Saturday, January 26, 2013

Calling out Flotrack

As an athlete in a sport that doesn't experience the level of cashflow that football, basketball, etc. enjoy, I love seeing progress being made in track and field media coverage that successfully cultivates new interest from the public.  Unfortunately, the sport's everyday coverage in the US outside the Olympics and a few major Championship meets is still unconventional and somewhat spotty.  It's been left to grassroots internet sites to boil down the myriad of constant worldwide track and field news for their small but loyal followers (mostly runners).  The founders of two of the most popular sites, and recently got into a heated online argument about Flotrack's new FlotrackPro subscription system.

In this video, Flotrack founder Mark Floreani "calls out" LetsRun cofounder Weldon Johnson ('Wejo') for questioning the new monthly subscription rate of $20 that Flotrack is now asking for their Flotrack Pro content.  While Floreani brazenly challenged him to a Skype duel for the world to see, Wejo simply brushed the situation aside on a since deleted message board thread, and it seems to have ended at that.  Except that the rate is still $20/month.  The complaints don't stop with Wejo; they go all the way down through the mass of Flotrack users who are so used to great free content from the site.  With enticing new content like the Driven series on mileage god Cam Levins, Bernard Lagat, and others, people don't want to suddenly start shelling out mulah for their track coverage fix.

But we're going to have to, sooner or later.  The call out video explains that Flotrack's goal is to bring our 'fringe sport' into the spot light.  That can't be done without money.  Today at breakfast someone asked "so how does Flotrack make money?"  "Page advertisements, obviously."  I want Flotrack to grow, everybody wants Flotrack to grow.  Apparently they can't turn a profit on ads anymore.  But I havent committed $20 this month or $150 for the year... I think it's too much.  Did Flotrack do any kind of research into their pricing?  I live and run with 20 other avid Flotrack users in the very city Flotrack is headquartered in, and none of them are ready to pay up.  Look at the commenters below the video - neither do they.

It's necessary that Flotrack starts charging for their content.  Where there's money, things get done.  But the current rates are just too high.  I'd gladly sacrifice $75 a year to watch all the great Flotrack coverage, pro videos, and athlete/coach features.  If even a quarter of their current 27.7k followers on Twitter  payed that much, they'd have over half a million in revenue on the year.  As it stands now I bet less than two thousand people will go for $150 a year.  They'd make less than half that.  I'm not an economist, but I hope that the big hand will bring these rates down to a reasonable level in the near future.  I for one want to know how Cam Levins runs so many damn miles.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Binary Sunset

Today I would like to share the most important movie scene of all time and why it relates precisely to what running means.  It is the binary sunset scene from Star Wars a New Hope.

Why is this the most important scene in all of cinematic history?  Luke Skywalker looks to the unknown, to the future, feeling he must leave the confines of sandy Tatooine to complete his destiny.  Yes, the eventual destruction of the Empire is the ultimate climactic event in the Star Wars saga, but it's this moment that touches me the most.  Luke.  Alone, full of teenage angst, energy, Hope.  (Now that I've proven that this is the number one moment in Star Wars, it follows by the triangle inequality that it's the best moment in cinematic history. Q.E.D.)

No girl who's read this far will ever talk to me again, so I may as well continue.  Runners face the unknown all the time.  We have some control over our destiny through training and experience, but a lot of the time we're making big sacrifices for goals that only might be reached.  We look out like Luke does from our current position, knowing we have the potential to end up in one of a million different places at the end of the season, the year, our running careers.  You have to have some kind of weird motivation that allows you to keep working hard knowing you could fail.  To be good, you must tip toe the line between injury and health.  You have to spend years and years doing it.

Most of the miles I run strengthen me physically.  But I'll never forget the lessons I've learned from the many miles I shouldn't have run, when I should've rested or run slower.  I value those just as much. A perfect training program doesn't exist because everyone is different:  the athlete is responsible for finding out who he or she is.  I've learned a lot.  Every time I set out on a run or a week or a season, I feel myself staring at the Binary Sunset, unsure of what's ahead.  But every time I'm just a little more prepared to handle it.

Learn from Han Solo: Distance running doesn't
have to be a lonely endeavor.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Six Mile Cutdowns

Had a great workout today.

We woke up to 50 degrees and a light rain.  (A day not unlike workout days back in New Jersey that I remember fondly)  Nothing and no one out there but the red wet track and twenty guys nervously jogging and stretching.  The Texas state capital and Austin skyline are just visible through the mist.  As I do strides during the warmup, I can see myself in long puddles of water that have filled the lanes.

I'm wearing a team issued baseball cap.  Usually I wear it backwards, but today it's forward to keep the rain out of my eyes.  The sound of my footfalls change as my Nike streak flats gradually saturate with water.  They eventually make a deep, mushy, squelching sound.

The workout is six mile repetitions, each run faster than the one before it by eight seconds.  Each mile is run starting every eight minutes, and everyone has a prescribed start time depending on their fitness.  The session is team oriented.  On several of the reps, all twenty of us run in a pack at once, as  many as four or five seconds separating the leader and the end of the line.

The 5:20 mile begins exactly at noon.  As I watch this and the next two groups, I'm anxious to begin.  I know this workout will be a game of anticipation: relatively manageable for the first three to four reps and quickly getting tough near the end.

Craig, Pat, and I on the fifth mile.
I come in with Pat McGregor on the 4:56 rep.  We use this one just to get the blood flowing.  Going on eight minutes yields just over three minutes of rest, a gratuitous amount at threshold pace.  I cross the line at 4:55.

By the end of the 4:48 rep my flats are properly soaked.  I'm glad I've worn half tights in these moist conditions: less chafing.  Looking down, little bits of track are stuck to my slicked down leg hairs.  They've been kicked up from runners ahead of me.  For the early reps I've chosen to hang quietly in the back, letting others practice leading and pack running.  I've run 4:47 for this mile.

Several guys begin their final mile on the 4:40 rep.  Mid way through, coach yells for them to move to the front, shaking up the pace a bit as others are tempted to follow.  I'm having fun encouraging the younger guys around me as they surge ahead to finish their workout.  I run this one in 4:39.

The fourth lap of the 4:32 rep brings the first signs of fatigue.  My hands and thighs are cold, but this doesn't seem to be affecting my running.  I've run 4:31.  During the recovery period, which by this point has increased to about three and a half minutes, I work on focusing up.  I'll feel the two second per lap decrease from 68 to 66 seconds much more than any of the others before.  66 seconds is familiar territory for me: for the past year it's been a staple interval pace.  Today I want to begin pushing my comfort zone faster than 66 seconds.  65 seconds per lap gets a 13:32 5k, good enough to qualify for the US Championships.  Just under 64 seconds per lap is knocking on the World Championships A standard of 13:15.

The group on the fifth rep is McGregor, Craig Lutz, Rory Tunningly and I.  I sense a slight slack in the pace on the second lap, and coming through 800 in 2:14, we'll need to negative split a little to make the time.  It's Craig's last rep, and that helps as he closes hard to finish.  I follow him around and cross the line in 4:23.  I keep running, going straight inside the field house for my spikes.  Lacing them up on the bench outside, I clear my mind and get ready for the sixth mile.  I've never broken 4:20 in practice before.

It's just McGregor and I now.  We come through 400 in 64, right on pace.  Pat speeds up, having decided to stop halfway.  Through 800 we're at 2:09, and even though I'm working harder and harder, I know the pace is slowing.  The third lap is the toughest part of this workout.  I focus on my breathing and form, trying to relax.  These are the moments that hone mid race instincts: the natural impulse to stay on pace, to close gaps.  At 1200 I see 3:15.  I'm three seconds slow but feel that I have some power left in my legs.  I don't want to race the final lap, but I'm prepared to build the final 300 to make up that time.  After taking a lap off, Pat comes back in ahead of me.  I'm grateful for the help.  The final 200 is tough but I make sure not to strain.  Guys cooling down on the infield are reminding me to pick my knees up, to get to the line.  I cross it, stopping my watch in 4:17.9 .
Pat and I finishing the final mile in 4:17
Workouts like today's mean big things for where I am and where I'm going.  It's only January 8th and most runners don't want to be in super shape right now.  But I feel strong.  Base strong.  This fitness isn't derived from a bunch of intervals I've done in the past three weeks.  It's the fitness accumulated over years of nearly uninterrupted training.  I believe I can only go up from here.

Friday is a mile at the Arkansas(#1) vs. Texas (#3) Duel.  It'll be a fun one.