Archive for March, 2011

Pondering Altitude

March 27, 2011

We ran up and down a hill three times yesterday. And my GPS watch recorded it.

As you can see, the hill got lower each time we ran it. But the bottom of the hill also got lower. The elevation change from top to bottom didn’t vary as much, staying about 200ft. The first time the top was at 306ft and the bottom at 102, the second time 248-72ft, and the third time 228-36ft. Samples were roughly 26~27 minutes apart.

It’s amazing how fast the earth’s crust changes around here.

Perhaps even more interesting, the lowest point was about a quarter mile from the start, so it should have been hit twice between peaks (with about a 50ft mini peak between low points), yet each lap appears to have only one such.

The USGS topo map claims that the top of the hill is at ~240ft, and the bottom is at 120ft. MapMyRun draws a very fuzzy graph which shows the top below 300ft and the bottom above 50ft.

Perhaps I should go back with an old fashioned altimeter. Would dGPS help any?


Surgery: Two for the price of one!

March 22, 2011

Yesterday I went in for my first colonoscopy.

As I am lying, trussed, helpless in the pre-op area a strange doctor comes in to my little alcove, picks up my chart and asks me if I’m ready for my eye surgery.

At the nurse station, one says to another “She was always so social.”

Fred turned fifty.

March 12, 2011

This week, I was to race. This week I only had to run 8 miles before starting, so I’d still be tired, but not as tired.

The race started at 8. One year it took forever to register, so I’d better leave half an hour for that to be safe. If I am conservative and assume 9 minute miles that means 1:12 for the warmup, and it takes about ~1:15 to bike there. That means… I need to leave home at 5am. And I need breakfast before that.

I locked up my bike in front of the startline at 6:16; so pretty much on schedule. And headed off. Basically I ran the course. Or I did, except I took some detours, the first to look at the seal sanctuary (fewer seals today than there have been on past races). When I got to the three mile mark I met Wally marking the course, so after that I had to guess where the turn around was (I got it wrong, but no matter). I did a couple more detours to get the total up to 8, and then went in to register. Which went very smoothly this year, so I now had lots of time. I jogged another mile, found a bathroom, did some strides, emptied a stone out of my shoe, stretched…

We lined up. A nice wide start. I stood behind Ricky knowing he’d get out of the way quickly. Wally said “Go!” and we went.

Down across the railroad tracks and then left along the edge of the beach. There are about 10 people ahead of me, one of whom is female. Ricky is there, of course, and Fred. Where’s Kent? I know he likes to start slowly…

We run through the state beach and on to a dirt trail on the other side. I pass a couple of people, and then I hear Kent’s cough behind me. I’d wondered who was catching up on me. And then he passes me.

As he should.

Then we turn sharply left onto a dilapidated road, and cross the railroad track again (luckily no train around — I did see the early morning train on my warmup). Nice Eucalyptus trees here. We reach the 1 mile mark. 6:09. Ooooo… nice. Not too fast, but for me that now counts as fast. I start dreaming of sustaining that pace:-) Out onto the main road. Kent has now passed two more people, and beyond him is the lead woman.

Once again except for the car parked in front of City Hall, the road is clear of parked cars. The arrogance of power. So we have to run around it. I suppose that costs a second or two.

Our route now takes us onto a dirt sidewalk. The lead woman continues on the road. I worry about this. The two are parallel here, but diverge later. Ah, at the next side street she joins us. And now we climb up the hill to Bailard Ave. I find to my surprise that I am passing the guy ahead of me. And then the guy ahead of him. Next there’s Kent, and beyond (well beyond now) him the lead woman. I doubt I’ll catch Kent, I know he’s faster than I now.

Into the shrubbery again, and here’s the two mile mark. I didn’t notice the split.

At the next turn, which is a hairpin, Kent sees that I’m behind him and cheers me on. It takes me a minute to realize I should cheer him too:-) I’ve known who’s ahead of me, so it’s no surprise to me.

Through a thicket of coast sunflower and purple sage (planted, but natives). Then back out onto the road again (A volunteer cheers me on with “Almost there!” Um… We’re maybe 2.5 miles into a 6+ mile race? In a marathon, maybe you’d say “Almost there” with 4 miles to go, but not in a 10K).

Off the road again, across a cute little foot bridge, back into coastal shrubbery. At the 3 mile mark I glance at my watch 19:10. Yikes! So much for running 6:10s. I’m not even doing 6:20s. Kent isn’t that far ahead, which is some consolation… And back onto the road. And off the road. This section is new to me. It was unmarked earlier and I guessed wrong.

Oh… very nice! They’ve put the hill back on the course. As I get closer I realize it isn’t the same hill I remember from 10 years ago, but it’s similar. Nice to have something like that back. Kent disappears up. Half a minute later I do too.

And now, some blesséd downhill. The route is (on average) uphill to this point, and from now on (again, on average) downhill. I see Kent now but only on long straight stretches. I can’t see anyone beyond him. I guess the lead woman didn’t go out too fast, I’m not going to catch her.

It’s a bit lonely. Half the time I can’t see Kent. I can’t hear anyone behind me.

I suppose that’s good.

Mostly on the road now. I’ve circled back and now I meet slower runners coming out the other way. At the four mile mark I see my last mile split was 5:57. Heavens to Betsy. (My grandmother was sometimes called Betsy, perhaps I mean her).

By the time I head back into the shrubbery the on-coming running traffic has cleared out. The trails are pretty wide here, but it’s nice not to have to worry. Here’s the hairpin turn again. Somehow it seems much more slippery now that I’m tired. And there seems to be more sand in the trail than there was. Kent is so far ahead now that he doesn’t see me behind him.

And now it’s road all the way to the finish. I can’t see Kent at all. And then I round a bend and I do. He’s, what? a minute ahead? Something like that. A sixth of a mile or so. I’m glad he’s there. It helps me keep going. Oops. Gone again.

I head onto a suburban street. My legs are tired. It’s a little up hill here and I’m feeling it. I gasp for breath, and then tell myself to calm down. No need for theatrics.

Across another little footbridge. I like this one, a lovely suspension bridge. It bounces a little in the middle. On the other side are two steps down. Someone has written “Step” on each.

It’s only another block to the six mile mark.

And a block beyond that to come out onto the road that leads to the finish.

And half a block beyond that to the line.

I can see 38:15. Wow. That’s pretty good. I didn’t think I’d go that fast. Of course, by the time I cross the line it’s 38:28, but it’s still better than I expected. When I age-grade it, it becomes 80.45%. Yippee! I don’t often get about 80%. It’s been years, in fact! I wasn’t expecting to do so today, not with an 8 mile warmup.

I get something to eat and drink and then do another 6 miles. When I return they are doing the awards. Kent wins his age group, yup. And then I wait to hear Fred winning 45-49. And he doesn’t. I realize, to my horror, that Fred has aged up. I’m not winning my age-group today. It was a great shock when it happened 5 years ago… It’s a shock today. I knew there was no one my age ahead of me, but I was wrong. Grump. Here am I, 51 years old. In sixth place overall, running at >80%, and I don’t win my age group?

Awww…. It doesn’t matter how old he is. I ran better than 80%!

Shamrock Splash

March 5, 2011

I’m coming to realize how infrequently I run races. I run two or three big races a year, and maybe some extra half-marathons, but I sort of ignore the little guys. I fixate on the big races, train hard for them, and a little race might get in the way (or, worse, cause injury). So when Kary asked me to run the Shamrock scramble with her I said “No.” It wasn’t on my schedule, I wasn’t doing it.

But when they posted the Saturday workout, they said we could do the race if we liked (provided we ran 10~13 miles before it). So I told Kary I’d run it, but that I didn’t think I’d keep up with her. I was planning a marathon pace run at 6:40. Then, as I ran through 10 miles with Doug, I thought maybe I’d run 6:30s with him. And once the race started? Why I ran 6:20s with Kary.

The UCSB races all start with some personal trainer leading a group warmup session. Which I suppose is fine. Personally I think the way she chooses to warm people up is likely to cause injury (lots of jerky movements). Unfortunately she seems to think that anyone who fails to warm up her way is failing to warm up and she yells at us. She tells us we can’t run well if we don’t warm up. Um. I have warmed up. I’ve run 12 miles. I’ve done some strides. I’ve done (am doing) my stretches. I just don’t like hers. And I find it annoying that she should presume to instruct me when (in my opinion) she doesn’t know what she’s doing.


Anyway we line up. There is no sense of race etiquette at this race either. There are two little kids front row, dead center, and lots of other people who don’t know who to run are there too. I stand behind Mike Shalhoub (because I’m not really racing myself), and I just know they’ll get in the way.

When the command to start is given nobody moves. Sigh. Then they seem to realize, and we’re off. And, yup, there are people all over the place who aren’t moving very fast and keep blocking me. The two little kids do surprisingly well, I don’t pass them until we’ve run several hundred meters.

Kary is just zooming along. I try to keep up. According to the watch we’re doing 5:50s. That’s too fast for me. It’s faster than what she said she was planning to do. When I finally reach her she explains that she just wanted to get out of the press. Mmm. Yeah. I understand what she means. We slow a bit, and Dave joins us. Dave and I are Kary’s honor guard and we plan to run with her as long as we can (Dave has also done 10+ miles as a warmup, while Kary is really racing).

Nash is ahead of us. I’ve never seen him run before. He said he was just doing a tempo run… Well, if so, his tempo pace is much faster than mine. And he looks a little older than I too. A very impressive runner.

Now that we have slowed other people start to pass us. That’s not too surprising. They got caught in the pack too.

Then a blonde ponytail goes by. I realize that there were no women ahead of Kary and she might well win this thing, if we can catch up with the ponytail. We discuss this, and the general consensus is that she’ll probably slow.

We now leave the paved road and run on dirt along the bluffs looking down on the ocean. Or that’s what it’s normally like up here. At the moment we are busy skirting puddles with no eyes for the ocean, ending up in the mud, and getting quite wet.

Kary slows down when running through mud. This is not good. She has to ignore it. I glance down at my watch and it thinks we’ve been running at a 6:16 pace. Much, much better than 5:50s. In fact that probably means we’re now going too slowly since that pace includes the fast quarter mile (or whatever) at the beginning.

We are catching up on the ponytail.

We pass her.

We also pass Kary’s family. They live out here and have come to watch their mom or wife race.

Now we’re running through the streets of Isla Vista. A long straight flat stretch. It feels dull. We pass the two mile marker. (I didn’t notice the 1 mile mark). Hmm. My watch claims I’ve been running for 1.75 miles. My watch is inaccurate about distance, but I don’t think it is that bad. I’ve been running for just under 11 minutes. Nope. I’m going to trust the watch. I’m not running 5:30s, not for two miles, not after 12 miles already. That marker is in the wrong place.

We run on. We’ve got one lane to ourselves, and that lane is divided in half, I presume one half is for returning runners (it’s almost an out and back course), but we are running three abreast and take up the whole lane.

I’m feeling tired, so I warn Kary and Dave that I’ll be dropping back soon. I drop back a couple of feet, but that seems all.

Finally this dull straight road dead ends, and we run off back toward the ocean, and then make a big loop to get around some dormitories or something. I notice some blue-eyed grass. I think it’s blue-eyed grass. Ah, there’s another one. Yup, it is. I’m now about 6 feet behind the others. They are catching up on the guy ahead. I wonder if I will.

They pass him.

I pass him.

The loop has circled back almost to its start and we’re three abreast again. As we make the turn back on to the long, straight, dull road Kary and Dave cut a little too sharply and end up running into some flagging tape. So I’m ahead briefly. It won’t last.

As we return along the road, I see that the outgoing runners are filling the entire lane we are supposed to be running in. So the three of us are in the lane devoted to cars. Luckily there isn’t much traffic, but every now and then a car will drive up to us and we have to push into the oncoming runners.

The road comes to an end and we’re heading back into the mud! What fun.

People cheer us on. I wonder if they realize that Kary is lead woman? No one mentions it. Kary once again slows for the mud, while I plow through it.

We see Kary’s family again.

There’s an odd little turn that takes us onto a different route for the last mile or so. And I’m still a bit ahead of Kary and Dave. Soon we’re back on pavement. Here’s the 4 mile mark (according to my watch it’s 2.4 miles from the 2 mile mark, or 4.15 from the start), and there are Kent and Jessica to cheer us on.

I realize Kent and Jessica are running with Kary.

Then Jessica passes me.

Then Dave passes me. My watch says I’m still doing 6:20s so I let them go. Somebody else passes me (a UCSB student).

A quarter mile to go.

It seems to take forever.

And I can see the finish. Jessica is announced as the first woman. Whoops! Oh, this race has no bibs — they can’t tell. And Jessica crossed the line (rather than running beside it).

The clock at the finish line is broken and reads gibberish. Damn.

And then I’m on the mat. I stop my watch at 32:22. It claims I’ve run 5.14 miles at a 6:18 pace. Well I don’t trust my watch to get the distance right, but I know the course was mis-marked, it may well have been mis-measured too. (Later, other people commented that they thought the course long too, so not just my watch). But it doesn’t really matter.

They announce that Kary is the second woman. I’m going to have to fix that.

But I need some water first.

Then they announce Libby as third. And I finally get over to the announcer and explain that Jessica only ran the last mile. He corrects the count.

Hmm. I guess it’s just as well I don’t do these races very often, I seem to get annoyed by them.