March 30, 2007

Oh dear ...

I fed the cat in the dark about a month ago, and now I'm banished to aqua-jogging in the pool for at least a month. Feeding the cat does not normally lead to the words runners dread: "You should avoid running for at least four weeks," but I stubbed my little toe when I fed the cat. And now I have a stress fracture in my little toe. Things could be a lot worse. I got in a month of decent training before I was banished to my fate of bobbing round in the water avoiding the swimmers.

For most of the month I just thought I'd bruised the toe. If I put on spikes or racing shoes, which generally fit a little snugger I'd feel the toe a little more. "Oh sure, it's just a little bruised, maybe I should ice that," I thought occasionally. But then I'd amble through my cool down not feeling the toe, and the bag o' ice never made it to the foot. I suppose it was a warning sign that the "bruise" persisted, but really it was so intermittent it didn't bother me enough to worry about it.

But midway through Tuesday's 90 minute 20km run I noticed I was altering my stride to avoid landing on the toe. And then it was painful walking on it. Bad sign. Off to the doctor ... but also onto the internet where I have to say that once you sort through the crap, the collective experience of other runners injuries on LetsRun is actually quite useful. The crap is the 17 year old kids who say "you can keep racing on a stress fracture if your state track meet is in 2 weeks time." I wouldn't have thought that merely stubbing your toe (while feeding the cat, the ignominy of it!) could lead to a stress fracture. But apparently so. You don't get a lot of blood flow in your little toe. Add on the stress of running on it, and there's your fracture. The internet also provided me with worst case scenarios that made the doctor's recommendation of four weeks off seem like a gift! Apparently with your little toe—compared to other toes—there's much more of a risk that the new bone will form out of alignment and surgery would be required to straighten it up. Other bad scenarios you can find related to a fifth metatarsal fracture are "wooden shoes," "crutches," and "no weight-bearing activity."

The X-rays confirmed my self-diagnosis: stress fracture! But far enough along that they could see new bone forming, and not out of alignment either. I don't need wooden shoes, crutches, and I can keep walking, but should try to minimize "weight-bearing activity," like ballet dancing.

Ballet dancing does not describe what aqua jogging looks like. While I imagine myself to be gliding along quite nicely on dry land (my low injury:mileage ratio over the years gives me some confidence in this delusion) there's no hope of that in the pool. You just look silly. Once you've put on the vest, and the heart rate monitor there's little dignity left in your appearance. The first day in the pool 75 minutes passed incredibly slowly. The next day 90 minutes passed a little quicker with the help of a poolside radio, and semi-crazy people being interviewed on MPR. "They said what!" would prompt a bout of higher heart rate activity. Today 90 minutes passed even quicker with the heart rate monitor as do "sets" of running starting at 110, building slowly up to at least 140bpm and then hold it for as long as I could.

We'll see how the pool running goes ... it's April so I'd just be getting wet in the rain anyway if I was running outdoors, right? The pool can't be worse. But lots of people start off with great ambitions of running in the pool, and the boredom gets to them ... Without the distraction of the radio, or the challenge of trying to get the heartrate up I couldn't do it. Somehow the musings and thoughts that make even the most dull run outside enjoyable just aren't provided in the pool. But all the research shows that the pool is the only thing that keeps you fit for running. So the pool it is!

Posted by eroberts at 6:34 PM

March 26, 2007

The best prophet

I don't think this is true.

Posted by eroberts at 4:16 PM

March 23, 2007

12 point plan

There's more pressure, encouragement and desire for graduate students to publish these days. With that comes a new effort by departments to teach their graduate students how to do so. We were going to have a little panel discussion about this topic at the University of Minnesota History Department a couple of weeks ago, but then it snowed ... and the event got canceled.

This bemused me because I'd been "good," and written up my notes for what I was going to say well in advance. If I'd procrastinated and waited 'til the day before, I wouldn't have a 4 page set of notes (really, I type quickly) hanging round that I won't get any "credit" for. Since one of the things I say in the advice is, "don't write anything you can't use twice," it was a crying shame to write four pages, albeit rough, and not use it even once. Ain't the internet grand for such things? And if I might say so myself I thought what I had to say was marginally helpful, with this nifty 12 point plan for graduate students who wanted to publish.

So, here it is:

  1. Read about and write a paper on the historiography of your topic in a seminar
  2. Do some original research as a directed research / Masters paper / early draft of dissertation chapter
  3. Put it aside for a little while, and then revise based on comments of your advisor and some graduate school colleagues (Form writing groups for reviewing essays)
  4. Go to a conference.
  5. Get feedback on paper from people who don't care as much about your topic as your advisors and friends and you have to.
  6. Evaluate how much work is needed to submit to a journal.
  7. Revise for a journal.
  8. Get a revise-and-resubmit from the journal
  9. Respond to suggestions and criticism
  10. Send it back in a timely fashion
  11. Deal with page proofs (much easier these days)
  12. List on your CV.

If you get a rejection you return to an earlier point in the plan, and try again. That might make it 13 points. The full notes I jotted down are here.

Update, 6 April: Re-reading this, I notice that some of the language is specific to historians, and some again is specific to the University of Minnesota history department. I trust that anyone clever enough to be in graduate school can abstract from the language that is specific to the historical profession to their own field, and think critically about how to adapt it to their own needs. In the pdf version I've annotated what I think are the least clear terms, those that are specific to my own department.

Posted by eroberts at 6:15 AM

March 21, 2007

The sound I'm going for

"his New Zealand accent worked nicely on the witness stand; it made him sound erudite without being pompous."

From a Wall Street Journal profile of Berkeley professor, David Teece.

That's the sound I try to cultivate. As an historian I doubt I'll make the kind of money Teece does. The accent isn't everything!

Posted by eroberts at 1:20 PM

March 20, 2007

The race you have when you're not having a race

There was a great advertising campaign in New Zealand in the 1980s for an alcoholic drink substitute called Clayton's. Their slogan, which has done better than the product itself (no longer available) was "the drink you have when you're not having a drink." Sounds good, huh? Almost as good as O'Doull's and with the same lack of effect on your mood.

"Clayton's" has lived on in Australasian English as a synonym for "fake," or "poor substitute." So I had a Clayton's race at the Human Race on Sunday.

In retrospect it wasn't a good idea to do 3 workouts on the indoor track in 7 days. That thought made itself known very quickly in my IT band on the last lap of some 1400m (6 laps, outside lane) tempos 5 days before the "race." By Sunday I was mostly OK but the left leg still felt different doing strides, so no race. What was most painful by the weekend was the inner turmoil of "you're a wimp," versus "you're making the right decision." Once bitten, twice shy motivated some of the decision not to race the race. Last time (6 years ago) I faced a similar dilemma, minor ailment improving pretty rapidly but not yet 100%, I raced and was off for a month.

Having paid the entry fee, and collected my race number and champion chip it didn't make a lot of sense to not run the race. So I did. To remove any temptation to turn up and race I wore clunky shoes, non-racing shorts, and long underwear for temperatures that didn't require it. It's all about dressing for the occasion. Having tapered the training down for this "race," I did have the enjoyable experience of running the easiest 7 minute miles I've run in a long time, but it was still a Clayton's race. It just doesn't taste the same.

Posted by eroberts at 8:22 AM

March 19, 2007

Do you remember when it snowed?

The change of the seasons brings about short memories in many in Minnesota (and probably in other similar climates). The first warm day there is a widespread delusion that there will be no more snow, and that life is good at 45°F and sunny. But there will be cold rain in our spring, and nearly a month before the trees are green. But life is good, and snow is fun.

(The photo is taken on the Mississippi River beach between the Minnesota Commercial Railroad bridge and the Lake St bridge in Minneapolis)

Posted by eroberts at 4:23 PM

March 14, 2007

A desecration on the landscape

I think this blurb was meant to read "The Industrial Revolution has sometimes been regarded as a catastrophe ..." Otherwise, that's one very influential and damaging book.

(from the latest Oxford University Press catalog)

Posted by eroberts at 7:27 AM

March 12, 2007

New York Times weird quote of the day

First in a series I probably won't continue, but which I easily could. Reading back issues of the New York Times as I write the dissertation serves only to remind me that the idiosyncrasies of the paper have existed for nearly a century. Anyway, what do you make of this:

At 5 feet 10 inches and 145 pounds, he races at whatever distance is available.

If he was a different height and weight he'd race more selectively? Is that the implication?

It's an otherwise interesting profile of how someone combines excellent running with a day job. But I just hope he doesn't lose weight or shrink, and have to choose his races more carefully.

Posted by eroberts at 7:08 AM

March 7, 2007

Cedar Avenue bridge

Nice article in the StarTribune about efforts to get the Cedar Avenue Bridge refurbished and re-opened. If you run the Minnesota river trails it's something to wish for.

Posted by eroberts at 6:51 AM

March 5, 2007

Misprint of the day

Wow. You can be on an Ekiden team that runs a marathon in 2:16:04, and your 4:06 1500m runner throws in a 19:30 5km. Inspiring how well the others run. Inspiring to know that Olympians have really, really bad days and run about 50 seconds a kilometer slower than expected.

Except that she ran 6km. Minor detail, minor detail ...

Posted by eroberts at 6:20 AM

March 2, 2007

When winter would kill you

Compulsory reading today: City Pages' 2004 article on how winter in Minnesota used to kill (lots of) people. Now it just makes for a longer commute a few days a year. Choice quotes:

Like most Minnesotans, you think our long, cold winters have made you a tougher and more virtuous person .... The hardships of the Minnesota winter have been so softened by technology, by the designs of our cities and suburbs and cars and homes, by our colossal commitment to making the Great Indoors ever more cushy, as to be rendered all but unrecognizable ....
... the risk of freezing to death was a major concern for early Minnesotans. Reports of frostbite and self-amputation are common .... the most persistent hazard of the Minnesota winter was not cold per se; it was starvation .... she asked Captain Jouett if he knew which was the best portion of a man to eat .... If you page through 19th-century Minnesota newspapers, you will routinely encounter tales of blizzard survival--and, of course, tales of death ....

Here's how the New York Times reported the effects of the blizzard of January 1873:

Posted by eroberts at 7:06 AM

March 1, 2007

Anthony Trollope on Wellington

Plus c'est la meme chose, plus ├ža change. Trollope wrote in 1874.

Posted by eroberts at 7:05 AM