Tuesday, March 25, 2008

ALIBIS

Well, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about over-training as I head into the last month before Boston. I can’t seem to run more than 6 days a week. Yesterday I woke up to a brisk 15 degrees. That’s nice weather for January and February mornings. However, when it’s March 24th it sucks. My plan was to get in one last ski before all the snow melts. Unfortunately, the trails weren’t groom, so I couldn’t ski. Instead of running in the cold I decided to go into work and send out some interview questions. I figured I’d run in the evening, but then I didn’t get home from work till 8 PM. That left just enough time to eat and veg-out for an hour before going to bed. Instead of worrying about the zero, I just got up this morning and ran 8 miles, including 8 hill repeats.

Since I was not busy running through the snow last Friday, I used my free time to write another article for MDRA. As readers of my blog, you’re treated or subjected – depending upon your viewpoint – to a first look.

Running Alibis by Chad Austin 3/21/08

While I was driving home from work one day last year, the local sports talk radio station was running down a list of the top-50 Minnesota sports alibis of all-time. The list included a wide-variety of excuses that Minnesota sports fans have heard over the years like; Dante Culpepper’s small hands or Brad Radke pitching great – except for the three-run homer in the first inning. Of course, there weren’t any running-related alibis on the list. That’s where I come in. I thought I’d come up with my own list of excuses that I’ve either used myself or heard uttered by other runners over the years.

Let’s start with the easiest one, weather. Often, when it comes to the weather, it’s hard to distinguish between using it as an alibi and just plain complaining about it. However, there’s no denying that this excuse is almost too convenient, especially when you take into account that we live in Minnesota. During the spring it’s too windy or too rainy. Then during the summer it’s too hot, too humid, or as our local running meteorologists like to say when the dew point reaches the 70s, “it’s tropical.” Autumn used to be perfect for running around here, but even that weather can’t be counted on lately. I probably don’t have enough space to mention all the winter alibis here. We all know about the cold, the snow, and the lack of sunlight. Worst of all may be the poor footing. While there aren’t a lot of races in Minnesota during the winter, I’ve used this alibi after posting slow times at Frigid 5 and Leg it in Luck.

Many elements of the course can also be used as an alibi, too hilly, too many turns, and too boring comes to mind. And let’s not forget the accuracy of the course. Runners always seem to know when a course was long. But when was the last time you heard a runner mention that a course was short?

The problem with using the weather and the course as alibis is that all the other runners in that race ran the same course in the same conditions. Therefore, we need some alibis that can be personalized, like; “I went out too fast” and “I’m undertrained.” Of course, to paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, for every excuse, there’s an equal but opposite excuse; “I went out too slow” and “I’m overtrained.” And as race officials crackdown, we’re starting to hear; “I wasn’t allowed to run with my ipod, baby jogger, dog, etc.” Of course, the reason for the crackdown is so the following alibi doesn’t become more and more popular; “Someone with an ipod, baby jogger, dog, etc. tripped me.”

When we’re out there pounding the pavement and pushing our limits, it’s no surprise that our body can go haywire. Don’t worry, I’ll keep this clean and leave it up to you to discuss the most graphic bodily functions during your next group run. In the meantime, it’s no surprise that injuries are probably the most common ailment for runners. Therefore, something as simple as inserting any body part before “has been injured” makes for a perfectly acceptable alibi. Although a little less common, we can also state that any particular body part cramped up during the race. And since breathing is kind of important, especially during a race, it’s not uncommon to hear excuses regarding asthma, exercised induced, of course, allergies, and even pollution. The latter even forced arguably the greatest distance runner of all time, Haile Gabreselassie, to withdraw from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Other alibis relating to bodily functions include, dehydration and low sodium, potassium, or iron levels. Of these, low iron levels are the all-time classic alibi amongst distance runners. I even mixed it into my repertoire of excuses last year – although it turned out not to be true. Perhaps my new favorite alibi in this category is, “My electrolytes were out of whack.” I heard this one last year and instantly thought it was destined to be a classic too.

It’s always entertaining to hear when alibis are used. Normally they’re reserved for after the race, when trying to justify a poor time. Occasionally, you’ll hear an alibi during a race. Chances are good that the race is a marathon. The distance of the event gives lots of opportunities for things to go wrong, along with lots of time to think about those things. And the slower pace makes it easier to share your alibis with those around you. I can remember using the all-encompassing alibi, ‘this sucks,’ during a particularly rough Grandma’s Marathon a few years ago.

One trend that seems to be gaining in popularity with endurance athletes lately is getting your excuses out of the way before the race even starts. An example of this would be, “I’m ‘training through’ this race.” It’s their way of saying; “I’m not really going to race all-out today.” However, it implies that if you beat them today, it doesn’t really count. This particular phrase has become more widespread as talk of “training for their ‘A’ race of the season” has crept into athlete’s lexicon.

I’m sure this list barely scratches the surface, so as the 2008 race season gains momentum I’ll be keeping my ears open for more alibis to add to the list. I’ll also be training through all the races leading up to my ‘A’ race and then hoping the conditions for that race aren’t tropical, which could result in my electrolytes being thrown out of whack, leading to severe cramping along with countless other bodily function meltdowns. At least if that happens, I’ve have fodder for my long Saturday morning group runs.

3 comments:

TriSaraTops said...

Love it! Made me chuckle. :)

aharmer said...

Great column Chad! I'm sending this comment from Duluth where I met you for the first and only time if I'm not mistaken.

Kel said...

Jan G & Gear West beat you to this one - they have their No Excuses 4 miler every fall. Instead of gender and age, runners are grouped according to their excuse. I think "dirty socks" is my favorite so far, though "over 40 with bad knees" seems pretty popular.