Friday, April 30, 2010

$200 Million Per Arrest

This post goes hand in hand with mine from Wednesday.  Seems that the US Air Marshal program isn’t exactly a resounding success story. In fact, as Bruce Schneier points out in his monthly newsletter on 15 April, air marshals are being arrested faster than air marshals are making arrests.

From a speech by Tennessee Congressman John Duncan in 2009, here:

And listen to this paragraph from a front-page story in the USA Today last November: “Since 9/11, more than three dozen Federal air marshals have been charged with crimes, and hundreds more have been accused of misconduct. Cases range from drunken driving and domestic violence to aiding a human-trafficking ring and trying to smuggle explosives from Afghanistan.''

We now have approximately 4,000 in the Federal Air Marshals Service, yet they have made an average of just 4.2 arrests a year since 2001. This comes out to an average of about one arrest a year per 1,000 employees.

Now, let me make that clear. Their thousands of employees are not making one arrest per year each. They are averaging slightly over four arrests each year by the entire agency. In other words, we are spending approximately $200 million per arrest. Let me repeat that: we are spending approximately $200 million per arrest.

Professor Ian Lustick of the University of Pennsylvania wrote last year about the money feeding frenzy of the war on terror. And he wrote this: “Nearly 7 years after September 11, 2001,'' he wrote this last year, “what accounts for the vast discrepancy between the terrorist threat facing America and the scale of our response? Why, absent any evidence of a serious terror threat, is a war to on terror so enormous, so all-encompassing, and still expanding? The fundamental answer is that al Qaeda's most important accomplishment was not to hijack our planes but to hijack our political system.”

Or we could just say, "Sh*t happens, we can't defend everyone and everything 100% of the time."  Let's not instiute a cure that's worse than the underlying problem we are trying to solve.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Celebration of Health and the Triumph of Human Spirit

Speaking of running ultras, and how it is not understood by the world at large, I saved this Rich Limacher quote from the UltraList back in 1999:

Gawkers and media vultures watching all the worn-out bloody bodies must think we all do a death march for fifty or more miles. But they have no clue, do they? Why, in every single ultra I've ever done, the almost non-stop banter and good humor from start to finish makes the whole thing a celebration--not a war zone--which is exactly what it is: a celebration of health and the triumph of human spirit.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sh*t Happens

I love to see people running around with their hair on fire.  Well, not literally, nor do I actually "love" it, but in the sense that I am quite amused by people's reactions.

That's why I think that Jeremy Clarkson is so spot on.  From the London Times On-Line, complete with very British spelling and colloquialisms:

As we know, one man once got on one plane in a pair of exploding hiking boots and as a result everyone else in the entire world is now forced to strip naked at airports and hand over their toiletries to a man in a high-visibility jacket.

In other words, the behaviour of one man has skewed the concept of everyday life for everyone else. And we are seeing this all the time.

We seem to have lost sight of the fact that throughout history 90% of people have behaved quite normally 90% of the time. Of course, at the extremes, you have 5% who are goodie-goodies and who become vicars, and 5% who build exploding hiking shoes and starve their children to death.

It’s this oddball 5% that is targeted by the tidal wave of legislation...It just changes the pattern of everyday life for everyone else. This is what drives me mad.

Happily, however, I have a solution to the problem, a way that normal human behaviour can be preserved. It’s simple. We must start to accept that 5% of the population at any given time is bonkers. There are no steps to be taken to stamp this out and no lessons to be learnt when a man with a beard boards a plane with an exploding dog.

Government officials who are questioned on the steps of coroner’s courts must be reminded of this before they speak. So that instead of saying the current law is “not fit for purpose” and that something must be done, they familiarise themselves with an expression that sums up the situation rather better: “Sh*t happens.”

Mr. Clarkson nailed it, didn't he?  (I was going to say that he hit it out of the park, but that analogy would be inapproriate).  Anyway, you should go read the whole piece.

What we have at work here is the law of unintended consequences, in which the desired goal may be desirable and even admirable, but the cure is worse than the disease. In a free society we cannot possibly protect everyone and everything, we just have to accept that there is a background level of risk that one’s life could go suddenly and tragically south in a heartbeat.

So rather than live defensively we need to live with joy and gusto, not being afraid of what tragedy might befall us but rather with a thankful and joyful heart for the good things in our lives.

I think I’ll go take a run.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Getting Older as an Ulrarunner

Conventional wisdom tells us that ultrarunners are an older crowd. I suppose this makes sense if I assume that my genesis is typical. I started with short road races (5K, 5M); progressed up thru 10K and 10M to the half marathon; then heeded the siren song of the marathon and ran a bunch of them.

Then I began to realize how road racing beats up your body. Also about then I experimented with and succumbed to the lure of the trail when personal records at these road distances became increasingly tougher to come by.

Cue the celestial choir singing the Halleluiah Chorus as I became illuminated.

All this takes time, decades perhaps, so if it is true that ultrarunners on average are older, that'd be why. Being a scientist at heart, though, I would like to see the empirical demographics before I just accept the "ultrarunners are older" thing as a given.

Anyway, since I'm over 50 I joined AARP, which stands for American Association of Retired People (I think), and I get their monthly magazine. Turns out they have an annual conference with speakers, travel expo, etc., and also have featured entertainment. For this year's conference in Orlando FL in September 2010, the featured entertainment is Crosby, Stills & Nash. Plus Judy Collins and Richie Havens.

Sounds like a venue straight out of Woodstock in 1969, doesn't it? And since at least Crosby, Stills & Nash were some of the original American protest musicians during the Vietnam war, it seems sort of ironic in a way that they are now sponsored by AARP.

Or maybe just may be the natural order of things. After all, I don't have any prior experience at the protocols of growing old and CS&N probably don't either.

The one constant is that I just continue to love ultrarunning.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Feel my Heart Pumping Hard....

Some weeks ago I ran across a quote that I just loved, from a Mary Oliver poem entitled Starlings in Winter:

I feel my heart pumping hard, I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings.

This is the way I sometimes feel while out on the trail...these are the types of runs that all ultrarunners live for.  Delighting in your running body and thinking thoughts that soar.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Remembrance for Nathan: What I Should Have Written

On 11 April I posted Remembrance for Nathan (see here).

Here I am redoing the post that I did 2 weeks ago, adding to it and making it what I should have written.

In that post basically I showed a Holocaust picture of an old Jewish woman holding a child beside the railroad cars at a concentration camp, made a brief analogy between Mister Tristan and Nathan (in the photo) both being 2 years old, then sent readers over to another blog saying "Read this."

That was sort of lazy--if I don't contribute any value added, coming from my own thinking, when I post something, then I should not do that post.

Here's how the post did read:

Mister Tristan--the human being, not the blog--is 2 years old.

Nathan, in the left foreground of the photo, was also 2 years old. Rather than try to summarize the story, I'm afraid I would not do it justice. Please go read the whole thing, by Lea Lane, here. This is a must-read for anyone with a heart.

So here's what I should have written:

Mister Tristan--the human being, not the blog--is 2 years old.

Nathan, in the left foreground of the photo, was also 2 years old. Rather than try to summarize the story, I'm afraid I would not do it justice. Please go read the whole thing, by Lea Lane, here. This is a must-read for anyone with a heart.

The bottom line is that a Holocaust survivor, Cecile, who was a teenager in the Nazi concentration camps, many decades later happened to see a photo that she recognized. It was of her mother holding her 2 year old grandson (Cecile's nephew), Nathan.  While Cecile and her sister did survive, Nathan did not, nor did mother or her brother-in-law.

No, it is too mild to use the passive voice and just say that they did not survive--the Nazis murdered them. And as I read this terrible story, I began to weep and to rage and to scream at the type of Homo sapiens (I won't use the term human) who could deliberately and cold-bloodedly murder a 2 year old child. I love Mister Tristan more than life itself and would gladly lay down my life for his. The innocence, the promise, the trust, in a child's eyes--to violate that is the most heinous of acts.

Speaking purely in a biological sense, children are our reason for living--we exist to reproduce and to pass on our genes to the next generation. But moreover, in a philosophical sense, children are a gift. They keep us young and give us an altruistic reason for living--to nurture, to teach, to grow.

It took me a long time that night to get my emotions under control over the 60+ year old tragedy of Nathan, as I held Mister Tristan and nestled him under my wings. He knew something was wrong and was content to snuggle there, somehow knowing that we were comforting one another. Then we read "Goodnight, Moon" and I told him the story of Tristan's day, and I put him into his crib.

I would spend a long time that night just watching him sleep, work forgotten, politics forgotten, ultrarunning forgotten. Just watching him sleep.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

As Easy as a Bird in Flight

(Photo credit here)

Several weeks ago I put up a series of 3 posts (here, here and here) listing some quotes that I found personally meaningful, from the late Dr. George Sheehan. He pretty much was the philosophical running guru of my formative running years in the 1980s. And although he never seemed to have discovered trail running, I always will be grateful to him for articulating the mental aspects of running in a way that I could relate to.

I hope that younger runners today still recognize the name and his work, and the impact that he had during the running boom of the 70s and 80s.

My favorite quote, that I would like to again highlight:

For every runner who tours the world running marathons, there are thousands who run to hear leaves and listen to rain and look to the day when it all is suddenly as easy as a bird in flight. For them, sport is not a test but a therapy; not a trial but a reward; not a question but an answer.

Old George got it absolutely right--big events are nice and fun and motivating and something to look forward to, but it is your everyday running that in essence pays the bills. If you don't derive sufficient reward from your everyday running, then I think you're in trouble.

I get rejuvenated every single run by the leaves and the thinking about as much or as little as my mind desires....and the feeling that I get, on a good day, that it all is as easy as a bird in flight.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pappy's License Plate

I built this wren house from old chestnut boards from my grandfather-in-law's farm, and used his 1958 Pennsylvania license plate as the roof. (photo by Gary)

The house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) should be arriving any day now from their winter stay. They are a critter of edges, so I will encounter them along my typical rural road runs, along the C+O Canal, but not usually along the Appalachian Trail. They are not a deep woods critter.

One of the reAsons I love this tiny dynamo of feathers is that the males and the females are indistinguishable from one another, and share nest duties equally.  And can they ever sing—a sweet, melodic burst of sound that seems too large to come from this tiny little bird. My Audubon Society field guide calls it “…a gurgling, bubbling, exuberant song….”

The bride and I eagerly await this time of year, to see who will be the first to say, "The wrens are back."  Then we know that the earth, and us upon it, have sucessfully turned another year.

Photo credit here

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Magic Elixir

The past few days my posts have gotten a bit heavy on the political/social side, so I'd better get back to some Ultrarunning.

Here's a topic that's near and dear to my heart--chafing. Granted, this is a borderline technical issue versus the "softer side of Ultrarunning," but I'd submit that if you have a chafing issue, it sorta puts a damper on thinking philosophical thoughts while you're communing with Nature.

So, here's the origin of the problem  In wearing typical running shorts, any time after about 5 miles, and I've been sweating so that the built-in panty is wet, then I tend to get chafing on my inner thighs.

I used to use petroleum jelly in advance, which was messy and didn't last real long. Now I've moved on to Body Glide, which goes on like deodorant. It still needs reapplied but lasts much longer. The ultimate solution for me was to go to a different garment--a running short that's stretchy like a biker's short and goes down my thighs several inches. Now I have no inner thigh chafing, period.

But--or should I say butt--there is still another area "down there" that can get chafed. In my case, I tend to get some chafing between my butt cheeks on real long runs. No type of short is going to fix that problem, so the preventive solution is topical application of Body Glide. That, and the need to keep the area clean.

You can imagine where I'm going with this, but many backcountry runners have bowel movements while out in the woods. Skin-on-skin rubbing combined with the presence of poop (there, I said it!), which can be irritating, is a recipe for some serious chafing. The solution is to wipe and wipe well; better yet, to cleanse the area with water, either from a stream or puddle or a water bottle. Then (re)apply some sort of lube.

If prevention fails and you do get chafing, then the magic elixir to remedy the discomfort is a product called A+D Ointment. It's a common product, usually found in the baby care section of drug stores, and is available as a store-brand. It's petroleum jelly-based but has some other stuff (lanolin) that promotes healing. I can buy a tube with just a couple ounces in it, small enough to take along in my pack for use on the trail. And after the run and using the A+D, usually by the next morning I'm pretty much over any chafing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eastern Redbud

This tree is my personal favorite.  I have about half a dozen.  Here in the south part of the Keystone State it is about the earliest blooming tree, and I just love it.

Here are a few shots.  The connection to ultrarunning is that this is the sight that greets me when I complete a (road) run and turn onto my street.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Aftermath of the Pig Farm

On Sunday I posted on my first 10 miler, following Umstead 3 weeks ago.  I did my beloved Pig Farm route.  I am redoing some more flower beds, so I gathered some limestone rocks from the edges of the fields and went back later with the truck to harvest them and bring them home.

All in all, a good day's work, and I love killing 2 birds with 1 stone: running and landscaping.

A knowledgeable friend tells me that the local geological formation, the Chambersburg Limestone, weighs in at about 166 lbs per cubic foot, so I moved me some weight.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bodily Integrity and Pregnancy

I may as well complete the trifecta of ranting about people trying to control other people's lives (going along with my Galileo post (Thurs 15 April) and my post on Jesus' comments about gays (Sat 17 April).

Women should have an absolute right to control their bodily integrity.  We may not like their decision, but it is and must always be their decision.  I'v collected a couple of analogies that make perfect sense to me.

Check out an excellent article here.  Excerpt:

Our courts have always held that the government cannot compel an individual to use his or her body as an instrument for preserving people who are already born, much less for preserving a fetus in the womb. For example, the government cannot force a relative of a child afflicted with cancer to donate bone marrow or an organ to the child, even if the child is sure to die without the donation.

Obviously, if the state cannot force someone to undergo a bone marrow or organ transplant for a person already born, it cannot force a woman to continue a pregnancy that might entail great health risks for the sake of a fetus. As the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia stated in a 1989 decision, "surely a fetus cannot have rights superior to those of a person who has already been born."

Another thoughtful article is here.  Excerpt:

A second account of the abortion right, however, is the very different idea that no person should be forced to sustain another living creature with her body. The experience of pregnancy, on this view, is far too intimate and demanding for the law to mandate it of women, particularly when no similar physical altruism is generally required of men, who can choose not to donate blood or organs to relatives (or others) in need.

Far from demanding blood and organs from its citizenry, moreover, the law in this country protects even a dead person from compulsory organ donation. And this is true notwithstanding the fact that such organs - which will otherwise decompose in a graveyard or go up in flame -- could be used to save and preserve many lives.

When bodily integrity is so (perhaps excessively) prized, it must not give way just because it is the bodies of pregnant women at issue. If it does, then the law engages in invidious discrimination against women.

The connection to UltraRunning?  I value my personal freedom beyond measure--the freedom to live my life as I choose, the freedom to engage in leisure pursuits such as UltraRunning, and--if I were a woman--the freedom to control my own body.  It's all one logical whole.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pig Farm 10 Miler, Revisited

Since covering 100 miles on 27 March at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run, I took a week off then resumed running at a reduced scale.

Well, today I hit my first double digit run, and of course it was on my Pig Farm 10 Miler route (see here). It was like a victory lap, running for the sheer joy of running, not running for a specific training purpose. It was like having a weight lifted from my shoulders.

I took special note of the freshly plowed fields, the wildflowers, the wildlife, my breathing and pace, and just loved being a runner and being alive. Knowing how quickly things can change, I try not to take anything for granted and thanked my lucky stars for this gift of a run.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Narrow Minded People

I guess this goes hand-in-hand with my Galileo post from Thursday.  I've about had it with narrow-minded people who want to discriminate against "others" (people not like them, e.g., gays).  Or who insist that their literal interpretation of their holy book is what must govern MY life.  Or men who want to control the body autonomy of women.

Quote below I saved from somewhere but failed to attribute it at the time.  I would love to give credit if I could, as it succinctly makes the point much better than I could:
I've read the new testament. You know what Jesus says about homosexuality in those pages?

Not one word. Not one single solitary word. Read it yourself if you don't believe me.

Jesus had an awful lot to say about helping the poor, the downtrodden, the hungry, the sick, the abandoned, and the weak, though, didn't he?
What's the word I'm reaching for here?  Ah yes...hypocrisy.

Connection to ultrarunning: we endurance runners seem to be more laid back and accepting than the general population.  It'd be interesting to examine that hypothesis empirically and survey the social and political viewpoints of ultrarunners. 

Pretty good PhD thesis for some ultra runner grad student right there!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tales From The Perimeter: Adult Special Olympics

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.

Never missing an opportunity to bust a running partner, here's my original email flame, based upon CH's running of a 5K charity fundraiser for the Adult Special Olympics:


Didja break 20 minutes for the 5K today? Well, didja, punk?

Surely, you must have overcome this artificial and very achievable barrier.

To do any less dishonors the beneficiaries of this charitable run, who face REAL barriers every moment of their lives.

If not, then you should hang your head in shame, rip up my donation check, and replace it with one from YOUR checkbook.

(who has both technical insight and moral authority to speak of running matters)

CH's reply:


I ran the 5K in 26:31 I think that is approx 8:30 miles. I could have gone a little faster but there was a hot looking woman in front of me...and I had "NO" desire to pass her.

The checks were deposited prior the I would recommend a stop payment ;-)

P.S. Looking at your 100 mile split times, I didn't notice any laps that would be sub 10 miles....and you call that a run?

Gary's rejoinder:

By the way, I am a long-time financial supporter of the Special Olympics.  So much of my adult life has been tied to athletic endeavors and it has immensely benefitted me.  Helping others to achieve success, however defined, is a noble cause.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Galileo Had It Right

Image credit here.

Galileo had it right 500 years ago--literal interpretations of the Bible are risky.  Moreover, possibly or probably not what God would have wanted.  From The Writer's Almanac for April 12, 2010:

It was on this day [12 April] in 1633 that Galileo Galilei stood trial before the Roman Inquisition, to defend the publication of his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632).

Galileo did become interested in the theory of the universe expressed by Copernicus, and then he discovered something that he thought would prove the theory beyond question: the telescope. A Dutch eyeglass maker is credited with inventing it in 1608, and as soon as he heard about it, Galileo set one up himself, and became the first person to use it to observe the sky. He deduced that the moon was illuminated by a reflection of the sun on the Earth, he saw that Jupiter was orbited by moons, and he studied Venus and realized that the only explanation for its changing phases was that it orbited the sun. He thought that, finally, no one could disagree that the planets orbited the sun, so he started talking openly about his ideas. He wrote and lectured for the educated public, figuring that they were a more receptive audience than scholars.

But of course people did disagree: The Church claimed it was at odds with the Bible, particularly a verse in the Book of Joshua that describes God stopping the sun in the sky, and one in Psalms that says Earth was put on its foundations and would not move. Galileo responded publicly by explaining that the truth of the Bible was not always literal, that it used metaphorical imagery.

Bolding that follows is mine:

He wrote: "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them. He would not require us to deny sense and reason in physical matters which are set before our eyes and minds by direct experience or necessary demonstrations."

Eventually, he was allowed to return home under house arrest, where he became blind a few years later, and died in 1642. In 1718, the Church lifted its ban on Galileo's work, with the exception of the Dialogues, which was banned until 1822.

 I think Galileo and I would have hit it off.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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

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, April 13, 2010

Running a 100 Miler on Low-Mileage Training

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, April 12, 2010

Street Shoes vs. Running Shoes

NOTE: these are my legs, feet, and Asics 2140s. And gray is my favorite color.

For work I have 4 pairs of shoes: black oxfords; black slip-ons; brown slip-ons; and tan Docksiders.

My wife has--no kidding--probably 30 pairs (that's OK, I understand the need to color-coordinate and accessorize).

My running shoe inventory consists of some 6 pairs at the moment, and that’s because I just recycled 3 pairs at my local running store (to Africa or Latin America, I'm unsure, but I'm just happy they can be used).

On the TRAIL side I have 3 gradations: for the really rocky, rooty, terrible footing trails I use Montrail Vitesse, bought about 10 years ago, but that I only use a couple times a year. Next down I use a pair of Vasque (model 7624?), which for gnarly trails will replace the Montrails when I finally get the will to toss them. Then for the dirt road or jeep trail type of trail I use my new Asics 2140 Trail. These are perfect for and what I wore at the Umstead 100 Miler..also would be great for the JFK 50-miler (in MD) type of course, which is perhaps 25% single track trail, 50% dirt road (the C&O Canal towpath), and 25% paved roads.

For ROAD use I also have 3 pairs: an old pair of Adidas Response Trail that I have screwed hex head screws into for traction, for use only on icy roads. Again, these see use maybe a couple times a year under rare conditions. My everyday shoes are Asics 2140 road shoes and another older pair of Asics that I can’t make out the model of.

My feet are very normal so over the years I have purchased shoes based mostly on sale price and color, irrespective of brand. I will say that of late I am leaning more towards Asics. I have never had a pair of Asics that ever gave me a bit of problems. Right out of the box they run easily and well.

I try to rotate my shoes so that I don’t wear any one pair more than twice in row. I figure that if there is any biomechanical problem caused by the shoes, I don’t want to have repetition exacerbate the problem.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Remembrance for Nathan

Photo credit:

Mister Tristan--the human being, not the blog--is 2 years old.

Nathan, in the left foreground of the photo, was also 2 years old. 
Rather than try to summarize the story, I'm afraid I would not do it justice.  Please go read the whole thing, by Lea Lane, here.  This is a must-read for anyone with a heart.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Onion Run

In my area of Pennsylvania, a late spring snowfall is often called the "onion snow." This phenomenon is so named because industrious gardeners' onions are well up, and their green tops poke up out of the wet snow, which usually melts off quickly. This year it’s doubtful we’ll get an onion snow, but it’s still possible.

Regardless of the time of year, one of my most satisfying moments in running is what I call an "onion run." The onion run comes a couple of days after a tough effort. The term tough, of course, is relative. By tough, I mean any run that leaves my legs noticeably stiff and sore for more than a day. However my legs came to be stiff and sore—that first run afterwards can be very special.

After the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run, I took a full week off running. During my first run afterwards, the feeling I had as I started out was one of fatigue, soreness, gimpiness. I started out at a slow shuffle, but as the run proceeded, the sluggishness gradually worked out. I know I didn't set any speed or distance records, but I could just feel my underlying strength.

It's as though my fitness or conditioning can be measured on two levels. One is the day-to-day surface more type of fitness ("How do I feel today?") as measured by locally varying feelings of stiffness or looseness, soreness or the absence of soreness. The second, more important type of fitness takes the longer view of not whether I am sore today, but rather how strong do I feel deep down? This type of fitness is a reflection of my underlying core fitness and conditioning, the results of being in running for the long haul.

So, what does all this have to do with onions? For me, following a tough effort, my legs are analogous to an onion—dry and wasted outside but with an inner core of vitality and strength ready to spring forth. An onion run is affirmation that everything's OK, that I really am fit, that all those months and years of training have counted for something. My residual fitness is there in spite of day-to-day variations.

The onion run can be truly something special, even magical, as those first halting, stiff-legged steps give rise to an effortless power glide. It is something to be eagerly awaited and then savored.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cats in Art: 122 Year Old Cat in a NIght Cafe

Look under the table, lower left front.

Paul Gauguin painting "Night Cafe in Arles (Madame Ginoux)," 1888, 73 x 92 cm, oil on canvas, now held by Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, Russia.  Photo credit here. 

I ran across this really cool painting in a coffee table book we have at home of famous artworks.  I'm sure that art students and art lovers have analyzed it for all sorts of things, but what I like is simply the black and white cat under the pool table.

And, no, there's absolutely no connection to UltraRunning.

(As an aside, as I researched this post (yes, at least some bloggers do research and don't just post whatever pops into their heads) I encountered some confusion over whose work it is: Paul Gauguin or Vincent van Gogh.

For example, see this website...scroll down to "Night Cafe" and you'll see this work attributed to both Gauguin and van Gogh.  Here's another erroneous attribution to van Gogh.

Seems that van Gogh and Gauguin both painted at the same location and titled their works similarly.  Van Gogh's is called "Night Cafe" and Gauguin's is called "Night Cafe in Arles (Madame Ginoux)."

The two works are discussed here and here and the correct attribution to Gauguin is made.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It's OK to Kill US Citizen Without Due Process

In the War on Terror--or whatever it may be called today--President Obama has asserted the privilege of being able to order the targeted killing of an American citizen.  According to the Washington Post, Anwar al-Aulaqi has been added to the CIA's kill list, after having been on Joint Special Operations Command's (JSOC) kill list for some months.  The Muslim cleric is linked to an attempt to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day and the Fort Hood killings.

Now, Aulaqi may well be the scum of the earth (or not, as there are always 2 or more sides to every story), but to claim the right to whack one particular U.S. citizen opens up that mighty slippery slope of "where does it end?"  Having ventured one step down that road, what'd be wrong with taking another step with another bad guy?  You're not on the side of the terrorists, are you?

The operative words are due process.  It's one of the things that supposedly makes us the good guys.

Please read more at Emptywheel....

Does it strike you as odd that we're targeting US citizens with no judicial process? Does it strike you as odd that we've got two entirely separate sets of lists on which Americans can be targeted to be killed? Does it strike you as odd that we've now got an apparent turf battle over who gets to kill al-Awlaki?
...and more yet at Shakespearessister
"Barack Obama is claiming the right not merely to imprison, but to assassinate far from any battlefield, American citizens with no due process of any kind."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tiger's Mindset

Since he's back in the news....

I'd credit this if I could, but I can't seem to locate the original link. So my disclaimer is that the following quote, made in reference to Tiger Woods, is not mine.  And, nope, it's not about sex.  What the writer does say is so much more interesting--to me--than if it had been about Tiger's marital issues:

Like so many other mega-celebrities who become famous too early, it's as though they never properly develop the part of their brain that controls this question: "How can I win over the person I'm talking to right now?" When you become famous too early, you don't have to win over anyone. You just have to exist. You become constantly wary. You start watching what you say around people you don't know. You measure any potential friend or business partner by one question: "What do they want from me?"
Now, me on the other hand, I go thru life being open, trusting, and unwary, not willing to default into suspicion unless there is clear evidence that someone is snaking me. Sure, I get burnt on occasion, but by and large it's been a reasonably successful strategy for nearly 6 decades. And it's a lot less work than always being on one's guard.

Of course, the linkage to UltraRunning?  Seems to me that UltraRunners, on the whole, are open and trusting people, quite unlike the Tiger model above.  Maybe it's all that backcountry time, when we can ponder our great fortune at being able to run in such places, revel in our easy comraderie with our running peers, and smile at the sheer joy of living.  When we're in the moment, it's just the running--and this "no-demand" pact with the backcountry seems to extend to everyday life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

For the Children

This past Easter weekend was magnificent, weather wise—the temperature was at near-record highs, the sky was blue, life was good. We had a large family gathering at our home on Saturday, some 18 people, ranging in age from my father-in-law, at age 82 probably one of the youngest WWII vets (he saw service in 1945 as a 17 year old) to granddaughter Miss Sophia, who arrived a month ago. Mister Tristan was the next youngest, at just over 2 years of age.

This family, as do all families, has had its share of grief, of sadness, of tragedy….and joy, happiness, and contentment. This weekend’s gathering was happy and tranquil, and to a large extent all about the children--the Easter baskets full of treats nestled in their (fake) grass, the colored eggs, the egg hunt, the bean bag toss in the back yard….

When I think, say, of the recent issues of the sexual abuse and cover-up scandal rocking the Catholic Church, or Tiger Woods’ recent difficulties as he re-enters tournament play, I can’t help but think that if we so-called “mature” people would ALWAYS guide our actions by the credo, “Is this good for the children?” then we’d all be much better off. Especially the children.

In the case of the Pope and high ranking Vatican officials, naturally we first must observe that the actual abuse of a child, of course, is wrong. But then when they put protecting the welfare of the Catholic Church as an institution above that of protecting the welfare of defenseless children, they committed an unconscionable, unforgiveable act. When Tiger Woods chose to dally with women outside of his marriage, he deliberately chose to place his desires above the welfare of his children. Again, unconscionable.

Our children are a gift, and as children do not have the ability to defend themselves. That’s up to the responsible adults.

For the children….remember and act upon it.

To connect this to UltraRunning (and of course this’ll be a stretch!), I strive mightily to not have my ultra pursuits negatively affect my wife and family. But the fact remains that when I’m away doing ultra things I am torn between the need to be home versus the need to keep myself sane and healthy via running. Balance in all things, but whenever in doubt, the default setting must be to always choose in favor of the children.

(Photo credit here.)

Monday, April 5, 2010

"First" Run

Took the whole week off running since the 100 last Saturday. Went out today (Monday—I’m taking a long weekend!) for a slow and gentle 3 miler now that the blisters on the soles of my feet are not tender any more.

The run went fine, looking forward to rejoining my noontime running buddies out on the perimeter probably tomorrow for 6.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Official Umstead Results

Results are official.  It's hard for me to believe that one week ago I had just finished the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run.  Click on 2010 Results for all the nitty gritty detail.

Official results: I ran 22:35, placing 56th of 133 finishers.  Not bad for a 58 year old grandfather!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Economics and UltraRunning

I'm not an economist but I can follow economic discussion and theory if it's provided in layman's terms. Anyone with half a brain must know by now that at the macro level, this nation's revenues and expenditures are out of whack, and probably unsustainable.

Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest (scroll down on that site to see his post for March 30th, entitled Dear Deficit Commission, It's Not Hard) does exactly that in 4 simple charts, that lay out the deficit, tax rates, Federal debt, and the Defense budget. I can't even steal a quote to insert here because 90% of Dave's post consists of simple charts--and I mean simple as in 6th-grade-understandable--with only a couple of words to amplify.  Here's one of his 4 charts for a teaser:

Please click over there to see the whole post at

Oh, the UltraRunning connection: our leisure time is intimately connected to our financial well being.  We can run if we otherwise are secure in our lives.  And economic security is no longer a given....

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Feminist Perspective

One of my (almost) daily reads is Echidne of the Snakes. I consider myself to be a feminist, and strive to improve my understanding of women's issues by reading some feminist blogs such as Echidne's.

When I went there on Wed after not having visited the site since last week, I found not only 1 post that I thought was worthy about sharing with the Mister Tristan audience, but 4 such posts. Note: the blog is continuous, sequenced by date, so you'll just need to scroll down to see the separate posts mentioned below:

1.  Repentance During The Holy Week of Christianity (30 March): about the Pope's complicity in covering up the rape of children. 

They tell us that they are speaking on behalf of a divine source, after all. They tell us how we should live our lives, what is wrong and what is right. For all this they get freedom from taxes, lots of kowtowing and respect. Something has to be given in return, and at a minimum that something should be higher ethical standards of personal behavior.

2.  The Black Widows (also 30 March): about the recent Russian female suicide bombers.
"While there is no single reason women decide to give up their lives, experts say they have usually suffered a traumatic event that makes them burn with revenge or question whether they want to live. This can be the death of a child, husband or other family member at the hands of Russian forces or a rape. Russian authorities have said the women are sometimes drugged."
And why do men become suicide bombers or terrorists? What drives them to do that? That question is not asked as often which is insulting to men. It's as if all men could just become suicide bombers and we don't really have to wonder about the reasons they have, however distorted they may be.

3.  Stripped Bare (29 March): about banning strip clubs in Iceland, and particularly the variations in how newspapers covered same.
That's where we stand: The Icelandic ban on strip clubs is under lifestyles/women and the U.S. coverage is a concern about spending tax money on the titillation of men who work for the Republican party.

4.  A Small Corrupt Clique of Men Shouldn’t Rule Anything by Anthony McCarthy (27 March): another about the corruption in the Vatican hierarchy (and, I hasten to add, NOT against the rank and file ordinary Catholics who do good work from within the church).
The use of scripture to explain things is a sometimes thing and, at times, a two edged sword. The vast variety of texts by different authors writing in various conditions and of varying experience passed down to us in copies of varying textual quality and authenticity, lends itself to contradiction. But I don’t believe the text in which Jesus said that people who corrupted children would have been better of drowned with a millstone around their neck is really ambiguous. Pope Benedict has had a hand in corrupting children. Many Cardinals such as Bernard Law have permitted the abuse of children...But this pope, who has been among the greatest proponents of the revival of confession, is stonewalling on his own, disqualifying, sins. The hypocrisy of the conservatives in control of the hierarchy doesn't seem to have a bottom.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Emotions and UltraRunning

I know I promised NOT to post anything more regarding the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run until results are posted on the web site--but I fibbed. After all, this blog purports to be about the "softer side of UltraRunning" so I'd be remiss if I did nothing but Chuck Norris posts, right?

UPDATE: I see that esults are now up!!

With that stirring introduction, I'd like to explore and share some of my emotions experienced during this 100 mile run. After all, I had plenty of time to think...22 hours and 36 minutes.

I think that many, if not most, UltraRunners experience some intense emotions during an ultra. Mine ranged from overt crying with real tears, thru choking up and being unable to speak, to peaceful going along with the moment, to outright euphoria.

I actually cried real tears as I crossed the finish line. It was the culmination of so many months and miles of hard work that finally paid off, and all those pent-up emotions came pouring out when the volunteer at the timing tent at the finish said "Well done!" and handed me my silver belt buckle (silver commemorating a sub-24 hour finish). I shook hands with my pacer, Rob, whom I did not know in advance, who had volunteered to pace anyone who wished a companion runner overnight. I was indeed lucky that he joined me for my last lap and I think that Rob also felt lucky to be part of my final lap (at least it added another dimension to pacing beyond just any lap of the course).

Earlier I had gotten choked up when I was telling the story to someone I was running with of my 6 year old granddaughter, Miss Doodybug, who had had a very rough landing during her birth. Among several problems, she had a hip dysplasia issue that necessitated a body cast being put on her, from armpits to toes, as soon as she came home from the neonatal ICU. This lasted some 3-4 months during which time we were not sure whether she'd ever even walk. The cast had a hole the size of your hand on Miss Doodybug's bottom into which a diaper could be stuffed, pad-like, to catch her waste. The cast was cut off and replaced every month or so as she grew.

Now Miss Doodybug not only walks, but runs normally. When they cut off her final cast, I kept one of the toe parts and attach it to my running pack for every race, for inspiration (note that at that time, it'd still be well over a year until we'd know if she could walk).

The cast reminds me NEVER to take my running for granted--it is a gift.

Also I got all choked up while running in Lap 6 with another pacer, Judy, when she shared the info that she was a left a widow by her healthy husband's unexpected death at age 53, and then again when we parted ways at the finish line with a hug. Her steady companionship truly anchored the middle of my run and enabled my strong finish.

Most of the time I was just cruising and enjoying the run. After all, what's not to like--running in the woods all day with 250 of my closest friends that I haven't yet met?

I did experience some feelings of euphoria during the late afternoon, shortly before sundown. I realized that I was running ahead of plan to the point that I was going to complete my 5th lap during daylight hours, leaving only 3 laps for the overnight.  Also that a finish was inevitable unless the wheels fell suddenly, completely and unexpectedly off**. As I was walking up the hill around mile 10.5 or so, just past the Sycamore Creek bridge, I suddenly felt supremely alive, vibrant, and full of the possible. I wanted to hug myself and leap and dance and stick my arms out like I was an airplane and shout just out of sheer exuberance.

Running ultras has so enriched my life, providing me a range of physical, mental, and emotional experiences far beyond what I would have experienced as a sedentary person.

**Note: it's interesting how your experiences affect what you think of as normal--UltraRunning truly gives you a different perception of distances and what's doable.  A measure of my insane confidence at this point was that I still had 36.5 miles to cover and felt like it was in the bag....

Like I said above, Miss Doodybug's cast reminds me to NEVER take running for granted--it is a gift.