you are a bunch of self serving intolerant pricks. We are ALL immigrants. I’m certain that if some of you actually looked back into your family history, you might find that one or more of your ancestors came here illegally. But they got here, and they stayed, and they became productive citizens, and they helped to further the great American experiment. But, you simply don’t get it. You threw away an entire voting block to play to the nutjob wing of the party.

2. Women… You LOST the vote of women. Why? Because you are a bunch of self serving intolerant pricks. Ya, same reason. Sure, shutting down Planned Parenthood plays to the nutjob wing of your party but in the general election, people just see you as intolerant pricks who want to deny women who don’t have means proper medical care. You are FIXATED on abortion, which is only a small part of what Planned Parenthood does. You also are apparently against condoms which would STOP the abortions. You morons. When will you ever learn? You don’t want abortions. You don’t want to pay for children born to poor people but you don’t want to help them to prevent the pregnancies in the first place. What the hell planet are you from anyway?

3. Gays… You lost the gay vote – completely. Why? Because you are a bunch of self serving intolerant pricks. Are you freaking serious? In the 21st century you want to tell a VERY LARGE voting block that you hate them, are completely against EVER allowing the very basic human right of choosing their partner in life and expect that that won’t hurt you in the election? Not only did you lose THEIR vote but you lost the vote of every single American who sympathizes with them. Morons.

4. Drugs… yup, you lost the vote of people who think that marijuana should be legal and regulated like alcohol and believe that we shouldn’t be throwing millions of our own people in prison for simple possession of any kind of drug, never mind marijuana. Hate to tell you this, but that is a VERY LARGE part of the electorate. And you lost them. Why? Because you are a bunch of self serving intolerant pricks who only believe in states rights or individual rights when the state or the individual is doing, or agrees, with you.

5. Finally, and this is really important. You lost the libertarian wing of YOUR party. We would never vote for Obama. Are you freaking kidding me? No Democrat on the planet has shown that they are willing to cater to a libertarian ideal. At least, somewhere in the depths of the hellish beast you call the GOP, there once was at least lip service to the concept of individual liberty and freedom. You once believed in limited government and states rights. You once believed in individual liberty. You once believed that the government should spend less, not more, and that corporations weren’t more important than people. That is obviously no longer the case and you know what cost you the election? Ron Paul supporters. Even if you discount all the other groups of people that the GOP pissed off, you still could have won. But, you had to treat Ron Paul and his supporters like complete pieces of shit. You stole elections. You fraudulently manipulated the process to keep Ron Paul supporters from being delegates. You literally broke the bones of Ron Paul supporters. You even changed the rules at the last minute to keep Ron Paul from being nominated at the national convention. You did ALL of this, and more, to your people in your own party AND to your own detriment. You gamed out, that in the end, the Ron Paul supporters would vote for Mitt Romney, because, well what else could they do? But you were wrong. Ron Paul supporters did what they HAD to do, they voted third party or the really pissed off ones voted AGAINST Mitt Romney and threw their vote to Obama or they simply didn’t vote.
You know that million votes that Gary Johnson got? That’s a 2 million vote swing – not counting all the other votes that didn’t go to Mitt Romney, but could have, if you had simply played fair and allowed Dr. Paul a fair opportunity to compete and then gave him his moment in the sun if he wasn’t the nominee. But you couldn’t do it and you paid. It cost you the election and I am GLAD it cost you the election. Rush Limbaugh was beside himself on the discussion of this matter – blaming pretty much anyone and anything he could, except for the people who truly cost Mitt Romney the election – the Republican party itself. Now you know. The discussion can begin with why did you feel a need to piss off all of the other voters then end with why did you piss off the one group (and in your party no less) that could have put you over the top anyway.

Injury prevention, and you

Posted: November 16, 2012 in Running

The other day I was reading an article that stated that every year 80% of runners suffer an injury.
I think this is an extraordinary claim. I know a lot of runners and injuries happen but I think the article I read failed to take several things into account. First and foremost – running attracts a lot of new participants who are prone to injury because they don’t know what they’re doing. Second, alot of people run on trails, which is also inherently dangerous and can lead to sprained ankles, knees, etc…

So I got to thinking about all of this and I have some thoughts on the subject. Novice runners, especially may want to take note of what I want to say but (of course) you have no obligation to listen to what I have to say. But, as a runner who has logged countless thousands of miles (going to have 2000+ this year alone) and finishes in the top tier in my age division regularly, I feel like I have some experience that might be worth passing along. I mean, after all, I’ve had my fair share of injuries over the years and I’ve learned alot.

So, with that in mind. If you are just starting out, or haven’t been at this for too long – GO EASY.
Sure, you may want to race in the future (most of us do I think) or you may simply be a recreational runner, but injuries will set you back and may even discourage you from running and it doesn’t need to be that way. My first run 5 1/2 years ago was a 2 mile jog down the street and back. Nothing amazing, but it was a beginning. I made the same mistake most new runners seem to make – I tried to do too much, too fast. And I got injured (on a regular basis I might add). I tried to add too many miles too soon. I tried to go faster than what my body was trained for or ready for.
PUSHING YOURSELF too hard and too fast is, I believe, the biggest cause of injuries in the sport. Even seasoned veterans fall into that trap sometimes, but it’s less likely. It isn’t your shoes. Any decent fitting running shoe that you feel comfortable in will do for the most part. Some people do, of course, have issues with over pronation and such (google it) or under pronation or some other thing that will require them to have specially fitted running shoes but that isn’t true for most of us.
Another cause of injuries is people who go into a race completely unprepared for what they are doing. I’ve been to many races where people who were completely not trained tried to (for instance) run a half marathon. We had (have) a runner on these very forums who was set to run a half marathon but wasn’t putting in the mileage. I tried as much as I could to encourage this person to increase their mileage. Their goal was to finish without a specific time in mind, which is fine, but they were only running about 4 – 8 miles per week. I tried to tell them they needed to work up to at least one long run every two weeks that exceeded that distance and that they should be putting in a MINIMUM of 25 – 30 miles per week. That person pretty much ignored my advice and I wasn’t shocked when they reported back that they became injured during the race. Haven’t seen them since either. That is a lesson I hope I can impart from their experience. Yes, it is bad for them, but hopefully we can all learn something from it.

Something else you can do to try and avoid injury is to alternate which side of the road you are running on. Roads have camber, for runoff, and that means if you are ALWAYS running against traffic, you are placing tremendous strain on the same muscles all of the time. You have to change sides, if only for the peace and mind of your joints, tendons and muscles. Take my word on this. Again, you can google it, however, if you think I’m missing something. If you have sidewallks, use them (they are flat) or, if you have roads where you can do it, run in the middle.

The recommended increases in distance are around 10% per week. Don’t be shy to do less and give your body an easy week every few weeks as you increase your mileage so it has time to heal and get ready for more miles.

Learning how to recognize and differentiate muscle and tendon soreness from actual injury is NOTHING that anyone can teach you. It is simply learned. We will almost all get injured at some point or another. Not all of those injuries are running related – they could happen at work but effect our running. I tend to ignore tendon issues because with some heat and ice they generally resolve themselves without further intervention. Muscles are a different matter. A pulled muscle in a calf or thigh will sideline you. They are usually caused by running more miles than our bodies are ready for and though ice and heat will help, you will still miss a few days, at least.
Again, learning to listen to your body and knowing when to ignore the minor aches and pains that we all feel and recognizing a true injury is an art that cannot be taught. Only experience will be able to teach you when you can continue and when you should not.

Finally, let me leave you with this. Injuries happen in every sport. The key to prevention and minimization is knowing what you are doing and listening as best you can to your body. There is lots of advice out there. Sports doctors are great when you are having real issues but most injuries are simply a result of overuse and improper running technique. Do more research on how to build your mileage and how to protect your joints and tissues from injury on the roads and even when injuries occur, you will be better prepared to deal with them, recover from them and get back on the road where you belong. Don’t let injuries stop you from running, even if they do occur. Quitting isn’t an answer. Smart running is.