Archive for September, 2008

Frag buggle 2

September 30, 2008

I get so frustrated. It seems to me that whenever it is time for me to train for a marathon I get injured and have to stop.

I’m thinking I should just give up.

End of an era

September 29, 2008

About 150 years ago my great-great-grandfather (George Walton Wiliams I) founded the Carolina Savings Bank. My grand-father was president. My father worked there. After the feds closed all the banks during the great depression, it was the first bank in South Carolina to reopen. It was bought, and that was bought, and eventually Wachovia bought it. Wachovia has failed today, and taken a bit of my family history with it.

Frag buggle!

September 25, 2008

Ok, the real reason for disliking Tuesday’s track practice was that after it my shin splints were quite painful. I’d been hoping they’d just go away if I iced them and ignored them, but they haven’t.

Yesterday’s run was worse. Waking up this morning to a painful shin I decided I shouldn’t run today (or tomorrow or next week). But I’d arranged to meet two others at the trail head (Rusty and Chrystee). I didn’t want to call them at 6:30am. I sent emails but did not expect those to be received. So I biked up to make my apologies in person.

Dark this morning, with marine layer shrouding the top of the Mesa, chilly too. At Modoc, as is often the case, all trace of cloud vanishes. Blue skies above. I climb. When I cross Foothill there’s a thermoclime and suddenly it is warm. I’m a little early at the trailhead, so I wait.

I’m in the shadow of the mountain, but I can see the morning light increasing on the city below. It’s quite lovely. Clouds cover the lower city, lapping against the sides of the hills. The Mesa rises out of the clouds, and behind it are more golden clouds stretching out to Santa Cruz island. I watch as minute by minute the light increases. Lovely.

And now it is 7:10. Neither Rusty nor Chrystee has shown. Perhaps they got my emails. I turn back to the bike. And see the mountains behind are covered in the morning light too.

Below Foothill it gets chilly again. Below Modoc I plunge into a fog bank. Dense fog all the way home.

I wish I could run.

Track workouts

September 23, 2008

I hate them.

Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things, make you late for breakfast. I can’t think what anyone sees in them.

I’m not a fast runner, and I never have been. And track workouts remind me of this. The last few workouts, everyone else in my group has been ahead of me. Give me a tempo run, any day.

(Er, when I say I’m not a fast runner, I mean I can run a 10k at 80% but a 5k at 76%. I get relatively slower with short distances. Naturally I don’t like short fast runs).

When he sends me my schedule, Rusty doesn’t tell me what the workout is any more, so I arrive at the track in blissful ignorance of what is in store. “A two miler,” says Rusty, “at 5:55/mile.” That’s bad, probably doable, but bad. But the worst is — I know there’s more. That’s too short. So I press him. “Six minute jog/rest and then another mile at 5:50.” Ogg. Worse and worse. And that’s still too short. I ask again. “And another two miler.” Now that sounds like the entire thing. Horrible.

We are off. The first lap is 91 seconds. Too slow for 5:55. Next lap says 2:58, which isn’t bad. I can’t even read my watch the next lap — I saw a “9” somewhere but that was all I caught. That means we’re going too slowly (I’m guessing 4;29). I try to go faster. At the next lap Rusty shouts “5:50”. Hunh? I thought we were running too slowly, how’d we end up going too fast? I appologize to Drea, and we slow. I don’t bother with my watch now, I just run. Second mile 5:52. Still too fast.

But now a blesséd 6 minutes of rest.

Gone, all too soon. Now the mile. My group seems to have dwindled. Five of us ran the 2 mile interval, but only Lief and I are running this mile. Lief did the 4 mile race on Sunday and is tired today, normally he sets the pace, but today I do. 87 for the first quarter. Perfect. 2:54 for the next — a little fast, but not worth worrying over. I don’t look on the third quarter, and we finish at 5:46. Last week I was complaining about how everyone else was going too fast — today I’m leading, and I’m going too fast.

4:30 rest.

The next two miles look grim. At least Lief is still with me. Rusty says we can go at 6 minute pace. “For this relief much thanks!”. I set out. 91 for the first quarter. Oof. Can I even make 6 minute pace? Slowly we struggle through and do the first mile at exactly 6. Lief takes the lead now, for which I’m greatful, and I start to fall appart. I can’t keep up with him. 91 seconds for the next quarter, 3:04 at the half. I berate myself, I have to do better than that, Lief seems far ahead now. My legs are really tired. I try to pick up the pace a bit. Final lap. I’m a little closer to Lief, and it feels easier now that the end is almost in sight. Slowly I get closer to Lief — and then he starts to pick up the pace too. We finish at 6:02.

I’m beat.

I don’t want to run a 5k. I don’t want to run at 5:50 pace. 6 minute pace I’ll put up with, but 5:50 is just too fast. Last week I was doing kilometers slower than that, and this week I’m doing a mile?

Well, the best thing about 9am Tuesday morning is that I don’t have run that fast again for another week. Hurrah!

Westmont XC

September 20, 2008

It’s very odd running a race where almost everyone is 30 years younger than you — the only exceptions being your own teammates one of whom is 31, one 56 and one 73.

Needless to say we could not run together. All are good runners in our respective age-groups, but (aside from the 31 year old) not so good against college kids.

There were 8 signed up for our men’s team, only 4 showed at the race, so we did not, in fact, have a team. So what. We ran anyway.

The invitation from Westmont was addressed to the SBAA (the local running club) and to a number of local colleges — including CalTech, where I went to school ages ago. I noted with amusement that alumni were also invited (So I could run on the CalTech team! something I had neglected to do while at tech for real). I emailed a number of my classmates, and jokingly asked if any would be doing the race. One guy who had been on the tech XC team responded that Westmont always beat them — except once. The air is good in SB. In Pasadena there is a lot of LA smog, and CalTech trained in the smog. More in the 70s than now (and more in the 50s than the 70s). CalTech managed to defeat Westmont at a home meet during a stage 2 smog alert in 1979 — a time when no one in their right mind should be running.

I positioned myself near the back, and found to my amusement that the CalTech team had also positioned itself there, so I introduced myself as an old techer. And then we were off.

First a lap around the track (nice, old fashioned dirt track). Oof. Almost everyone is ahead of me, not used to that. I’m doing what feels right, and that turned out to be ~89 sec quarter, which is about the pace I’d expect to run a flat 5mile race at.

Then a short steep hill. I pass a few people. I feel a bit better.

In spite of living in SB for 16 years now, I’ve never been on the Westmont campus before. It’s quite lovely. Well up in the foothills, the campus appears to be oak woodlands with occasional buildings poking up. We run through this.

I don’t notice the 1mile mark, and am ~10feet beyond when I realize someone is calling splits: 6:04. Mostly downhill or flat so that seems reasonable. The next mile had significantly more uphill, 12:50 at the 2 mile mark. Every now and then I pass someone.

I realize, about this point, that 2 of the guys right ahead of me are wearing CalTech jerseys. I decide I will pretend I’m on the CalTech team since my own team is so scattered and the techers are right here.

The course is a bit complex, but then all XC courses seem to be. The men’s course (8k) is different from the women’s (5k). Sometimes we run a loop in one direction, sometimes in another. At one point, on a section of trail that we only ran once I see a teammate of mine running toward me — in the wrong direction. I think it’s the wrong direction anyway. Surely it is… Where should I be? Was that last turn correct? Must be right. John is known for getting lost and there’s only one person with him, while I’ve got quite a few stretching off into the distance ahead of me. It does provide added incentive not to lose track of the guys ahead though.

I keep passing people from time to time. One guy passes me, but he’s a techer so that’s ok:-)

Near the end now, I pass a techer, and cheer him on, then am right behind the next guy when we turn a corner and there’s the track with the finish line maybe 300meters away — and the guy I’m just about to pass suddenly sprints off into the distance. I have no kick. I run hard, I don’t slow, but I can’t speed up. Age:-) Then two other people (including the techer I just passed) zoom past me as the line approaches.

Done. 54th out of about 70. 32:04. About what I was expecting for a time. I discover that I was ahead of CalTech’s 5th man, so had I been on their team I would actually have been an advantage. And that pleased me immensely.

Then I went over and chatted with the techers, said again that I’d been to tech 30 years ago (and realize that that is true, so old I am). One of them asks me what I do… and a voice from somewhere behind me says “FontForge” — wow, someone at Tech, on their cross-country team recognizes my program and me. Now that really is neat!

The Techer men go for a cooldown run, and I join them. Then we place ourselves to watch the women race. SBAA may have failed to muster a men’s team, but the women’s team is a total contrast. The first 3 runners are ours as is number 5. And that holds true for the entire race. They won, obviously. The CalTech women aren’t as good, but I cheer them on too.

When I told my classmates that I was doing this race, and one had responded that his daughter was now on the Tech team and would be racing. I actually knew one person to cheer by name.

Drea finishes Westmont

Drea finishes Westmont


September 18, 2008

When all night long a chap remains
 On sentry-go, to chase monotony,
He exercises of his brains,
 That is, assuming that he’s got any.
Though never nurtured in the lap
 Of luxury, yet I admonish you,
I am an intellectual chap
 And think of things that would astonish you.

Iolanthe Act II, W. S. Gilbert

Two hours on the trails said Rusty, so off I went just before dawn. And it was before dawn I realized. Summer is essentially over and the sun seems to rise about 7. Still it was a beautiful sunrise with little patchy clouds lit by a neon glow from below.

There were no cars parked at the trailhead to Jesusita, as I plunged into the canyon. Once past the avocado orchard this trail always reminds me of home. Home being several places depending on the part of trail I’m on. At first I trot through oak forest. Live oaks. Just like the oaks in the Charleston low country. Weird gnarled trees skulking low with an aversion to growing upright.

Down to the picnic table. When I first started taking this trail the table was half buried in dirt, and every year sank deeper as winter floods deposited debris around it. Then, magically, one year the old table completely vanished and was replaced by a new table. It always amazes me to see that it is above ground.

My mind wanders over to the economy — hard to avoid this week — every morning’s paper bringing us news of fresh disasters. I am concerned that no one seems even to be mentioning what I consider to be fundamental problems in our economy (And dismayed that McCain can claim that the economy is fundementally strong).

I choose not to run across the creek to the Arroyo Burro trail, and head up into the meadows to Inspiration Pt. instead. Two open fields of grass in the middle of a trail almost completely wooded. They always seem a strange interlude.

When I was a child the US had the highest per capita income of any nation. We were the greatest creditor nation. Other nations started surpassing us in GDP/capita — that was ok, I guess, it’s nice to have rich tradng partners. Far more worrying was that we started running a foreign trade deficit. And that has kept growing until we became the greatest debtor nation.

As a nation, as a government, as individuals we are deeply in debt. The morgage crisis seems to me merely the tip of an iceberg. Yet the media are amazed with each new disaster. I rather expect disaster and am surprised the crisis is not worse already. The longer it takes to address our indebtedness the more difficult it will be. The morgage crisis is hardly new now, yet the “solutions” I see are merely tackling the symptoms (if that), and far too late. No one is willing to even admit that there are deeper problems that cause those symptoms.

And then, I pop out of the woods onto the road and run up the olive grove (steep!), through the gate, and then back into the woods again.

And the really frightening thing is that this economic problem is distracting us from the true crisis which threatens us as a species rather than as a nation. If the US has chosen to destroy its economy over the last 30 years that doesn’t harm anyone but ourselves (much). But if the US choses not to address climate change we are endangering the whole world. Which doesn’t seem fair.

This part of the trail reminds me more of the Appalachains. Still some oak, but sycamores too, and bay laurel. The bays don’t have as interesting flowers as the mountain laurels I grew up with, but they smell much nicer.

How can anyone think that the way to deal with all the oil running out is to reduce taxes on it? That’s just going to make people buy slightly more of it (not much since that tax is almost non-existent). I get frustrated with the stupidity of the world.

There’s a grey squirrel off the trail ahead. He seems frightened of me as I run towards him. First he runs toward me, beside the trail, then deciding that was a bad idea he turns round and runs about 2 feet up a nearby sapling, pauses, then turns again and runs back to where he started from. From which vantage he calmly watches as I run past. He seems a wonderful metaphor — frantic motion, achieving nothing.

We are so unwilling to deal with any of the issues related to over-population — and by that I mean that our species has outstripped the carrying capacity of the environment. Lack of food, lack of essential supplies, or excess of waste, all are signs of over-population. And all are problems staring us in the face. And all are being ignored while we wonder how to help those of us who borrowed too much money. It seems a strange priority.

The forest is quite dense here, and the trail seems to climb almost vertically. It can get very dark on cloudy days.

Why isn’t everyone riding a bike? It’s cheaper, and surely by now it is obvious that driving cars just makes our current problems worse?

Up a series of switch backs climbing slowly out of oak woodland into chaparal, leaving the stream far behind. Finally there are some views looking out to the ocean. The last few weeks it has been foggy and all I’ve been able to see are the clouds lapping at the lower slopes of the mountains, but today it is clear and the ocean is visible.

A month or so ago the wild plums, or cherries, or whatever they are called were fruiting wildly. Now there aren’t many left. I tried eating one once. They are edible, but not worth the effort. The fruit is very small, about cherry size, and the stone inside is almost as big as the fruit. The layer of flesh is very thin and practically tasteless.

Out on the fire-road and then up to Inspiration Pt. itself. A nice view across the city to the sea. And then I plunge back into chaparal to run down the other side.

Years ago two friends pointed out to me a rare native orchid growing on a bank just off the trail here. I’ve never seen them since, just that one year, but I always think about them as I come along here.

It’s been very quiet today, I still haven’t seen anyone. Usually there are a few others on the trail on the way up and there’s always been someone coming up from the other side. But today, no one. Perhaps the end of summer, the start of school, darker mornings have combined to discourage people.

Down to Mission creek. Dry as a bone here. Then across and over. Should I take tunnel trail or powerline road? I opt for the fire road. I’ve got about 10 more minutes before I have to turn. Much more open on the road. And now I finally see someone else. A mountain biker struggling up the hill. I pass him. Neither of us is moving very fast. I’m always surprised to pass a bike, but it seems easier to run up-hill than to bike it. Of course there would be no contest what-so-ever if we were going downhill. Time to turn myself. And there’s the bike again.

This makes me think of Pier to Peak (where I also passed a cyclist). Still trying to figure out why I didn’t do better than 2 years ago. Two years ago I’d just had knee surgery, I’d only been running for 2 months, I wasn’t nearly in as good shape for running a normal road race as I am today, surely I should have done better this time? But P2P isn’t a normal race. Raw speed isn’t that relevant. Because I couldn’t run, two years ago I trained really hard on the bike to do two 200 mile rides. P2P was right between. I bet I was in excellent cardio shape even if not able to run as fast.

I wonder if I should throw in a long bike ride once a week for marathon training. Just to get used to being exercising for 3 hours…

The wild orchids still aren’t visible as I climb back up to the point.

I am running through a tunnel of chaparal when I come out onto the fire road at the top of Inspiration. On the other side of the road Rusty pops out of the other end of the trail, like a very cheerful rabbit. We stop and chat. Rusty claims this is only his second trail run since he raced 9-trails — two years ago now.

As I start down the switchbacks I hear voices ahead of me. Two women, and two dogs coming down the hill ahead of me. Finally I’m seeing people. Then I come upon two others running up. Then a couple who ask me “Is this the right way?”. I have to stop and ponder this. “The right way to where?” is the best answer I can give. They’ve just past the turn-off to Arroyo Burro. But they want Inspiration, and yes this is the right way.

I wish all problems had such a simple solution.

Immoveable type

September 17, 2008

I have probably mentioned (too frequently, no doubt) that I write a font editor.

Well, I thought it would be nice to have some pictures of actual slugs of metal type, just for historical interest, to add to my documentation.

So I looked up printers in the yellow pages. Only one advertised himself as a letterpress printer (the really old fashioned kind with individual bits of metal for each letter).

So I biked over, a little apprehensive of making such a strange request. At first the guy didn’t seem to understand me. Why on earth would I want pictures of that? This was a little hard to answer, as I wasn’t really clear myself. I thought they’d be neat to have and I’d figure out what to do with them when I saw them.

Then he thought I wanted to take some home with me (I don’t know where he got that idea). No, I just wanted to take some pictures here, in the shop. Did I have a camera? Yes.

Type courtesy of folio press, SB
type courtesy of folio press SB
(Note leftmost “F” has been kerned at base)

Then he went off into a back room, where he rummaged for a while. After a bit he returned with a sort of open wooden box or tray with compartments for the letters. There weren’t very many, and in no order I could figure out. He told me I could take as many pictures as I wanted.

But the letters were all glued onto the box.

I had come prepared to take pictures, but it had not occurred to me that I would need a chisel:-)

After a bit of work with my fingernails I managed to extract a few, but they still had bits of glue stuck to the sides and didn’t line up evenly.

My first real job was working at the local museum, and among other things I made signs for the exhibits. If only I’d thought to take pictures back then!

(One of the “other things” I got to do was to repaint a life-sized cement statue of a Brontesaurus — it was an interesting job)

I call ’em Snows

September 16, 2008

This week is twelve weeks from CIM (California International Marathon) and marks the start of our (official) training for it.

Rusty has a workout very similar to the Yasoo workout. Instead of 10*800 he has us do 8*1000. With less rest (2:30 between intervals instead of (for me) 2:55). I want to run CIM at about 2:55:00. Rusty gave us a pace of 88 second quarters which works out to 2:56 Yasoo pace.

In fact we ran most laps a second fast or so, averaging a 2:54 Yasoo pace.

It is comforting to know, that here at the start of training I am already meeting my goal — even doing a workout  slightly harder than the Yasoo final work-out.

(I didn’t run alone, so that made it slightly easier, but I don’t race alone either).

I hope nothing goes wrong this year.

A murder of crows

September 9, 2008

At this time of year the crows come to my street. They line up on the power lines watching the trees.

And they wait. They seem quite patient.

Every now and then a ripe walnut will drop to the street.

Then the crows rush down. They squabble over the nut. One grabs it and flies off.

Usually one drop is not enough to crack the shell.

But crows are smart, if the shell is unbroken they known they must fly high and drop it again.

But this presents something of a problem — the nut will fall down faster than the crow can safely fly down and another crow may arrive at the nut before the owner can get to it (crows do not share).

This presents a dilema to a crow — do you fly low enough to grab the nut off the street before anyone else can get to it, or high enough to crack it?

It’s an interesting game, and the crows were playing it all morning. But now the sun is high, and there’s not a crow in sight. I wonder why not? Do walnuts only ripen in the foggy mornings? Do crows doze at noon?

A week later: Finally some sunny mornings. The crows are still out there in the morning and disappear in the afternoon. Nothing to do with fog then.

Pier to Peak altitudes

September 2, 2008

The day after the race I biked the course with my trusty altimeter (I don’t trust GPS altitudes). It took longer to bike up than it did to run — of course I did stop every mile to take a measurement so it’s not a fair comparison.

Location altitude increase grade
Stern’s Wharf 0m 0ft
Mile 1 13m 40ft 13m 40ft 0.7%
Mile 2 55m 180ft 42m 140ft 2.5%
Mission 95m 310ft
Mile 3 140m 460ft 85m 280ft 5.3%
Mile 4
195m 640ft 55m 180ft 3.4%
Mile 5 330m 10800ft 135m 440ft 8.3%
Mile 6 440m 1440ft 110m 360ft 6.8%
Mile 7 540m 1770ft 100m 330ft 6.2%
Switchback 570m 1870ft
Mile 8 650m 2130ft 110m 360ft 6.8%
Mile 9
Gibraltar Rock
770m 25300ft 120m 390ft 7.4%
Flores Flat (top) 820m 2690ft
Flores Flat (bottom) 810m 2660ft
Mile 10 905m 2970ft 135m 440ft 8.3%
Camino Cielo 1015m 3330ft
Mile 11 1040m 3410ft 135m 440ft 8.3%
Gibraltar Rd (dirt
continuation into
Santa Ynes valley)
990m 3250ft
Mile 12 1022m 3350ft -18m -60ft -1.1%
park driveway 1150m 3770ft
Finish (13.1) 1170m 3840ft 148m
440ft 8.3%

Hmm. My measurement at the top is off by more than 100ft. Perhaps I should have used GPS.

I wanted to know what miles were steepest 4-5, 9-10, 10-11, 12-13.1 (The grades are the average over the entire mile (or 1.1 mile for the last))

Constable: Who hath measured the ground?

Henry V, III, vii