Friday, July 31, 2009

Hey Fellas, Wait For Me Will Ya!

Here it is folks, my obligatory Blue Angels photo.

Yep, they're here again and with their arrival comes the obligatory yearly debate—"Has Seattle moved past this relic of militarism?" v. "This is part of our heritage and a fun part of summer?" v. "How much does this cost again?" v. "Do they really have to shut down the I-90 Bridge for practices and performances thus inconveniencing everyone?" v. "Think of all the pets they scare and the headaches they induce?" v. "You do realize that they are flying over populated areas?" v. "Lighten up people, they are only here for four days!" v. "I was stuck in traffic for three hours yesterday trying to get from West Seattle to X!" v. "They make a lot of noise and disrupt classes as they circle over the UW Campus!" v. "Don't you know that those things are for killing?"

Personally, I find them rather thrilling. But then, I love airplanes, especially interesting and exciting ones and these certainly are. Though I would rather have them sans all the militarism that accompanies.

So here they are practicing this afternoon, blasting out over Pike Place and Elliot Bay.

(And yes, all of those objections are true, especially the one about disrupting classes at the U. I have to stop lecturing and listen or watch as I can. :-P )

Running Free

PT (coming in the door of the Seattle Nike Town): "I could spot you in those all the way from the market!"

Me (looking dubiously at my feet encased in size 13 orange tubes): "Uh Huh? These look really strange don't they" (Or something like that.)

I had just tried them out by running around the circular perimeter of the store and they felt pretty good, a little lacking in padding for the forefoot but otherwise OK.

"Should I buy this pair in this color?" revolved around in my head as I watched PT try on shoes too. Some quick online research showed a paucity of available colors in my size. ShoeGuy said that these were quite popular and they were having trouble keeping them in stock. Representative of Mega-Running Shoe Sales Company informed me that the only place to buy them in WA State was at a Nike Town. Online Nike doesn't have my size. Online much smaller and less icky Running Shoe Sales Company does not have them either. What? I can bring these back within 30 days with a receipt? Cool. Oh, wait, it says here that they have to be unused and in the box. Umm "How am I supposed to know if these work for me IF I don't go for a run? This means that they will be used won't it?" ShoeGal says "You should be able to run. Bring them back if the technology doesn't work for you."

I bought 'em.

We'll see.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Baby, It's Hot Outside (and Inside)

Another indication of just how hot it has been!

At what temperature does wax melt? 125 degrees?

Just got back from swimming with the dog out at Magnuson Park. It seemed as if everyone else in Seattle was out there too.

Kids zipping and laughing, flipping and flopping.
Dogs sniffing, peeing, barking, splashing.
Water Sellers calling.
Boats buzzing and growling.
Inflatable swimming devices squeaking.
Barbecues belching burnt hot dogs.
Camp Stoves pinging.
Umbrellas flapping listlessly in the barely breeze.
Sunscreen lingering in the air.
Books . Kindles.
Coolers opening, closing, and cooling.
Teenagers cruising.
Blue Angels screaming and thundering.

It looked like an updated, more unruly and poorly dressed retelling of Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte". :-)

Analysis of Haille Gebrselassie's stride

Naked truth: skin's in for runners as swimmers go high tech

Naked truth: skin's in for runners as swimmers go high tech

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Smart Set: Town Crier - July 22, 2009

The Smart Set: Town Crier - July 22, 2009

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The Oven

We did it!

That is, Mother Nature did it and we were all along for the ride.

103 degrees at SeaTac Airport and a new high temperature record.

It is quite an oven out there. Check out the probabilistic forecast (pretty neat).

I am noticing two basic responses. First, the people with pinched faces who look as if every particle of light is an assault on their person. Second, the minority of people who look as if they are soaking in the heat to store for February's darkness. I like to think of myself as the latter but I am writing this from within the cool of my basement. :-P Don't worry, I'll be out walking the dog in a bit and, of course, running in the AM.

Remember Roman Sandals? They seem to be making a come back. This is a good thing!

It's Hot!

Seattle is possibly going up to 103F today, at least this is the forecast according to the UW's Cliff Mass. Pretty amazing.

We are not geared for this kind of heat.
  • the NW Branch of the Seattle Public Library closed at 5:00 yesterday because its cooling system was overwhelmed
  • department offices at the UW will be closing early because the buildings are too hot and there are few possibilities for cross breezes in these old stone edifices
  • I have it on good authority that the financial services branch of Dunder and Mifflin will be allowing its employees to wear shorts because of the heat (they cannot, however, close when the city is paralyzed due to snow and ice)
  • speaking of shorts, the shorts and skirts here at the UW are getting shorter
  • people look at you strangely when you insist that your coffee NOT be iced
  • the sunsets are spectacular, of course that is because of all the particulate matter in the air that makes things otherwise a bit unhealthy (just ask my irritated lungs and red-rimmed eyes)
  • we have now moved into the basement in order to sleep
  • watermelon consumption has increased (how about some for breakfast?)
  • people are leaving their doors and windows open all night, good thing it is too hot for crims to operate but I wonder how many people in my neighborhood have awoken to find raccoons rummaging through their kitchens
  • dogs and cats are generally not the smartest apples in the barrel, at least two of mine are not. Morag the Hair Monster goes into the basement by herself. Can't say the same for the other two who, and this is sweet, want to be around people even, I suspect, it means extreme discomfort
  • I really wonder how many students will show up for my classes today
In other news.

I ran a very hot run last night. 6.79 miles point-to-point from I90 Exit 20 (High Point) through Grand Ridge up to the Issaquah Plateau. The trail is popular with MTB'ers but I only saw three the whole time (it is too hot). Run starts with a mile descent and then climbs and climbs until there are a series of stair-step gallops. The trail gets very quiet once you start climbing and it is easy to forget that you are surrounded by housing developments. The descent is fast and fun but the best part is that you run through Cedar groves that smell wonderful.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Finally . . . Some Common Sense . . .

. . . about Community Colleges

I was pleased to read David Brooks this week take up the Community College System in the wake of President Obama's recent remarks on the value of such institutions and the increased support for them. To be honest, we need it.

Community Colleges provide a fairly high-touch academic experience—small classes, access to faculty, and the availability of support resources—that may (and I stress may) help improve success rates in college. Brooks makes the important point, one with which I heartily agree, that there are many reasons students drop out of college. Why agree? I've seen them all happen including financial hardship. Mostly, however, it is the lack of direction and will that Brooks refers to.

However, Brooks also takes CC's for task for not being very good at assessing what they do. Here I have to disagree. CC's do. In fact, solid student, curricular, and program assessment plans have become a part (an odious one IMHO) of the accreditation process. Money has been thrown at the problem and so has the latest and greatest learning theory dreck coming out of Education Programs. Frankly, there is very little instructors can do for those students who simply do not want to do the work, cannot find the time to do the work, or who are so over confident of their capabilities that they cannot see when they ought give up that third or fourth class.

I don't mean to say that CC's ought not be accountable (a former Dean once attempted to take me to task on this point once) but that the terms of accountability are not easily quantifiable (those that are so measured are so general as to be completely unhelpful). Higher order learning, Critical Thinking for example, is not so easily measured nor is the impact of classes upon individual students. Education is more art than it is a science, despite the attempts to make it the latter.

So, how about using that money to make sure that CC's can create faculties and programs that sit on solid financial foundations rather than constantly living and dying on enrollment economics? And while we're at it, what about focusing on the fundamental disciplines that will provide a solid base for students as they go forward rather than creating fadish programs that will loose their relevance once the needs of the economy inevitably change? In this period of increasing globalization wouldn't it be better to get folks solidly grounded in the Liberal Arts, Science, and Math? Brooks and Dionne make the point that CC's educate a large percentage of the police. Personally, I would like such folks to have a solid grounding in the Constitution.

Focus on the Fundamentals Mr. President.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lance Armstrong represents clash of cultures in Tour de France - The Bonus -

Some interesting sports anthropology.

Lance Armstrong represents clash of cultures in Tour de France - The Bonus

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Pronounced "Iss-key-ahh-tay" as far as I can tell.

Not too long ago I finished reading McDougall's Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. It is such an amazing read, a combination racing story, the evolution of running, something of an introduction to the Raramurri, and a spirited defense of barefoot running. Pretty interesting race with lots of kookie characters. Scott Jurek, one of the runners involved in the Copper Canyon Ultra, has been helping to support a seed bank for the Raramurri. Personally, I am not so sure about all of the studies that McDougall invokes in arguing for barefoot or in fairly minimalist running shoes (video) but I have toyed a bit in the past with barefooting it and have now weaned myself off of orthotics. I have some background reading to do.

McDougall describes drinking Iskiate, the Raramurri's energy drink, a combination of lime, sugar/honey, and Chia seeds (yes, "ch-ch-ch-chia"). The sugar gives fast energy, the limes give Vitamin C, and the Chia all kinds of interesting things.

So I decided to try it out.

Turns out that everyone else seems to have the same idea AND that Chia seeds are readily available at Whole Foods. I located a recipe for 8 ounces at Runner's World and made my first batch to use as a recovery drink after the Cougar 10-Miler. Instead of honey or regular sugar I used brown sugar. I let it steep over night in the fridge and then transferred it to a water bottle in the morning.

On the way out to the race with PT and Sj I described this drink, including the part about the seeds, to much general derision. They were interested to see if I would actually down 2 teaspoons of seeds. PT said she wanted a picture of my face after drinking it.

I did it! That's me taking my first tentative sip after running 10 miles.

How was it?

Really good. Pretty limey. Drinking the seeds was a bit interesting but otherwise the whole concoction was quite refreshing. All-in-all, it tastes so much better than the many energy drinks I have tried.

The question is, did it do anything?

I am not sure my test yesterday was a good one as I had been pounding water, Nuum, and watermelon while waiting for Sj to finish. So I made some for after today's run. A little less limey this time and, yes, it did have an interesting and desired affect (aside from the ice cream headache I got from drinking a very cold beverage). I felt refreshed but I don't know why.

The answer to that is in trying to figure out how Iskiate actually works.

7/14/09 Addendum: It seems that quite a few people the world over are trying to find information of Iskiate are ending up here. I sure would like to hear what you are turning up in your researching. If you've a mind to please help build a bibliography via comments.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cougar Trail Series 10-miler, 2009 version

Ah, there is nothing like well-deserved couch surfing on a sultry afternoon after a trail race!

The Bottom-Line

Distance: 10.17
Garmin Time: 02:09:10
Gun Time:

The Blow-By-Blow

It was such a pretty day for a run. I woke up at 5:00 to the sounds of neighborhood bike riders going down to the start line for the STP Classic (two days, two hundred and two miles, over hill and over dale). The sun was out and I could tell it would be a scorcher.

Busied myself with race prep, dog walking, pet feeding, and reading until 7:45 when PT and Sj came to pick me up. PT and I had convinced Sj to come race instead of the group run on the Iron Horse Trail—a long, steady, exposed, uphill slog from Rattlesnake to McClellan Butte that is important for building endurance. It didn't take much. :-P

Got there in plenty of time to stretch, check in, etc.. PT headed off for a short warm-up and I hung out.

This year there were changes to the course. SM, the Race Director, explained the circuit around field at Sky Country and then the immediate turn off of Clay Pit Road onto Coyote Creek instead of running up to Klondike Swamp to get to Lost Beagle. Same basic distance as last year but the new course (an older course that was resurrected) would help spread out the pack. There were a number of questions about the course: "What is the elevation gain on this course?" "What are the last three miles like?" "Hard and Hilly" was the response to a fair amount of moans. I am really glad to have done this before and to have spent a lot of time on these trails in all sorts of weather.

At 9:11 SM shouted "GO!" and we were off. My plan was to run conservatively because of what I learned last year on this run (see my 2008 run report) and I am only two weeks out from the marathon. I was trotting along in the middle of the pack. PT jetted off to get out ahead of the main pack and I lost contact with Sj immediately on the start. The grass was really dry and made a "swish, swish" noise as the pack went over it. People were chatting, mostly about how uneven the ground was under the grass, but it just seemed very quiet.

The turn onto Coyote Creek took me by surprise. Not sure why. It was pleasant to be off the road so quickly and I just settled into the line. It has been really dry here in the Seattle area of late and there was a fine dust in the air from all the boots going along the trail. This went on all the way to Lost Beagle, the first significant climb of the day. It is not particularly steep or long (.7 miles) but it always transforms the run from something of a lark to a serious trek. It is here that the inexperienced folks who go out fast find themselves walking and/or stepping off the trail to let others pass. It is certainly a wake up for me too because now I have to work AND avoid running into the same pair of trees I always manage to hit, brush against, and otherwise impact (someday I will get a picture of those trees). I did a little walking but mostly running.

If anything my mind was off thinking about the climb up Wilderness Peak and the corresponding drop down Wilderness Cliff. I just concentrated on not tripping and keeping my pace as steady as possible. There was a woman running about 30 feet ahead of me and a guy behind me at 50 feet (he took a header on Anti-Aircraft but was OK) but I really felt alone.

I walked on Clay Pit Road after we popped out on Cougar Pass and ate a gel, drank some from my pack, and took a cup of water from the aid station and then headed up Mine Shaft to East Fork. There is some climbing but the trail generally heads down the hill. Running is complicated by many roots and lots of random rocks and bricks that maintenance crews have used to build up the trail. Easy to roll an ankle here. Dropping East Fork towards Fred's Railroad I was passed by a whole train of runners taking advantage of the wider trail and the downhill section.

The fun really began with Shy Bear, an up-and-down and twisty trail that goes out to Wilderness Peak. I was running well, leaping over big roots and exposed rocks. I could hear people ahead of me and soon started seeing the colored shirts of those folks who had just passed me. Shy Bear is more difficult than it appears and I had been thinking about running evenly on this section since the start. It worked.

Wilderness Peak is the second significant climb of the day, 250 feet or so of climbing over .4 miles. I just decided to power walk this section and found that I was actually covering the distance faster than had I been running. I gained on a Really Tall Guy (RTG) who was trotting the section and he let me pass. Almost caught another runner just after the summit before the 1.3-mile, quad-burning descent down Wilderness Cliff. THAT was fun. I didn't bomb the drop as I have previously but heeded the advice of my coach about running hills—hammer the uphills and recover on the downhills—because this was such a technical descent and very easy to go out of control. RTG passed me on the downhill and we chatted a bit. He said that his legs were a real asset on descents but not so hot on climbs. We traded off back and forth for a bit. About half way down I heard laughter and cheering. A hiking group had given up trying to ascend against this tide of runners coming down and had parked themselves on some logs next to the trail. They seemed so happy that I couldn't help but smiling as I went past.

By this time my quads were beginning to bark a bit and I was developing a side stitch. But I worked through both and was soon at the bottom when another train of folks went past. Some of the same people who had passed me previously and who I had caught going up Shy Bear and Wilderness Peak. I stepped aside as we transitioned onto Wilderness Creek, let them pass, and then fell in behind them. Their tail-end charlie immediately started walking and so I began the process of working my way through them again, walking up the hills and running the flats and downhills. Almost collided with Head Phone Runner 1 (HPR1) because she couldn't hear my passing call and wouldn't get out the way. I finally managed to get past her but surprised her in the process. Pretty soon I was back out in front, caught and passed RTG, and then headed out. It got pretty quiet behind me as I flew down Long View and out to Deceiver.

I came up behind Head Phone Runner 2 (HPR2) as she was futzing with her iPod. She looked a bit done in, noticed that I was coming, got out of the way, and then fell in behind me for about a mile. Turns out I was just what she needed to get going again and she went out ahead of me as I walked a climb. She thanked me as she went. More hikers too, and they looked a bit surprised to see runners everywhere along with orange tape, cones, and course markings.

Two miles or so to go and I knew what to expect. The Train was nowhere that I could hear (I know this oddly phrased but that is the way it is in the woods). Fred's Railroad was just a blast. I heard voices behind me and kicked it up a gear or two to power out the end as much as I could. Caught another runner on Old Man's Trail and then another walking out the last bit of the course. Came around a corner and there was this runner cheering everyone on and saying only 150 yards left (he was the overall winner with a time of 1:15 and change). I kicked in my afterburners, high-fived SM's kids, and heard PT yell "Go Robin!" as I swept towards the finish line. HPR2 was in the chute just as I came in and we shook hands and she told me I had set a good pace for her.

Then it was time to drink everything in sight, stretch, and to carve up some watermelons while we waited for Sj to finish. I think PT's first question after "How was it?" was "Did you get stung?" Uh, no? Did you? Yes. Apparently a whole bunch of folks did but the bees had cleared by the time I got there (Yikes! I mean, ah, err, Thanks Guys! Sometimes it pays to be in the middle of the pack. :-P ).

Sj finished in about 2:40 with a BIG smile on her face! A great ending to a great race.

I cannot really compare this outing to last year's because of the changes in the beginning of the course BUT I can say that I felt much stronger and also smarter than last time. Power walking helped keep me much fresher as did the experience I have gained over the past year. Having just run the marathon also helped as I am still benefiting from that training base. I certainly feeling strong. Now I have to work on speed.

Couch surfing? Well earned!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Does God Hate Women

I am really interested in reading

Does God hate women?

Author:Ophelia Benson; Jeremy Stangroom
Publisher:London ; New York : Continuum, ©2009.
Edition/Format:Book : English

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Seattle RnR Finish Video


This is pretty cool. Finisher videos based upon your time and number. Some are clearer than others but, still, the ability to watch your friends and, let's be honest, yourself finish the race is neat.