Boil that Frog
Itâ€™s ever so subtle; unnoticed until itâ€™s too late. A relatively easy training run with a friend begins normally but goes awry. Halfway into the run, the pace slowly yet steadily quickens. The acceleration continues until the nearly anaerobic finish. You never intended to run this fast.
You have been frog boiled.
If you want to boil an actual frog, youâ€™ve got to do it slowly. Turn up the heat too quickly and the frog jumps out of the pot. Turn up the heat gradually, and the frog doesnâ€™t notice its impending doom. New Englanders know this as the Lobster Boil. Business â€œChange Consultantsâ€ use this analogy to rationalize everything from downsizing to well, downsizing.
Ah, but frog boiling is a myth. Frogs it seems are pretty smart, and quite adept at jumping out of all sorts of pots regardless of water temperature. Theyâ€™ll hop right out at the slightest hint of trouble. The only way to boil a frog slowly is to physically trap it. But the runner with a competitive bent can be easily seduced into a frog boil. This happens all the time, even though runners can readily escape their peril. Could it be that frogs are smarter than humans (or at least running humans)?
The frog boil is also something of an art. On one hand it can be a genuine coaching tactic worthy of Mr. Miyagi. On the other hand, it can be a ruthlessly calculated exhibition of dominance; much like the colorfully audacious plumage displays seen on Animal Planet.
The best frog boils involve deception. The boiler insists that the pace will be â€œeasyâ€ or run at â€œrecovery pace.â€ Amazingly, the callow boilee believes these white lies again and again. Not even frogs would repeatedly jump into a boiling pot.
But what of the overtly proclaimed boil? Here, runners voluntarily submit themselves to the sadism of inexorable acceleration. Like Sydney Carton (but without the poetic melodrama), they go willingly to their doom. Imagine announcing to the frog that you are about to kill it ever so slowly. Now imagine the frog being okay with it.
So it seems that runners are pain addicts. Why? Immanual Kantâ€™s transcendental idealism tells us that some things are simply beyond the scope of rational cognition. We canâ€™t know what we canâ€™t know. Serial boiling is like this. Let me know when you figure out why runners routinely choose misery. Then you will have uncovered part of the mystery of the human condition.
April 13th, 2007 at 10:59 pm
While I don’t have any experience as an actual frog, I’ve been both “in” and “out” the metaphysical boiling pot when applied to running.
I believe it’s satisfying from both perspectives, but most particularly as “the boilee.”
While the boiler enjoys a good run and is able to exercise (exorcise?!) their sadistic demons, the boilee receives not only a workout better than planned but the mental satisfaction of (usually!) having been pushed out of them comfort zone to one of endorphin ecstasy as they “hang with the big dogs” – making them tougher and better trained both physically and MENTALLY from the experience.
I’d say if you’re not getting your frog boiled once in a while, and you’re a competitive runner (but aren’t we all?), then you really need to be running with a tougher crowd.
And if you’ve never boiled someone’s frog, well… then you don’t know how much fun that can be! And the smart frogs you boil will appreciate it.
Just picture them, lying there on their froggy backs, necks pulsating with giant gulps of air into their saclike lungs, croaking out “Thank you, sir! May I have another?!”
Of course, this could be because of the one advantage they have over us mere humans – they can literally breath through their moist skin. Imagine what that does to their VO2 Max!
April 14th, 2007 at 11:06 am
Great post Dean. I’m glad to see someone codify the Frog Boil. And since you & I run in the same group, I think we need to give a shout out to our own master chef, who’ll I’ll just call ‘The King’, who has perfected his own recipe for the Carolina Frog Boil.
Just this very morning The King brought out his pot and boiled several of us. And like KeStrou says, it pushed a few of us to personal bests on our home course. Long live The King.
Though I do hope I’m there one day when some dilatory looking soul from out of town shows up and puts The King in a pot and cranks up the gas! I’d pay good money to see that!!
April 19th, 2007 at 10:52 am
So the boil makes us better.
Ah, but that still doesn’t answer the chief question: Why do we strive to be better (and endure the pain needed to get there). Why do we run ourselves nearly ragged just to run again (hopefully at Boston)?
It’s not like our survival is at stake… or is it?
April 20th, 2007 at 10:58 am
“Itâ€™s not like our survival is at stakeâ€¦ or is it?”
Nah, we can survive without it. We just wouldn’t be really LIVING.
I don’t get to be a frog at all too often. Just a function of who I run with and my reputation that precedes me everywhere I go now I guess. I really enjoy those rare times that I can just be broiled and run and hang on for dear life. I just don’t get to do that too often.
I also don’t get to be the broiler too often either since I’ve found a great many people simply refuse to run with me, and I’ve never even broiled anyone to deserve that reputation. How unfair life for a frog can be.
April 20th, 2007 at 11:05 am
The Boiler Lament!
Now this sounds like someone who needs to be interviewed on this site!
April 22nd, 2007 at 8:37 pm
I think this goes back to your story that all runners are liars….the boiler will never admit to purposely trying to boil the frog. Having said this, notice that the boiler hasn’t commented yet?
April 25th, 2007 at 10:01 pm
I might have missed something….Is this a recipe for something French?
Great post by the way!
April 26th, 2007 at 8:36 am
The French do love frog legs, but I sense they’d find it rather… British to boil them.
May 4th, 2007 at 8:42 am
I think the great Sun Tzu said it best in his masterpiece, “The Art of Frog Boiling”
At the critical moment, the leader of an army acts
like one who has climbed up a height and then kicks
away the ladder behind him. He carries his men deep
into hostile territory before he shows his hand.
September 6th, 2007 at 10:29 am
[…] Today I depart for the Blue Ridge Relay, a 208 mile relay race run along the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. I’m part of the team, THE MYTHICAL FROG BOIL, a name inexplicable apart from my previous post on the subject of frogs, boiling, and running. If you’ve never run a long-distance relay race, you should. It’s like runapollooza. We’ll start Friday morning in Virginia and Finish roughly 25-26 hours later in Asheville, North Carolina, never stopping. Along the way we’ll enjoy lovely Smokey Mountain vistas, sleep little, avoid dogs (and presumably bears), probably get lost on the unpaved mountain roads of North Carolina, and consume nothing but simple carbohydrates and Gatorade. The race report should write itself… – Dean Posted […]
April 15th, 2008 at 8:55 pm
no kidding! I had to strop running with a group of wonderful guys, but as much as they said “we aren’t running fast—you won’t have trouble keeping up” I always found myself cursing myself for getting dragged along much faster than I wanted. led to shin splints and achilles pain. so I stopped–running with them, that is.
January 19th, 2009 at 7:29 pm
I remember this entry from when I first wandered over to Z2B. A classic it has always been. I remember being boiled week in and week out, the pace being gradually raised until I snapped like an old rubber band.
May 14th, 2009 at 11:18 am
[…] via Twitter and instantly loved the name. Â You know there is a good story behind that one. Â (And here’s the story – anyone who runs with a group can surely relate.) Â But then I checked out their blog and learned […]