Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: Why Women Did Better at the 2018 Boston Marathon

>> Thursday, April 26, 2018

There was an interesting opinion article published by the NY Times about why women did better than men at this year's Boston Marathon. It's not all based in science (although a good chunk of it is backed up with data), but it's still an interesting read.

The author, Lindsay Crouse, has ran 10 marathons, with her best time being just over 3 hours. She wrote about this the horrible conditions at Boston earlier this month, and wrote:

... In good weather, men typically drop out of this race at lower rates than women do, but this year, women fared better. Why, in these terrible conditions, were women so much better at enduring?

She noted times were slow this year (obviously), and that the mid-race dropout rate was up 50% from the year before.

But finishing rates varied significantly by gender. For men, the dropout rate was up almost 80 percent from 2017; for women, it was up only about 12 percent. Overall, 5 percent of men dropped out, versus just 3.8 percent of women. The trend was true at the elite level, too.

Crouse noted running Boston twice herself (including 2013 - the year of the bombing) and noted having the THOUGHT to drop out, but never has.

This marathon made me wonder if gender might play a role. You can find a whole range of theories on why women out-endured men in Boston — body fat composition, decision-making tendencies, pain tolerance, even childbirth — but none offers a perfect answer.

One theory is that women handle cold weather better because their bodies naturally have more fat. In general, it’s true that the essential body fat level — one you can’t medically dip beneath — hovers around 3 percent for men and 12 percent for women (when it comes to racing, breasts aren’t exactly performance-enhancing, but they’re still usually part of the deal). And the insulating subcutaneous fat layer under the skin is twice as thick in women as in men.But at the same race in 2012, on an unusually hot 86-degree day, women also finished at higher rates than men, the only other occasion between 2012 and 2018 when they did. So are women somehow better able to withstand extreme conditions?

That answer could involve psychology. Endurance may feel objective, but your ability to keep going — even if it means slowing down — is often ultimately up to you.

Crouse interviewed Alex Hutchinson, the author of "Endure," who told her that when you reach a point where you think you can not go any farther, that "it feels physical, like an immutable limit. But your physical limits are actually mediated by your brain. In most instances, dropping out is a decision."

The decision process might connect to the perception, or tolerance, of pain. Here’s a potential, if contentious, factor: Childbirth is by most accounts excruciating, and because women’s athletic and fertility peaks are close or overlap, a lot of the female marathoners who race Boston have also given birth.

I've heard arguments like this before. I read something years ago about how women were finishing closer to men in long distance ultra marathons, and that many people [experts? I don't remember] attributed it the physiology of women being "made" for the long battle of childbirth.

Differences could also lie in other decision-making traits. For example, women are known to pace themselves better than men, an advantage in any context but especially helpful in the cold, when a large shift in pace could affect one’s ability to regulate body temperature.

“Men tend to start races more aggressively and take a higher risk approach, so they’re more likely to blow up in the second half,” Hutchinson said.

Steve Magness, an elite distance running coach, noticed this trend too: "Among the athletes I’ve coached, I think I’ve had more women where when it’s bad, they can blow up but they’ll still finish the race, whereas men drop out. Women generally seem better able to adjust their goals in the moment, whereas men will see their race as more black or white, succeed or fail, and if it’s fail, why keep going?"

Crouse wraps it up with this:

Of course, the people who run Boston are a self-selecting group. Women are often discouraged from being athletic and competitive, so the female runners who made it to Boston had already overcome more social obstacles than men. They may simply be tougher, and this was a year when toughness worked.

So the simplest explanation is not based on gender at all. This Boston Marathon was ideal for people who thrive in adversity. Top spots for men and women went to amateur runners who juggle training in non-ideal circumstances around work and family.

As a parent of young kids who trains when he can, I like that last thought. :)

For more "Thirsty Thursday" posts that highlight workouts, body science, and all kinds of interesting information, CLICK HERE. As always, back with some "Friday Funnies" tomorrow.


First Outdoor Ride of the Year. FINALLY.

>> Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Yesterday was the day. The 16 inches of snow we got 9 days before was pretty much all melted, and it was 50 degrees. I headed out for my first ride of the year BEFORE RACING A DUATHLON IN 3 MORE DAYS. I just did a simple 21 mile ride down the Greenway Trail, and I decided a mile into the ride that I’d do the first 15 miles pretty hard (not quite “all out” because I didn’t want to have shot legs for the race on Saturday). It was slightly into the wind for 10 miles, and then slightly with the wind for the final 5. I was at 20.3 mph at the 10 mile turn-around, and my overall average climbed to 20.8 mph at mile 15. Nothing spectacular.

I looked back in my training log (which I’ve kept online since Sept of 2009) to see when my first outdoor rides have been. The last 2 years, I’ve started the season in GREAT shape riding outside ASAP, but I didn’t recall how soon I got outside in the years before. Here’s what I found:

- Mid-March/2009 *
- 3/18/2010
- 4/2/2011
- 3/11/2012
- 4/5/2013
- 4/6/2014
- 3/14/2015
- 2/7/2016
- 2/12/2017
- 4/24/2018

* In 2009, I did NOLA 70.3 in early April, so I recall getting out for a 60 mile ride and maybe more in mid-March before shipping my bike down south for the race.

The Falls Duathlon was my first multisport race last year and this year. There was a big difference in training (based on the weather) between these 2 years: last year, I had logged 457 miles outside on my bike, and this year, I’ve just got yesterday’s 21 miles outside on my bike. Yikes.

I biked about as far as I should have yesterday - any more could have been overdoing it. Plus, I had to get back right away to take our cat to visit Charlie’s preschool. Here are 2 photos I posted on Instagram yesterday:

A pic from Charlie’s teacher showing our cat Ella’s visit.

Posted with the caption: ”In today’s episode of ‘Things We Should Probably Never Do Again,’
our cat Ella got to go to Charlie’s preschool and meet all his classmates.”

A final photo that I didn’t post. Pretty cute.

Regarding this weekend’s duathlon, I REALLY don’t have any specific goals. I’m a little timid to push too much on the first run or the bike because of my lack of speed work on the run and my lack of outdoor cycling. It’s really going to be a “game day decision” to determine my effort level out there. It’s possible that I could run my slowest runs ever at this race (it will be my 6th time racing this event), and that’s OK. My bike split shouldn’t be HORRIBLE, and if it’s not crazy/stupid windy, I expect that I’ll post an overall time that is slower than my last 2 years at this race, but faster than my first 3. As I learned in a tempo run with Charlie last week, I should keep the pace a bit easier at first on the final run, and try to build into it. Otherwise (and this isn’t a horrible thing), I could see myself having to walk a time or 2 over those final 3 miles.

I can SAY that my goal is to place in my age group, but I realistically can’t get too caught up in that - last year, I raced my butt off, and I was 3rd in my age group (only the 2nd time I’d placed in my age group at this race).

So I guess we’ll just see what decisions I make at this race, and I’ll just go out there and suffer for 70+ minutes! Wish us luck! Back with a “Thursday Thursday” post tomorrow, and then a handful of “Friday Funnies” on Friday.


Racing This Weekend!!

>> Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Well, last night we finally secured a sitter for the boys. That means Pharmie and I have our first duathlon of the season on the books for Saturday!

Me and my cutie in transition as seen in my 2017 race report.

I will NOT have any major goals for this race as I'm not in SUPER shape and I still haven't been outside on my bike yet this year. But I'll go hard and see what happens. I may not have a "goals" post pre-race, but stay tuned for updates this weekend and a race report next week!

And CLICK HERE if you want to register.



>> Monday, April 23, 2018

Four weeks ago was my slowest 5K in over 10 years at the Hot Dash 5K in Minneapolis. I gave three possible reasons in that race report for it being so crappy: lack of speed work, just a "bad day," and/or Henry's tonsillectomy the day before wiping me out. I also could have noted a 4th reason of working out VERY little that week because my foot was sore.

Here were my half mile splits through 3 miles of that 5K:


17:56 through 3 miles (18:36 total for the 5K)

Well, on Friday, I took Charlie for a stroller run as I do most Friday mornings. We did 5 miles, but I did the middle 3 hard. (No other specific goal; I wasn't trying to keep them even, or descend, or anything like that. Just "hard.")

Here were my half mile splits in that 3 mile tempo run:


17:57! Pushing a stroller!

OK, I've ran faster with the stroller before, but I'm just happy to see that I could run essentially the same speed WITH a stroller and withOUT the push from an actual race. That really helped confirm that the 5K WAS just a bad day.

(Oh, and as a possible 5th issue: it could have been so bad because I started so fast as well. Sure, my absolute FASTEST races have been even or positive split, but those have been the races where I'm in top form, unlike the other 99.5% of my life. Generally, I prefer to start a BIT more easier, and then negative split - which I did NOT do at the 5K, but I DID do [naturally; without trying] on this stroller run with Charlie.)


Fall Down Go Boom

>> Saturday, April 21, 2018

It's late April for the love of Pete. We shouldn't have to still be worried about this crap. But because of all the snow we got last weekend, I slipped and went down hard on a run early Wednesday morning. I ran another 4 miles like this:

My right knee when I got home. My left knee was a little scrapped up too.

Knuckles on my right hand. I went down so quick that I didn't even have time
to open my hands as I was carrying my mittens, so I landed on my knuckles.

Once I got my knee all cleaned up.

It happened here:

Coming down the "ramp" from the Franklin Ave Bridge on the west side of the
Mississippi, then getting ready to run on the trail south along the river.


The trail along the river was in GREAT shape, but no one cleared the trail DOWN to the river.

So I ran down the road to the river. Notice the sharp little jaunt around the unplowed
pedestrian crossing "triangle." That circle is where my legs slid out to the left.

The arrow shows where I fell, running about 6:00 pace. I literally SHOT back up and kept going.
No pausing my Garmin here - it registered me slowing to 8:00 pace and then speeding back up.

I figured right away that I was fine. I hit the ground HARD, but I wasn't in horrible pain. In fact, after about another mile towards home, I forgot that I had fallen. It wasn't until I got in the house and tried taking off my pants that I went YE-OUCH and remembered I'd wiped out. (Yes, those scrapes on my knee were THROUGH decently thick running pants... that now have a 50 cent piece sized hole in them.)

I wrapped up my knee and went about my day. A few hours later at the gym, I stretched my legs out a bit:

There you can see the smaller scrapes on my left knee.
And I chose the red mat kinda for the same reason Deadpool has a red suit.

Later that day, my knees just ACHED from the fall. The scrapes were OK, but it was more of the impact of the fall that hurt. The next day, I had some bruising on both knees: my more-cut-up right knee had a faint cell phone sized bruise below the knee. And my less-cut-up left knee had a smaller (but more visible) bruise below the scrapes:

This was actually 48+ hours post-fall. The worst bruise on the less scraped knee.

Both knees still ache quite a bit, but I'm confident I didn't "hurt" anything. I can't kneel down without wincing. The next few days are supposed to say above freezing, so hopefully the risk of falling on ice will be a LOT lower...


Friday Funny 1429: Funny Cycling Shirts

>> Friday, April 20, 2018

Here are 20 funny cycling t-shirts from

Lots more funny things posted all week long HAPPY WEEKEND!!


Friday Funny 1428: "Nopes"

Here are 18 instances where "NOPE" (and then running the other way) is the correct response:

This is in no way ment to disrespect ballerinas. If anything, it makes me respect them more. Yeouch.

BONUS (that I couldn't show without warning because I'm a decent human being): click HERE for the worst looking porta potty I've ever seen. I thought this was fake at first because of the lack of TP, but then I figured they could have ran out but people just kept going...

More funny stuff (usually NOT as gross as these) is posted every day on



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