Archive for January, 2010

And Juliet?

January 30, 2010

It is called “Romeo’s Run & Relay”; which begs the question “What happened to Juliet?” It is a relay for couples, she should be involved. I was muttering about this to Fran after the race, and she thinks Romeo was chosen for its alliterative effect. “Romeo’s Run & Juliet’s Jog” would be even worse than leaving her out entirely. “Juliet’s Jump?” well, OK, there are the puddles down by the lagoon… you could jump them, but I expect most people went around.

Does it have to be Romeo and Juliet? They both come to such a sad end. Couldn’t we choose a more cheerful pair to represent romantic love? Perhaps Valentine and Sylvia from Two Gents? Not as well known, perchance, but a happy couple, and, of course, Valentine ties in nicely with Valentine’s day (when the race used to be run.) Hmm. “Valentine’s Vamoosh and Silvia’s Splash”? Not really an improvement. My mind seems fixated on the puddles. “Valentine’s Vitesse and Silvia’s Streak”? Sigh. No. Streaking has the wrong connotation (or it did when I was in college).

“Juliet’s Jamboree?”

I hadn’t intended to do this race, until Rusty announced it was the workout for this week. Then I thought I’d run it as a tempo run, until Rusty told me he’d use it to see how fit I was. Well, then I had to race. (See, it isn’t my fault that I raced. Honest.)

I hadn’t intended to run this race, so I did a 20 mile run on Tuesday and 15 on Thursday. Then Rusty told me he wanted to test my fitness. Mmp. Would have done a little less had I known.

OK, I might have done a little less if I’d known.

My legs felt very heavy on Friday, and I got a cramp in my left psoas that evening. I’m not good at stretching my psoas. I tried though. Perhaps a night’s sleep? A little better in the morning.

And off to the race to pick up my bib. Rusty told us to do a 4 mile warmup before, and another 4 miles after, so I brought a camera — the UCSB lagoon, around which we run, has such good views of water fowl.

A beautiful sunrise a bit after I set out, but I barely glance at it — I’m headed in the other direction, west to UCSB.

I get there fairly early, not many people around (except for Ricky and his cup of coffee. I wonder… If I drank coffee before a race, could I go that fast?). Pick up my bib, and away I go for a warmup jog. Circumnavigating the lagoon is almost exactly 2 miles (which is handy) so a 4 mile warmup means twice around.

I’m cold. And my legs feel heavy, and, sigh, yes, the psoas is still annoyed with me. Small wading birds, maybe Willets, are spearing the water just before the first hill. Ohhhh I feel so slow going up this hill. Maybe I’m not in as good shape as I hoped. Loop around onto the road, and then back to the lagoon as I pass the marine labs building. To the ocean too, running out onto the dam which separates the lagoon from the sea. It is high tide, and full moon (which means it’s a very high tide) and the waves seem to want to join me on the trail, splashing up and wetting the dam for me.

Just beyond is a very steep, very muddy section. The wide trail splits into several single tracks, and, bless their little hearts they are taking us up the steepest and muddiest of those trails.

The sun seems to be playing hide and seek behind the clouds. The early morning sunlight has been replaced by gloomy overcast. Up the hill, across it, and down to the next cove, which, again, separates the ocean from the lagoon. And up another hill (not so steep or muddy this time), and now I run along the edge of the lagoon, on a bluff, perhaps 30 feet up.

Looking out I can see a fallen tree, half in the water, and completely colonized with cormorants. Oh, and the UCSB bell tower with the race start/finish line beneath it.

Single track again. There are holes in the trail. Gopher holes perhaps? Someone has very kindly marked them with chalk so they’ll be even harder to miss.

Then down a nice steep hill (paved this time), back to the lagoon/ocean boundary for the final time, and then running on a wide sandy path right at the level of the lagoon with lots of puddles to avoid (or jump).

The ducks, who were feeding close to shore, seem disgusted by my presence and turn their backs on me as they head out into the lagoon. Then I come to a sign saying that the last 400m (roughly ¼ mile) will be timed and the winner of this final sprint will get a prize — this will not be I (boy that sounds stilted). I can’t sprint the way the young guys can. Ricky is my guess for the best sprinter.

Oh neat, a blue heron standing by some reeds. Unlike the ducks he doesn’t seem to mind me, and stands right there as I run around him. I take several photos, but I think the last is the best. A little further on I peek through some more reeds, and there is a white egret, head cocked, as it waits for a fish.

And now I’ve circumnavigated the lagoon. Back at the start. But I have to do one more loop to finish the warmup. I realize my legs don’t feel so dead as they used, and the psoas seems to have gone into remission for now (it never fails to surprise me when a warm up works). Anyway, back around I go.

At the start again, I do some strides, and I wait, stretching, beside the lagoon.

Paul (the timer) goes off to activate the sprint mat. We won’t start till he gets back.

Other people come to join me and we all line up. Getting excited.

Some physical trainer person wants to warm us up. Idiot. I’ve spent the last half hour or so warming up. I don’t need her help. Oh, dear. She wants us to do some exercises designed to injure the hamstrings. None of the real runners is doing them, and we mutter to ourselves. This isn’t warming us up, it’s wrong, and standing around waiting is cooling us down.

Finally we are off.

My breath is very loud. No one else is breathing so loudly. Of course no one ever does, but sometimes it worries me: “Am I going too fast? Should I slow?” But as we head up the first hill I pass a number of people who really have started too fast, and I feel better about things.

At the turn before the marine labs, I get to see who is ahead of me. The race is led by some guy with black hair which floats behind him as he runs. Ricky is up there somewhere (I guess he’s over whatever was bothering him last fortnight), Eric’s a bit behind, and Tim further back. Fair number of people I don’t recognize, UCSB types I guess.

Oh. And right in front of me is Jamie.

Maybe I am going too fast. I know Jamie will beat me by a lot more than this.

Oh drat. I forgot to start my watch (I start it now, but it will give me no help on the first lap).

Should I slow down? I don’t think I need to. Anyway I don’t. Out onto the dam and up the muddy slope. And now Jamie begins to pull away. Have I slowed? Hmm. Jamie usually starts slow and speeds up (from the few races I’ve noticed him run, while I usually start fast and slow down).

Footsteps behind me. Don’t dare slow now.

Down into the next cove and up that hill. There’s a woman standing by the trail with a stop watch. She murmurs “6 minutes” as I go past.

Hmm. Is she at the one mile mark? She’s probably meant to be. 6 minutes is a little fast for me on this course with all the hills. On the other hand… I see no indication that this is the 1 mile mark. If she’s off by 40 yards, a 6 minute time would be reasonable. And so I ponder.

The footsteps behind me have not gotten any further away. They are starting to worry me. We’re now on single track and they can’t pass me easily. (Ha!) They get closer. Oh dear. The trail widens a bit, and I pull over a bit to let them pass. And pass they do. Oops. It is Mike Shalhoub. He belongs in front. I apologize for being ahead. He just says “6:05 pace” (so I guess it’s OK.)

Charging down the hill and then around the puddles. No one audible behind me now. Jamie and Mike already too far out in front and not pulling me along. Have I slowed?

Here’s the 400m sprint start. Only 2¼ miles to go.

And there’s the start/finish. Halfway done. The clock reads 12:11 as I come up, so I probably cross the mat at 12:15 or so. I have slowed. 6:00/6:15 is kind of sad. I try to pick up the pace a bit.

Back around. The ocean seems even higher now than before and the spray it makes is really drenching the dam. Hunh. I seem to be gaining on the people ahead. They were 200m off a mile ago, now I’m starting to think I might catch them. (Not Jamie and Mike, they are long gone).

Up the hill, and down, and then up again. And I do catch the guy who is ahead of me as we are going up the hill. I push a little to do this, I know that after the hill there is single track and passing won’t be as easy then. On top of the hill I wonder if that were a good idea. I feel drained now.

The woman with the stop watch tells me 18:35 as I pass her. That’s not agreeable news. 6:00/6:15/6:20. Ug.

At least the people in front have slowed even more.

I guess that’s a consolation.

And then I notice the guy ahead of the guy ahead of me has pulled over to let the guy behind him pass. Then a little later when I come up behind him, he does the same. “Thanks.” No breath for more. And now I’m coming up behind the guy ahead. And I pass him. But his footsteps do not fade away as the others did. This guy is hanging on to me. That’s trouble. He’s younger than I, he’ll be able to sprint fast at the end and I won’t. I’ve got to get far enough ahead in the next ½mile (or whatever) that he can’t catch me when he sprints.

No one ahead but Mike S. again, and he’s so far ahead he’s no help.

I don’t hear the footsteps any more.

I get my feet wet in the puddles.

I’m trying for a shorter route, and it leads through rather than around the puddles.

🙂 Here are some walkers. I’ve lapped them. I’m going more than twice as fast as they. I wonder if they feel ashamed? Why don’t they run?! They don’t look old, or infirm, they could run. It’s only 4 miles (excuse me, for them it’s only 2 miles so far). Not sure why this bothers me so. I wish they would try.

And here’s the 400m mark again.

And now I do hear footsteps.

And he passes me.

I try to catch him, foaming at the mouth, drooling at the nose, I cross the finish .3 seconds behind. Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Oh well, he’s 18 and I’m 50.

They announce a time of 24:45 for me. (but I thought I saw 24:35 as I went under the arch where did the time go?)

Someone offers me water but I’m too tired. After a bit I realize I’ve still got my chip on so I turn back and have them take it off. Then I go wash my face.

Neat. It has gotten all sunny.

Somehow that happened during the run, and I didn’t notice.

When I finally get the results I discover that the chips didn’t capture our start times, just the intermediate time and the finish time (disappointing). I officially finished in 24:43.0, just .3 seconds behind the guy ahead of me — close enough that I can hope that a true chip time might have made a difference (I know it took a while for me to get to the start mat). But it also means that my last mile was 6:07, and the sprint results say that my last 400 was 1:29.7. So I did speed up at the end…

I grab my camera and start a cooldown lap. As I come up to the dam there is a huge splosh which drenches it, so I stop and try to take pictures of the waves breaking. But, of course, the waves calm down and are all gentle once I take the camera out.

The little cove, so foggy and bleak earlier in the day, looks quite beautiful now the sun is out.

Above the place where the tree has fallen into the water (and been colonized by cormorants) there is another bare tree which has not (yet) fallen and is also full of cormorants. It and the bell tower and the blue sky and the lagoon all seduce me to stop. And then Jamie comes up behind me and we finish the loop together.

The couples’ relay had started, and we look behind us to make sure we don’t get in anyone’s way. We don’t, but just as we finish our loop the first runner on the first leg finishes too. The impressive thing is that it is 12 year old Peter Bermant. He’s got a huge lead on everyone else. And his mother, Melissa Marsted, is pretty fast too. They’ll probably win.

I head out on my second lap and meet some more of my group, but they are running backwards (against the direction of the relay) so I turn and join them. We pick our way through the puddles will trying to stay out of the way of the relay racers.

We live in a beautiful place.

Tim and Jamie ahead of me.

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Remind me… what was agreed at Copenhagen?

January 26, 2010

By the end of this week (31 Jan 2010) the world was supposed to have signed up to say what their cuts in CO2 production will be.

As far as I know, 9 nations have “indicated they wish to be associated with” the Copenhagen accord (no one is actually expected to go so far as sign or ratify the accord, that would be asking too much). Nine out of 192 is not a good ratio. The US is not one of them yet, nor is China, nor is most of Europe. One nation has said it does not want to be associated.

Does anyone care?

De Boer, the UN chief of climate negotiations, says he does not view the 31 January deadline as a hard deadline. This is worrisome. We have an accord which didn’t say anything to start with, but which did set a deadline for something to be said — and now we are told that deadline isn’t meaningful.

Certainly the 9 nations (Australia, Canada, France, Ghana, the Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Serbia, Singapore and Turkey) who have said they “wish to be associated with” the accord cannot make enough reductions by themselves to impact climate change.

Brazil, South Africa, India and China (the four nations who, with the US, drafted the accord) met yesterday and said that they supported the accord — after getting the UN Secretary General to say that the accord had no legal force.

So… they, the authors, only support it because it doesn’t mean anything?

Climate change has mostly dropped out of the news in the US. I’ve only seen two news items on the US position:

I find the first disturbing because by only getting input from the big polluters, it seems unlikely that significant change will happen (it would be like excluding environmentalists from a forum on reducing logging in forests). And by ignoring most of the world we come across as arrogant and uncaring.

It will lead to fragmentation of efforts. If the US is only willing to talk to China, then Bolivia will only talk to Cuba. The UN, with all its faults, is the only global form of governance we have. It may not be very effective, but that is one of the drawbacks of democracy.

The second speaks for itself. Will the US do anything? Or will it be just like Kyoto where we remove considerable substance from the treaty to make it palatable to our congress and then refuse to sign it. The worst of both worlds — a treaty which doesn’t do enough and a country which does nothing at all.

Mammals in Madagascar

January 25, 2010

One of the little mysteries of biogeography is how did mammals get to Madagascar?

Madagascar is an island. It is ~300 miles from Africa.

160 million years ago Madagascar was part of Gondwanaland, but it and India broke away from the supercontinent and went traveling north. Then 80 million years ago Madagascar and India broke apart, with India continuing north (eventually to bash into Asia) while Madagascar dawdled around Africa.

It has had no land contact with the rest of the world for ~160 million years.

The trouble is that placental mammals didn’t evolve until 125 million years ago. Long after Madagascar and India were adrift. But Madagascar is covered with modern mammals, and while these mammals tend to differ at the family level they clearly belong to modern orders  (Primates, Carnivores, Insectivores, Rodents, Chiroptera, …).

Parallel evolution would not have done that.

The ancestors of the Malgache mammals were not on board when Madagascar broke away form Gondwanaland. How did they get there?

OK, bats could be blown across the Mozambique channel fairly easily, but most mammals on the island are not bats.

I’ve heard three explanations:

  • A cyclone hit Africa and knocked a tree into a river where it got blown across to Madagascar. And there happened to be ancestral lemurs (or rats, weasels, geckos, or what have you) in the tree.
  • During an ice age the water level was very low and the Mozambique channel dried up and animals could walk across.
  • Maybe it was easier to make the crossing 90 million years ago, and some animal did, evolved into the original primate, and then was carried by India to Asia whence they populated the rest of the world.

All these have problems.

  • A tree from Africa would never reach Madagascar. Ocean currents would carry it to South Africa and not toward Madagascar.
  • The Mozambique channel is too deep to be dried up by an ice age.
  • India rammed into Asia somewhere around 45 million years ago, but the earliest primate fossil is from 55 million years ago (and was not found in Madagascar or India)

But a recent study by a climatologist points out that ocean currents would be different 50 million years ago, because the continents were in different places, and that his research indicates that at that time the currents might indeed carry an animal from Africa to Madagascar.

Now most mammals in Madagascar are little guys. Or could have evolved from small arborial ancestors, and might well have been up a tree when a storm struck.

But not all. How on earth did the hippopotamus get there?