Thursday, September 30, 2010

Killing Americans Without Due Process...and Ultrarunning

If this doesn't bother you, it should. From Glenn Greewald at Salon:
Obama argues his assassination program is a "state secret"

In response to the lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki's father asking a court to enjoin the President from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without any due process, the administration late last night, according to The Washington Post, filed a brief asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims. 

That's not surprising:  both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly insisted that their secret conduct is legal but nonetheless urge courts not to even rule on its legality.  But what's most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is "state secrets":  in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are "state secrets," and thus no court may adjudicate their legality.

The link is certainly worth clicking over to read, as it contains much more detail than the brief quote above.

Believe me, in many respects I am the embodiment of the classic left-wing liberal. I was pleased to cast what I hoped would be a historic vote for President Obama, but after almost 2 years I'm coming away disillusioned and cynical, based largely upon things like this.

Some folks would shake their heads at me, thinking that I'm a tree-hugging trail-running idealist, who just can't see that this is a grown-up's world where the bad guys don't play nice. Sometimes we have to play hardball 'cause the bad guys are just waiting to crap all over our WAY OF LIFE, they're going to TAKE AWAY OUR FREEDOMS, and Gary just DOESN'T GET IT.

Well, we are better than that. Our legal and judicial institutions can function in the light of day. I for one want to know what is being done in the name of the United States of America...and thus in my name. I want to be able to run my beloved trails with an easy conscience, that we are still the good guys, that we believe in due process and the right of habeas corpus, but that's no longer the case.

President Obama had--and still has--the opportunity to restore our global moral leadership, but has chosen to continue in the dark ways of the preceding administration. I prefer right to expediency and had hoped he would do better, but sadly, I am mistaken.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gary Didn’t Run

The fact that I have a blog devoted (at least in part) to Ultrarunning may seem to indicate that I am a pretty darn good ultrarunner. Or at least experienced, confident, seasoned, savvy, etc., etc.

Or if my personal reaction/experience is any guide--and believe me that when I make this observation, I do so in all modesty--some of you readers may even in some small way hold me up on a (tiny) pedestal.

I say that because I know that from being an UltraList member for 10+ years and getting to “know” frequent posters via what they write, I sometimes begin to think of some folks as being a bit larger than life. I’ve attributed some additional positive qualities to certain people, then when they post something “out of character” (at least according to my standards) I feel kinda disappointed. Like they let me down or something.

Then sometimes when I actually meet in person one of my UltraList “heroes” I am likely as not to be slightly disappointed--he or she doesn’t seem larger than life, after all. They just seem, well, like me.

So, without me sounding like a jerk, let me dash any expectations that may be out there. I’m just a regular middle-of-the-pack runner. I'm getting older and slower.  I race rather infrequently. I run only 100 miles a month. But I write about it here at the Mister Tristan blog, and that’s the only difference.

Take Tuesday this week for example. I telework on Tuesdays when I don’t have to be physically at the office for a meeting. I set my alarm an hour early so I could go for a run prior to firing up my laptop for the day. Before going to bed I knew it was going to rain but I planned to run anyway.

The alarm went off. I listened to the rain falling on the ferns outside my window. It was dark, the bed was warm, the bride was curled up beside me, and the rain was a soft patter.

I made the conscious decision to blow off the run and drift back to sleep, luxuriating in the sensuous moment. I can run tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

FREE BOOK: Richard Dawkins' "The Greatest Show on Earth"

In honor of Banned Book Week, 25 Sep--2 Oct, and in defense of the free exchange of information, I am giving away my copy of a wonderfully readable book on the evidence for evolution. It is Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth (2009). You can read more, including an excerpt, at Dawkins' web site here (also the image credit).

UPDATE: Here is a post I did on Saturday re Banned Books Week.

I previously posted on this book here at Mister Tristan a couple weeks ago, citing Dawkins' marvelous imagery of ring tail lemurs hightailing it across Africa to Madagascar, leaving nary a trace anywhere along the way....

The Greatest Show on Earth is not banned, but author Dawkins' atheistic views certainly generate enough controversy that some folks undoubtedly would like to ban it or at least one of his other books, The God Delusion.

Here's how you win the book. Email me at with a short para as to why you deserve this book. Include your name and snail mail address. I'll send the book to the person who seems most deserving to me.

Contest closes Sunday 3 Oct at noon EDT.  Don't blow off this opportunity--dash off a couple sentences and you could own it--free!  Good luck!

Note: the book is my personal copy, read but once, and is in excellent, near-new condition. I loved it but am downsizing my bookshelves, and would rather see it read by others instead on sitting on my shelf.

The Dremel Tool...and Ultrarunning

(photo by Gary; nail "pruning shears" shown for scale)

This here is a useful tool.

As I've aged, my toenails are those of the typical Ultrarunner--beat up (see photo here).  One of the biggest problems is the thickening of nails, particularly on my second toes.  They are so thick that trying to cut them is pretty difficult.

Enter the Dremel Tool--a mini-grinder with multiple attachments for hobbyists and do-it-your-selfers.  A few seconds of grinding and I can perfectly reduce and shape the nail to manageable proportions.

I have no financial interest.  It's available at Lowe's.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Products for the Compleat Ultrarunner

I mail order for a bunch of stuff, and predictably, I get a bunch of catalogs from having my contact info sold.  Some of these catalogs go right into the recycle bin, but others catch my eye for a closer look.

Such was the case with the catalog from an outfit called Kotula’s, subtitled The Guys With the Goods. See here for their main catalog site.

I want to call your attention to 2 items they sell, both of interest to Ultrarunners. The first, which we would use prior to a run, is the Off-Road Commode (bolding in blue is mine):

Bears will wish they had one! Every sportsman needs his own throne, and the Off-Road Commode fits the bill — with comfort and luxury to boot! Easily attaches to any 2in. receiver hitch and supports up to 500 lbs. The 1 5/16in. dia. steel tube seat is covered with soft, padded camo. A great gift for hunting, fishing and camping buddies! Not for use when vehicle is in motion. Can get slippery when wet.

Click on this product link AND once there, you should play the short video—it’s a hoot!

The second item comes into play after the run when it’s Miller time, the Giant Wine Glass.  Again, bolding in blue is mine:

Whether you prefer chardonnay or merlot, this is the wine glass you need. You can savor the flavor all night long as this glass can hold up to a full bottle of your favorite fruit of the vine. It's just the thing for a cozy night in.

Again, there is an accompanying short video, so by all means click on this link and once there, play this video as well for a laugh.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cats in Art: Sleeping Cat

The weekly Cats in Art post:

Sleeping Cat, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, oil on canvas. Image credit here.

This image captures perfectly what cats do best--sleep.  This could be me after a long run!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Exercise Your First Amendment Rights - Read a Banned Book!

UPDATE 9/28: I posted again on Banned Books Week here--where you can win a free copy of the Richard Dawkins' book on the evidence for evolution, The Greatest Show on Earth

(photo by Gary, Mark Twain Museum)

Over at Vagabond Scholar on 20 Sept I was happy to see that Batacchio (whom I’ve not yet met personally but appreciate the blog) was promoting an anti-censorship theme by publicizing Banned Book Week.  BBW says:

This freedom [to read], not only to choose what we read, but also to select from a full array of possibilities, is firmly rooted in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Sex, profanity, and racism remain the primary categories of objections, and most occur in schools and school libraries. Frequently, challenges are motivated by the desire to protect children. While the intent is commendable, this method of protection contains hazards far greater than exposure to the “evil” against which it is leveled.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, in Texas v. Johnson, said, “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Individuals may restrict what they themselves or their children read, but they must not call on governmental or public agencies to prevent others from reading or seeing that material.

OK, why is this personal to me? This summer the bride and I had the marvelous experience of making a trip to Hannibal, MO with an old dear friend. When we travel and want a keepsake of the trip, we typically look for local coffee mugs and books.

The latter keepsake, of course, could not be more appropriate for a visit to the childhood home of Mark Twain. We came away with 3 books: Twain’s autobiography; The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We spent a wonderful summer reading same (in fact, I previously posted on Mark Twain and Ultrarunning here).

Both of us had previously read the two novels back in high school, but to re-read them as adults was a whole different experience.

Most notable of course, is that when reading the novels as a youth, we focused upon the adventure, the bad-boy rebel theme, and the outdoor craft. While we did back then ponder the institution of slavery, it was as adults that we were much more taken with the themes of social inequality, poverty, slavery, haves vs. have nots. 

Plus the fact that we have mixed-race grandchildren, whom we love with all our hearts. It is utterly incomprehensible to me how anyone could treat them any less just because of the color of their skin. I think that's what eventually transforms people's attitudes--having a loved one who is a target (be they gay, or black, or whatever).

Anyway, Huckleberry Finn has made the banned or challenged books list for awhile now, principally for its use of the N-word. I understand that Twain was writing, and his characters were speaking, in the idiom of the day, when the N-word was so commonplace as to be completely unremarkable. I submit that one of Twain’s purposes in writing was to call into question the practice of enslaving other human beings. The use of the N-word is both necessary and appropriate to make Twain’s point; namely, that human bondage is inexcusable.

In making that point Twain has succeeded, and continues to succeed. Here's a great quote of his on the subject:

Our Civil War was a blot on our history, but not as great a blot as the buying and selling of Negro souls.

So….go read (or re-read) the classics, especially The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It is great literature on so many levels, not the least of which is Twain’s sympathetic portrayal of the humanity of slaves.

Friday, September 24, 2010

When I Knew I was an Ulrarunner

Some years back I participated in the local American Cancer Society Relay for Life where teams of runners get pledges for walking on a track. Over the years, a number of runners have used the venue to run their portion of the relay (see Note 1 at end).

In the early 1990s I needed a 25 mile training run and decided to do it as part of the relay. To minimize impact on the walkers I started about 3:00 am and stayed in the outside lanes of the 6-lane high school track. Well, sometime around 3 ½ hours or so I was approaching my 25 mile goal, and I had plenty left in the tank. Having come from the typical marathon base, the thought entered my mind to go ahead and add 1.2 miles to make it a marathon.

I had the time and the legs and the mind to do it, but I just smiled and said, I’m stopping now. Right then I knew I was no longer a marathoner, but an ultrarunner.

Note 1. About 5 years ago I got my pledges and decided to run for the entire 24 hour duration of the event (4:00 pm Friday to 4:00 pm Saturday) OR for 100 miles, whichever came first. I reached the 100 miles at 23 hours, and I can honestly say that the time flew by. Boredom?—Nah!  You oughta think about trying it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Parachuting Sheep..and Ultrarunning

I love me some Boing Boing, a website devoted to, I guess, tech culture, for lack of a better term.  If you like oddball stories relating to technology, this is the site for you.  On Monday they posted an article about parachuting sheep in the early days of WWII:

When the Italian army invaded East Africa in the mid-1930s, pre-packaged ration technology had not yet reached a point where one could carry a lot of food into a desert and expect it to say edible.

The fascists solved that problem using a little ingenuity, some sheep, and a bunch of little parachutes.

Now moving on to the original article in The Atlantic (also for photo credits):

When the Italian army advanced across the Danakil Desert in north-eastern Ethiopia during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, it was crucial that they travel with as little as possible. The desert, named by National Geographic as "The Cruelest Place on Earth," is pockmarked with volcanoes and known for its oppressive heat. With 120 miles of nothingness ahead of them, the troops had to move fast.

Enter the flying supply column, a new idea in warfare at the time, but one that would be used again in future conflicts. Twenty-five planes carried water, ammunition and rations for the Italians as they advanced on Emperor Haile Selassie's Army of the Ethiopian Empire. As they supposedly refused to eat the standard pre-packaged processed food that accompanied most armies and because fresh meat would spoil in the extreme temperatures of Danakil, the supply planes dropped living animals for the troops to butcher and cook. By the time the army had finished their trek, seventy-two sheep and two bulls had been pushed from planes, parachutes strapped to their backs.

Maybe we could adapt this technology for long solo runs--either parachute some animals to predesignated locations along the trail, or perhaps a runner could do a mini-sheep drive and take food along on the hoof.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

World's Largest, Strongest Spider Webs

One of my favorite things, when I run trails, is to know that I'm the first one out there as evidenced by the fact that I keep running into spider webs.  However, I'm talking about "normal" spider webs such as we have here in southcentral PA (USA). 

How would you like to run into this baby?  From Boing Boing on 20 Sept:
This massive spider web in Madagascar was woven by Darwin's bark spider, a recently-discovered arachnid that uses its incredibly-strong silk, ten times tougter than Kevlar, to make the world's largest webs. These spiders are known to make orb webs in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park up to 2.8 meters square anchored by 25-meter threads.

Do we have any ulrarunners in Madagascar?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Confederate General A. P. Hill...and Ultrarunning

This past weekend I lured a running buddy to accompany me on my second annual General A. P. Hill Run. Friday, 17 Sept, was the 148th anniversary of the battle of Antietam in the American Civil War. The battle is considered the single bloodiest day in American history, in which some 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing. The battle is regarded as a tactical draw in that both sides remained on the field, but as a strategic Confederate loss since General Lee then abandoned his first invasion of the North and withdrew his army back to Virginia...and the war dragged on for another two and a half years (good battle summary here).

During the battle, the outnumbered Confederates were on the brink of disaster at various points during the day. The final Union attack came when Union General Ambrose Burnside finally was able to put his corps across the bridge that bears his name, and threatened to collapse the Confederate right flank. Just in the nick of time, Confederate reinforcements in the form of General A. P. Hill's Light Division completed their forced march from Harper's Ferry (where they had received the surrender of the Union garrison) and fell upon the exposed left flank of Burnside's advance, crushing it and saving the day (again) for the Confederates.

The Ultrarunning part: I wanted to retrace the route of A. P. Hill's division from Harper's Ferry to Antietam, complete with fording the Potomac River at historic Boteler's Ford. Hill's forced march, arriving just in the nick of time, is legendary in Civil War lore, wherein some 3000 men from his division marched 17 miles in 8 hours, to arrive at the battlefield just in time.

We parked along the C + O Canal just downstream of the Rt 34 bridge at Shepherdstown and ran downstream approx 11 miles to Harper's Ferry. The stretch of the C&O Canal represents roughly miles 18 thru 29 of the JFK 50 Miler route, only run in the opposite (downstream) direction.

The downstream leg along the C&O Canal towpath, in the cool of the morning, was awesome as it usually is for me. Many JFK runners complain about the so-called flat, boring canal section, and I always think, "Are you nuts? Sure, it's flat, but you're running in the woods, you have the river right beside you, you're passing all this historic archeology in the form of canal locks, lock keeper houses, and engineering feats, seeing deer, great blue herons, etc...."

At Harper's Ferry, we crossed the river on the combination Appalachian Trail/railroad bridge. Immediately after crossing the bridge, you bear right along Potomac Street, parallel to the railroad tracks, to pick up the A. P. Hill route.  This now was a run along rolling secondary roads approx 12 miles up to Boteler's Ford.

Here is where we actually forded the Potomac River (this is a mile downstream of Shepherdstown). There was a house immediately opposite the actual ford, complete with at least 2 big, noisy dogs (fenced), and the river bank was heavily posted with No Trespassing signs. We didn't want to trespass, especially with these noisy dogs calling attention to the runners on the road, so we kept going upstream a couple hundred yards until there was a non-posted path some 100' to the riverbank at the site of an old cement mill from the canal era.

We got walking sticks for balance, waded into the water, and headed back downstream to the actual ford. We were far enough away from the dogs that they, perhaps regarding us as fishermen, paid no attention. Plus legally (per my understanding) we were not now trespassing, this being a navigable river and we were out in it.

So we headed across the river via the ford. It was generally knee deep or less (thigh deep at the most) and was not the slightest bit risky or threatening. Just being there was exhilarating for me as a semi-serious student of American Civil war history. The bottom was rock outcrop, with a few loose rocks, no mud. The water was clear, aquatic grasses abounded, with many clamshells--all evidence of a healthy river. The ford was perhaps 150 yards wide and the water was not cold. I know, because I managed to fall twice on the slippery bottom, both time emerging laughing.

Once across to the MD side, we returned the remaining mile to the car, electing not to continue on to Antietam battlefield proper (as I had done in 2009). All in all, it was some 24 miles.

A great day of running, of history, and I guess of spirituality.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cats in Art: Julie Manet With Cat 1867

The weekly Cats in Art post:

Julie Manet With Cat 1867, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 65 x 54 cm, 1887, Image credit here.

I found this with both and 1867 and an 1887 date, need some more research to nail this down.

The cat seems perfectly content; the girl, somewhat troubled.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Coping With Death....Thoughts a Week After 9-11

Just read and appreciated a post by Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast on 11 Sep 2010, entitled “My heretical view: One more year, and that's it,” discussing why we need to get over 9-11.
I'm not saying we should forget what happened nine years ago today. You don't forget something like that any more than those who were at Pearl Harbor and survived ever forgot that. But the names of the Pearl Harbor dead aren't read annually in perpetuity either.

A friend of mine lost her 24-year-old daughter very unexpectedly a few years ago. One day her daughter was here, and the next she was gone. One of our colleagues said something at the time that I thought was very wise. She said "You never really get over it, but you find a place for it -- like a room in your mind that you visit every now and then." When we both started work at the same place after being laid off, my friend wondered how to answer the question about how many children she has. After all, she didn't want to pretend that her daughter had never existed, but didn't want to have to be "The Woman Whose Daughter Died." My friend is not "The Woman Whose Daughter Died." She's a colleague, a professional, a mother to her remaining daughter, a friend, someone with interests and plans for the future -- someone with a life.

The aspect of the post dealing with 9-11 resonated with me (but I didn't have a loved one there).  But the part I really thought was good was this quote: "You never really get over it, but you find a place for it -- like a room in your mind that you visit every now and then."  I'll try to remember that when next I am touched by the death of someone close.


Friday, September 17, 2010

BInary Stars...and Ultrarunning

(Image credit here)

I posted this in discussing my long training runs in prep for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Race, and have added emphasis:

Also I should say that this winter in southern PA was quite harsh compared to the fairly mild winters we’ve had the past several years. So getting out there for these long runs in the dead of winter, often pre-dawn, was rough. At the end of these long runs I was about done in, although I often think that our bodies are programmed to run the prescribed distance and then mentally shut down.

Want to explore that notion a bit more. This phenomenon has happened to me more times than I can count—having committed to some manner of “long” run (whatever that means at the time)—I often find that when I finish, I am just about in the bag. At that point I cannot imagine being able to run any further.

It’s just like when you prepay cash at the gas station and the pump automatically starts slowing down and then shuts down at the preset amount.

When this happens, I usually think something like “Oh, crap—I’m in the bag at 30 miles. How can I ever think about running 50? Or 100? WTF??”  But then I think, be cool, been here before, this is nothing new.

Because come race day I can do the distance and I can truthfully say that I’ve never been involved in a race day death march where I vastly underestimated my reach and I struggle just to finish.

Seems like the distance planned and the distance run are self-fulfilling prophesies, mutually synched up like a pair of binary stars.

Anybody else experience this phenomenon?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

War is Hell...and Ultrarunning

(William Tecumseh credit here)

As usual, the Writer's Almanac does not disappoint (you really should subscribe). From a couple days ago:

On this day (12 Sep) in 1864 Union General William Sherman had just captured Atlanta. Along the way, his soldiers had taken part in something known as 'total war': They'd burned down crops, confiscated millions of pounds of corn and feed, and destroyed thousands of horses and mules and cows. They'd wrecked bridges, torn up railroad tracks to make train transport unusable, and they'd destroyed telegraph lines. In late August, they'd forced the surrender of Atlanta, occupied the city, and demanded that it be evacuated.

From Atlanta, General Sherman marched to Savannah, the infamous March to the Sea, where his troops caused about $100 million worth of damage with 'total war' tactics.

In 1879, he spoke to the graduating class at Michigan Military Academy. He told the young cadets trained for battle:

I've been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It's entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here. Suppress it! You don't know the horrible aspects of war. [...] I've seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!

Ultrarunning surely enriches our lives, but it pales in comparison to dead soldiers. Seems that every generation grows up with dreams of battlefield glory, then if they have the ill fortune to actually go to war, the glory is suddenly over.

While on the topic of Sherman, I loved another of his quotes: “Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Running a 100 Miler on Low-Mileage Training--Part 2

[This is a repeat of my post from 14 April 2010.  I am rerunning it since Umstead registration for 2011 just closed.]

This belt buckle is a symbol of my hard work to prepare for and successfully run the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. It is silver, which represents a sub-24 hours finish (mine was 22:35, basically the race of my life).

It reads: 100 Miles—One Day. Every time I see it I secretly smile.

I know what is was like cleaning out my father’s and my mother’s personal effects after they passed. So many small treasures, of vast meaning to them, but of unknown significance to me. After I’m gone, I imagine that this belt buckle will not survive either—I know what it means, but probably no one else will know, I mean really know, what went into getting it. And that’s OK, it’s just the way it is.

Now, on to the promised analysis and context from yesterday’s post.

1. Annual mileage. My annual mileage has hovered in the 1200+ range for the past 10 years or so. The past 12 months were higher due to Umstead training, but 1200 is my long-term base. To prepare for Umstead, I began ramping up a bit in September 2009, at the time the application process opened. I did not get into the race immediately in the on-line entry process, but did snag slot # 51 on the waiting list. So I spent the fall and winter not knowing for sure if I’d gain entry to the race…but training as though I had. That represented a sort of mind game, but I mostly figured that the training would be for real. I learned at the end of January that I was in, so I had 2 months of "real" training prior to the race.

2. The monthly long run. I ran the JFK 50 Miler in November 2009. Then I planned to run a “long run” monthly (i.e., more or less a 30 miler) around the end of Dec , Jan, and Feb. In actuality my long run in Dec was only 13; in Jan I ran a 20, a 25, and a 30; and in Feb I ran another 25. Also I guess I should note that in March I did run an 18 miler with 3 weeks to go prior to the race. So you can see that I didn't really run a lot of heavy mileage.

Also I should say that this winter in southern PA was quite harsh compared to the fairly mild winters we’ve had the past several years. So getting out there for these long runs in the dead of winter, often pre-dawn, was rough. At the end of these long runs I was about done in, although I often think that our bodies are programmed to run the prescribed distance and then mentally shut down.

3. Normal runs. My other runs were two or three 6 milers at work at lunchtime. I definitely took planned days off before and after any long runs. So on a weekly basis I would run only 3 or 4 days.

4. Lighting. I made sure to run several times at night using my new Petzl MYO XP LED Headlamp. Having used it, I would be hard-pressed to go back to using a flashlight for anything other than backup only. The thing is BRIGHT and LONG-LASTING, big time. See my previous post on this topic, here.

5. Food. I've always had a steady stomach in races. At Umstead I would usually eat 3 quarter sandwiches at each aid station: PB+J, turkey + cheese; cheese. Maybe a cookie or two, but I didn't go much for the sweets this time. I did enjoy coffee at night.

I guess that's it. I should note that I've been running for 30 years, so maybe I've got that "muscle memory" thing going. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I think this proves that someone can successfully complete a 100 miler on little more than 100 miles a month, without spending their entire life in training.

When I ran the Massanutten 100 in 1998, my training regime was remarkably similar, so we have a least 2 valid data points from my experience.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Running a 100 Miler on Low-Mileage Training

[This is a repeat of my post of 13 April 2010.  I am rerunning it since Umstead registration for 2011 just closed]

I am proof that you don't have to run mega-mileage to be able to complete a 100 miler.

On 27 March 2010 I ran, and ran well, the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run as a 58 year old, placing 56th of 133 finishers in 22:35.

Bear with me, but here is the detail that some of you may want. If you wish, I can email you my Excel running log spreadsheet that's a bit easier of a display, at

NOTE: This post will consist of the raw data...I'll provide some analysis and context in Wednesday's post.

Preceeding 12 monthly mileage totals and longest run:
Mar 09: 102/11
Apr 09: 106/21
May 09: 108/31 (Capon Valley 50K)
Jun 09: 101/18
Jul 09: 101/31
Aug 09: 103/15
Sep 09: 130/35
Oct 09: 105/28
Nov 09: 146/50 (JFK 50 Miler)
Dec 09: 116/13
Jan 10: 148/30
Feb 10: 121/25

TOTAL for preceeding 12 months: 1387

Monthly Average: 116

Weekly mileage detail for the 6 months prior to the race, Sep 2009 thru March 2010 (I consider my weeks to be from Monday thru Sunday):

Week of Sep 7: 10,6,6,6
Week of Sep 14: 6,35,6
Week of Sep 21: 6,6,7
Week of Sep 28: 6,6,10
Week of Oct 5: 6,8
Week of Oct 12: 28,6,6,11
Week of Oct 19: 6,6
Week of Oct 26: 6,6,5
Week of Nov 2: 24,6
Week of Nov 9: 12,5,6,10
Week of Nov 16: 6,6,4,50
Week of Nov 23: 6,6
Week of Nov 30: 6,10,10
Week of Dec 7: 6,6,6,13
Week of Dec 14: 8,6,6,5
Week of Dec 21: 6,6,12
Week of Dec 28: 10,5
Week of Jan 4: 6,6,20
Week of Jan 11: 6,6
Week of Jan 18: 25,6,6,10
Week of Jan 25: 6,10,6,30
Week of Feb 1: 6,6,6,11
Week of Feb 8: 6,5
Week of Feb 15: 20,6,6,12
Week of Feb 22: 6,6,25
Week of Mar 1: 6,6,6,10

Monday, September 13, 2010

You Have Been The Victims Of A Terrible Swindle

Jacob Davies at the blog, Obsidian Wings, quotes Berkeley professor Michael O'Hare, providing priceless thoughts about how this generation is getting swindled.

This deal held until about thirty years ago, when for a variety of reasons, California voters realized that while they had done very well from the existing contract, they could do even better by walking away from their obligations and spending what they had inherited on themselves. “My kids are finished with school; why should I pay taxes for someone else’s? Posterity never did anything for me!” An army of fake ‘leaders’ sprang up to pull the moral and fiscal wool over their eyes, and again and again, your parents and their parents lashed out at government (as though there were something else that could replace it) with tax limits, term limits, safe districts, throw-away-the-key imprisonment no matter the cost, smoke-and-mirrors budgeting, and a rule never to use the words taxes and services in the same paragraph.

Now, your infrastructure is falling to pieces under your feet, and as citizens you are responsible for crudities like closing parks, and inhumanities like closing battered women’s shelters. It’s outrageous, inexcusable....Of course we can afford a government that actually works: the fact is that your parents have simply chosen not to have it.

PLEASE go read the whole thing.

Again, since there is no such thing as a horse too dead to beat, I must return to my theme of For. The. Children.  If we really took their well-being to heart, rather than merely paying lip service to that concept when it's convenient to do so, this situation would never have occurred.

See my For. The. Children posts here, here, here, here, and here.  Do you catch my drift?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cats in Art: Boy With Cats

The weekly Cats in Art post:

Boy with Cats, by Francisco de Goya, 1784. Image credit here.

I love the expressions on the cats on the left.  At first I didn't notice the black cat behind the other two cats--it was lost in the shadows.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Enough Said....

From Andrew Sullivan at the blog The Daily Dish, passing along a priceless quote in a Dan Savage post:

When evangelicals are ready to admit that the bible got homosexuality wrong--just like it got slavery and shellfish and figs and masturbation and burnt offerings wrong--then we can talk.

Read more about such "interesting" Old Testament "laws" here and here.

Snark aside, why do I care?  It's because the Mister Tristans of the world (the human, not the blog), all deserve to grow up in a tolerant world where what really matters is the content of their character, not who they love.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Ringtail Lemurs and Ultrarunning

(Ringtail lemur photo credit here)

I just read a wonderful, marvelous book: from Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth--The Evidence for Evolution, Free Press, New York, New York, 2009.  I laughed out loud at the part where he talks about geographic distribution of animals as being some of the most solid evidence for evolution.

Not laughing in derision, but more like “Right ON! You nailed it!”  Specifically he was talking about how certain animals are found only in certain places on earth:

It is almost too ridiculous to mention it, but I'm afraid I have to because of the more than 40 per cent of the American population who, as I lamented in Chapter 1, accept the Bible literally: think what the geographical distribution of animals should look like if they'd all dispersed from Noah's Ark. Shouldn't there be some sort of law of decreasing species diversity as we move away from an epicenter - perhaps Mount Ararat? I don't need to tell you that that is not what we see.

Why would all those marsupials - ranging from tiny pouched mice through koalas and bilbys to giant kangaroos and Diprotodonts - why would all those marsupials, but no placentals at all, have migrated en masse from Mount Ararat to Australia? Which route did they take?

And why did not a single member of their straggling caravan pause on the way, and settle - in India, perhaps, or China, or some haven along the Great Silk Road? Why did the entire order Edentata (all twenty species of armadillo, including the extinct giant armadillo, all six species of sloth, including extinct giant sloths, and all four species of anteater) troop off unerringly for South America, leaving not a rack behind, leaving no hide nor hair nor armour plate of settlers somewhere along the way?

But when Hawkins goes on to focus specifically on lemurs and how they are only found in Madagascar, I blew coffee out my nose over the mental picture of a lemur hightailing it:

An ancestral lemur, again very possibly just a single species, found itself in Madagascar. Now there are thirty-seven species of lemur (plus some extinct ones). They range in size from the pygmy mouse lemur, smaller than a hamster, to a giant lemur, larger than a gorilla and resembling a bear, which went extinct quite recently. And they are all, every last one of them, in Madagascar. There are no lemurs anywhere else in the world, and there are no monkeys in Madagascar…Did all thirty-seven and more species of lemur troop in a body down Noah's gangplank and hightail it (literally in the case of the ringtail) for Madagascar, leaving not a single straggler by the wayside, anywhere throughout the length and breadth of Africa?

Then the nail in the coffin:

Even if we leave Mount Ararat to one side; even if we refrain from lampooning those who take the Noah's Ark myth literally, similar problems apply to any theory of the separate creation of species. Why would an all-powerful creator decide to plant his carefully crafted species on islands and continents in exactly the appropriate pattern to suggest, irresistibly, that they had evolved and dispersed from the site of their evolution?
The fact is that, if we survey every continent and every island, every lake and every river, every mountaintop and every Alpine valley, every forest and every desert, the only way to make sense of the distribution of animals and plants is, yet again, to follow Darwin's insight about the Galapagos finches: 'One might really fancy that from an original paucity ... one species had been taken and modified for different ends.'

I remember reading somewhere that the canids (dog family) and humans are the only trotting carnivores ever to evolve on the planet. I’m really happy that this set us up to enjoy Ultrarunning.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tales From the Perimeter: Ravel and Unravel Mean Exactly the Same Thing...and Ultrarunning

Perimeter meaning the 6 mile patrol road inside the fence of the military installation on which I work, where some half a dozen of us comprise a pool of running “talent” and strive to show up for a noontime run a couple times a week if we can escape our desks. We share a lot and these guys are one of the core pillars of my sanity.

During Wednesday’s run around the perimeter of the military base where I work, the waistband of my shorts began to come apart.  I thought, “Crap, my pants are unraveling!”

Deja vu suddenly occured...I again thought of a dictionary quest for truth from years ago, and nearly veered into a clump of bushes.

See, some time ago I was reading something, I now forget what, and the author used the word ravel to mean that the threads of something were coming undone.

I thought, now that’s strange, he really meant unravel. But this was a careful author and this seemed like it’d be a rookie mistake, so I hauled out the dictionary (at that time that meant literally getting out a by-god thick book, not Googling something) to settle things.

Here’s what I found at the FreeDictionary (and yes, I'm using the online version here) for ravel.  Emphasis mine:

1. To become separated into its component threads; unravel or fray.

2. To become tangled or confused.

And here’s what I found for unravel:

1. To undo or ravel the knitted fabric of.

2. To separate (entangled threads).

Thus, while ravel and unravel are clearly opposites to any normal person, they can mean exactly the same thing.  Maybe it’s like when politicians say “Trust me."

Thinking while running can be hazardous.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Running Towards Orion

The constellation Orion (“The Hunter”) at this time of year hangs low in the eastern sky before daybreak. Nearby everyone recognizes the constellation from the 3 classic stars that comprise his belt (Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak).

(Image credits here)

This morning I headed out with the bride at 5:40 AM, she run/walking 2 miles and me adding the Harshman Road loop for a total of 5 miles. I should acknowledge today as a milestone—it’s our first run together in years. She was an avid runner prior to having children, but developed hip and knee issues afterwards and was unable to run, only walk. But today she decided to give it a try, with no apparent ill effects, so perhaps the issue is distance- and intensity-dependent. Keeping my fingers crossed….

But I digress. I wanted to focus on Orion and specifically the nearby star Sirius. I was fascinated with the clarity of Orion this morning. The star in his right (viewer’s left) shoulder, Betelgeuse, is visibly reddish and is the 10th brightest star in the heavens. Rigel is the brightest star in the constellation proper and the 6th brightest star in the sky, appearing down at Orion’s left knee. His sword, hanging down from his belt, was clearly visible.

Ah, and Sirius! This is the brightest star in the sky. You find it by locating Orion’s belt, then drawing a line from his right side (viewer’s left) “down” some 5 or so belt-widths, where you can’t miss Sirius. It unmistakably twinkles. Per the Crystalinks website,

To the naked eye, it often appears to be flashing with red/white/blue hues when near the horizon.

Sirius is some 8.6 light years away, meaning that the photons sent our way from that star take over 8 years just to reach us. I cannot imagine the number of photons emitted…figure that Sirius radiates in all directions, not just towards Earth.

Earth’s diameter as a percentage of the arc of space into which Sirius radiates is vanishingly miniscule. Then what light reaches earth is spread over the entire Sirius-facing surface of our planet. Some of those very photons enter my eyes (as well as those of all other observers), stimulate my retina, and create the brain image I've been taught to recognize as Sirius. That chain of events is almost too much to fathom.

All these thoughts while I am running, and seeing the constellation Orion and the star Sirius fade dimmer and dimmer as the sunrise approaches.  Orion fades away. Then a truck passes, the horizon is interrupted by a row of trees; I look up again and can no longer see Sirius.

Till tomorrow, my celestial friend.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Still More Sirius/XM Radio...and Ultrarunning

I am really loving having this radio! See Monday's post for thoughts about musical royalty, here, or just scroll down a day.

The theme for today is Sing-Along Songs.  Just in today's drive home (which is a 1-hour proposition), I jotted down several songs that I just could not help but sing along to:

--98.6 (Keith)
--Won't Get Fooled Again (Who)
--I Can't Help Myself (Four Tops--you may recognize it better from one of  the lyrics, actually what I thought the title was: "Sugarpie Honeybunch")
--Mister Tambourine Man (Byrds)
--Fire and Rain (James Taylor)
--House of the Rising Sun (Animals)
--Teach Your Children (Crosby, Stills, Nash)

It's obvious that I dial up to the Classic Vinyl station.

I don't take any music devices along when I run, but can easily conjure up these tunes from memory when I need a music fix while running.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Even More Sirius/XM Radio

As I mentioned in a couple previous posts (here and here), I recently bought a new minivan and it came with a 3-month free subscription to Sirius/XM radio.

Having posted on "spelling songs" I should mention that discussion of the tune Respect by Aretha Franklin (YouTube is here) generated some discussion of her being referred to as the Queen of Soul.  While I don't dispute the title, it made me wonder, "Who is the King of Soul?"  While I know that James Brown is the Godfather of Soul, who then are the King and the Godmother of soul?

We needed a matrix or a spreadsheet to keep track of all this music royalty.  I should tell you that this particular discussion took place at a wine tasting at the Adams County Winery in PA, so perhaps the talk was somewhat propelled by the fruit of the vine.

At any rate, here's what we came up with:

Queen of Soul:  Aretha Franklin
King of Soul:  ??

Godmother of Soul:  ??
Godfather of Soul:  James Brown

Queen of Pop:  ??
King of Pop:  Michael Jackson

Queen of Rock:  ??
King of Rock:  Elvis Presley

Queen of Blues:  ??
King of Blues:  BB King (maybe)

The Queen:  ??
The King:  Elvis Presley

Looks like we need more queens.  Somebody brought up Queen Latifah, but we just didn't know how to categorize her.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cats in Art: Cats

Let's start a weekly Sunday post, shall we, for the Cats in Art theme?


Cats, by Francisco Domingo Marques, image credit here.  This site also comments:

I do not know when it was painted and the answer is not available to me despite a decent search. The artist was Spanish and he lived 1842-1920. Once again this is the era of the beginning of the cat fancy in England in the mid late 1800s.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Peace of Wild Things...and Ultrarunning

Over at Hecate--who, seriously, is a witch--ran across a marvelous post that struck an ultra chord. more and more kids grow up in urban areas, in families who don't belong to the class of people who can afford a trip to see the redwoods or wade along a deserted shore, or canoe down a river, it becomes increasingly important to help them find nature inside urban areas. Although large empty spaces are really wonderful, for many kids [and adults!] a rather small space will suffice. A community garden. A gated alley full of trees, and tomato plants, and pets. A park. A local Nature Center. A tree that becomes a special friend.
Or, we could take our kids and grandkids ultarunning.  Fitness aside, our doses of trail running are sweet therapy for our souls or psyches or whatever it is that makes us "us."


Friday, September 3, 2010

Ultrarunners and Gunslingers

Way back when, as a newbie ultrarunner, I got my first waist pack with the double water bottles (I didn’t then, and still don’t embrace, the Camelback style). I figured it’d ride low on my hips, much like the way gunslingers from the Old West wore their gunbelt for their six-shooters (or at least, that’s the way they are portrayed in film and TV).

See photo above (credit here) of Richard Boone, playing the antihero Paladin, in Have Gun Will Travel (my previous post here from January where I rave about the show).  Note his pants-holding belt is at his waist, with the gunbelt much lower.

Well, it was only a short distance run with my spanking new waist pack before I realized that the pack and bottles bounced all over the place. I finally devised the solution that the pack could not ride like Paldin's gunbelt.  It had to ride several inches higher, actually around the smallest part of my waist. There I cinched it down as tightly as needed to preclude the dreaded bounce.

It took only a little getting used to, and with the right amount of cinching—up to but not past the point of uncomfortability—I could run bounce-free. And what’s more, the actual weight carried did not seem burdensome. It was like it (almost) wasn’t there.

Figure on 2 x 22 oz of water—call it 3 pounds—plus any gear, gadgets, and food inside the pack—say another 8 oz.  Oh...what about keys, cell phone, the weight of the pack itself, plus whatever else floats your boat for suitable equipage for a backcountry jaunt, to the tune of another 16+ oz and you’re easily approaching the 5 pound mark.

One thing that still drives me nuts while running with others is when somebody’s pack flops up and down noisily. I can only imagine the abrasion that is being carved into their lower back by the time the run is over. And the affront to my ears!

One more Paladin photo (same credit as before).  I guess I have a man-crush:


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Miss Conduct

Exhibit A: the Frontline cat model (photo by Gary):

Exhibit B: Our cat, Amanda, sometimes known as Miss Conduct (named after a Roller Girl) due to her, shall we say, feisty personality (photo by Gary):

Doesn't she look exactly like the Frontline cat?  Maybe the only difference is the tiny patch of white that Amanda has on her chest.

Although Amanda here has assumed the classic house cat pose, she can be a handful.  We bottle-raised her as an orphan, so you'd assume she would enjoy human handling, or if not enjoy it, at least tolerate it better. 

Not true!  In fact, when I apply the Frontline flea meds monthly, I've pretty much given up on holding her during the process--I've lost that particular cat fight too many times.  Now I wait till she's eating and ambush her with the drops to the back of her neck.  She doesn't move a muscle.  Go figure.

I tried this technique with one of our other cats, De Beere, who flew straight up into the air, extended all four paws laterally out like a cartoon cat, and high-tailed it for the basement for a couple hours.

Amanda decides when she'll be a lap cat.  You can't pick her up and expect her to settle down on your lap and stay.  But I can pick her up and love her up for several minutes--after ignoring the immediate hiss.  I flip her onto her back, and cradling her like a baby, with my left hand working her neck, and my right hand working her lower back.  Amanda's eyes close and she purrs violently.  Then I put her down before she decides it's time to get down.

Cats are indeed strange and wonderful critters.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An Old(er) Ultrarunner

Had the great fortune to visit Hannibal, MO this summer and do all the Mark Twain stuff.

He was a brilliant man:

(photo by Gary from the Mark Twain Museum)

At age 58, I concede that I am getting older, but do not consider myself old.  For example, when I think back upon earlier events, I never think "...when I was young..." but rather "...when I was younger...."

Subtle, but important, distinction.

See my previous Twain-related posts here and here.

Plus, this spring, I ran the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run and finished in the top half.  Still pretty proud of that one!