Friday, August 30, 2013

My One Motorhead Lapse...and Ultrarunning

While on vacation to North Carolina's Outer Banks--specifically Ocracoke Island, reachable only by ferry boat--I took my 1998 Ford F-150 4x4 pickup truck.

The purpose was to be able to drive daily to the 4WD portions of the National Seashore and set up our chairs, canopy etc.

This is the 4WD weekly permit, which cost $50.
My confession: on our last day, coming in from our final trip to the beach, I gunned it, cut the wheel hard right, and executed a nearly perfect donut in the soft sand.
The connection to Ultrarunning?  I never have done anything like that in a vehicle in my entire life.  I am the exact polar opposite of a motorhead and anything to do with that culture.   I count myself more in the treehugger category, and feel vaguely superior that my noteworthy skills in covering distances are done using my own body as opposed to relying on the internal combustion engine.
But it was fun.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Saturn, Earth...and Ultrarunning

Courtesy of Bad Astronomy--which if you don't read at least weekly, you're deprived--a stunning image of the Earth, from very, very afar:

The picture above is from the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn. On July 19, at a distance of 1.4 billion kilometers (900 million miles) from Earth, it took the above image (actually a combination of three pictures taken with a red, green, and blue filter to mimic a “natural light” photo). Cassini was on the far side of Saturn, looking back toward the inner solar system. From that vantage, Saturn blocks the Sun and looks dark (except for an arc of light scattered through its upper atmosphere), and we see the rings translucently, light from the distant Sun penetrating and shining through. The Earth is just under the main rings, a scintillation of blue above Saturn’s ghostly E-ring.

We Ultrarunners get all cocky (yes, we do) about how far we can run.  After all, we are among the elite few on the planet who can run 50 miles or 100 miles at one time.

Sure, we are usually very self-deprecating and modest, but secretly we are very smug about the fact that we can run vast distances (see how I work in one of my all-time favorite words, vast?).

But--and this is a great big but--what we can do with our legs doesn't amount to a pinch of crap in the big scheme of things.

The Earth--where we sometimes run on some trails--appears as a tiny dot at the 3:00 o'clock postion in the image above.  The Earth, where everyone who has ever lived and everyone we will ever know, calls home.  This image is taken from the vicinity of Saturn, some 900 million miles away.

900 million miles.  Think about that on your next trail run.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lessons of the Great War

As usual, the Earth Bound Misfit does not disappoint:

99 years ago, the western front in the First World War was still in its brief maneuver phase, before settling into four years of trench warfare. 
I suspect that the further that war recedes in time, the more incomprehensible the whole thing is. Imperial Europe destroyed itself over the question of who got to exercise influence in Serbia and the rest of the Balkans. Old Europe was at the height of its global power and influence at the beginning of 1914. But then some minor bit of royalty in central Europe was killed by a fanatic and they all went to war.

Once the western front was in trench warfare, the combatants fed troops and matériel into the fight as though they were feeding a perpetual meatgrinder.
It all seems so insane a century later. And yet, have we learned all that much since then? We still go to war with grandiose plans and when those plans fail, as they have for us in three wars over the last fifty years, there is no plan of what to do next other than gut it out, feed troops and matériel into the war in the hope the other side blinks first. The big lesson of the Great War wasn't "avoid trench warfare", it was "don't go to war over small shit, you morons. And don't go to war thinking that it'll be a lovely short four week or six month war."

My great-grandfather was killed in action in WWI.  I wonder what the world lost in his death and in all the other millions who died.  In vain.

"Morons" is being charitable.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

PFC Chelsea Manning, In Perspective...and Ultrarunning

Following this lead I was struck by the utter simplicity of this Ted Rall cartoon.

PFC Bradley Manning is sentenced to 35 years behind bars for exposing crimes committed by men who walk free. 

As for Ultrarunning, I got nuthin'.  Folks like those in the cartoon are dealing with life and death issues and I worry about water bottles, fallen trees, and Slim Jims.

 I suppose I should be thankful for that.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Raising Potatoes, Part 2...and Ultrarunning

I 'veblogged about what locally is referred to as "raising potatoes" a couple of times, here and here.

To bring you up to speed, this is what I wrote previously:

When we first moved to south central PA as newlyweds, the bride and I rented a trailer in the country and started a garden.
I soon heard the expression "raising potatoes" and naturally assumed it meant the complete life cycle act of growing potatoes, much like you'd raise a pet goat or a child.
Wrong. Around here the term has a very specific and narrow meaning, namely, the act of digging one's potato crop out of the ground. Thus one might grow potatoes, followed by raising same. Get it?
So, here is part of the 2013 crop.  These are the largest, baking-size potatoes.

This year brought an unusually large number of large, conjoined spuds, reminiscent of snowmen, such as this one:

And the obligatory connection to Ultrarunning? That's easy: many folks just love cut-up chunks of potatoes dipped in salt at aid stations during our races.

Me, not so much; I go for stuff that contains both protein and carbs, such as turkey and cheese sandwiches.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cats in Art: Bushman Art (Unknown Prehistoric Artist)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. Currently I'm using some prehistoric art, triggered by finally seeing "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" which depicts 30,000 year old art in Chauvet Cave, France.

Image credit Colin-Paterson Jones, here, via Goggle Images

Title:  011208CPJed MG 0660 - Bushman art in the Eastern Cape Drakensberg near Barkly East, South Africa
Description:  Bushman painting of a lion in a Cave Sandstone rock overhang in the mountains at Balloch in the Eastern Cape Drakensberg near Barkly East, South Africa

This image is identified as a lion, but to me it is distinctly cheetah-like.  The l-o-n-g tail gives it away.

I love this image, because it is SO reminiscent of last week's mountain lion rock shelter image.  The two cats are almost identical literal mirror images of each other (this one facing right and last week's mountain lion facing left), although they are separated by an ocean and by a vast cultural divide.

In both cases we see the same lithe power and speed....and danger.  These kitties were nothing to be trifled with.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Arbor Day Foundation Quotes...and Ultrarunning

Got a come-on to join the Arbor Day Foundation, I assume from having attended an American Chestnut symposium recently.

They are a worthwhile organization but my charitable and non-profit support budget is too limited to join.  Nevertheless, I truly loved the quotes that appeared in the greeting cards they included in the membership solicitation:

In wilderness is the preservation of the world. -- Henry David Thoreau

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. -- John Muir

He who plants a tree plants a hope. -- Lucy Larcom

The link to Ultrarunning?  If you don't see it, you are brain-dead.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Post-Vacation Blues...and Ultrarunning

The bride and I, plus some heirs to the estate (including Mister Tristan, the 5-year old human being, not the blog), just returned from a wonderful week at Ocracoke Island, NC.

Coming back to the real world seems particularly jarring this year.  Which means that the vacation was indeed special.

We've been vacationing at the Outer Banks for the past 3 decades, but had not stayed on Ocracoke Island since the 70s.  It's south of Cape Hatteras and only reachable via ferry.  The island is some 12 miles or so long, and the village of Ocracoke sits near the southern end.  The village is constrained by the National Seashore and so is of finite size, which limits its development and keeps it rather quaint and charming.

I don't have access to my photos at the moment but will post more soon.

Oh, the connection to Ultrarunning?  I ran exactly once during vacation, an easy 5 miler.  Not exactly a strong training base, but it was the amount I felt like running.  After all, I was on vacation.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Drones, or Cause and Effect

From our friends at Shakesville, some common sense: 

"The consequence of drone strikes has been to radicalize an entirely new generation."-U.N. Special Rapporteur on drones, British lawyer Ben Emmerson. 

And Emmersen, whose "legal insights will form the basis of his report to the U.N., expected later this year," has an additional warning about the long-term effects of the US' drone program: 

Emmerson says the drone strikes are illegal under international law as they violate Pakistan's sovereignty and fly in the face of Pakistani government calls for them to desist -- and that they also legalize al Qaeda's fight against America. 

He said: "If it is lawful for the U.S. to drone al Qaeda associates whereever they find them, then it is also lawful for al Qaeda to target U.S. military or infrastructure where ever (militants) find them."

Cause and effect: it's just not that hard. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cats in Art: Panther (Unknown Prehistoric Artist)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. Currently I'm using some prehistoric art, triggered by finally seeing "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" which depicts 30,000 year old art in Chauvet Cave, France.

Image credit National Park Service, here
From the Amistad National Recreation Area in Texas, a well preserved panther (mountain lion) image, in a rock shelter.  From the NPS web site:
Nestled along the United States-Mexico border in southwestern Texas and northwestern Coahuila, the Lower Pecos River Archeological region encompasses an area of about fifty square miles. Though this cultural region is fairly small, more than 2,000 archeological sites have been recorded. These sites cover a time span from the 19th century to over 10,000 years ago. Over 325 pictograph sites have been documented containing some of North America’s oldest and largest pictographs. These pictographs range in size from isolated motifs just a few inches tall to huge panels stretching more than 100 feet along the back of rock shelter walls.
Panther Cave is the region’s most famous pictograph site. The rear wall of the shelter is covered, floor-to-ceiling, with hundreds of motifs which collectively form an uninterrupted panel more than eighty feet in length. The namesake of the site, a giant red-painted mountain lion or panther, is over ten feet long from nose to the tip of the tail.

It's tough to make out in this ancient pictograph since the cat's legs are not very clear, but to me the overall impression is one of fluidity, of a lithe, agile cat leaping effortlessly, tail erect for balance.

One senses power, speed, and quick danger.  The unknown ancient artist was truly able to convey a lot of information in this beautiful image.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

They Were As Real as You and Me

I don't recall whether I've mnetioned this fact in Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 5-year-old human being), but I am a fascinated student of the American Civil War.  Meaning avid reader, researcher, writer.  In fatc, I've had a couple of articles publsihed in The Gettsyburg Magazine, and am working on another.

Anyway, from editor Andy Turner of The Gettysburg Magazine, we read this vignette, and without any more explanation needed, this si why I am so facsicnted with the American Civil War:

As they say, it’s a small world. You never know who you are going to run into and when. Such was the case of two Civil War veterans who once faced each other on the field of battle and later bumped into each other as old men.

The following article, from the February 1911 edition of Confederate Veteran, tells of the unlikely meeting of two former foes.

Singular Meeting of Two Old Veterans
The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune prints a remarkable yet very reasonable story from Zephyr Hills, a new colony town in Florida, concerning two veterans who battered each other with their muskets at Malvern Hill in the battle there. The veterans were William H. Hopkins, who was in a New York regiment, and Samuel Stafford, who was in the 5th Florida.

The story goes on to say that at Malvern Hill, Va., the Union forces charged an intrenched line of Confederates, and a fierce and bloody hand-to-hand fight took place. The two men, now grizzled and old, were boys. They met face to face, hand to hand, gun to gun, and saw each other well. Both had emptied their rifles into the ranks of their respective foes, and with clubbed guns they attacked each other, each demanding surrender. Neither would yield, and they fought with the fierceness of youth and the determination of brave men, each of whom had faith in the righteousness of the cause for which he struggled. Hopkins dealt Stafford a heavy blow with the butt of his gun on the head, and at the same instant Stafford had brought the butt of his gun crashing upon the head of Hopkins, the hammer striking his eye, and both fell. Stafford arose in a very short time, dazed and terribly hurt; but the attack had failed, and the Union troops, defeated, had fled, or those who were able to flee and were not captured. Hopkins lay upon the earth unconscious, apparently dead, and became a prisoner. A bullet had struck his head, inflicting a most dangerous wound, while the blow of Stafford had fractured his skull. The Confederate boy looked down upon the still form of his enemy, who was covered with blood and gave no sign of life, and his humane heart stood still in horror. He began to weep over his enemy, and undertook to wash the blood from his face. An officer asked him what he was crying about, and he said: “I have killed a man. I did not know him. Why should I kill him?”

It was nearly three months before Hopkins himself knew that he was alive, before he recovered consciousness. The sight of his right eye was gone. The blow he struck Stafford resulted in the destruction of his right eye. Neither saw the other after that fight until now. These two old men, each having but one eye, met by chance. Stafford lives within the bounds of the colony; Hopkins is a colonist. When chance led them to the same group near colony headquarters, they greeted each other casually as strangers; then each took a second look and a third. Each being struck by the similarity of their mutually unfortunate state, they looked upon each other with growing interest. Stafford said: “I seem to remember you. I wonder if we ever met before?”

Hopkins answered: “As soon as I saw you I thought I ought to know; but I do not, I guess. My name is Hopkins.”

“My name is Stafford. I live just over yonder. I lost my eye in a fight at Malvern Hill. How did you lose yours? Was it in the war? Were you wounded?”

“Yes,” Hopkins responded in surprise. “I was struck on the head by a Reb at Malvern Hill when we charged their intrenchment. Well, that was the man you remind me of.”

“You are the Yankee who refused to surrender and knocked me on the head with the butt of your gun, I believe,” said Stafford; and when each told the details of the fight, it became evident that these gray-haired men were the boys who fought so terribly in battle hand to hand that day at Malvern Hill. And each battered the other to the destruction of his right eye.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Janet Christiansen, Revisited...and Ultrarunning

Beem awhile since I posted about Janet Christiansen (last was here).

She was murdered several years ago and is buried in a local cemetery where I run.  An article in our local newspaper a couple years ago about her body being exhumed for additional forensic evidence to try to solve her murder led me to her grave and got me thinking about immortality and such.

Funny how odd events or things just kinda resonate for unkown reasons, but I've generally decided just to go with it, there are things to be learned.  I didn't know Janet; she's just a stranger whose story touched me.

What I've taken from Janet's story is that life is short, things can change in a heartbeat, and that there are no guarantees.  So the only sensible response is to live each day to the fullest and don't take anything for granted.

Whenever I run by there I ususally drop off some wildflowers--here, Queen Anne's Lace--just to say thanks to Janet for the valuable lesson that "you may not have as much time as you think."

The link, of course, to Ultrarunning is one I personally need to take to heart: if you feel like doing a particular run (be it training or a race), just DO IT. 

No time like the present; after all, the whole point of this post is never to assume you'll have the time at some later date.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Stop, Look and Listen...and Ultrarunning

Image credit R. Berdar at Flickr, here.

Being the old guy that I am, I am a member of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons).  I recently took the on-line AARP Driver Safety Course to gain a discount on my auto insurance.

If you've ever taken any on-line training, you know that they run the gamut of difficulty: there are some totally easy courses, some in-between courses, and some real gonad-busters.

This course was easy in the sense of not even being pass-fail; rather, you just plow through it, take the unscored tests, and earn your certificate at the end.  It does take several hours, and there are no time shortcuts.  While much of the info presented was simply common sense, I actually did pick up some good advice.

What I wanted to focus on in this post pertains to the image above of the type of old railroad sign that used to be prevalent before crossing signals and flashing lights became the norm.  Much of the AARP course deals with strategies to address the reality of older drivers not being quite as aware of their surroundings and reacting slower.

So I've taken the old "Stop, Look and Listen" mantra to the roads when I run.  Since much of my local running is on curvy, hilly rural roads, often with minimal shoulders, I frequently change sides and even run on the "wrong" side of the road when doing so is actually the safest strategy for both me and any drivers I may encounter.  I am always thinking visibility: how can I best be seen and out of the line of fire.

But before I make any maneuvers, I really and truly literally stop, look, and listen so I don't wind up as roadkill.  I realize my situational awareness skills are not what they once were, so I take extra care to make certain that I know what's coming my using my eyes AND my ears.


New Mexico's Unfortunate Nickname...and Ultrarunning

Across these wonderful 50 United States of America, here in the northeast we see such inspirational state nicknames as the "Keystone State" (Pennsylvania); the "Empire State" (New York); the "Monumental State" (Maryland); the "Old Granite State" (New Hampshire); and the "Green Mountain State" (Vermont), just to name a few.

But head out west, waaaaay out west, all the way to New Mexico, where we learn that that state's nickname is the "Vermin State."

Yes, the Vermin State.  Seriously?

Better get the Chamber of Commerce on that pronto, if they can spare some time away from trying to keep the minimum wage suppressed and blindly opposing sensible safeguards and regulations as being anti-business.

The link to Ultrarunning is that I had a couple of business trips to New Mexico where I fully appreciated its license plate nickname: "Land of Enchantment."  I did a couple of memorable runs at White Sands and near Carlsbad Caverns, both of which will absolutely knock your socks off.

[image credit here]


Monday, August 12, 2013

Cheaters in Sports...and Ultrarunning

Saw Mike Wise's commentary in the Washington Post a week ago about drug cheating in baseball.  And he makes some great points:

Almost forgotten this weekend is the annual Baseball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y. It is a pastoral postcard of a hamlet in upstate New York somehow still called “Baseball’s Spiritual Home.” Amid clubhouses full of lost souls, a better moniker might be “Graveyard to the Grand Old Game.”
For the first time in almost 50 years, the new inductees are all dead. The players eligible for induction — Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, only the greatest power hitter and pitcher of their generation — are widely considered disgraced drug cheats who, in the end, needed lawyers more than Hall of Fame votes.
Ryan Braun isn’t getting into Cooperstown, either, but not because he merely used performance-enhancing drugs. No, before admitting his guilt and accepting Major League Baseball’s 65-game, rest-of-the-season ban, he committed a more cardinal sin: He kept lying, only more belligerently. Going after the people who caught him lying and cheating, he became the National League MVP who knew no bottom.
Braun followed the Bondsian deny-till-you-die credo, attacking the people who caught him, swearing his innocence on everything — including, comically in retrospect, his actual life. A week of ugly backlash showed Braun there is a harder-to-forgive crime than using steroids to steal money and fame from your peers: being a bad guy.  
Alex Rodriguez, who admitted he once used PEDs, is flirting with expulsion from baseball because he too didn’t learn the lesson of the PED era: Fess up when the truth catches up to you and move on. [Note: he was suspended thru 2014]

These 2 guys, sadly, followed the Lance Armstrong strategy: deny, Deny, DENY, and attack, Attack, ATTACK, until their pack of lies ultimately crumbled like a house of cards.

I learned long ago that bad news never improves with age, so it's best to deal with stuff head on and early.  You're going to face some pain, sure, but nothing compared to the escalated pain that will have compounded if you wait.  Just sayin'.

So, the lies turn out to be worse than the original sin.  Back to Mike Wise:

Bonds, Clemens, Braun and Rodriguez are all cautionary tales in what should be the thesis of the Lance Armstrong School of Ethics: The public will forgive a guy for using PEDs.
What they’re less likely to forgive is lying about it afterward and then trashing and attacking the accusers.  People understand the temptation to cheat. But if and when you get caught, don’t be a jerk. It makes you look irredeemable.

Oh, and the connection to Ultrarunning?  It's entirely likely that some of our elite Ultrarunners do use performance-enhancing drugs to do better, although on the other hand the financial incentives to do so just aren't there (endurance running is NOT a big-money sport, duh). 

But overall I truly believe that our sport is mostly clean, just based upon the kind of people I know who gravitate to it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cats in Art: Painted Desert Lion (Unknown Prehistoric Artist)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. Currently I'm using some prehistoric art, triggered by finally seeing "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" which depicts 30,000 year old art in Chauvet Cave, France.
Image credit The Big Cats in Rock Art, here
The Classic Cat, from the Painted Desert in Arizona.  No info on size or technique.
I figured I'd keep on with the notion of cats in prehistoric rock art, but the pickings are surprisingly slim.  Google Images has been helpful, but I believe that if I had access to an in-depth art library--think major university--I could likely find plenty of rock art kitties.
This cat is so stylized as to be a bit frightening.  The claws are highly emphasized and the mouth is downright scary.  It seems apparent that the artist was a bit wary of the mountain lion (also locally called cougar or panther).


Friday, August 9, 2013

Perseid Meteor Shower: Time for a Night Run Sunday or Monday

Well, it's August and again our planet has (literally) made another circle and is soon to intercept the cloud of galactic dust and crud that will produce the annual Perseid Meteor shower when the Earth passes through it. in the northeast, the 2 prime nights are Sunday into Monday and Monday into Tuesday.

Here's what has to say about it:

If you ask most skygazers to name their favorite meteor shower, the odds are good that “Perseid” will be the first word out of their mouths. This annual shower seemingly has it all: It offers a consistently high rate of meteors year after year; it produces a higher percentage of bright ones than most other showers; it occurs in August when many people take summer vacation; and it happens at a time when nice weather and reasonable nighttime temperatures are common north of the equator. No other major shower can boast all four of these attributes.

And this year’s Perseid meteor shower promises one other significant advantage: It peaks under a Moon-free sky. From mid-northern latitudes, the waxing crescent Moon sets shortly after 10 p.m. local daylight time on the 11th. As always, you’ll see more meteors at a viewing site far from artificial lights.
If predictions hold viewers in North America should see up to 80 meteors per hour — still an average of more than one per minute — in the hour or two before twilight starts to break shortly after 4 a.m. local daylight time. If cloudy skies prevail on the 12th, look on the morning of the 13th, when rates will be somewhat lower but still impressive.

And from the same site, here's where to look in the sky.  That's Polaris--AKA the North Star--hanging at the 10:00 position.  So your general viewing orientation should be facing northeast.  The caption "Radiant" there in the center simply refers to the approximate location from which the meteors will appear to radiate from:

I have NEVER yet done this--but I am reminded that at my age there are only so many summers remaining to me--but I am sorely tempted to set my alarm for, say 2:00 am early Monday morning (provided it's clear) and go for a run. 
It could be magical, and who doesn't need a touch more magic in their lives?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Feel Safer Now (NSA Stuff)?

From our pal, the Earth Bound Misfit (on 2 Aug, link here), a quantification of the terror-disrupting benefits of all that illegal NSA spying:

So, How Many Terrorist Plots Been Disrupted Because the NSA has Been Collecting the Phone Records of All Americans For the Past Dozen Years?

You might recall that the NSA has claimed to have disrupted 54 terrorist plots or "dozens."

Well, NSA deputy director John Inglis revised that number at a Senate hearing two days ago all the way down to one plot, maybe.

Really. Thousands of NSA analysts, Lord knows how many contractors are sucking at that particular teat, they are building a new server farm the size of Rhode Island and all they can show for that effort is that they uncovered one plot?

Feel safer now?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Trail Work: Reese Hollow Trail

Couple days ago I did some recurring trail maintenance work on "my" trail.  The Reese Hollow Trail is a side trail in southern PA that links the dry, ridgetop Tuscarora Trail with a shelter and spring.

The weeds are bad this year and I used my gas weed whacker to keep the trail open and the weeds to a manageable height.

I use the term "weeds" rather loosely, becasue I never would have imagined that I would have to weed whack ferns. Turns out that ferns are ubiquitous in this area and in places would totally encroach and cover the trail.

[image credits Gary]

I used up 3 tanks of gas, and was about shaken to pieces from the chronic vibration.  Note to self: next time don't leave the goggles and hearing proection in the garage.  I also cleared 2 minor blowdowns.

I also mounted a couple of signs I made.  I don't have a router so I used a Dremel tool to cut the letters. Mine is the lower yellow sign to provide spring and distance info.



Hikers should note that Tuscarora Trail is again VERY overgrown this summer with briars (actually I think they are wild raspberries). There are some quite negative comments in the trail register on the TT near top of Reese Hollow Trail.

This ridgetop is pretty clear (many trees gone, perhaps due to gypsy moths) so that a ton of sunlight reaches the forest floor, promoting a lush growth of understory...including the briars.

Frankly, I cannot recommend hiking the southern PA section of the Tuscarora Trail (south of PA RT 16) right now unless you wear jeans and long sleeves; you will get badly scratched up.

I tried an experiment last month on a 200-yard stretch of the Tuscarora Trail just north of its junction with my Reese Hollow Trail.  Rather than clip or cut the briars since they are very shallow-rooted, I simply pulled the briars out by their roots using thick leather gloves.

That 200 yard stretch of trail remains clear enough to hike easily: grassy but the briars are still at bay off to the sides of the trail.  However, it'd take a big crew of people to cover a dozen miles using this technique.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Advice When Visiting a Sick/Injured Ultrarunner

Somehow on the net I wound up on this site where I read some great advice called The Ring Theory, on how you should react to a person with some crisis.  It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential.

Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order.
Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, "Life is unfair" and "Why me?" That's the one payoff for being in the center ring.
Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.
When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you're going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn't, don't say it. Don't, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don't need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, "I'm sorry" or "This must really be hard for you" or "Can I bring you a pot roast?" Don't say, "You should hear what happened to me" or "Here's what I would do if I were you." And don't say, "This is really bringing me down."

I needed this advice recently in talking to a friend, an Ultrarunner who could no longer run (back problems combined with an endocrinogical type disease).  Thankfully, without knowing about The Ring Theory I was able to do the right  thing anyway.

I asked him about missing trail running and he talked about that loss, and how he hoped he'd still be able to do some walking to get some woodsy time.  I didn't tell him about my latest backcountry adventure or anything like that until he asked, and then I kept it short and factual until he probed further.  Then I offered more detail.

So, go check out The Ring Theory.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cats in Art: Panther Panel (Unknown Prehistoric Artist)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. Currently I'm using some prehistoric art, triggered by finally seeing "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" which depicts 30,000 year old art in Chauvet Cave, France.

Image credit The Bradshaw Foundation, here

Medium: red pigment on rock, 5 m x 1.5 m, approximately 30,000 years ago, unknown artist

Ten drawings are arranged over the area. The animal figures include 3 bears, 2 felines - including a panther - 2 ibex, 3 unidentifiable animals and 1 red dot, made with the palm of the hand. The central piece of the panel is dominated by the panther and the 2 superimposed bears. Whilst the outlines are precise and 'essential', the figures are incomplete. The spots on the panther represent a feline coat, where as the spots on the cave bear probably suggested a thicker fur. The figures are all drawn in red. Other visible marks on the panel are attributable to bears - paw-rubs and claw marks.

The cats in the image probably are Owen's Panther (Puma pardoides), a poorly known Old World fossil representative of a large cougar-like cat of Eurasia's Pleistocene (reference here).

As in last week's post of the lions in Chauvet Cave, I marvel at the artist who actually saw these panthers and had the artistic skills to draw them.  One can't help but ponder the timeless qualities of art and beauty intertwined...that's some enduring art, right there.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Gary's Relationship Advice

Yesterday's post about the wisdom of old female elephants got me to thinking about relationships. Nothing to do with Ultrarunning here.

This whole age/experience thing kinda dovetails with my theory of relationships. In today's culture young lovers often take things to the next level way too fast: dating, sex, moving in together, marriage (or not).

I've always thought that the key ingredient that seems to be missing is time: you need to be with someone for months, not weeks, so you can see them at their best and at their worst, in sickness and in health, so to speak, before you commit.  You need to see them when they are up, when they are down, how they handle pressure and adversity and joy and sorrow...before you are inextricably linked.

You don't want to be learning your loved one's basic traits after you've pulled the commitment trigger, because you may not like what you see.

Which brings me back to the value of just spending time, unrushed, unhurried time.  If your loved one holds up well (i.e., is a decent human being under most circumstances), then you may know that he or she is the one.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Age and Experience DO Count...and Ultrarunning

Via Science Magazine, here, confirmation from the animal kingdom of what is generally also true among humans: age and experience DO count:

What good is an older female elephant to her herd, especially one in her 60s and well-beyond her prime reproductive years? She's the best leader and the one most capable of making wise decisions, according to a study of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Kenya's Amboseli National Park that was published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The oldest female in an elephant herd is always the leader.

But how did the researchers demonstrate this quantitatively, since this topic is mighty subjective?  A pretty ingenious experiment:

Researchers tested the decision-making skills of these matriarchs by playing recordings of lions roaring; they monitored the elephants' reactions to the roars of a single lion versus three lions for both male and female lions. Because of their size and heft, single male lions can pose a greater threat to elephants than do female lions. The oldest matriarchs proved best at recognizing a male lion's roar, as 66-year-old Joyce does in this video [Gary note: go to link, here, for the video]. When she hears the three male lions, she bunches her herd in a tight phalanx to ward off a possible attack. The study provides the first experimental evidence that the members of a herd benefit from an older leader—a discovery, the researchers say, that also shows how vital it is to protect the elders (who usually have the biggest tusks) from ivory poachers.

I like to think that as I've aged as an Ultrarunner, I've also gained the experience and knowledge that only years can bring.  Although I certainly recall as a young man thinking that old people thought they knew it all.

Turns out they did (at least to a point).

In Ultrarunning I've realized that it's the journey and not the destination.  I don't do dumb things anymore (usually!) such as not telling loved ones where I'll be and when I expect to get back.  Plus I always carry my cell phone on the trail , and more water and trail food than I think I'll need.

But mostly I just sorta listen to my instnincts and go with my gut in pacing, in adapting to weatehr conditions, whether, say, adding that loop makes sense today. 

My credo now--just like they told us in the 60s--is that speed kills. So take it easy and enjoy the trail.