Archive for December, 2012

Passports to the past (time lapse photography)

December 31, 2012

I was rummaging around looking for my current passport and stumbled on a couple of old ones. So I stopped and looked at them. Here were little records of my past…

When I first went abroad I and my siblings were all listed on my mother’s passport. We set sail from Fort Lauderdale, landing briefly in Bermuda and finished in Southhampton. We lived in London for 5~6 months and flew to the Netherlands where we rented a canal boat and traveled the canals.

Passport1970We next traveled in 1970, again I shared the passport with my siblings (but not my mother). I was probably 10 when the picture was taken (8, and 7 for my siblings). In those days passports were only good for 5 years. This time we set sail from New York and stopped briefly in Cork (Ireland) before landing in Southampton. This time we stayed about a year in London. We went to Wales (in those days you didn’t need a passport to go to Wales from England), traveled the canals around Oxford (one family in a boat, to say nothing of the dog), followed Hadrian’s Wall, and made several trips to France (I was sick at the bayeux tapestrey). We went home via the Mediterranean, a visit which is not reflected in passport stamps. I don’t know why. I went to sleep on the train in Victoria Station and woke up crossing the French countryside on the way to Paris — before the chunnel. Stopping in Venice, Athens, Naples, Lisbon then across the Atlantic to Halifax (as it then was) and finally New York.

In 1977 I got my own passport for the first time. We all went to England together (by airplane this time), but I only stayed a month and came back to the US for my first year of college. I went back for Christmas Hols, but missed the family trip to the south of France where they sailed the Canal du Midi near the Pyrenees.

I must have renewed that passport and made some later trips to visit my parents in London in the 1980s.

Passport1986My passport from 1986-1996 was my first Earthwatch passport. On it I went to Brazil, Belize, Thailand, Madagascar (several times), Bolivia. And, of course, England and France, Germany, Belgium. In 1987 the US had managed to annoy the French and I actually needed to go down to the consulate in Los Angeles and wait in line to get a visa. I only had one page left for new visas when the passport was finished.

Passport 1997, bearded like the pardEngland and France got bored with stamping my passport I don’t see any marks from them, but I went there frequently. Madagascar took up a whole page with each visa, and then another page the one time I extended my visa there. I made many trips to Madagascar and again I wondered if I’d run out of visa room. I didn’t, not quite. Also Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Mauritius, and Réunion. Technically Réunion is a part of France (the way Hawaii is part of the US) but they were not bored with stamping my passport and the stamp says “Réunion” not France. I made a trip to Brest to talk about fonts (but the French were still bored with me and it doesn’t show), and another to Xathi in Greece. I was also taking bicycling trips with my parents (and siblings) through the French countryside.

Passport2007My current passport. From 2006 to the present. It only has one stamp, and that to Canada.

Maybe I should go somewhere…



December 27, 2012

I was telling Rusty that I’d found Nash‘s name in an old race. He asked me how Nash had done, and I didn’t remember. Then he asked me why I was collecting old race results if I weren’t interested in them.

I hadn’t thought of it in that light. Clearly I wasn’t interested in how Nash (or anyone else in that race) had done, but just as clearly I was working hard to preserve those very data I didn’t care about.

Well I was raised in a family of librarians and historians. The act of preserving data is a desideratum all by itself to a librarian. Finding old data is what historians do. To me it just seemed natural to track these down and preserve them. Especially now, before the people who might have collected these data die off.

I started collecting when I realized that many people I knew had been running in SB in the 90s and the online results only went back to the start of the website in about 2002 (which was when I started running here; at first that was all I cared about). So I thought it would be a good idea to find results from the 90s so that my friends would have more complete access to their old data.

I also had the vague intention that I could keep track of course records of races and things like that which might be useful to race directors.

Then when John handed me all the Semena Nautica results back to 1955 suddenly I saw more possibilities. In the microcosm of that one race I could watch how the sport of running had changed over the decades. In the 50s the race only had about 10 finishers but it drew runners from all over southern california, all young and fast. In the 60s it gradually grew, attracting masters runners too. In the early 70s women first appeared, and in the late 70s I could see the first running boom happen, while in the 80s the race unboomed and shrank to less than half its peak (though still twice the size it was in 1970). Since then the percentage of women has risen, the percentage of out of town contestants had declined, and the “quality” of the race (as determined by the average age graded percentage) has declined.

Now I want to get my hands on the early days of the SB Marathon, or the AAU One Hour run, or some other race that goes back to the 60s so I can see how those changes might have affected them too.

In 1965 John started the SB Marathon and there were 17 finishers; in 1984 John stopped the SB Marathon because there wasn’t enough interest in it. Yet there were 114 finishers that year. What had changed?

I have become fascinated by these changes though I wasn’t initially looking for them. By accumulating data, trends become apparent which would otherwise be hidden. This is the job of any researcher in any serious field.

Now. Back to work. I’m transcribing the 1980 Jim Ryun runs.

Christmas Run

December 25, 2012

Every Christmas, for the last decade or so, I have gone for a run on Christmas morning. It used to be that I would start at my house (which was near Hendry’s Beach) and run along the beach to More Mesa, then along the bluffs, then along the bike path, through UCSB to Devreau Slough, around that and out to Elwood to check on the butterflies, and then back. Roughly 25 miles.

But now I’ve moved. I now need to run 2 miles down Los Positas just to get to the beach. Ah well. The tide had been pretty high on the solstice when I went down to the beach to watch the sun rise, so I figured that four days later it would be pretty low.

I was wrong. It was higher. But I looked at it, and there was still a sliver of beach, so I thought I would risk it.

That was at Hendry’s.

I couldn’t see all the way to More Mesa, and the tide was still coming in. After going for about half a mile the sliver of beach turned into a jumble of cobbles lying between the cliff and the water’s edge. I don’t like running on wet cobbles, I tend to slip and to lose my balance. So I slowed to a walk and picked my way through the slippery stones for a bit, until the beach came back.

Santa Barbara beaches have a strange habit of getting washed away in the winter storms (and coming back later), this leaves little sand cliffs at the high water mark of the last storm:
Sand Cliff
The birds seem to like it.

A little further on the beach disappeared entirely and I had to clamber up and over a large rock with its feet in the water. When I got to the other side I found the water had hollowed out a clear channel underneath another rock leaving a bridge.
Rock Bridge

VerbenaThe beach came back again, and I found a small patch of red sand verbena growing in a sheltered nook. I’ve never seen sand-verbenas in the wild before (just the patches around the UCSB lagoon and the Plover Sanctuary where the dunes have been restored), but here they were, apparently growing wild again. I’m pretty sure they weren’t here last year…

CattailsUm. What are cattails doing at the beach? And not even in an obvious damp spot, just a pile of rocky scree? I dunno. But here they are.

The beach narrows down to cobbles and then there’s another rock to scramble over and on the far side of it there is just the sea cliff and the ocean. No beach (except briefly between waves). I take of my shoes, try to time it right, and sprint around the next bend where (Yay!) there is beach again. I don’t get very wet.

From here I can see Hope Ranch beach, and beyond that the cliffs of More Mesa. There’s beach the whole way now.

After another mile or so I climb up to the mesa and run along the bluffs. Last year the Grassland tarweed was blooming here at this time, but today it is not. This has been a hard summer. (I came up here a week or two ago to check on it, but when I got close I saw a young man down on his knee to a young lady near where the tarweed grew and figured I’d give them some privacy and not look at my plant that day).

Then down to the bike path. There’s another tarplant that grows along the slough here, and again it was blooming on last year’s Christmas run. But again it is not blooming this year. Grump. It’s more fun to see flowers.

Past Goleta Beach, and UCSB. I run around the edge of the lagoon. Three weeks ago the sea-marsh dodder was in bloom here, but it has also stopped. I can’t even find the plants. I go back and forth looking for it, but it’s gone.

Mock HeatherBut when I come out onto some restored dunes I find that a couple of bushes of mock heather are still blooming. Oh, and some golden bushes too, but that’s expected.

I try to ignore Isla Vista as I run through. But there are workmen, at work, on an apartment building. On Christmas morning. Poor guys.

Down to the Plover Sanctuary where not much is happening, and then up to Ellwood.
Ellwood Bluffs

At the far end of Ellwood I turn back, head inland and go toward the monarch grove. It’s a chilly grey day. The monarch’s aren’t doing much, just huddling in their clumps. But they are there. Nice to see them.

As I charge up from the Devereux Slough, I see a blue heron standing on a fence. I watch him for a bit…

Blue Heron Blue Heron
Blue Heron Blue Heron

Boston Charlie

December 25, 2012

When I think of christmas carols, the first thing to pop into my head is Walt Kelly’s satire “Deck the halls with Boston Charlie” (or was it “Dunk us all in bowls of barley”?).

Bark Us All Bow Wows of Folly

This year my mind wandered to my college days where I watched a fellow student get duct taped to the wall (this was not torture, but an experiment to see if it could be done. It could and he came down). Somehow with that image in my mind I thought about decorating the room with people, and this verse sprang to mind:

Stick the guests to strips of duct tape,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Those that die are of slow of uptake.
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Hang them gleefully round the parlor,
Til they gain a greenish pallor
Fa la la la la la la la la.

Later I was baking

Fill the halls with smells of bakin’
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Now’s the time to make some caken.
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Start to use those tasty spices,
While we vow to give up vices.
Fa la la la la la la la la.

And at one point I got annoyed with religion:

Why should I believe the Greek myths? Fa, la, la…
Griping tales by ancient wordsmiths. Fa, la, la…
Zeus, as swan, impregnates mortal? Fa, la, la…
‘Tis a tale to make one chortle. Fa, la, la…

Why should I peruse the bible? Fa, la, la…
Nasty tales of ancient libel¹. Fa, la, la…
God, as ghost, impregnates virgin²? Fa, la, la…
How can I believe this version? Fa, la, la…

¹For instance, Mathew’s claim that Herod slaughtered the innocents is a lie; Luke contradicts it.
²Mathew’s claim that there was an ancient prophecy that the mother of the messiah would be a virgin is another lie (or at best a mistranslation). The original passage to which he refers is not about the messiah (or his mother) and does not mention the word virgin.

Sun return

December 25, 2012

Every year I go out to watch the sun rise on the winter solstice. This year the solstice was at 3am so the sun rise on that day did, indeed, mark the turning of time. The days were getting longer, the sun had returned.

From The Creation of Ea
Only in silence, the word
Only in silence the word,

Only in dark, the light
Only in dark the light,

Only in dying, life
Only in dying life:

Bright the pelican's flight on the empty wave
Bright the pelican’s flight
On the empty wave.


Neither ſnow, nor rain … will ſtay us from the ſwift completion of our appointed rounds

December 2, 2012

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!

King Lear III.ii

I was up at three. The temperature was in the high fifties, the wind was said to be 10mph, and when I went out to the bus there was just a light drizzle. Conditions seemed nigh perfect. As we drove to Folsom the driver even switched off the windshield wipers, which encouraged me even more.

But then he switched them back on and when we got to Folsom the rain was sheeting down and the wind had picked up to a nasty level (the prediction was for 25mph winds with gusts to 40). The bus had Christmas music on its PA system with carolers extolling the benefits of a white Christmas and wishing for snow. I looked at the pouring rain and fervently hoped it wouldn’t snow. We were allowed to stay in the nice warm dry buses until 6:45 and then they kicked us out.
Before the race
It was still pitch black and the wind was blowing hard and the rain driving down. There was a nearby filling station (closed) and many of us went over and hid under its awning. I did a short warmup run and came back to the filling station.

To tell the truth, I was a bit relieved about the weather. The predictions I had seen said there would be a low of 43 on Sunday, but it appeared that meant the low would be Sunday evening rather than AM. I wasn’t sure I could deal with a run in 40° rain, but a run in 58° rain didn’t sound so bad. (I was trying to ignore the wind).

Then we were told to line up. I figured this would be one of the worst parts of the day. We’d have to stand unmoving in the rain while the wind whipped us. Oh well, had to be done. My plan was to start slowly and then pick it up to 6:50s. I wasn’t sure I could hold 6:50s in these conditions (Heck, I’ve never held 6:50s) but I wanted to try. I thought starting with the 3:10 pacer might be about right — if he were going to do even splits, but I listened to him and he was explaining that he wanted to start slowly too. I thought that would be too slowly for me, so I moved up to the 3:05 group.

Eventually we heard the gun. And then slowly we began to move. By the time we reached the chip mat we were moving reasonably, but it was still very crowded. The 3:05 pacer was moving faster than I was, so I picked up the pace a bit. In the dim light and the rain it was hard to see my watch. He had a very large group (which was why it was so crowded) and I realized 3:05 is the BQ time for men 18-35, one of the two largest age groups. No wonder there were so many. I allowed myself to drop back a little to get out of the crowd.

I missed the first mile marker, and then we turned a corner and were (sort of) out of the wind. It was blowing from our left now, not directly ahead, and everything was much easier. At the two mile mark I realized that the 3:05 pacer had not gone out easily but seemed to be doing 7:00 miles (a little fast for 3:05)… And then he picked it up on mile 3 so I figured I’d just stay with him; it seemed like a good pace. I continued to run 6:55 behind him until we reached mile 6.

At that point the route took another right angle turn (through a very deep puddle) and we were heading into the wind again.

And what a wind. I bent over to avoid the worst of it. Maybe we were more exposed here, or maybe it had just picked up. I don’t know. My pace went from 6:55 to 7:30. The 3:05 pace group disappeared. I wasn’t the only one having trouble, but plenty of others seemed to be passing me. Oh well, I wasn’t expecting a good race.

Earlier I had tried to convince myself that I liked running in high winds. I remember running home from school once in the middle of a tornado watch. Now that was fun, the wind gusted and played with me coming from one direction, then another — and — I wasn’t racing. Here the wind was just pushing me backward. It wasn’t fun.

I tried drafting behind people, but it didn’t seem to make a difference.

I was amused to find that climbing hills was actually easier for me than going down them. The hill itself provided some shelter from the wind. Really weird.

This stretch seemed to go on forever, and I never seemed to get above a 7:20 mile, and mostly 7:30s.

It seemed even darker now (at 8 or so) than it had when we started at 7.

Finally somewhere after mile 10 we made another right angle turn and the wind blew from the left. But somehow I couldn’t pick up my pace. I was doing 7:15s. The headwind must have tired me more than I knew. I managed to pick it up a bit on the next mile (7:03) but I had to think about it.

This brought me to the halfway point, after which we turned another corner into the wind again — only — the wind had dropped. It was no longer the terrible struggle it had been earlier. I did slow a bit (to 7:15, and then to 7:20) but no more 7:30s. For a while.

I should mention there were a lot of spectators on the course, cheering us on in spite of the wet. I should have been appreciative of this, but when one woman asked me if I were having a good race I had to admit that I was not.

At mile 20 they have a fake wall around the chip mat to indicate that now is the time to hit the wall (so I ran over to it, and hit it). But I did hit the wall. I slowed from my 7:20s to 7:40s. Not nearly as bad as I’ve done on other races, but not a sign that I can do even pacing. (or maybe I hit the wall at mile 6? or mile 11?) And I had hoped that this new carbo-loading regime would work magic. I guess it didn’t.

And, yeah, I got dehydrated too. Odd to be dehydrated in the middle of a downpour, but I was. Not as badly as when running hard in the dry but noticeable.

Randomly the wind would pick up for half a mile or so, and then calm back down. I was annoyed with it.

My hands started to go numb. I was a little surprised they’d lasted this long, but it was annoying.

The 3:10 pacer and his group passed me. This was actually rather consoling as I figured him to be far ahead by then.

We ran up a bridge and over the American River. It’s big and muddy. And then down the other side and into Sacramento.

Around mile 23 I see 44th St., I think the capital (the finish) is about 14th St. Only 30 more streets to go. Streets go by more quickly than miles, at this point I need something to cheer me up. Last time I ran this race I got slower and slower as I neared the finish. This time I’m just bobbling around between 7:40 and 7:50. This is the first marathon I’ve raced without going slower than an 8 minute mile. (But it’s also the slowest marathon I’ve raced. A strange juxtaposition).

I’m passing more people than are passing me.

I think.

It’s actually hard to keep track.

Here is 14th St. But we aren’t done. Yeah, we’ve got to swing round to the back of the capital. I knew that, I just ignored it.

But we don’t turn on 13, or 12, or 11 (damn it, where is the finish) or 10. But we do on 9. And then another turn and the capital looms over us and I cross the line. ~3:13:50 (Gun time, a little faster with the chip). Um that’s my slowest road marathon. (except for running Boston as a bandit when I didn’t know anything about racing). The weather is certainly an excuse, but… I had hoped for better.

All I want is to find my bag and go back to my hotel and take a warm bath. I’m not freezing, but the wet has got to me, and my hands are numb. They seem to have placed bag pickup far away and the route to it isn’t marked. I wander. Getting more annoyed. Finally I find an enormous tent with bags.

Except … the tent only has room for the first 9000 bags, and mine (11047) is outside the tent in the rain. And there is no one there to help me find it. Grump. But I do find it eventually and head back to my hotel (of course I had to walk away from the hotel to get my bag).

When I get to my room I find that 3 hours sitting in the rain has rendered my key card inoperative. Or maybe it’s just the water on the card, but everything I own is soaked and I can’t dry it. Anyway it doesn’t work. I have to go back down to the front desk to ask for a new one (and of course I have no id.) but they give me one anyway after asking my address.

When I get into my room I find weak sunlight shining through the window. When I check out the sky is blue and the sun is bright. Arrg.

The capital building, Sacramento, taken the day before the race

Marathon Maundering — Excuses, Excuses

December 1, 2012

… this disturbed sky
Is not to walk in.

Julius Caesar I.iii

I never feel that I’m going to do well before a long race. There’s a certain justification to this; I usually don’t.

This marathon is no different.

I am learning that I consistently fall apart at about mile 18.

For a long time I thought this was because I just ran out of energy. So I tried traditional carboloading, but it made not one whit of difference. I continued to fall apart around mile 18. My last three marathons have all seen me finishing in 3:06 or 3:07 whether I carboloaded or not.

So either I’m not carboloading properly, or something else is wrong. Next thought is that I’m not drinking enough. After my last 50 miler the people in the medical tent told me I was significantly dehydrated. So when I paced SBIM last month I tried really hard to hydrate, and yet still my heart rate climbed after the halfway point. Damn it, if I can’t stay hydrated on an easy run where I can actually drink at every water station then I’ll never manage it in a real race.

Then I looked at the weather forecast for Sacramento. Cold rain. High winds. Flood warnings. Possible thunderstorms. Or… maybe… I can stay hydrated if I run with my mouth open in the middle of a downpour?

And then I caught a cold.

I really don’t think I’ll do well in this race.

OK, that’s the wrong attitude. Traditional depletion/carbo-load hasn’t helped me, but there are other ways of doing it. There’s this Australian method of doing a very short very hard workout the day before the race and then carboloading immediately after. In theory, if I carboload properly then I’ll also waterload. Perhaps I can kill two problems with one stone?

Two and a half minutes at mile race pace. Hunh. What’s mile race pace? Haven’t raced a fair mile since I was 16 (State St. doesn’t count). Using the age graded tables to extrapolate from what I did in high school suggests somewhere between 5:30 and 5:40. I’m not going to run that fast on the city streets with stop lights. The closest track to my hotel is about 5 miles away; that’s too far to go, and anyway it’s pouring rain. So I checked out the hotel’s “fitness center”. They have three treadmills, and … yes, the treadmills will go fast enough (many treadmills go no faster than 10mph, but these claim to go up to 15. I want about 10.8).

So at 6am I head down there. I’m a little worried that everyone in the hotel will be at those treadmills doing their version of this workout, but no, I’m all alone. I do a 5 minute warmup and then run the mill up to 5:33 and hang on for dear life. After two and a half minutes I slow down to a jog for a minute or two and then send the thing up to 5:00 for a half minute sprint. And that’s supposed to be it? Not as bad as I feared. Of course running on a treadmill is easier than on a track… Perhaps I should have gone faster? Oh well, too late now. I’m dripping with sweat though 🙂 I guess it involved some effort.

Then back to my room to shower and eat.

With a hey ho, the wind and the rain

December 1, 2012

And the rain it raineth every day.

All week long the weather report has said cold rain in Sacramento the day of the marathon. Flood watch, turning to flood warning as the event neared. High winds (15-25mph, gusting to 40). Possible thunderstorms.

Ug. It did not sound pleasant.

I started to think: How many layers do I need? Should I cover my gloves with plastic bags? Joy said something about heat packs to go in gloves, where can I find those? Tights? Wool socks? Do I want to wear my glasses (which might fog up) or run blind?

Maggie was more direct. She decided not to race. That never occurred to me. I wonder why not?

Even after she told me she was thinking of not going I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that the option was open to me too.

Not going just didn’t seem possible. What else would I do? It wasn’t as though I had any high expectations or hopes of this race; I had simply said I would do it, and, well, I guess I will.

But… Ug.