Here are another couple of shots I took along the C+O Canal on the first day of March, 2012. As far as scale, the twigs shown are each about 6" long.
These are the flowers of the Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum). In places they fairly covered the towpath on which I was running. I was utterly astounded that a tree would put forth flowers so early.
Why? I thought that this was mighty early for bees, then in my research I see where this tree relies heavily upon wind pollination.
So again we see various strategies being confirmed via the process of evolution. If this early flower/early seed strategy did not work then it would have disappeared as being unsuccessful. Trees that were genetically programmed to flower early would not produce any viable seeds, thus that characteristic would not carry forth into subsequent generations.
That, my friends, is the principle of evolution by natural selection. It's not rocket science, it's not anti-religion, it just is.
You can read more about the silver maple here. It is a key constituent of the C+O Canal tree fauna, being partial to stream channels and flood plains.
Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning? Just like the silver maple's reproductive strategy is validated via the process of evolution, we, too, try out and discard running strategies. We keep those that work and dump the ones that don't.
The only difference is that our unsuccessful Ultrarunning efforts (usually) do not end up resulting in our failure to reproduce.