Archive for June, 2008

Why – Thank you!

June 29, 2008

Two friends pointed out to me that last Thursday the New York Times ran an article which briefly mentioned my program, FontForge. As far as I know this is the first time the conventional media has mentioned my work. So that was very neat.

But then I started complaining to myself about how they’d spent more time talking about another program which was far less capable than mine.

So I reminded myself of Drea’s comments the other day. Being mentioned at all is a compliment.

Why, Thank you!


Carolina Day

June 28, 2008

Today is Carolina Day.

A holiday most have never heard of. People tend to forget that the war of American Independence was fought in the South just as it was in the North. And so the battles in the South have been ignored.

The battles in Lexington and Concord are well known (and commemorated by the Boston Marathon), but who has heard of the battle of Sullivan’s Island?

I spent every summer of my youth on Sullivan’s Island, and the event was drilled into me.

In late May of 1776 the British decided to capture the city of Charleston (the largest port in the South, the fourth largest city in the colonies, and capital of the richest province). To this end they dispatched a fleet of 20 ships which was to land an army and take the city.

Sullivan’s Island is right outside Charleston harbor. There was a half-built fort on the island. This was all the protection the city had. The fort had only 26 guns, and enough ammunition for each gun to be fired 28 times. The fleet had ten times as many guns (262) and no dearth of powder. There were ~400 men in the fort and another 700 on the Island entrenched to prevent a force of 2900 British marines from landing.

Somehow the British did not understand the local tides. Three of their ships ran aground, and their battle plan (which depended on being able to sail behind the Island into shallow water) failed completely. Their attempt to land a ground force to take the fort from behind also failed, again due to lack of understanding of local currents. They suffered heavy casualties, and were forced to destroy one of their own ships before they withdrew.

Six days later the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Sadly, the 28th of June is no time to run a marathon in Charleston. I expect that is why this epic battle is practically unknown.

What have I got myself into?

June 26, 2008

My friend, Jim Sloan, gave me a book for my birthday: Running through the wall — Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon.

  • blisters the size of silver dollars
  • torrential downpour
  • blizzard
  • we didn’t have to worry about the copperheads, rattlesnakes and water moccasins. They would all be hibernating. … the alligators should be dormant
  • hallucinations
  • my knee!
  • hypothermia
  • like most trail runs you might miss these markers and get some “extra running”.
  • dehydration
  • … my second sunrise on this run. Most ultrarunners dread dawn — the hours between 4am and 6am

Well I’m planning on running only 50 miles, so a second sunrise seems unlikely (unless I really screw up — even a walking pace covers 50 miles in less than 24 hours).

I’ve been worried about nutrition (the wall), and that hardly gets mentioned.

The human body can run hard for about 20 miles, and then it runs out of easily used fuel. You can play tricks with the body and make it store a bit more fuel by depletion and carboloading — thus one can (with luck) finish a hard marathon without hitting the wall. But you can’t carboload enough for 50 miles. You’ve got to eat significantly on the course (more than just gel packs).

Naifly I had assumed this was going to be the major difference between an ultra and a marathon. In anything under a marathon the wall is irrelevant. The marathon is right on the edge, where you must worry about the wall but can (with luck) avoid it. You can’t avoid it in a real ultra. I assume there is no point to carbo-loading.

One thing that has worried me is that on my 200mile bike rides my stomach tended to rebel after about 10 hours, and I couldn’t eat real food beyond that (only gel packs, which become nasty after a while). Well, I should complete 50 miles in under 10 hours. But it’s harder to digest when running than when biking. Perhaps the limit will come earlier when running?

I guess I haven’t really done a run that truly pushed my endurance. I’ve only hit the wall once in a race. But the two 200mile bike rides I did were certainly endurance races. I need to think in terms of them.

Race Length elevation Time
gain loss max
Pier to Peak 13.1 4000ft ~50ft 3900 1:47
Catalina 26.2 4000ft 4000ft ~3000ft 3:22
Cal International 26.2 ? 200ft 300ft 3:07
half Nine Trails 17 ???? ??? ~3000ft 3:37

Malibu Grand Tour 206 6000 6000 ~2000 bike 12:59
Solvang Autumn 202 11000 11000 ~2000 bike 15:07

White River 50 8700 8700 ~6900 ???

What about elevation. I’ve never run at altitude. At the top of Pier to Peak (roughly 4000ft) altitude doesn’t seem a problem. But when I visited La Paz Bolivia (roughly 10,000ft) simply climbing stairs was a challenge. What will ~7000ft be like? Dianna suggested that I visit Lake Tahoe beforehand to acclimate.

Weather. Is always chancy. Still high summer is the dry season. On the other hand perhaps it gets hot? The website doesn’t provide standard temperatures.

Ah, but Dave Webster points me at a link. Highs in the mid-60, lows in the mid-40s. That, at least, doesn’t seem a problem.

But there is always my body. Will it break?

But — how far is that?

June 24, 2008

Rusty had us run by time today. Not by distance. He didn’t really give us a pace either. “Start out with 95 second quarters, and then run what feels right.” Hmm. We were to run for two minutes and then jog for a minute and then repeat — 10 times total. To add a soupçon of additional confusion we were to run in the outside lanes so we didn’t know how long each lap actually was.

And was the 95 second quarter pace for the inside lane? or the outside? Rusty didn’t clarify

Presumably because it didn’t matter, we were to find our own pace. Practice for those races without mile markers:-)

I found it very odd. At one point, about a minute and a half into the two minute hard run, I found myself speeding up, thinking I’d get there sooner (and so get it over with sooner) if I just ran faster. But it didn’t matter how fast I ran, two minutes was two minutes — there was no “there” to get to.

Another point when I lapped some people for the second time, I was feeling very smug: “I’ll be finished long before they will be,” I thought to myself. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how silly that was. We’d all finish at the same time, when 30 minutes were up. I might go further, but I’d finish no sooner.

Somehow my brain is so used to thinking of running a distance that it is very hard to grasp the implications of running a time.

And that was why Rusty chose this workout — to mix us up a little and stop us being complacent.

It used to be common to have “1 hour” races, where the goal was to see how far you could go in the time rather than to reach a specific finish line. I’ve never done one. I think it would be weird. I’d like to try it — would it feel like a race? Would I get the adreneline boost a race gives me?

I suppose it would have to be on a track. Ug. Running roughly 40 times around a track sounds dull. And confusing — who would be counting each person. Perhaps that’s why they’ve fallen out of favor — the logistics of counting make it impossible for a large field to race.

Still, it would be odd.


June 20, 2008

I don’t like running the 4th of July race. It is too hot. Or on those times when it is foggy, it is too hot and too humid.

It’s probably not really that hot — not to a walker anyway — but to a runner — the sun beats down and there is no shade on the bike path.

I decided I was going to volunteer.

Then about 3 weeks ago my left knee started hurting. Who knows why, my knees have minds of their own and do the strangest things. So now I have a perfect excuse for not running the 15k.

And now I want to.

All the running I can do—to stay in the same place

June 12, 2008

Today is my forty-nineth birthday.

Now 49 is not a number which inspires much excitement among most people (unless they happen to be missing three fingers). I haven’t found any 49 mile races. But next year I will be 50, a number which somehow seems more significant.

So next year I would like to do a 50 mile race to celebrate my new age-group. I’ve never done an ultra, so I asked Mike Swan and Stu Sherman for advice, and both suggested the White River race up in the Cascades. It’s in July, so not exactly on my birthday, but close enough.

I think 30 miles is about the longest run I’ve ever done, and a marathon is the longest race. This is an experiment.

But the point of this message is to ask: “Would you like to run with me next year up in the Cascades?”