“In addition to jumps in running and cycling activity in the U.S., Strava also saw booms in walking, hiking, indoor cross-training activities such as yoga and weight lifting, and water sports like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.
‘There was just so much uncertainty surrounding COVID […] it was great to see people deal with that by finding some sort of certainty and an everyday routine,’ Megan Roche, an ultra-runner and epidemiologist, told ESPN.
Women drove the increase in fitness — both in the U.S. and all over the world. Between April and September, women aged 18-29 saw a 45.2% increase in the median number of activities uploaded compared to a 27.3% increase by their male counterparts, the Strava data shows. Women were also biking more, logging a 72% increase in bike trips compared to 2019.”
Case in point, none other than one of my twenty-something daughters. Summer spent lake swimming. Migrated to the pool in the fall. Cycled with friends in the summer. All the while, she turned into a certifiable WALKING machine. 120 miles in November.
It’s easy to forget what life was like before global position satellites revolutionized sports technology. I remember rolling my front bike wheel next to a wooden yardstick in my parent’s garage in a desperate attempt to calibrate my sensor that was attached to a couple of spokes. And then using electrical tape to align the wire that ran to the head unit along the fork and head tube. Cumbersome is putting it mildly. And what did I get for all my efforts, a precarious, only mildly accurate set up that constantly needed attention.
Fast forward several decades. Bluetooth, wireless GPS, and (almost always) automatic syncing which results in extremely accurate data recording with a tenth of the effort. Check out what my wrist computer generated during this morning’s run.
When I first returned to rehab running from my hamstring injury, my average stride length was only 1.16m as opposed to the normal 1.2m. How cool is it that satellites in Outer Space confirm that not only do I feel better, but I am better.
A question for the nerds (used affectionately of course). Why is there a net gain of 35 feet when I started and stopped in my driveway?
The more important question is why do we fret about whether life is improving when we don’t have to wrestle with rulers, electrical tape and wires anymore?
Early one morning last week I cycled indoors because Blanca is injured.* Afterwards I plopped into my desk chair to swat back the day’s first wave of emails. All while looking at the Salish Sea.
A rowing scull suddenly materialized. The solo rower probably launched from OAR’s (Olympia Area Rowing) downtown marina dock. With steady strong strokes, they disappeared as quickly as they appeared. Then, five minutes later, after reaching their appointed turn around, they shot by again heading south back to the dock no doubt.
I thought about the probable outline of the rower’s morning—waking early, driving to the marina, lifting the boat from its rack, being on the water at dawn, and rowing a long ways on beautiful glassy water with real purpose. And as required for all Pacific Northwesterners, stopping for the daily latte on the way home.
Then I thought about the rest of the rower’s day and despite everything—the ‘rona, the impending forest fire smoke, the faux electronic schooling, the negative national politics—I bet they had at least a decent, if not good, if not great day. How could they not with that kind of start?
Be the rower. Wake up early. And move. Outside**. Walk, bike, swim, run, paddle, row, skate. With someone or alone. Add some caffeine. Then try to have a bad day. I dare you.
* long sordid story starring a real duffus
**once the fire smoke apocalypse is over
CNN reporter: Strava shows you ran 9.6 miles in 1:17 for an average of 8:02/mile. What would you say to the American people who are afraid that you’re getting old and slow, now nothing more than a sad “hobby jogger”?
Me: I say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I say. I think that’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people that I’m older and slower. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC and Concast. I don’t call it Comcast, I call it ‘Concast.’ That’s really bad reporting, you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism.
OANN reporter: How do you run so far, so fast?
Me: I love whoever you’re with. Because that’s such a nice question. I think you write fairly and do very fair reports. A lot of people always ask me, how do you run so far, so fast? I tell them I don’t know, I guess I just have a natural ability.
NBC reporter: How would you assess today’s performance?
Me: When you hear the number of miles I’m running and the pace, it’s incredible. And I’ve heard a lot of governors say the same thing. People are saying I’m doing a great job, the best job anyone’s ever done.
FOX reporter: What makes you such an incredible runner?
Me: Really lots of things, but what no one gives me credit for is when I first heard we were running, I immediately jumped on the stationary bike and got the blood flowing against many people’s advice. No one reports that. But I did, I got right on the stationary bike. Many exercise scientists—and I’ve read, many, many exercise scientists—can’t believe the great job that I’m doing.
My pick to win the Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta Saturday was Jordan Hasay who is a family acquaintance. On the surface, I was way off, seeing that she crossed the line behind 25 other women.
But like everything in life, our perspective changes, that is we gain perspective, when we begin to understand the larger context.
Jordan’s mom died suddenly a few years ago. More recently, her coach of many years was banned from the sport. She has been battling a bad hamstring (public knowledge) and back (not known until now).
Her dream of making the Olympic team was over by mile 10. Meaning she faced 16 more hilly, windy miles with her back “feeling like it’s bone”. And she gutted it out in what may have been the most impressive performance of her stellar career.
Watch this interview and try thinking about her as anything but a winner. In sport and in life. And I will not be surprised if the spirit she displays in this interview enables her to return to the top of her sport.
Galen Rupp, the men’s winner, and friend, consoling Jordan post-race.
I’m on a nice little reading roll, meaning a book a week. This week I cheated though when I subbed in a fun, short read, for a long, dryish, academic one that I was plodding through.
Geezerball: North Carolina Basketball at its Eldest (Sort of a Memoir) by Richie Zweigenhaft tells the story of the Guilford College noon pickup basketball game that I played in between 1993-1998 when I taught at the “small Quaker college”. The game is 44 years old and counting and some of the participants have been playing most or all of those years. One of the game’s mottos is “You don’t stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing.”
Richie, also known as “The Commissioner” is an accomplished author of several books on diversity in the American power structure. Now 75 years young, he’s the glue that’s held the game together over the decades.
Geezerball prompted a lot of reminiscing about those years and reflection on what’s most important in life. I remember 11 of the 29 players on the current geezer email list which is pretty remarkable given how bad I am with names. It also speaks to the game’s stability and what demographers have been telling us for awhile—that Americans aren’t moving nearly as much as in the past.
The game combines two of the very few things upon which most medical doctors and social scientists respectively agree—the importance of exercise to our physical health and the importance of close interpersonal relationships to our mental health.
“My wife says she expects to get a call one day saying I’ve died on the basketball court,” one geezer writes in the book. “If that happens, she’ll know I died happy.” In actuality, the game is probably extending the life of the participants. Even more importantly, it’s adding tremendously to the quality of their lives. Their friendships, and the humor that marks their interactions, are testaments to the power of community.
Among other remarkable aspects of the game is the fact that nearly all the participants are men. As a runner, I can’t help but notice more women running together; like the geezers, strengthening their bodies, their hearts, and their minds simultaneously. Same with the Gal Pal and her girlfriends who go on long walks every Saturday morning while catching up on the week’s events. I don’t know if it’s true, but it seems like men are more prone than women to prioritize their work lives, often to their own detriment. Given that, I find it inspiring that a dozen men in Greensboro, NC have been defying that norm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 44 years.
The sort of memoir reminded me of exactly how cool of an addendum the game is to the participants’ lives. But now, upon further thought, I can’t help but wonder if when those men near the end of their lives, they’ll think of the game as one of the most essential parts of their lives, and their work as more of an addendum. Meaning, what if we all have it backwards? What if the GalPal’s Saturday morning walks, my Saturday morning group runs, my Tuesday and Thursday night group rides are the core and everything else is the periphery?
This line of thinking may be just one more example of my economic privilege at work, but I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we organized our lives around Geezerball-like communities, where we prioritized movement and friendship over material wealth and status? Put another way, how much is enough? When it comes to work hours and money, there’s always a point of diminishing returns. At a certain point, more work means more impoverished relationships with family and friends.
In contrast, when it comes to walking, running, cycling, swimming, surfing, or playing basketball or golf with friends, there is no point of diminishing returns. Our physical and mental health just keep improving. Our entire well-being. That’s the lesson of Geezerball.
Last Saturday morning, approaching the mother of all hills at the end of West Bay Drive, Dan, Dan, The Transpo Man posed a question. Why did our small group become runners?
I detailed my personal fitness journey in the early days of the humble blog, but I’ve continued to think about the question during recent solo efforts.
I suspect we’re runners because we inherited above average self-discipline from our parents. They modeled it day-in and day-out in myriad ways separate from running. They woke up early. They went to work. They dedicated themselves to their work. They saved their money.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we run at 5:45a.m*. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. We were fortunate, our parents were Redwoods.
*except Saturdays, when we ease into the day and start at 7:30a.m.
2. Who do the Duke and Duchess of Sussex think they are? Afua Hirsch explains.
“If the media paid more attention to Britain’s communities of color, perhaps it would find the announcement far less surprising. With a new prime minister whose track record includes overtly racist statements, some of which would make even Donald Trump blush, a Brexit project linked to native nationalism and a desire to rid Britain of large numbers of immigrants, and an ever thickening loom of imperial nostalgia, many of us are also thinking about moving.
From the very first headline about her being “(almost) straight outta Compton” and having “exotic” DNA, the racist treatment of Meghan has been impossible to ignore. Princess Michael of Kent wore an overtly racist brooch in the duchess’s company. A BBC host compared the couple’s newborn baby to a chimpanzee. Then there was the sublimely ludicrous suggestion that Meghan’s avocado consumption is responsible for mass murder, while her charity cookbook was portrayed as somehow helping terrorists.
Those who claim frequent attacks against the duchess have nothing to do with her race have a hard time explaining these attempts to link her with particularly racialized forms of crime — terrorism and gang activity — as well as the fact that she has been most venomously attacked for acts that attracted praise when other royals did them. Her decision to guest-edit British Vogue, for example, was roundly condemned by large parts of the British media, in stark contrast to Prince Charles’s two-time guest editorship of Country Life magazine, Prince Harry’s of a BBC program and Kate Middleton’s at Huffington Post, all of which were quietly praised at the time.
Her treatment has proved what many of us have always known: No matter how beautiful you are, whom you marry, what palaces you occupy, charities you support, how faithful you are, how much money you accumulate or what good deeds you perform, in this society racism will still follow you.”
3. Trump takes credit for decline in cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society says he’s wrong. How long until their funding is cut further?
“The President has a history of proposing to cut funding from the National Institutes of Health’s budget, which includes funding for the National Cancer Institute, an agency that leads, conducts and supports cancer research. The final budgets that Congress approved ended up being more generous than Trump’s proposals.
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote on Twitter, in response to Trump, that ‘cancer rates dropped before you took office. Hopefully they keep dropping because Congress rejected your cruel research budgets, which sought billions in CUTS to @NIH and the National Cancer Institute. This is good news despite you – not because of you.'”
And so it goes, in these (dis)United States of America.
“How can we be winners, after all, if there are no losers? . . . What success can there be that isn’t validated by another’s failure? What heaven can there be for us without an eternity in which to relish the impotent envy of those outside its walls?”
That’s what I’m talkin’ about Kerry Elson. Elson wrote this before reading yesterday’s post, but major props to her for the perfect follow up.
“I’m supposed to meet a friend in six hours. If I go for a run, I might enjoy it so much that I end up running for the full six hours. I’m a good friend and I don’t want to be late, so even though I would love to go for a run I will not.”