Archive for November, 2011

Almost Extinct

November 26, 2011

My sister was rummaging around in the neighbor’s backyard.

Why my sister was there I can’t say. The nearest neighbors are about half a mile up the road on top of a small hill. I haven’t been in their backyard for, oh, forty years when we used to buy corn (and freshly churned butter) from the old farmer who lived there.

Nevertheless, my sister was there.

She returned to say that she thought she’d found some paw-paws. Not what the Australians call paw-paw (which is a papaya), but Asimina triloba, the relative of the cherimoya.

The paw-paw is a plant which has been heading toward extinction for the last 10,000 years or so. They were dependent on North American megafauna to disperse their fruit, and when humans hunted the megafauna to extinction the paw-paw started to die out.

Now I’m a big fan of cherimoyas and would love to grow the US equivalent here, so we’ve tried planting them a number of times in the past few years and were glad to know that the neighbors had a thicket — we might steal a shoot in the spring.

So we all trooped down to look at them. The plants did indeed look like paw-paws with pinnate leaves that were lighter underneath than on top (not many leaves left at this time of year, but there were a few).

Across from the paw-paws were some trees that my sister had assumed were chestnut oaks (a common tree up here), but closer examination revealed that the seeds were not acorns. In fact they looked like chestnut seeds. Of course the American chestnut is essentially extinct ever since the blight took over in the early part of the last century, so this was clearly not that. A horse chestnut perhaps? (But a look at the tree book convinced us that was not the case). Chinese chestnut? My sister said the seed was wrong. Allegheny chinquapin seemed to be the answer. A small native relative of the American chestnut but one of which I’d never heard. Sadly, also subject to the blight, though not as severely.

Hmm. These trees do not seem blighted. Perhaps they are chinese after all? When I look at the tree book, the seeds look reasonable to me.  Also there are multiple seeds within the prickly casing which doesn’t happen in the chinquapin… Need to go back next year and look at the tree with leaves…

After further examination I think these trees must be Chinese and not a chinquapin, there’s just no sign of blight and the seeds are wrong for the chinquapin.

Ah well. My mother pointed out to me some old chestnut rootstock which still sends up 8 foot saplings before the blight strikes…


A walk in the rain

November 20, 2011

It’s been more than a month since I had a chance to see what (if anything) was blooming in the back-country, so I decided to hike down to Forbush.

Then I learned it was going to rain.

I went anyway. But I drove up to Camino Cielo.

This is about the nadir of the year for blooming flowers. The summer flowers are over (or almost over) and the winter/spring flowers haven’t started yet.

The everlastings turned out not to. There’s a little bit of wand chicory left but it looks kind of sad. The silk tassels are just short stubby buds, and the sugar bush has about four months to go before its buds turn into blooms.

Well, there are a few flowers I really like that I’ve been watching to see how long they will bloom. One is actually on front side of the mountains, down almost to Montecito Peak, there are a couple of others down near Forbush, and one even further down near the grotto. I’m not sure I’ll get that far in the rain.

I’m most interested in Golden Eardrops. Last year I thought they finished in July, but this year they were still blooming in October. They are down near Montecito Peak.

But to get to them I must pass a patch of dense false gillyflowers. These were also blooming in October, but are now just withered stems. On to the eardrops!

I begin to worry that I’ve passed them, but I find them. And still in bloom too. Not the abundant blooms of June, but still respectable.

Now I head back to Camino Cielo, and when I turn I realize the trail looks more like a little stream. I hadn’t really noticed when I was going downhill. The clouds are hugging the mountain tops here and it’s very misty.

It becomes windier as I approach the top again, and the rain sweeps past.

And then down the other side. I’m looking for morning glories here (well, false bindweeds anyway), but I don’t see them yet. I had assumed that since the coastal false bindweed blooms all year in the front country then the pacific false bindweed would probably bloom all year in the back. But that doesn’t seem to be the case, and I haven’t seen any pacific since August.

🙂 I like the way the trail switchbacks around. The rain seems to have enhanced the contrast, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this view before.

Ah. Here’s another patch of dense false gillyflower, and like the first one it has become a tangle of dried stems. On the other hand, there are a few Plummer’s Bacharis in bloom here. It’s almost over, but around here I see a few blooms. They are pretty shabby looking though.

Even the toyon berries disappoint, they haven’t turned red yet and are a drab indeterminate shade.

Then looking behind me, up the canyon, I see a couple of big-leaved maples which are pretending that it is fall and have turned yellow.

The little bush, here on the left of the trail, is a mature oak tree with lots of acorns. Acorns which look disproportionately big on this small shrub. It’s 3~4 feet tall. I still can’t get over the scrub oaks here. I expect oak trees to be big.

When I get to Forbush meadow I am initially disappointed — I don’t see any Elegant Madias. Off to the side are some fleabanes with rather bedraggled blooms because of the rain, but no Madias. Nonetheless I walk through the meadow, and finally I spot a single bloom. A rather inelegant madia, but still, a madia. Well, I doubt it will last another week; I’m glad I came down today.

Just beyond Forbush, about a quarter of the way up the trail on the other side of the valley, is a little patch of hummingbird trumpets. Hummingbirds don’t like the rain, so the flowers aren’t living up to the name, but they are in bloom still.

It’s another mile to the grotto, and my hands are cold (the rest of me is ok). I decide I’m not really that interested in learning if the Lobelias are still blooming. I think I shall turn back.

The fog is slowly creeping up Blue Canyon toward me. In the course of 5 minutes or so the hill on the right becomes lost in the mist…

On the way up from Forbush there’s a rather nice glen of live oaks, seen through a lens bespeckled with raindrops.

OK what went wrong, or what should I have done instead

November 14, 2011

It’s hard to say what was the problem. I just got slow after mile 17. I don’t think it was lack of fuel — though I shan’t completely rule it out — but if that was the cause I didn’t feel weak or hungry.

I felt tired and my legs hurt. Primarily my quads. They still do to some extent (though mostly I’m feeling my calves).

I remember complaining about my quads hurting during at least one training run.

So my thought is that maybe my legs just weren’t up to the amount of moderately-high-speed pounding which a road marathon entails. Maybe I need to run trails less and do more longer road runs.

I don’t want to give up the long run/tempo run combo, I expect that is useful, but if I were to do another long run in the week… Not as fast as MP, but not easy either and without any rest for 3~3:30 hours? Maybe 7:15 pace? or even 7:30?

(I don’t mean start out with a 3 hour fastish run, but build up to it as I build my other long run).

Anyway, it sounds as though that’s what Ubaldo did, and maybe Laura as well.

It seems worth trying, and it’s all I can think of at the moment…

Of course I stopped running on pavement for a reason — I thought it was causing shin splints — but now I’m less sure. I think that, at least for me, it’s not the surface I run on as much as it is the speed at which I run (or possibly the speed at which I run corners). Anyway this past training period my shin splints were worse after running fast mile intervals on dirt than they were after doing a tempo run on pavement. And I have a recollection from a few years ago that track workouts (on a nice soft track) were again worse than tempo runs. So… I hope that means it’s OK to run pavement more, provided I don’t sprint on it.

The moment I posted the above my college friend, Dave Webster, told me that he did his longest run was 6 weeks out (mine was 3) and that it was 28miles for one marathon and 30miles another time (he didn’t recommend the 30). He advocated an easy pace for the whole thing, but that long was important (as was plenty of recovery afterward).

Now I did a four hour trail run 4~5 weeks out. But that wasn’t what I needed.

One final thought on road marathon…
I think there is a large accumulation effect…
My body accumulates fatigue and the marathon causes me to remember it
I can feel GREAT for the first half of a marathon, but that accumulated fatigue shows up in the second half
So, for me, I’ve got to be really, really rested going into a marathon
Or I’ll fade
SO I do my longest run easy and six weeks out….
And my speed work in the last month is always pretty short
As I said, though, your mileage may vary

The walkers weren’t really the problem. My annoyance with them probably took my mind off the pain a bit.

Rusty thinks I got dehydrated (which is likely given that I was trying to eat both more carbs and more salt so as to avoid the wall). And thinks that longer training runs just lead to injury without benefit to endurance.

Another marathon, slower than I wanted it to be

November 12, 2011

Magically the rain of last night had vanished when I awoke at 4am.


☑ No Rain
☑ Light meal
☑ Body de-chafed
☑ HR monitor (Brrr) and watch
☑ Bib and chip
☑ Race food loaded
☑ 7 “Final” trips to the bathroom

It was actually rather pleasant, and when the sun rose over the race start, the light on the mountains was lovely.

But we weren’t there for the light. And then the race started.

Of course we all went out too fast. After about 100m my watch said I was running at a 6 minute pace (didn’t feel like it, of course) and I wanted to run the first mile at 7:15. So I slowed way down. Plenty of people passed me then.

Once out of the school parking lot the course goes steeply downhill and it’s very tempting to go fast here. But I control myself, I need to warm up a bit before speeding.

And then it’s uphill. Now I start to pass a few people. People who don’t know how to race and went out far too fast for their abilities.

At the one mile mark I see I’ve run 7:14 which sounds pretty much right.

A little after then we leave Cathedral Oaks and turn the corner to run down Los Carneros. Another tempting downhill. I want to run this mile ~7:00 but it ends up as 6:46. Oopsie.

That was to be the end of the warmup, and after that I want to run 6:50s until about mile 14 or so.

Kent and Kary are running together some distance ahead. Laura is between me and them. Joy is somewhere behind. As is Travis, the 3 hour pacer. Odd, I thought he was going to be running 6:52s. Jeff and Eric are too far ahead to see.

Los Carneros crosses the freeway here and there’s a steep little hill as we climb up to the bridge over it, and then a steep drop down the other side. I manage to catch up with Laura because of this.

I haven’t run with Laura in ages. It’s good to see her out again. She says she wants to run between 6:50 and 7s. A little slower than what I want but not much and we run together for a way.

Ahead of us, Kent turns off the course and into the bushes. Kent has a habit of doing this, then he comes charging out like superman from a phone booth. But not today. I do not see Kent again on the course.

Someone shouts out to us “Third or Fourth woman.” This comes as a surprise to me; I had assumed Kary was first and there isn’t anyone between Laura and Kary. Guess I was wrong. (No one shouts anything at me. Which isn’t really fair, it’s harder (by the Age Graded tables) for a 52 year old man to hold this pace than it is for a woman Laura’s (or Kary’s) age. Ah well, that’s sexism for you).

After we cross Hollister the road starts to climb again and Laura slows, so I decide to leave her. I run a little faster and start to catch Kary, but this is a slow process and doesn’t really happen until a bit after mile 5.

Now Kary and I run together.

At about mile 7 we finally see the woman who is ahead of Kary. It turns out she’s a relay runner (and so doesn’t count). But we pass her anyway. The other woman decides to fight with Kary and they both go a bit faster than I want to run, so I drop back a way until Kary has firmly trounced her, whereupon Kary eases back a bit and I catch her again.

Now we have looped back to the school, and it’s lovely downhill (which I let myself take advantage of to the tune of a 6:40). This is also the first relay exchange point and as we pass through another woman pops out. This one seems a friend of Kary’s and we all run together to the next relay exchange point.

We come up to the 13 mile mark and I start looking for the half marathon point. I don’t see it. I know Rusty put a paint mark on the road (because I saw it when I biked over the course the previous week), but it doesn’t seem to warrant a big marker which is what I seek. Kary tells me she saw a clock (how did I miss that?), and that it read 1:29:??. This cheers me as it means we’re on track for a 3 hour marathon.

Looking back at my splits I see that Kary’s clock must have been at the 13 mile mark, not at the half marathon mark and the time was 1:29:19. However, at the pace we were running it would be roughly another 40 seconds to reach the halfway point. Which means we were almost exactly at 1:30:00 and not quite in such good shape as I thought. Not bad shape. But I wish I’d known that I was running exactly 1:30 pace rather than going faster. I would not have fell quite so sanguine.

The next mile is an uphill mile and it takes us 7:02. That frightens me. That’s too slow. The next mile is downhill and I pick up the pace a little, expecting Kary to follow. But she doesn’t. My original plan was to pick the pace up here anyway. I do a 6:40 and then a 6:46 as we meander along a bike path beside a little creek.

Finally we come out onto the main bikepath to UCSB and here are the first of the half-marathoners. They are walking. I got a half hour headstart, but still, in a little less than 2 hours I have run 17 miles, in a little less than 1:30 they have gone four. I’m running about 3 times faster than they. As always it bugs me. Why aren’t they trying?

And of course they are paying no attention to people who are actually racing. They tend to join little chat groups which spread out over much of the bike path (which isn’t exactly wide). If I yell “left” at them they will apologetically scoot out of the way, but it doesn’t occur to them that they shouldn’t have been in the way to start with.

I’m going to have to deal with with this for the next 9.2 miles (though the half-marathoners will get a little faster as I go along, still someone who can finish a half in 2:30 is not fast by any standards).

This bikepath runs slightly uphill here, normally I don’t really notice it, but I’m tired. I slow to a 6:52. That’s OK, that’ll get me to the finish in 3 hours, but I shouldn’t go any slower.

But the mile after that is 7:05, and then 7:15 and 7:45 and I realize I’ve lost it. My legs are tired. I don’t think I hit the wall this time. I’m just beat. I have no excuses.

Just about mile 20 a half-marathon walker seems me plodding by and says “half-way done!” to me. I can’t let that pass. I say “three-quarters” as I jog by.

Someone turns on the wind here, and now we’ve got a headwind to contend with.

Finally I get a downhill mile and I hope this one will be an improvement. But it isn’t, not really. 7:41. I’m sort of in my own world and out of things by now. Some friends of mine are dressed in costumes and cheering here I totally miss it. Nichol even runs beside me to cheer me on but I only have the vaguest impression of someone there. I don’t look. It’s all I can do to keep going. It hurts so much to put one foot in front of the next, I have no energy for anything but the race.

Somewhere around here the bike for the lead woman passes me, and I expect to see that Kary has caught up. But it isn’t Kary it is Laura! Laura is sticking to her 7 minute pace (marginally faster) while both Kary and I have fallen off our 6:50s to the point she has caught us. Sigh.

The next mile is even more downhill on Los Positas. I was thinking to run 6:40s here, but I can’t. It’s 7:24. And the next mile on LP is even worse: 7:57. That’s downhill and I can only run an 8 minute mile. At least there’s no wind in this direction.

By this time Kary has passed me. Sigh. Now I start to worry about Joy.

Every now and then someone yells out encouragement telling me how well I’m doing. Who do they think they are kidding? OK, I’m going faster than the half-marathoners, but that’s a pretty damning comparison.

At mile 9 on the half marathon (roughly mile 22 for me) I a bunch of half marathoners are standing around the mile marker taking its picture. OK, they can do what they like, but they kind of spread out and take up much of the lane I’m trying to run in. Would I be more forgiving if I weren’t so tired? I think so, it wouldn’t hurt so much to loop around them — I’d have less to complain about.

And now comes the HILL. Scattered with clumps of half-marathoners who are congratulating themselves on how well they are doing; turning backwards to look behind them and go greet some friend; just generally wandering around and getting in my way as they try to encourage one another.

Oh yes, and we’ve turned into the teeth of the gale again.

I zoom up that half mile at a 9:30 pace. No one passes me. Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.

Once I get past that I manage to “pick up” the pace to 7:40s again. Sigh.

By this time I’m no longer looking at the pace which the watch is telling me. It’s too depressing.

Now we come to two very nice downhill miles. Three weeks ago I ran them at ~6:25. Today I eke out a 7:20 and 7:40.

We are nearing the finish, the half marathoners are getting excited, and that’s a bad thing. A group of them link arms and spread out to cover as much of the road as they possibly can. Again I have to loop around them while thinking nasty thoughts.

When I get to mile 26 I hear Kary’s name called as she finishes. I try to push a little harder and I run the last .2 miles at a blistering 7:12 pace. AND that includes dodging around half marathoners.

I’m 100m from the finish when the another large group of half marathoners links arms (who taught these guys that blocking the route was fun?) and spreads out over as much of the track as they can. I want to kill them. But there is just space on the left for me to sneak past them. And finish ahead.

Those girls look so cheerful and I’m so grim and intent.


My second fastest marathon. Sadly, this is the first road marathon I have run which has not been a PR. I knew it would come someday, but I didn’t want it to happen today. I really thought I could go sub 3. But I couldn’t. None of my friends did.

On a slightly more cheerful note… age graded, it is my best marathon.

I wonder… would I have run even more slowly if I hadn’t been spurred on by my annoyance with the half marathoners? Perhaps they do serve a function.

No one calls out my name when I cross the line. I only hear half marathoners being announced. Grumble, mutter, damn all half-marathoners. Here am I, age group winner of the marathon and no one notices.

OK… complaining is fun, but not very useful. What might improve the situation (and be feasible)?

  • Having two separate finishing shoots, one for the half and one for the marathon so we don’t stumble on one another, and so that every one in a shoot will be going (roughly) the same pace
  • Start the half-marathon an hour or even an hour and a half after the marathon. That way the half marathon finishers won’t be quite as slow compared to those of the marathon.
    (The last marathoner finished in 6:49 while the last half marathoner in 5:02, adding an extra hour to the half start wouldn’t bump finishers against the end of the race)
  • Perhaps a couple of signs en route asking half marathoners to stick to the right and not form large chatty clumps and to allow faster runners to pass? Though I doubt that would do much, people tend to forget and ignore, but it wouldn’t hurt.

I stop, and slowly lean down to remove the chip from my shoe (my shoe lace goes through it and I don’t want them to cut my shoelace), and several people rush over to see if I’m all right. I guess it must look as though I’m slowly collapsing or something 🙂 !

50-54 men, 1st and 2nd


Final worries

November 11, 2011

The night before the race and it is raining.

Monday they said 30% chance of rain on Saturday (race day). Tuesday 50%. Wednesday 70%. Thursday 40%. Friday morning: no rain Friday day, 50% Friday night, 40% Saturday morning. It started raining about 10am and has been raining ever since. Now it says 50% chance of rain Saturday.

So the big worry is rain. Running 26 miles in chilly rain will probably mean I hit the wall sooner as I’ll have to expend more energy to keep warm. I’ll probably run slower too, just because I’m miserable. My glasses will fog up so I can’t see and then slide off my face. My hands will go numb and I may not be able to open food packets to eat.

And I’m afraid that carbo-loading didn’t work.

Please, please, please don’t rain tomorrow while I’m running.

The week of eating dangerously

November 6, 2011

In the past, when I race a marathon, I have hit the wall. So I need to carboload.

Most people seem to have a misconception when it comes to carboloading — the term does not mean eating a lot of pasta the night before. That’s pretty much useless.

No, it’s much less pleasant. The traditional method involves starting about a week before the race and then for three days eating no carbohydrates at all – just high protein foods. There are also specially timed runs, a 90 minute run a little slower than marathon pace at the start of the process, and about 3 mile intervals at the end. The first makes the body crave more carbs, and the last essentially flushes any carbs left in the body. Often it is not possible to complete the last run.

After this last run one immediately starts eating carbs and nothing but carbs. 100+ grams of carbs an hour for 8 hours. That doesn’t sound like much but it means a pound of potatoes an hour, or something equivalent.

After the body has been deprived of carbs it will super-saturate the muscles with glycogen (a molecule-complex which contains an enormous amount of glucose and is the energy storage device for the muscles).

Nowadays many people claim the depletion phase is unnecessary and that carbo-loading without depletion is almost as effective. But still the carbo-loading must be a massive operation, not a simple pasta dinner the night before.


  • SatNormally, when I get up before Saturday workouts I have some recovery drink and a handful of raisins or so. Then during the workout I will eat a gel-pack or have more recovery drink. But not today.Today I mix some powered Glutamine (pure amino acid) in water and eat a sardine. Then off to the workout. Kent and I are supposed to do 90 minutes at 7:15-7:30; this is not a difficult pace to run at, but it is hard for us to find (we normally run faster or slower) so we tend to flop between running 8 minute pace and 6:50s. We average a little fast. I start to feel hungry. Kent does not. He’s had a bowl of oat-meal beforehand. It turns out he’s not carbo-loading. That’s cheating! He shouldn’t be running with me, he should run with Kary and Jeff, the non-carbo-loaders. They’ve got something different…Then home for some eggs and more sardines. Um. Yum. I’m still hungry though. I constantly under-estimate the amount of protein I need when I don’t eat anything else. I open another can of sardines and eat half the can. Still hungry. The rest of the can.Off to the farmers’ market. This is hard. All this fruit, and I can’t eat any of it. But I need to buy some yams today for Tuesday. I come away with 6lb of yams. They look huge. Also a pound of stew beef for this evening and tomorrow.Home. More eggs and fish for lunch. They aren’t very appetizing.I decide to bike the first part of the marathon course — up to mile 23 or so. Mile 23 to the finish is something I do almost every day, sometimes more than once; it’s my route into town, but I don’t have the early part memorized.

    My legs feel very tired. The route seems very long. Depletion may be working.

    Home I cook my stew beef. I eat the whole pound.

    I have a slight headache. I feel hungry and stuffed. I feel weird.

  • SunMore fish and eggs for breakfast. I feel at once hungry and sick. Mildly nauseous.When I get on my bike I feel tired and weak. I aqua-jog very slowly. I get head rushes in yoga.After eating: light-headed, dizzy, faint headache.I wake in the middle of the night with an urgent need to find the toilet. Luckily it fades without vomiting.
  • MonSitting or lying I feel fine. Standing I’m light-headed, and slightly sick.That faded after a little activity and was unnoticeable in my 4 mile easy run. The run wasn’t easy though; I felt very weak and hungry. Weak and slow biking to yoga, weak with headrushes in yoga.How much of this is lack of calories, and how much is lack (or excess) of nutrients? I don’t seem to be able to eat enough protein to account for my caloric needs. If I try to eat more I feel sick.Today I have eaten more protein, but in four “meals” rather than three. I don’t feel as sick as I did yesterday, just weak.

    I do wake around midnight feeling a little ill, but not as bad as last night.

  • TueI still can’t eat any carbs until I do my workout; then I must eat too many. I bike over to San Marcos, but I don’t feel as drained as I did yesterday; so I think a large part of my problem was lack of calories.I warm-up with the group. It requires some concentration to keep up, but it isn’t too bad.Joy and I are the only two (in our little clique) who are depleting/loading. Rusty tells us to do 2 miles at 20 seconds faster than goal marathon pace. Goal pace for me is 6:50, so I should do 6:30s. It sounds easy for mile repeats, and only two! But Rusty also tells us we should run hard enough to get our heart rate up.

    Joy and I do our strides, and I’m completely exhausted just running 2*100m. But I get my breath back and we line up and take off.

    I haven’t been on the track for more than a year. Predictably we go out to fast, 20 seconds for the first 100m (5:20 pace). I tell Joy we should slow, but she’ll have none of it; so I let her go.

    This is much harder than it should be. I stop looking at my watch and just run. Gasping. I control my breath. I don’t need to gasp. But I find I do need to grit my teeth. Ug.

    First mile turns out to be 6:12 for me (faster for Joy, of course). I go up to Rusty to find out how long the rest between miles is and he tells me I’m done. Mmm. I think I could do a bit more, but I shan’t argue. Glad to be done.

    Actually I’m rather proud. This time I depleted to the point that I couldn’t finish the workout (last year I finished. Of course last year I ran the pace I was set rather than going faster, but I think, from what I’ve read, that one loads better after pushing harder).

    Joy has to run another half-mile.


  • TueI’m supposed to drink 200g carbs (=~800Calories) right now — special sugars dissolved in water, or recovery drink. It’s almost half a gallon. I’ve brought it, pre-mixed, to the track, and down it goes. Almost instantly I feel better. I eat two fig-newtons too because I wanted something real. Then I go home to breakfast.

    Um. There’s a problem with drinking a half gallon of water that’s been sitting around in 40° weather — I quickly become very cold and the bike ride home isn’t pleasant.

    Now I’m supposed to consume another 800g of carbs in the course of the next 8 hours. That’s about 1lb of yams an hour.

    And drink another gallon of water.

  • Thur Oh dear, I seem to have a mild case of the dire rear today. That’s what did me in (I think) last time I tried to carbo-load. Maybe I should just give up.

Surprised by Joy

November 4, 2011

Things get weird near the end of marathon training, and instead of my normal hour and a half trail run I had 6 miles at 6:40 to do (wrapped up with a two mile warmup and two mile cooldown).

I tried to round up my usual thursday morning suspects, but Chrystee and Michelle had no interest in a 6 mile tempo, and Kary had hers on Saturday instead. Joy however had 8 miles at 6:50.

So it was just me and Joy.

We met at Vieja Valley school, and discovered (to our shock) that the parking lot is full of people on a school morning. Hadn’t occurred to either of us.

Then we puttered around for ~2 miles and lined up at the 19 mile mark. I had been telling Joy how Rusty had put SBIM icons at all the mile markers

But there was nothing like that at mile 19. I felt foolish.

We were starting at 19, running out to 15, and returning. I’d slow down at 17 (after doing my 6) and Joy would continue on for her 8 while I did my cool down.

Then we set off. After a bit my watch said we were running at a 6 minute pace. Oof. It didn’t feel that fast. And that wasn’t even in a race! Going to have to be careful at the start next week…

After a bit I pulled away from Joy.

I see the western ragweed is still blooming. And, yup, the one stand of common ragweed I know of is also blooming. Ox-tongue, castor bean, fiddle dock — nothing native (except nasty ragweed) seems to be blooming. Finally I see a little sprig of elderberry.

There was a large cement mixer taking up most of the road and in attempting to run around it I saw the 15 mile marker. So I turned and discovered Joy was right behind me.

She wasn’t running 6:50s 🙂

Then back the way we had come. I stopped my watch at 17 for 39:59 — that’s perfect for 6 miles at a 6:40 pace. My claims I ran 6.09 miles at a 6:34 pace. I need to remember to subtract ~6 seconds from pace measurements on race day.

And Joy zooms past me. Again, I’m surprised at how fast she’s going.

Two Mile Time Trial

November 1, 2011

Today was a two mile time trial. Not unexpected at this point before a marathon.

But this time I was to do it on the elliptical.

I don’t trust the elliptical. When I first started using them seriously, back in about 2003, there were 4 machines in the gym I then frequented, and I quickly learned that they were calibrated differently. When the two on the left were at resistance level 10, it was roughly equivalent to the two on the right at resistance level 7.

My coach claims that at incline 10 and resistance 10 things are roughly equivalent to normal running. Mmm. If I ellipt at 180 strides per second (which is about normal running cadence) then the machine claims I am running roughly 8 minute miles. Which seems reasonable. But after 15 minutes of this my HR is approaching 160 (or 80%) which would not be happening after really running 8 minute miles.

Then, when I start using the beast it prompts me to enter my age and weight. If I do that things suddenly get easier and it claims that I’m going further at the same pace. Now this doesn’t make sense. The stride length doesn’t change. So I don’t enter those values and just use whatever settings the machine has as its defaults. I want my workouts to be commensurate and not dependent on my age.

Finally the machine is a lot easier when I’m holding on to it than it is when I’m balancing. I’m not entirely sure why this is, maybe just because balancing with free hands takes effort. So I generally ellipt without holding on. However, when I’m going fast I can’t balance and I need to hold on.

My coach asked me (about 6 months ago) to ellipt a mile at a 6:30 pace. Now the only thing I can change on the elliptical is my cadence, and if an 8 minute mile corresponds to ~180 strides/minute then a 6:30 pace should correspond to (8/6.5)*180=222 strides/minute. But I found that if I ellipted at a 222 cadence then the machine reported that I was moving at a 6:15 pace or thereabouts. I had to slow down to about 214 or so.

So I have no idea what the wretched machine thinks it is measuring when it claims to show distance. All I know is that it isn’t (number of strides)*(stride length).

So today I was to do a 2 mile time trial. Whatever that means. At level 10, resistance 10. I guess I just exhaust myself until the machine says I’ve done 2 miles.

When I walked into the cardio room I was annoyed. The treadmills were full of people walking. Walking slowly. Not particularly old people, but people roughly my age, maybe a bit older. But not infirm. Who needs a treadmill to walk? Go outside and walk on the sidewalk by the beach; it’s much nicer. No one in the room appears to be sweating.

Why doesn’t anyone else try?

Anyway I get on my elliptical and do a 2 mile warmup (level 10, resistance 10, 185 strides/min) which takes ~15:30 minutes. After about 12 minutes I need to take off my glasses because the sweat causes them to slide down my nose.

Then off I go. The machine has no pace indicator, just strides/minute. And, unfortunately, there is only one display which toggles through distance, strides/min and total strides. I can see how rapidly I’m cadencing, or how far I’ve gone, but not both at once (another annoying thing about these machines). I’m guessing a 235 stride/min cadence will be something I can hold for ~12 minutes.

For the first few minutes the cadence flutters around 235 fairly wildly. After a bit it settles down some, and I start to feel better. After about five and a half minutes I switch the display to distance and watch as I move up to the first “mile”. 5:44. I really don’t know how fast I could race 2 miles in, but a 5:44 pace doesn’t sound unrealistic.

I’m actually a bit pleased by this. The obvious conversion suggests that a 235 cadences should be equivalent to ~6:05 pace.

Anyway I pick up the pace now (a bit) and watch the cadence flicker between 250 and 238. But things are starting to get hard. My breath comes in gasps. The machine is rattling. Sweat pours off my face and a nasty mixture of mucus and sweat comes out of my nose. It takes forever for each minute to tick past. I switch the display with less than a minute to go. 3.87 miles. Arrg. another eighth of a mile left. It seems to drag on forever. I close my eyes for a while (why? I don’t know. It just seems right). Eventually 3.97 miles. And now things seem to change quite rapidly. 98. 99 4.00 and I slow. 5:40 for that “mile”.

I totter over to the box of tissues across the room and blow my nose.


November 1, 2011

THE UNION IS DISSOLVEDWhen I was a child, my father had a framed copy of the Charleston Mercury’s broadside from 20 Dec 1860 on the wall of his study. It proclaimed in 150pt type THE UNION IS DISSOLVED, and announced the start of the civil war.

I’ve never been sure why he had this posted, he is not a man who longs for the confederacy, though he does love history.

But as the torturous euro-crisis has unfolded I think I may begin to understand. There is something fascinating it the breakup of a grand union. One stands with Shelley, staring at the ruins and wondering at the former cry “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.”