Bernie Bros, Deplorable, and Nasty Women: Politics as Identity, not Policy.

The running posts have ground to a halt because my running ground to a halt for a bit as a result of an annoying case of something an awful lot like metatarsalgia.

It’s less exciting than it sounds.

Basically, my right toes/top of foot were really sore, and the treatment, as it always seems to be, is to rest. So I cut back a little, which kept it from getting worse. Or better. Then I got sick for three weeks, and that mostly did the trick.

So now I’m back on the road, but in the pre-plan increasing-miles stage, and therefore have nothing interesting to say about running, except that it’s better than not running.

But, in the meantime, I’ve been working on two presentations. First, I had an hour-long talk at work on political identity geared toward an audience of college freshman. I’ll try to attach the PowerPoint (Politics Presentation_9). It’s a light overview of the subject, with an even lighter bit of some of my own research included, so along with the included notes the whole thing should be pretty comprehensible. Presenting it was a blast.

Now I’m off to deal with the last two weeks of classes, and to work on my much more advanced but much shorter presentation for the Rhetoric Society of America conference at the end of May. Yay!


Run For Your Life (or yet another reason why 5Ks rock!)

I’m not quite there yet, but I can imagine a time in the not so very distant future when I have to accept that I’ll never set another PR, and change my running mindset. There will always be age group awards, of course, and the general thrill of competition, but I’ve begun to imagine what it would look like if I were to eventually quit running for records and started running for health. Or, more specifically, what would my training be like if all I cared about was maximizing the health benefits of running?

Looking over some recent studies, I’d suggest that the answer is that it would look pretty much just like training for a fast 5k.


In other words, weekly workouts when running for health would include a close-to-even mix of high intensity intervals, weight training, and slow and steady running.


High intensity intervals have shown a huge range of benefits, generally beating slow and steady running in several areas:

But, intervals are hard and can take a toll on the body, so most people suggest no more than two (maybe three) such workouts in a week. I’m capping out at two. One of those will certainly be my all time favorite, the 30/20/10.

Weight Training

Maybe the biggest danger of any workout is injury, and intervals might be especially dangerous there. If you get injured, you’re off the road for a long while, and any running is better than no running. So the top goal of any plan must be to stay healthy. How to do that? Strength training.

Strength helps when you’re young and is one key to speed (by improving economy), but when you’re… not so young, strength training is absolutely essential. Sure, it’ll keep you fast(ish), but more importantly, if you don’t do it you’ll lose muscle mass every year, and sooner or later—probably sooner—you’re going to be staying home and nursing an injury instead of getting in your miles.

So to my two intervals per week I have to add two strength sessions, with plyometrics, (probably on the same days).

Slow and Steady Running (marathon pace)

So far we’ve got four workouts, but only two days per week. What about the other five days? Well, most of those should be the slow and steady runs, which do a few things.

  • They are “recovery runs” (kind of an oxymoron, but let’s ignore that), letting your muscles have a light day to adapt to the intervals
  • They develop slow twitch muscles, adding capillaries and improving lactate clearance
  • They prevent me from going insane. It’s nice to get up and know you’re scheduled for an easy run sometimes.
  • There is increasing anecdotal evidence that top runners tend to spend a lot of time (70-80%) at this pace.

And Don’t Forget to Rest

I’ve come to believe in a five day per week schedule. When I get hurt or busy, I don’t even mind dropping that to four (maybe a walk or a bike ride instead of a slow run). But days off of running are sacred. Not only do they keep you out of the doctor’s office, they are when your body actually improves. Exercise stresses; rest builds.

So the moral of all this, is that I don’t have to choose between speed and health. So long as I’m sticking to my favorite race, I can train from PRs for the rest of my life, and if I don’t get those PRs, at least I’m getting years of happy life.

Thomas Kuhn and Partisan Conspiracy Theories: What Paradigm Shifts and Normal Science Tell Us about Fox News and the FBI’s Secret Society

Thomas Kuhn is of course known for his notion of “paradigm shifts” in science: when one worldview gives way (reluctantly, slowly) to a new, as in the switch from Newtonian to Einsteinian mechanics in physics.

What was equally interesting to me, though, was his discussion of the periods of “normal science” that happen between shifts, when researchers are happily operating within an established paradigm. Here, he argues, the existing paradigm is useful in many ways as it guides inquiry, suggesting areas of study and framing observation. In particular, he says that one of the reasons “normal science” progresses so rapidly is that the paradigm tells researchers which “puzzles” should have answers, and so makes their time far more productive.

Of course, paradigms eventually break down. Researchers gather data that doesn’t fit or find questions that can’t be answered, and when there’s enough of this (and when the adherents of the old paradigm die out)… voila, scientific revolution.

Though he doesn’t address the point, I’ve always viewed these two scientific modes—“normal science,” and “revolutionary science” as I suppose one might call it—as correlated with deduction and induction respectively.  During normal science, the paradigm gives the major premises of the deductive syllogism. Scientists then fill in the minor premises through research and observation, and come to a conclusion. And, as with all deduction, the conclusion is inevitably contained within the premise in some sense.

On the other hand, revolutionary science seems inductive to me. Researchers have a pile of data that don’t fit with any major premise, and from this accretion of detail they must reach toward larger principles. If they do this well enough, and often enough, these larger principles may eventually become a new paradigm, and normal science begins again (for a while).

So what does all this have to do with partisanship? What does Kuhn have to do with Sean Hannity? Partisanship, I would suggest, is a paradigm, and as such it guides us toward particular puzzles (and away from others), and shapes how we look at data. Most of all, though, it gives partisans the foundational major premise of all their syllogistic reasoning: my side is right and good, and the other side is wrong and bad.

When one starts with that premise as a truth beyond question, the descent into conspiracy theories becomes almost inevitable. If one begins with the assumption that Hillary Clinton is evil and Donald Trump is good, and then the FBI clears Clinton but not Trump, it’s reasonable—perhaps even necessary—to believe there is a vast secret liberal conspiracy at the FBI. It’s only rational. Any other conclusion might challenge the paradigm.

I wish I had easy answers to this, but as Kuhn suggests, paradigms often change only when one generation born in that paradigm dies out and another takes its place. I would imagine political paradigm mat be even more resilient.

I would suggest, though, one idea: the enthymeme. If we must be deductive (and I do think we must, at least some of the time), perhaps we can step away from Platonic certainty and embrace the mere probability of the humble enthymeme. Let’s at least try not to begin with my side is right, and the other side is wrong, but rather with my side is probably right, and the other side is probably wrong. That’s not enough, really, but it might be a start.

Half Marathon Update: Half a Failure or Half a Success?

This morning was the goal half marathon, and now, hours later, having taken in all the calories I burned and drank all the coffee I skipped, it’s time to reflect.

The glass is half full!

  • It was a PR (1:42:14). I don’t run many races this length (this is only my third), but I did manage to beat my time from last year.
  • I didn’t want to die. The last three miles of the race a year ago were the worst miles of my running life. I ran with full and complete abandon into the proverbial wall, and it took every bit of willpower I had to keep the legs moving at the end, as racer after racer blew by me. It was agony unparalleled. Today, though, through some mysterious combination of better training, better fueling, and/or better pacing, I finished tired and weak and slower than I wanted, but able to move my legs without crushing mental effort. There were some very concerned looking volunteers offering me water at the end, but I’ll attribute that to my perpetually haggard appearance.


Screw that, it’s half empty!

  • Life blew apart my training plan. My much more intensive training was shot to hell a few weeks ago by a combination of things (unexpected trip, illness, and injury) that meant I covered five total miles in the week just three weeks before the race. I followed this up with a slow taper week of 25 miles, and then a real taper week of 15 miles, both designed primarily to get me healthy again (if not fit). This mostly worked. I wasn’t sick and the injury didn’t consciously bother me. Still, so much for all those 50 mile weeks earlier in the plan.
  • It was a lousy 12 second PR, and given my horrible race the year before I should have had huge room for improvement. Instead, the best I could do is maintain (pretty much).


Update: Results just posted online. 6th in my age group, and no surprise I was out of the medals. Had I run my advertised goal time (7:30/mile) would have had 4th, and had I run my secret goal time (7:20) I would have managed 3rd. One interesting surprise is that the woman I ended up running with pretty much the whole way was the overall female winner. She dusted me in the last mile.

Honestly, my biggest takeaway is that I just am not a distance racer. I don’t like races this long. Give me fast 5k any day. Give me intervals and quick tempo runs and plyometrics and sprints and starts that leave me gasping. Maybe it’s my unwillingness to put in huge miles in training. (50 is it for me. I need to get other stuff done beside running. Remember that “Rhetoric” part of this blog’s title?). Maybe it’s also something mental. I can trick myself into maintaining what feels like a crushing pace in the 5k by breaking it into tiny chunks. But the chunks of even a half marathon seem too freaking big to be encouraging (only three more miles and you’ll be almost half way!). And maybe it’s just my body. I may just be better built for shorter races. I know folks like me who are closing in on the half-century mark are supposed to move to longer distances, but perhaps that’s not in the cards.

So back to my true love: 5ks. And maybe, just maybe, a sub-19 time this spring?

Two Quick Rhetoric and Running Updates

The big part of my life that is neither rhetoric nor running has consumed me recently, and is likely to continue to do so for a while, but I have time for a quick update on both the rhetoric and the running.

The Running: The half marathon is now eighteen days away, and though I was pretty settled into fifty mile weeks and feeling great about the whole process, the world (sickness, travel, family, the fragility of life) decided I would be best served by a zero mile week just three weeks out from the race. Could be worse.  I suppose it may still get worse. Regardless, I’m back on the road as of today, and given my time in a 15k trail run a few weeks back, I’m still aiming for a 7:20/mile pace, or about 1:36 for the whole race.

The Rhetoric: I’m scheduled to present at the Rhetoric Society of America conference in May (actually I’m up on June 1, I think), and while I had hoped to get way more done this break (again, sickness, travel…) I’m basically done with my initial research. It looks like I’m going to be able to suggest that Lakoff’s notion of narrative framing isn’t quite correct, and, though I won’t get into it in the presentation, there may be deeper problems with his understanding of liberals and conservatives. In essence, it seems the same differences Lakoff identifies between the left and right exist between factions of the left. In other words, there are liberals who, at least in some areas, have a “conservative” worldview, but still have very liberal policies. Clearly I’m going to need to get my ducks in a row before I go too far with such claims, though. (The only reason I’m willing to write them here is that I know pretty much no one reads this!)

One other rhetoric note. Lots of people are talking about the need for Democrats to develop policies that will help working class voters. I think this may be good governance, but it’s a stupid electoral strategy. First, basically no one picks a party based on it’s policies. Instead, they tend to pick the policies based on  their party. Political affiliation is far more an identity than a rational choice. Second, to the extent that people do care about policies, they don’t so much care if they are getting enough, but rather they care if someone else is getting too much. Anger about “welfare” or corporate tax breaks or immigration isn’t about people wanting some of those goodies for themselves, but rather being angry that someone else is getting something they don’t deserve. It says nothing good about humanity, but it seems we’re happy to suffer ourselves so long as we can make sure everyone else is suffering along with us. So helping the working class will not win a single vote, I predict. Like too many of us, they want to stick it to someone else, not help themselves.


Stay healthy, be active, enjoy friends and family, work to understand everything generally and a few things really well, and try to leave everything a bit better than you found it.


3.09 is Close Enough

I’m calling it a victory! My quest for a sub-20 minute 5k is over.

The Garmin may think 3.09 miles is not 3.1, but it’s not the boss of me.

In my recent race—a rare evening run in the last of the summer heat (90 degrees at start time)—my watch told me I’d crossed the line at 19:29. A bit less than a minute later, as I wobbled around the finish area,  my watch buzzed. Apparently I hadn’t really hit the stop button, and it was happily informing me I’d set a new 5k record—20:10.

Later I put it all together. The watch recorded the race as 3.09 miles, but my fatigued stumbling after the finish gave me that extra .01 miles… and in a mere 40 seconds after my 19:29 finish.

I could have surrendered to the will of the GPS gods, I suppose, but this one was too much—or more accurately, too little. So when I got home I ran the numbers and figured .01 miles represents about 4 seconds at my pace. Then I edited the activity, and, just for good measure, added six seconds (a whopping 50% penalty!), and changed the distance to 3.1 miles. Voila, a new record!

Image of a Garmin display, reading 3.10 miles distance and 19:35 time.

Frankly, I’m pretty thrilled. I figured I could break 20, but to do so on a ninety degree day, and on a course that included some trails and a lot of grass, is better than I expected.

Oh, and I beat my nemesis.

Of course, the question now becomes… What next?

In the short term I’m going to start prepping for the McAllen half marathon in January. Last year I ran a 1:42, but I was absolutely crushed by the wall at mile 10, so there should be plenty of room for improvement. My new goal? 7:30/mile pace, or about 12 sec/mile better than last year, which should put me at 1:38. All the calculators are telling me I’m supposed to run at seven-flat given the 19:35 5k, but all the calculators clearly have no freaking idea what they’re talking about. I am quite aware that the farther races get from 5k, the worse I am. Still, we’ll see how it goes over the next eleven weeks. Running Science surely has some ideas.

And in the medium term… maybe a sub-19 really is possible in 2018. Maybe. Probably not. (But maybe!)

Under 20:00 5k! (Sort of)

Today was the goal race. It was perfectly scheduled (by accident, I’ll admit) on the last day of “my” sixteen week plan. The taper went smoothly. It was a fast course—flat and all on roads. It was big field (though not many at the same pace as me, unfortunately). And the temperature, as if by the hand of fate itself, went from high 70s a week ago to low 50s today.

I was fit. I was healthy. The course was perfect. The conditions were perfect.

In short, it was the perfect setup for a total disaster. Had I blown it, there would have been absolutely nothing to blame but myself.

But, I didn’t blow it.

My final pace was 6:21/mile, which is right what I was aiming for. And my final time was 19:10, which would be truly fantastic for me… if it were real.

The course, unfortunately, was 3.02 miles, or .08 miles short of a full 5k. Assuming I could have held that 6:22 average pace for the missing .08 miles, my real time would have been 19:40. So… success! Sort of. It is a record for me, and I’ll call it a half accomplishment of my 2017 running goal of a 19-something 5k, but my Garmin is unforgiving, and still lists the 20:20 5k from March of this year as my 5k PR. That half of my goal—the electronic acknowledgement—will have to wait.

And just because I care about such things, a couple notes about the race itself.

  • I started deliberately slow, standing several rows back at the line and trying not to dash around the joggers and children who seem always to claim the front for a couple hundred meters before fading. The net effect of this was to bring my initial ¼ mile split to 97 seconds, which is almost exactly on pace. In other words, by forcing myself to go out freakishly slow, I ended up going out just right.
  • My mile splits were 6:30, 6:28, 6:06 (plus five seconds for that spare .02 miles). So very negative splits. Frankly, I’m a bit stunned at that last mile. When I run mile intervals, with six minutes rest in between, I only hit 6:15 or so on my third interval.
  • I felt great all the way through. In fact, I kept expecting to have that moment of agony when I just couldn’t sustain my pace, but it never really came. There was the usual steady pain, of course, but no crushing I-must-slow-down-or-I’ll-die sensation. I think this means I probably could have gone out a little faster. A little. Next time I’ll make a bit more effort to stay at 6:20 pace during miles 1 and 2.

In any case, here is my updated race time graph:

Race Times_October 2017

Oh, and my nemesis beat me. I’ve beaten him two races in a row with considerably worse times, but apparently he and I both had great days today, probably because of the weather. His was a little greater, though. One week from today, a rematch.

But for now, I’m happy that the last sixteen weeks have added up to something. A 21 second PR may not seem like much–it may not BE much–but cross one item off the bucket list. Okay, half an item. Stupid Garmin.