^zhurnaly 0.91

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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in volume 0.91 of the ^zhurnal (that's Russian for "journal") — see ZhurnalyWiki for a Wiki edition of individual items; see Zhurnal and Zhurnaly for quick clues as to what this is all about; see Random for a random page. Briefly, this is the diary of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... previous volume = 0.90 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ... RSS

2011-08-07 - Riley's Rumble Half Marathon 2011

~13.1 miles @ ~10 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Rileys_Rumble_2011_z.jpg"I can't believe how slow you were!" ever-tactful comrade Ken Swab says at the Montgomery County Coin Club meeting a few nights after the race.

Freckled fawn hesitates as it crosses Riffleford Rd in front of the car. I keep singing along with The Cars hit "Let's Go!" that has just come up on the oldies station. A back-road route to Riley's Rumble is peaceful on a hyper-humid summer morn. Soggy singlet comes off before the event starts. After a couple of foolishly optimistic miles at 8.5-9 min/mi pace it's clear that overheating is the day's theme.

Aid stations every few miles offer cold water and Gatorade. Crunching mouthfuls of ice and swallowing it keeps total meltdown at bay. Kenna Libes at the turnaround helpfully offers a lime ice-pop. Another green one, picked up off the ground where an earlier runner discarded it uneaten, is also tasty.

Just after he crosses the finish line Ken Swab kneels down on the ground. He asks me to pour a cup of water over his roasted noggin. Caren Jew and Barry Smith pace themselves more sensibly in the swelter. Christina Caravoulias volunteers at pre-race registration and takes photos near the finish line.

Official result: 221st place overall (474 total finishers), 149th of 265 men, 14th among 27 males aged 55-59, gun time 2:10:50, chip time 2:10:36 for an average pace of 9:58 min/mi

(photo by Ken Trombatore)

(cf. GPS trackfile and 2004-07-25 - Riley's Rumble Half Marathon, 2006-07-23 - Riley's Rumble 2006, 2008-07-27 - Riley's Rumble, 2009-07-26 - Riley's Rumble Half Marathon, 2010-07-25 - Riley's Rumble, ...)

- Friday, August 19, 2011 at 09:19:33 (EDT)

Retirement News

"Like letting go of a trapeze, with your eyes closed at the peak of its swing, and hoping that another trapeze will be there to grab," is how I've described the feeling to friends. August 2, 2011 was my last day at The Office. After thirty years plus one day of Federal service I retired. I've been interviewing with various companies and organizations and hope to find another fun job soon. Meanwhile, the generous Civil Service pension plus savings will let the family survive for some years at the current "burn rate", after which we'll have to cut back a wee bit, not a bad thing to do. Plenty of unfinished projects remain to work on around the house. The mountain of unread books continues to grow faster than it erodes. And as per 2011-08-03 - RCT to and from Ken-Gar, park benches aren't that uncomfortable nowadays!

- Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 15:17:16 (EDT)

2011-08-05 - Speedwork at UM

2+ miles @ ~9.5 min/mi

Good intention: 8 x 400m intervals. Actuality: at the University of Maryland's Ludwig Field/Kehoe Track the 9am heat and humidity melt away resolve, and after half a dozen deteriorating laps (1:43 ⇒ 1:40 ⇒ 1:44 ⇒ 1:46 ⇒ 1:45 ⇒ 1:47) with ~2:15 recovery between each, it's time to throw in the sweaty towel. The GPS trackfile shows details, with an entertainingly-EKG-like pace graph. Temporary bleachers for the soccer field block lanes 1 and 2 on the east side of the oval and add a few extra meters to the route — not enough to explain the slowness. Perhaps a blood donation 2 weeks ago is still a factor?

- Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 15:43:33 (EDT)

Insight Meditation for Letting Go

Arianna Weisman and Jean Smith, the authors of Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation, write in a delightful style in which they occasionally personify temptation in order to scold it. In Chapter 3, for example, they talk about ways to stop clinging to sensual desires:

When we experience desire as just another passing experience, we can acknowledge it with words such as "Desire, welcome. I see you have come to visit. I know you well. You are a frequent guest. But I am not entering into a conversation with you or getting involved in any of your stories. So you are free to leave at any time." There is no need to struggle.

In Chapter 6 they discuss obsessive negative thoughts and how to let go of them:

We can spend hours in our thoughts because we want pleasant experiences or less unpleasant ones. Ironically, our thoughts take us away from the real pleasure in the moment. See if it is possible to catch yourself in one of these cycles of thinking. When you are walking or driving and find yourself lost in thinking, trying to solve some problem, see if you can come back to walking or driving. Returning to the body is a safe refuge. After letting go of your thoughts, notice what you are doing: sitting, holding the steering wheel, pressing on the accelerator, feeling that pressure there. Or become aware of the movement in the body that arises from walking. See if you can stay present with your experiences by noticing what is happening in your body.

Renunciation is an effective way to break the "top ten tapes" we play in our heads over and over again. We know most of our thoughts well because we have thought the same thoughts repeatedly. Have you noticed that after a while they do not contribute anything to your understanding or well-being? When was the last time you had an original thought? It is a wonderful practice to renounce a thought after having it more than two or three times.


Some habitual thought patterns are so strong that renouncing them requires the energy of a spiritual warrior. We can call on this energy just as the Buddha called on the earth as his witness when he was sitting under the bodhi tree [...] . We can even say out loud, "No! No! I will not go with you. I call on all my powers of strength, love, and wisdom to resist this thought." Some of our negative thought patterns have been repeated so often they "feel true." It is their familiarity that creates this illusion. There are absolutely no negative thought patterns that are true. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to renounce negative patterns of thought.

- Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 15:26:49 (EDT)

2011-08-03 - RCT to and from Ken-Gar

~10 miles @ ~11 min/mi

Yesterday is my last day as a civil servant; today I join the ranks of the unemployed! (No worries, I have hopes of getting another job soon, and I've got a genenous Federal pension.) At 7am I arrive at Ken-Gar Park and practice napping on the park bench, shirtless in the light rain. The 4+ miles from home go faster than expected (see GPS trackfile) so I have half an hour to spare until Ken Swab arrives, then Rebecca Rosenberg. We set off southward on Rock Creek Trail. Ken chases a pair of little rabbits. We're moving briskly, with a couple of miles at sub-10 min/mi pace. As soon as K&R turn back I commence taking walk breaks again as I proceed back to my starting point (see GPS trackfile). In the afternoon Ken kindly takes me to a Washington Nationals baseball game to celebrate Day One of retirement. After a rain delay the Nats lose 4-6 to Atlanta.

- Monday, August 15, 2011 at 15:17:22 (EDT)

Thirteen Assassins

"It's a modern Seven Samurai," was my former boss's synopsis of Takashi Miike's 2010 movie 13 Assassins. "And if they had one more assassin, it would be double!" as my daughter observed.

13 Assassins tries hard. Its imagery is stark, its historical atmosphere powerfully realistic. Its plot, however, is distractingly full of holes, its characters distressingly formulaic. The first hour of the film sets the stage: a Titus-Andronicus-like sociopath leader who must be stopped, and a crew of traditional samurai who are hired to attempt the almost-impossible mission. They're joined en route by the obligatory plucky comic relief.

The second half of the film is where the blade hits the neck, as honorable assassins lure their über-evil victim and his henchmen into a booby-trapped town where predictably violent mayhem ensues. Although they launch arrows from above and detonate explosives from below to begin the battle, the good guys irrationally discard those tools and instead leap down to engage in hand-to-hand swordplay. Fighting is brilliantly choreographed, but viewer suspension of disbelief suffers almost as much as the characters do. Akira Kurosawa did it better in 1954 — 13 Assassins is a shaky shadow of 7 Samurai, fun to watch but far from timeless.

- Sunday, August 14, 2011 at 12:39:35 (EDT)

2011-07-30 - Catoctin 50k Trail Run 2011

~31.7 miles @ ~17.2 min/mi

"Bless you, Wind!" I whisper whenever a fitful breeze caresses my sweaty chest. The soaking-wet singlet comes off after the first mile. Race day could be more sultry, but not by much. At the end of a record-setting hot July, a weak cool front comes through and knocks down humidity a trifle. Frederick Municipal Airport reports 8am-5pm: temperature rising 81°-99°F, dew point dropping 70°-55°F. But as Race Director Kevin Sayers observes in his pre-brief, in retrospect conditions will be worse. In any case, it's a bit cooler on the shady slopes under the trees of Gambrill and Cunningham Falls State Parks and the Frederick Municipal Watershed.

The Catoctin 50k race pattern continues: DNFs in even-numbered years (2008 & 2010), finish in odd numbers (2009 & 2011). This year's margin of safety is scary-slim, just 3 minutes under the cutoff at the midpoint Manor Area turnaround. Cross the finish line 11 minutes before the horn sounds to end the race at 5:15pm, nine and a quarter hours after it begins.

Themes today are hyper-hydration and aggressive electrolyte management. Take a Succeed! sodium-potassium capsule every half hour. Drink two 20+ ounce bottles dry before refilling them at every aid station. Sip cola, nibble watermelon, suck ice-pops. Don't eat much else; perhaps that's responsible for energy-loss in the final miles? Or maybe it was unwise to donate a pint of blood to the Red Cross only a dozen days ago, even though it's a noble cause? At least the Chinese food carry-out last night doesn't take its revenge during the race!

To keep up the pace, push hard on runnable stretches of trail. But tread carefully over rocks and roots, to avoid a game-ending fall. Stumbles become more frequent as the day progresses. About mile 28 I almost do a face plant, but manage to hook my elbow around a sapling and turn the tumble an abrupt pirouette, ending up facing the runner behind me, much to his amusement. Technically a topless pole-dance, but not something anybody would want to witness.

Cat Veteran Bill Wandell, grinning under a bushy mustache, gives the sad news at the halfway point that a tumble damaged his already marginal Achilles tendon and ended his attempt to get an 11th finish. Hashers Dean Johnson and Dave Brault entertain me with trail chatter about their friends' adventures. Cheerful Meg Page accepts a pair of ibuprofen from my cache when her arthritis flares at mile 27. During the final climb Rhonda Hampton and Peter Wray pause ahead of me to check the status of a young tattooed lady runner sitting by the path, who thanks us, turns down our offers of aid, and responds to our question "What's wrong?" with one word: "Everything!"

Accidentally venturing off course is a common problem at Catoctin, but thanks to training runs with kind comrades (esp. Caren Jew and Gayatri Datta) I only go briefly astray at a couple of poorly-marked branch points. At several places other racers rejoin me on the course, having taken involuntary bonus mileage; veteran Farouk Elkassed on his ninth Cat Run greets me in the final miles having done so.

A big black snake near Little Hunting Creek, close to mile 16, makes the runner near me stop to take photos using her phone-camera. Streams are unusually low this year and all are crossed with dry feet. Nevertheless the stinky ancient trail shoes go into the trash as soon as they arrive home.

cutoff official
2011 GPS
1:381:531:371:421:4566.2Hamburg Rd
2:242:472:172:282:3599.4Delauter Rd
3:053:292:483:05--11.6Fishing Creek Rd
3:36-3:163:37--13.8Gambrill Park Rd
4:124:363:444:104:1515.516.0Manor Area
4:56-4:265:04--18.2Gambrill Park Rd
-5:524:565:43---Fishing Creek Rd
6:166:355:276:246:202222.9Delauter Rd
7:087:326:137:277:152526.0Hamburg Rd
9:04-7:539:459:153131.7Tea Room

(cf. GPS trackfile map, elevation, and pace information, and Catoctin 50k 2008, 2009-08-01 - Catoctin 50k Trail Run, 2010-07-31 - Catoctin 42k, ...)

- Friday, August 12, 2011 at 05:47:13 (EDT)

Music of the Primes

Another book on the Riemann Hypothesis! John Derbyshire's Prime Obsession (2004) does about as good a job on the theoretical side as Marcus du Sautoy's 2003 The Music of the Primes, even though Derbyshire is an amateur and du Satoy is an Oxford professor of mathematics. Derbyshire wins in his historical discussion of Bernhard Riemann. But du Satoy shines in his profiles of recent mathematicians. Clearly he has had personal contact with many of them, and it shows. In Chapter 9, for instance:

At the beginning of the 1970s, one mathematician stood at the head of this small band of sceptics. Don Zagier is one of the most energetic mathematicians on today's mathematical circuit, cutting a dashing figure as he sweeps through the corridors of the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn, Germany's answer to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Like some mathematical musketeer, Zagier flourishes his razor-sharp intellect, ready to slay any passing problem. His enthusiasm and energy for the subject whisk you away in a whirlwind of ideas delivered in a rat-tat-tat voice and at a speed that leaves you breathless. He has a playful approach to his subject and is always ready with a mathematical puzzle to spice up lunch at the institute in Bonn.

Zagier had become exasperated by some people's desire to believe in the Riemann Hypothesis on purely aesthetic grounds, ignoring the dearth of real evidence to support it. Faith in the Hypothesis was probably based on little more than a reverence for simplicity and beauty in mathematics. ...

What's the Riemann Hypothesis? It's a statement about the distribution of prime numbers. A proof is worth a million dollars (see MillenniumMath), and worth a lot more in fame and glory. A huge amount of hard work has gone into studying the Riemann Hypothesis for more than 150 years. If it's true (or false) the implications for the rest of mathematics are immense.

Part of what du Satoy conveys, in elegant fashion, is the ultra-large-scale cooperative nature of the mathematical enterprise. In Chapter 8, discussing how work by Julia Robinson and Yuri Matijasevich solved another major challenge:

It is striking how mathematics has the ability to unite people across political and historical boundaries. Despite the difficulties posed by the Cold War, these American and Russian mathematicians would forge a strong friendship upon their obsession with Hilbert's inspirational problem. Robinson described this strange bond between mathematicians as being like 'a nation of our own without distinction of geographical origins, race, creed, sex, age or even time (the mathematicians of the past and of the future are our colleagues too) — all dedicated to the most beautiful of the arts and sciences.'

Matijasevich and Robinson would fight over credit for the proof, but not for self-aggrandisement — rather, each insisted that the other had done the hardest bit. It is true that, because Matijasevich ended up putting in the last piece of the jigsaw, the solution of Hilbert's tenth problem is often attributed to him. The reality of course is that many mathematicians contributed to the long journey from Hilbert's announcement in 1990 to the final solution seventy years later.

And as du Satory notes in an earlier paragraph:

... Robinson saw that the solution had been under her nose all the time, but it had taken Matijasevich to spot it. 'There are lots of things, just lying on the beach as it were, that we don't see until someone else picks one of them up. Then we all see that one,' she explained. She wrote to congratulate Matijasevich: 'I am especially pleased to think that when I first made the conjecture you were a baby and I just had to wait for you to grow up.'

Such a sweet image of collaboration! And just think: human society is a hugely larger example of working together, across space and time, as we figure things out and share know-how and make progress and help each other do better. Doesn't it make all the quibbles and selfishness over intellectual "property" seem infinitely petty?

- Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 06:07:13 (EDT)

2011-07-26 - RCT with Ken

~5 miles @ ~10.1 min/mi

"We are Spartans!" Ken Swab tells me, and reminisces about the time he inadvertently crossed paths with a convention of Furries in a hotel. I riposte with a discussion of Fordyce's Angiokeratoma. "Why are we wasting such witty banter when there are no witnesses? It's like a tree falling in the forest with nobody around to hear it." Two tiny bunny rabbits race away — were they listening? Temps in the mid-70s at 7am with reduced humidity make for a less unpleasant jaunt than recent days. From Ken-Gar north on Rock Creek Trail, out-and-back on the Matthew Henson Trail to Veirs Mill Rd, plus a little hill work up from RCT milepost 9, where a couple of walkers give chase. "You can take us!" I encourage them, "We're old!" Pace accelerates on the way back to a 9:19 min/mi finish.

(GPS trackfile, ...)

- Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 05:53:59 (EDT)

Smells Like Freedom

The power of imagery! At the grocery store, eye-catching stickers on new Old Spice brand deodorant sticks describe the varieties with stirring words:

Two other mountain-named flavors, not seen locally:

On the corporate web page [1] there's the anonymous immortal prose:

While other men may choose to transport themselves via minivans, bikes or filthy taxis, you choose to ride two Komodo dragons, which you strap onto your feet like shoes. You also choose to wear the fresh smell of Old Spice Komodo, which provides anyone close with a light nose-tickle of exotic winds and ornate pagodas. And we'll just end this short piece of Internet product copy with this: is there a better image than a man walking off into the sunset with live Komodo shoes, both hands raised triumphantly in the air? It's a rhetorical question.

As libertarian characters in the science-fiction story story "And Then There Were None" (1951, by Eric Frank Russell) put it, "That's freedom, isn't it?" Or at least it's creative advertising ...

(cf. My Ob (2002-08-18), WhateverYouWant (2007-07-26), ...)

- Tuesday, August 09, 2011 at 06:43:31 (EDT)

2011-07-24 - Purple Trail

~8 miles @ ~15.4 min/mi

"Boobs! It's a woman!" — "No, I think it's a man with gynecomastia!" — "Look at her hair!" — "But that face!" A runner heading the other way provokes a friendly gender debate between Mary Ewell and me. We reach no conclusion. Similarly, our analysis of mystery rashes is unresolved. "Acne Rosacea!" — "Pityriasis Rosea!" — "Lyme Disease!" — "Excess Iron!" There's just not enough evidence to reach an answer.

We begin our trek ~10am at my front steps. A cold shower and multiple glasses of ice water after this morning's earlier run prepare me. On the way to Rock Creek Mary suggests we explore the rugged "Purple Line", a neighborhood trail that the Authorities have tried to eradicate by painting over violet blazes or chiseling them away. Mary swears that she has been on it before, but I find no record of that in my notes. Perhaps it was a walk and didn't get logged? Multiple blowdowns, eroded gullies, muddy streams, and overgrown brush force us to bushwhack. We proceed southwards, cross the bridge near Winkler's Meadow, and return along the western bank. "This is training for us to do the Barkley Marathons!" We're both sweat-soaked now in the late-morning heat, and take Succeed! e-caps to restore electrolytes. At the Beltway we proceed along Rock Creek Trail to Cedar Lane, pausing to refill bottles at every opportunity. We pour water over our heads to cool down.

"You're so happy! Such a great smile!" says a woman we meet, to Mary. The speaker is a member of "Santa" Steve Schreurs' crew of walkers, out on a 16-mile hike today. Her observation is true: Mary is a congenital optimist, as am I. We discuss how it's a valuable trait to have in long-distance running, and elsewhere in life. (see Optimist Creed)

We take a steep shortcut on the return trip and finish at Mary's goal distance, about 8 miles. Mary is training for the VHTRC Womens Trail Half Marathon in September, and today is part of that regime. Mary's new hair style, short and spiky with natural silver streaks, looks sharp. We shower, change, then enjoy a salty-greasy Chinese lunch together, followed by conversation with the Dickerson-Zimmermann family about Jane Austen.

(GPS trackfile)

- Monday, August 08, 2011 at 18:57:45 (EDT)

2011-07-24 - Schaeffer Farms

~9 miles @ ~13.8 min/mi

"We're running like scarecrows!" Hordes of stinging black flies torment Caren Jew and me. We flap our arms to drive them away, as Bert Lahr did in The Wizard of Oz. It's the Schaeffer Farms big loop, the sequence of white/orange/yellow/green blazed trails that Caren and I have explored several times. Today Caren is especially light on her feet and sets a brisk pace.

We begin and end at Black Rock Mill. A little after 5am Caren text-messages that she will be "a min or 2 late". But when I arrive 5 minutes early, there she is waiting. Grrrr! At 0545 we climb the steep road and start our circuit. We discuss upcoming races, family, friends, etc. Caren's "poofy" hair looks great. Recently her daughter Ashley wrote a lovely note complimenting her on it, and on being such a nice mom. Sweet!

(GPS trackfile, and 2009-05-31 - Schaeffer Farms, 2010-07-03 - Schaeffer Farms, 2010-08-22 - Schaeffer Farms, 2010-09-19 - Schaeffer Farms, ...)

- Monday, August 08, 2011 at 18:08:55 (EDT)

Broken Organization

A description by a somewhat-disgruntled colleague of a cheerful but totally unproductive group of workers:

They put the fun in dysfunctional.

(cf. OnePerScore (2000-02-06), BureaucraticImmuneSystem (2000-08-09), NegativeHelp (2006-05-20), ...)

- Sunday, August 07, 2011 at 12:30:53 (EDT)

2011-07-22 - Hot and Humid Loop with CM

~4 miles @ ~11.9 min/mi

The rising sun looks like an angry red supergiant; even in the early morning, heat and humidity are extreme. Cara Marie Manlandro looks sharp, as she violates her own rule about never running without a shirt over her top. After an initial too-fast mile I'm forced to apologize and take my shirt off too. There's no water fountain at the Dunkin Donuts shop where we pause. Our pace slows as we circle back through CM's 'hood and chat.

(GPS trackfile)

- Saturday, August 06, 2011 at 17:18:09 (EDT)

Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation

Another ex-library used-book-sale discovery: Arianna Weisman and Jean Smith's 2001 The Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation. The copy is falling apart, checked out many times, waterstained and wrinkled. The contents are a mixed bag, mostly plodding, often mired in historical/traditional doctrine. But at times there are graceful arpeggios and glissandos, memorable well-put suggestions — especially on the themes of non-attachment, non-judgment, non-anger, and non-self. An example, from Chapter 5, on breaking away:

Each moment we live without clinging or aversion, we live in freedom, and these moments continue to build on one another. Although people uncover their fundamental nature in different ways, all who are fully awakened share the common quality of having no clinging, no greed, no hatred, and no delusion.

Uncovering our essential nature does not mean we will not experience pain. Our bodies in their very constitution have the capacity to experience pain, and they will do so as we grow older or get sick. It does not mean we will not feel sad or tired. What it means is that we are awake—we know where we are and we are present with our experience, with what life brings, without judgment or reaction or clinging. In a well-known story, the Buddha encountered curious passersby who, impressed by his startling presence, asked him if he was a king or a god. When he said no, they challenged him by saying, "Then what are you?" He quietly responded, "I am awake."

Other apt excerpts to follow ...

(cf. HowGreatThouArt (2005-03-16), ...)

- Friday, August 05, 2011 at 07:52:40 (EDT)

2011-07-17 - RCT with R and B

~7 miles @ ~11.4 min/mi

Early this Sunday morning Rebecca Rosenberg arrives back from California on the red-eye flight, to be with her ailing German Shepard dog Lucy. Rebecca suggests an evening excursion, so at about 7pm Barry Smith and I join her at Candy Cane City. We run upstream to Rock Creek Trail mile #4 near Connecticut Av. On the way back I lead a diversion: we veer off course to see a spring that George Washington reputedly drank from, at "Clean Drinking Manor" in the Village of North Chevy Chase.

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Wednesday, August 03, 2011 at 05:01:56 (EDT)


Word of the Day: pogonophobia, meaning "fear of beards". It was used a month ago in the Economist ("Tajikistan: War of the beards" [1]). Last year it appeared in a Guardian article ("I am guilty of facial hair profiling" [2]).

"Pogono" is Greek for "beard". Perhaps "pogonophobia" is not entirely a joke coinage, though much of its usage seems to be for humor. Three decades ago, while helping to babysit one of my wife's nephews, whenever the little tyke caught sight of my shaggy mug instant wailing ensued. On the other hand, current web citations involving "pogonophobia" are mainly by dumb commercial "we treat any phobia" sites that clearly are using global search-and-replace to make generic form-letter prose for a variety of fears. What a waste of bits.

(cf. Exotic Artifacts (2010-05-19) re Tsarist Russian beard tokens, ...)

- Tuesday, August 02, 2011 at 20:52:26 (EDT)

2011-07-16 - Mad Dog Zimmarathon 2011

26.2 miles @ 11.8 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Mad_Dog_Zimmarathon_course_map_2007.jpgDeer stands statue-like at the corner of Woodstock and Linden, eying my approach at 5:15am before she bolts across the street and into the woods. Another deer guards the Beltway bridge a mile later. Cottontail rabbit flees from beside Rock Creek Trail. Tiny bunny darts away near the ballfields. Close to Connecticut Av a speckled fawn stands dithering at the roadside, panics, and runs back into the brush by Rock Creek.

At 6:20am in the Ken-Gar parking lot Cara Marie Manlandro is preparing to lead her pace group for the MCRRC First Time Marathoner program. I divert from Rock Creek Trail to visit with her for a minute, then continue. She's in front of her pack heading upstream when we meet again.

"Runner up!" the manager of another MCRRC training group shouts. I look around in mock puzzlement. "What runner?" I ask, to their amusement. The fancy new trail bridge makes crossing Veirs Mill Rd a pleasure.

At mile 21.5 legs lose energy; much walking ensues. Nevertheless today brings a new course record for the Mad Dog Zimmarathon: 5 hours 10 minutes, almost half an hour faster than the last occurrence in 2007, thanks in no small measure to cool Saturday morning weather.

(GPS trackfile; cf. 2004-08-29 - Mad Dog Zimmarathon, 2006-10-28 - Mad Dog Zimmarathon Plus, 2007-08-18 - Mad Dog Zimmarathon 2007...)

- Monday, August 01, 2011 at 04:48:16 (EDT)

Without Pro Sports

A few weeks ago Washington POST sports editor Matt Rennie ("Imagining a world without pro sports") riffed on the possibility that, in the absence of the NFL, NBA, etc., people might watch more college and high school games on television. He finished his essay with a comment on seeing a kid (presumably his daughter) in a close finish at a swim meet.

But academic sports are actually a huge commercial enterprise nowadays for many schools, as well as a talent-scout auxiliary of the pro leagues, a training ground for cheating, and a negative life-distraction for the vast majority of "student" athletes who will never make a living at their game.

So instead of cheering from the sidelines — and subsidizing a broken system — wouldn't it be better to do something rather than pay to watch others do it? A lot of that is already happening; I see it at local running events, for instance. How much would society benefit if doing rather than passive watching increased — in better physical and mental health, in greater local economic activity, in less super-star wealth concentration, and in reduced corruption at all levels?

cf. Fun vs. Entertainment (2006-08-31), ...)

- Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 15:49:39 (EDT)

2011-07-10 - FTM with CM

~12.4 miles @ ~11 min/mi

Cara Marie Manlandro invites me to tag along with her and the MCRRC First Time Marathon (FTM) crew for which she's a pace-group leader. From home at 6am the 2+ miles to meet them at Candy Cane City is quiet, with an unscheduled porta-john break at Rays Meadow. The parking lot is full well before the 0630 start. CM's group has two other leaders, so she and I serve as sweepers during the ~5 mile trot down Beach Dr into Rock Creek Park until the turnaround at Pearce Mill. CM gives me a ride home afterwards. We briefly get lost in the neighborhood near Meadowbrook Stables.

(cf. GPS trackfiles [1] and [2])

- Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 04:36:57 (EDT)

Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra, M.D., recently appeared on a TV show, and caught my wife's attention by what she reported as sensible-sounding advice on how to reduce stress via a simple form of mindfulness-meditation. In hopes of learning more about Chopra's work — apparently I'm the last survivor on the planet who knows nothing of him? — at the used-book sale I picked up Ageless Body, Timeless Mind (1993). Alas, a semi-random probe landed in Part Three ("Defeating Entropy"), where the bogosity meter pegged on Chopra's discussion of how when "...cells scraped from the inside of someone's mouth are connected to a polygraph in one room while he sits in another, their electrical discharge will remain even and flat while he is sitting still and spike wildly when he looks at erotic pictures ...". Equally distracting is pseudo-scientific babble about the health implications of quantum mechanics (e.g., "In the quantum world, change is inevitable, aging isn't. ... You can control the informational content of the quantum field. ..."). Maybe the subtitle of the book should have clued me in: "The Quantum Alternative To Growing Old". Ugh!

And yet there's a lot to be said — rationally — for some "alternative" approaches. The July/August 2011 issue of The Atlantic magazine has a thoughtful article by David H. Freedman, "The Triumph of New-Age Medicine" [1]. He discusses how "... diet, exercise, and stress reduction can do a better job of preventing, slowing, and even reversing heart disease than most drugs and surgical procedures ...". Undeniably (to a reasoning person) modern evidence-based medicine is best in cases of infection, trauma, cancer, etc. But in murkier areas? Freedman continues:

Medicine has long known what gets patients to make the lifestyle changes that appear to be so crucial for lowering the risk of serious disease: lavishing attention on them. That means longer, more frequent visits; more focus on what's going on in their lives; more effort spent easing anxieties, instilling healthy attitudes, and getting patients to take responsibility for their well-being; and concerted attempts to provide hope. ...

But since "Doctors are paid for providing treatments, not for spending time talking to patients," it's tough to harness these aspects of the placebo effect nowadays. Perhaps, Freedman speculates, some of it can be done via nurses or non-physician therapist-practitioners.

(cf. AlteredNative (2002-01-24), ModernMedicine (2005-04-29), Evidence-Based Medicine (2010-01-16), Medicine and Statistics (2010-11-13), ...)

- Friday, July 29, 2011 at 05:47:24 (EDT)

2011-07-09 - Bethesda Loop

~8.5 miles @ ~10.3 min/mi

"Maybe you can lick the dew off the parking meters?" I suggest to Ken Swab, when he notes that he forgot to bring a water bottle on this warm but humid Saturday morning. My shorts are already soaking wet after the four mile jog from home to meet the Bethesda Rebel Runners at 0630. Others go west on the Capital Crescent Trail, but Ken and Megan (Barker? O'Rourke?) and Cat (Wood?) and I turn east on hilly Leland St, chatting about upcoming marathon plans and cruising at a brisk pace. As per the GPS trackfile I branch homeward when we get to Rock Creek.

- Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 07:55:59 (EDT)

Bullwinkle Spelling

When somebody in the family asks how to spell a common (or uncommon) word, often a classic line from a long-ago Rocky and Bullwinkle Show gets quoted back at them. Bullwinkle J. Moose is writing on a notepad. A blackbird perches on his shoulder and advises:

"That's crow with a 'C', friend — no 'E' on the end!"

(Which episode is this immortal line from?)

- Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 10:33:52 (EDT)

2011-07-08 - MCRRC Midsummer Night's Mile Track Meet

1 mile @ ~6.55 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MidSummer_Nights_Mile_2011.jpgOne Taco Bell bean gordita for lunch + two stitches from yesterday's dermatology punch biopsy of mystery rashes + three warm-up laps = a near-PR of 6:33, best result since ~6:32 at the 2009-07-10 - Midsummer Night's Mile. Whee!

Caren Jew and Christina Caravoulias run well in the first heat, Caren setting a new PR by ~15 seconds at 8:44. Lines of thunderstorms have passed by and temps begin to drop along with the humidity. Peggy Dickison and Cynthia Wallace race strongly, with Ken Swab, Barry Smith, and Don Libes. Emaad Burki grasps his knees and gasps to recover after his finish.

Comrades cheer (or jeer?!) as I strive to maintain pace. Lap one is too fast, as usual. A girl slows on the curve and I hesitate before swinging out to lane two to get by. Competition fuels a home stretch kick that lets me pass a couple of runners. Paul Dexter zips by — where did he come from? I can't quite catch Kathleen Brooks, who beats me across the line by half a step.

Splits approximately 1:33 + 1:38 + 1:41 + 1:41. Official result: 74th place of 125 overall, 68th of 97 men, 4th of 9 in the 55-59 year old male cohort, gun time 6:33.3 .

(Photo by Ken Trombatore)

(GPS trackfile, ...)

- Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 06:04:00 (EDT)

Duh Moment

In the Wikipedia:Supernova article appears the phrase:

... Solitary stars with a mass below approximately 9 solar masses, such as the Sun, ...

Well yes, the Sun's mass is indeed below approximately 9 solar masses!

- Monday, July 25, 2011 at 04:55:06 (EDT)

2011-07-06 - Langley High School Lap

4+ miles @ ~10 min/mi

Radar shows thunderstorms churning to the west but drifting only slowly toward the DC area. A turquoise shirt materializes ahead and pulls me along the path by Georgetown Pike to Langley High School where its occupant gets into her car. Half a lap of walking on the track leads to a 1:42 lap and then another half lap recovery. Water from the fountain is warmer than body temperature when it hits the forehead. Two Shetland ponies stand in the parking lot behind the Montessori school. Mushrooms sprout in the median of the driveway. Finally, during the final steps of the return trip, a few raindrops fall. The locker room is mostly empty so it's OK to take a shower — twice in 29.9 years! — and stand under the fan to cool down.

- Sunday, July 24, 2011 at 04:00:13 (EDT)


Samuel R. Delany's science-fiction novel Dhalgren is powerfully poetic, artfully erotic, a literary giant of a book — but is it ultimately meaningless? Wikipedia offers a lengthy synopsis of "plot" and major themes, so no need to repeat that. As for the feel of the book, some snippets from the first few pages are typical, as nameless protagonist is introduced via nighttime wilderness encounter:

A whole minute he squatted, pebbles clutched with his left foot (the bare one), listening to his breath sound tumble down the ledges.

Beyond a leafy arras, reflected moonlight flittered.

He rubbed his palms against denim. Where he was, was still. Somewhere else, wind whined.

The leaves winked.

What had been wind was a motion in brush below. His hand went to the rock behind.

She stood up, two dozen feet down and away, wearing only shadows the moon dropped from the viney maple; moved, and the shadows moved on her.


She stepped.

Motion rearranged the shadows, baring one breast. There was a lozenge of light over one eye. Calf and ankle were luminous before leaves.

Down her lower leg was a scratch.

His hair tugged back from his forehead. He watched hers flung forward. She moved with her hair, stepping over leaves, toes spread on stone, in a tip-toe pause, to quit the darker shadows.


She passed another, nearer tree. The moon flung gold coins at her breasts. ...

... and on and on, to far more explicitly sexual and violent passages not suitable for quoting here. A few other memorable samples of Delany's art:

Lovely language — but what's the point? If existence is meaningless, why write (or read) 800 pages about it? If atmospheric metaphor is the measure then yes, Delany wins in a walk. But when key criteria include human characters and ideas, conflict and resolution, challenge and change? Roger Zelazny (cf. Lord of Light) and others do it better. So does Delany himself, notably in his superb sf novel Nova.

- Saturday, July 23, 2011 at 14:07:37 (EDT)

2011-07-05 - 4 x 400m

~1.2 miles @ ~10 min/mi

The Blair High School track is partially shaded after 7pm. Soccer players do drills in the infield as walkers and joggers navigate the oval. At 90+° good intentions melt down after a few 400 meter repeats with half-lap recovery walks. Times: 1:37 + 1:32 + 1:35 + 1:35.

- Friday, July 22, 2011 at 05:35:57 (EDT)

Bob Williams Sketch - Nearing Retirement

Friend Bob Williams drew this a couple of months ago, as I was entering the pre-retirement Transition Program. He will be following the same pathway in a few more weeks. Congratulations, Bob!


(cf. Bob Williams Sketch - Career Marathon, Bob Williams Sketch - Frozen Beard, Bob Williams Sketch - Runner Protection, Bob Williams Sketch - Election Tsunami, Bob Williams Sketch - Out of the Box, Bob Williams Sketch - Work Chair, ...)

- Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 04:55:47 (EDT)

2011-07-04 - DCRRC Age-Handicapped Four Mile Race

~4 miles @ ~7.8 min/mi

"Go Texas!" — Cynthia Wallace wears eye-catching Lone Star State running garb. Jeanne Larrison has on the Stars and Stripes for this warm and humid Independence Day morning. Christina Caravoulias is coming back from a foot injury earlier this week; she and I ran the race together three years ago (2008-07-04 - DCRRC Age-Handicapped 4 Miler). Today I don the prize I won that day, a size XXL DCRRC singlet. Ken Swab drives his Miata with the top down and gets us to the Carderock parking area on the C&O Canal Towpath, ~7 miles, in less time than it takes me to run one mile. (Note to self: make sure life insurance is paid up before riding with Ken again.) Splits by the GPS: 7:31 + 7:44 + 8:02 + 7:58 plus a few seconds for 31:34 total. Add 17 minutes offset for age-adjustment. Donation to pick-your-prize table: yoga tapes and running magazines. Chosen award: scented candle in a little trash-can-shaped holder.

(cf. GPS trackfile, race announcement, official results)

- Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 16:49:30 (EDT)

Secrets of the Lotus

The 1971 book Secrets of the Lotus is a collection of essays, translations, and commentaries, subtitled "Studies in Buddhist Meditation". Its editor, Donald K. Swearer, retired recently from his professorship in the Department of Religion at Swarthmore College (see "Not Self", an April 2011 interview by Jeffrey Lott). Secrets is slow reading, dated, mystical, and muddy. But at times it's also poetic. In Chapter 1, for instance, the Buddhist meditation teacher Chao Kuhn Sobhana Dhammasudhi writes rather densely and paradoxically about "free will":

A further meaning of meditation is to seek to gain freedom of mind and so attain complete liberation. Freedom, as it is used here, is the opposite of free will. So long as there is will, freedom cannot exist. Will, itself, is conditioned by selfish desire, attachment, ignorance of truth, and so on. Everything exists in a condition of interdependence and interrelatedness. Nothing exists independent of its own conditions and conditioning. One who speaks of free will in the sense of a will which is independent and free from conditions speaks of an unreal entity. Such a person is deluded and ignorant. Freedom, rather than meaning free will, means freedom from will.

and a few pages later, similarly he comments on "hope":

... To be serious is to give full attention to what is before you, to what is happening. When your whole heart is there, tension is not distracting your energies into fear or confusion, and you can experience calmness and enjoyment while remaining attentive. There is no room for negative tendencies to step in or interfere. In this state watching things can be an interesting and pleasant activity without rigidity but also without expectation. Where there is expectation, there is fear. When you hope for a result, there is some degree of fear of not getting it; or if you succeed in gaining it, there is a fear of losing it. So, fear is a subtle but active element within expectation. Most of us, however, cannot live without hope. Enlightened people can because real living is in the present, finding fulfillment without hopes and fears for the future. In the present, there can be full clarity of mind which is one of the highest characteristics of a free being. If you are clear in mind, sensitive to your work and your environment, understanding and love will grow bringing about right action and radical change within you without planning and hoping. Expectation is an obstacle to action because it involves ideas about the future which create a gap between us and present action. When we indulge in hoping, we are building up a resistance to what is at this moment and trying to escape into what should be. This resistance blocks the flow of dynamic living.

Interesting, yes; important, perhaps; transparent, no. Later, however, the same author becomes lyrical in commenting on selflessness:

When complete awareness is attained, there is no observer, and ideas and opinions are put aside because there is no opinion-forming self. Basically it is the ego from which our interpretations and explanations arise; and as that ego is illusory, the reflections resulting from it are bound to be illusory also. It is mindfulness which strips away all those conditioning factors which have gone toward creating the ego. Mindfulness is total nakedness where we and all things stand reflected before the eye of the perfectly reflecting mirror.

Whew! (And an aside: that "total nakedness" metaphor resonates with a card found tucked into a used-book-sale copy of Secrets: a US-postage-prepaid reply form offering a 12-issue subscription to Playboy magazine for only $10. Hmmmm!?)

Other parts of Secrets are contributed by Zen priest Reverend Eshin Nishimura and by Professor Swearer himself. The book grew out of a workshop held at Oberlin College in 1969. Swearer describes the effort as "... an interweaving of method with interpretation, history with the existential Now." That's a nice summary. As a reference, an inspiration, and a historical document it's rather fascinating; as an introduction, alas, quite murky.

- Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 17:25:20 (EDT)

2011-07-02 - CCT with Barry and Emaad

~13.5 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

The GoTüGo company name on the side of the latrine near Rock Creek is unfortunately apt; I pause on my way to meet the "Bethesda Rebel Runners" at 0630 on Saturday morning. Faster members of the group (Ken and Hillary Swab, Kathleen Edelman, Gayatri Datta, et al.) dash ahead while Barry Smith and Emaad Burki ramble with me down the Capital Crescent Trail and back. It's warm and humid. My white shirt shows blood (cf. ManaBurn) by the time we finish. Barry kindly gives me a ride home.

- Monday, July 18, 2011 at 18:20:47 (EDT)

Hidden Mystery

Seen some months ago in a fortune cookie, the enigmatic:

Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery.

Fascinating and poetic — but what does it mean? The little slip of paper followed me around for many months, but finally today I searched and found its source: the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching, an ancient Chinese book of Daoist philosophy attributed to Laozi. Many other translations exist, but most are impenetrable or clunk-ugly. This one, by J. H. McDonald, seems to strike a balance between accuracy and beauty. Add it to the reading list ...

(cf. [1], [2], MysteryReligion (2005-02-08), ...)

- Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 12:24:57 (EDT)

2011-07-01 - Five Half-Laps

~2 miles @ ~10 min/mi

High noon at the University of Maryland: super-nice "Kehoe Track at Ludwig Field" is occupied by a summer track camp. Kids and coaches line up for laps with parents watching, talking on cellphones, taking photos. The day is too warm to stay out for long. Campers break for lunch just in time for me to capture the oval and do five 200 meter repeats at 49 + 48 + 47 + 48 + 49 seconds each, ~1:40 recovery between. Then real recovery begins: lunch at Marathon Deli. Happy Birthday to Robin & Gray!

(cf. GPS trackfile)

- Saturday, July 16, 2011 at 04:22:55 (EDT)

Gravitational Waves - Thirty Years Later

Retirement looms in a few weeks, after 30 years plus one day of government service. (Want to see my résumé? Just ask!) Interviews for the next job have already begun. As part of the process one potential employer requested a half-hour briefing on a "technical topic". I decided to talk about the work I did in the late 1970s on astrophysics and general relativity, and what progress has been made in the field. But as I warned the audience at the beginning of the presentation:

A few years ago I started running marathons and ultramarathons. I'm slow, so it takes me a long time. In 2004, during my first 50-miler, a friend who was with me made the mistake of asking me about gravitational waves. We were near mile 17 when I began a version of this talk. About six hours and 25 miles later he dropped out without finishing the race. He blamed blisters and knee pain — but I think it was my lecture. Today we'll see how long you all survive!

For busy people here's the "bottom line up front" summary:

The talk itself generally followed this outline:

Mercifully for my audience, we ran out of time before the end ...

(cf. AsIfSoManyMinutes for 50-miler anecdote, and on the substantive-historical front see RelativityPlusAstrophysics, NiAndMe, PulsarWaves, SoftOutsideCrunchyCenter, SpinningSources, CherishedBeliefs, ...)

- Friday, July 15, 2011 at 05:21:09 (EDT)

2011-06-30 - Two Tracks, Two Laps

~8 miles @ ~9.8 min/mi

Sandy's hair glows like a halo, backlit by the sun as we run west along Forest Glen Rd. The shadow of my beard on the ground ahead sticks out on each side of my chin. Earlier a young lady's long braids bounce eye-catchingly as they hang down in front.

The run begins from home and follows Dale Dr to the Silver Spring International Middle School (SSMIS): ancient asphalt track, ~20 walkers, old bleachers disassembled. One lap takes 1:48. Then upstream on Sligo Creek back to Colesville Rd, to Blair High School, where I find the track by the Beltway and do a 1:46 lap before heading for home. At Sligo Creek's crossing of Forest Glen Rd near Holy Cross Hospital I meet Sandy as she branches off from the upstream path. "Good hill!" I say as I pass, after letting her pull me along. We chat; each confesses to going faster than normal, given today's friendly company. I recommend MCRRC training groups and summer races. Sandy (Sandra Kweder?) remembers doing the club New Year's Resolution 5k. At the old cemetery she turns toward home.

(cf. GPS trackfile)

- Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 07:11:44 (EDT)

Steadiness of Heart

Meditation for Dummies by Stephan Bodian in Chapter 10 ("Opening Your Heart: Love, Compassion, and Forgiveness") explores four "cornerstones of a happy and fulfilling life" which he suggests are four dimensions of love:

Lovingkindness: Arises spontaneously in response to the kindness of others and consists of warm, loving, caring feelings that can be deliberately increased and extended.

Compassion: Takes love a step further. In addition to caring about others, you also feel their suffering and naturally feel motivated to help relieve it. (The word "compassion" means "to suffer with.")

Sympathetic joy: Is the flip side of compassion. It consists of happy feelings that arise in response to the happiness and good fortune of others.

Equanimity: Can be cultivated through the basic meditation practices taught in this book; also known as steadiness of heart. No matter what happens, you expand to include it without allowing it to upset or disturb you.

(cf. Find the Beauty, Just Sitting, Roadside Distractions, Three Poisons, Turning Attention Inward, ...)

- Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 05:40:46 (EDT)

2011-06-28 - Langley High School Lap

~4.5 miles @ ~10 min/mi

Dismembered deer carcass lies by Georgetown Pike. A bunny hops along the path, pauses, hops, darts into the brush. School is out for the summer. Yellow "Caution" tape stretches across the parking lot to bar cars so stripes can be repainted, easily ducked under. Gate to track is open. After a trot in the heat, one lap takes 1:47, hamstring still tight, weak, but even so faster than two years ago 2009-06-23 - Langley Lap, slower than 2009-06-24 - Balls Hill Rd. Water fountain by the bleachers works. On the way back a fast young runner in maroon shirt passes, offers fist-bump and encouraging words. Half a mile ahead he turns back. Compliment to him: "You make it look too easy!"

- Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 04:38:43 (EDT)

Compost Tea

Sign seen at a local Whole Foods grocery store, near the tap on a big barrel:

Compost Tea
Do Not Drink

- Monday, July 11, 2011 at 04:52:01 (EDT)

2011-06-27 - Old Locker Room

5.5+ miles @ ~10 min/mi

The treadmills and stair-climber machines lined up in the hallway should have been a clue. The new gym room is closed today, so for the first time in 29.9 years I venture to the old building to visit the old gym, down four flights of stairs from the ground floor to the deep basement. At 0800 I find the tiny ancient locker room, with the toggle-sign on the swinging doors halfway between "Men Only" and "Women Only" position. A colleague is just leaving and confirms that it's still OK to enter — "Women Only" hours don't begin until 1030.

From this side of the building it's an extra 0.3 miles to the gate and the woods. Along the path there a young lady wearing a backpack is walking the loop in the wrong direction, reading a thick paperback as she treks along. She smiles as I greet her at mile ~0.8 and again at ~0.4 on my next lap. A deer near the trail peers, flicks her tail, takes a few steps, but then decides I'm no threat. Marked mile pace accelerates 10.1 ⇒ 9.6 ⇒ 9.1 ⇒ 7.8 min/mi. Back in the locker room I venture to take a post-run shower for the first time ever. After almost 3 decades perhaps change is good?

- Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 04:48:26 (EDT)

Garden and Gun

Another entry for the "What a Wonderful World We Live In!" file: at the dentist's waiting room yesterday, a current copy of the slick magazine Garden and Gun. The subtitle on the cover says "Soul of the South". It's full of hard-hitting articles on what's the best barbecue sauce, lists of things to do in Chattanooga, big advertisements, and photos of items with brand names and dollar-sign-prices in the captions, just in case you want to buy them. Not a lot of coverage of guns, but some commentary on fishing and on hunting dogs (dogs to assist the hunter, that is). Fascinating!

(cf. ConspicuousAnticonsumption, Double Shot Liquor and Guns, ...)

- Saturday, July 09, 2011 at 04:44:59 (EDT)

2011-06-25 - CCT Bethesda Meet-Up

~10.7 miles @ ~11.1 min/mi

A rabbit pauses in the middle of Leland St as Kathleen Edelman and I proceed east from Bethesda toward Rock Creek. Kathleen is a Navy public health officer, has run 18 marathons already, and is starting training for her next, San Antonio this November. Our path together is miles 4-9 of the GPS trackfile. I begin at home about 5:45am and take the CCT to join the Bethesda Rebel Runners group at 6:30. The parking lot is crowded with weekend training group participants.

- Friday, July 08, 2011 at 10:12:13 (EDT)

Ultramarathon DNF Fallacies

Roy Stevenson in the July/Aug 2011 issue of Marathon & Beyond magazine falls hard, alas, into the correlation-versus-causation pit. The concluding paragraph of his article "Factors Affecting the Probability of Finishing an Ultramarathon" promises:

Here, then, are the latest observations from the research on ultrarunners. Consider what changes you can make to your nutrition, training, and racing habits to reduce your chances of dropping out. It's a numbers game—if you make the changes that are positively associated with increasing your chances of finishing and of running a faster time, the odds of your ultra being successful are greatly increased.

No, No, and No! Some of the factors mentioned in the article (such as being male and under 38 years old, or never having failed to finish a prior race) can't (effectively) be changed by the runner. The reported link to taking in more calories during the event could, as Stevenson notes, be a red herring due to successful finishers going farther and dropouts being sick. People with a naturally-low body fat percentage could do better in ultras than those who diet to reduce their numbers. There's no suggestion in the reported research of causality.

One factor that is mentioned and dismissed, however, is particularly interesting: over 60% of finishers took NSAIDs (ibuprofen, etc.) and under 50% of DNF'ers did. The sample size may be too small for this to be significant, but Stevenson rejects it out of hand as a race strategy, based on potential bad side-effects of drugs. It definitely deserves more study. "Vitamin I, anyone?"

(cf. Big Stick, DidNotFinish, ForbiddenSubstances, ...)

- Thursday, July 07, 2011 at 06:39:50 (EDT)

2011-06-20 - Parking Lot Laps

~4.5 miles @ ~9 min/mi

Under the airplane-sculpture a bird with a white ring around its neck stands, cheeps, scurries aside, then returns. At 0830 the gap between lines of showers offers a humid chance to do loops on the parking lot perimeter. Another runner cruises in the opposite direction; we salute each other twice each time around. "You're gaining on me!" I tell him the first few conjunctions. In the final fastest lap I manage to match his speed, pace descending 9.8 ⇒ 8.8 ⇒ 7.7 min/mi.

- Wednesday, July 06, 2011 at 04:33:32 (EDT)

Master and Commander, Lars and the Real Girl

Two movies seen recently:

(cf. MasterAndCommander (2005-03-04), ExtremeClarity, OnTheShore, PostCaptain, ...)

- Tuesday, July 05, 2011 at 06:32:18 (EDT)

2011-06-18 - Run for Roses Trek

~4 miles @ ~10.9 min/mi

A MINI Cooper with "JFK 50" oval sticker cruises by when I'm about three miles from home, trotting north along Georgia Avenue toward the MCRRC "Run for Roses" women's 5k. At Wheaton Regional Park the owner introduces himself: Eric Melby, who coincidentally is helping with me at the final aid station. We chat about mutual acquaintance late-ultrarunner Mike Broderick, training, fitness, racing, health, etc., and carry tubs of roses to the finish line at Race Director Christina Caravoulias's request. I help Jim Rich at the kids fun-run, then fill cups and hand them out to tired 5k racers. Eric gives me a ride home.

(cf. trackfile, ...)

- Monday, July 04, 2011 at 05:04:07 (EDT)

Endurance at Work

An interview/Q&A with business executive Kathy Button Bell, by Adam Bryant, appears in the New York Times today. It's titled "Endurance on the Field, and at Work" and discusses some lessons that Ms. Bell learned from her involvement in athletic activities:

I think everybody benefits from having played sports. It makes you a good sharer, for one thing, in lots of ways. And it makes you more empathetic in general. I love to see sports in a résumé. A woman who works for me right now was a Harvard swimmer, and I can tell that every time I talk to her about something. She's an endurance athlete. She's tough in a pinch. She will get it done. And I respect that enormously.

It's your middle that you depend on — the hard part of you, the tough part in the middle that goes: "Oh, I can stand up in that storm. That's O.K."

In Bell's experience physically-demanding sports give increased energy and endurance, especially critical when one is tired from travel. She also sees prioritization and patience as crucial virtues in work:

... you prioritize better as you get older, and you realize that time can also be your friend. Some things actually simply will go away, and you have to get smarter and smarter to know which ones are which. I think I do a much better job of saying: "You know what? Let that sit."


I am much more patient — a hundred times more patient than I was. I also prioritize much better, which comes out of patience. I think patience, by far, teaches you what to do. The mistake people make is they try to do everything. Dave Farr, our C.E.O., says that if you have a to-do list of 10 things, rip it and do three. Just do three.

(cf. Let It Slide (2005-04-25), Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind (2005-06-03), Ten Strategies for Success (2008-08-29), ...)

- Sunday, July 03, 2011 at 15:28:56 (EDT)

2011-06-17 - Woodsy Path

~5 miles @ ~9 min/mi

Sunbeams sparkle from dewdrops clinging to the tips of pine needles. Worms like vermicelli decorate the wet asphalt pathway. Blonde ponytail beckons as its owner walks up a hill, then starts running again. I give chase. "Good day!" and "Great run!" bless each other's efforts. She turns toward the office as I begin a second circuit. Pace on marked miles descends 10.0 ⇒ 9.4 ⇒ 8.4 ⇒ 7.6 min/mi, heart pounding 180+ pulse after final sprint, witnessed by deer and her speckled fawn.

- Saturday, July 02, 2011 at 05:02:09 (EDT)

Inversion Annoyance

So annoying it is, deliberately to invert clauses for rhyme or rhythm purposes. For humor (as Keith Laumer in some of his sf stories, for alien speech to indicate did), no problem. But songs that such inversions do immediately in my playlist ranking plummet!

- Friday, July 01, 2011 at 06:49:35 (EDT)

2011-06-16 - Parking Lot Laps

~3 miles @ ~9 min/mi

Stephanie and I meet early, 0655, and set off clockwise around the parking area perimeter. Light drizzle soon begins. At the end of our first circuit (16:38) Ms. S, who has work to do, heads in. The second orbit solo is brisk (11:25), pushing hard in a failed attempt to catch up with a young fellow. In the locker room I thank him for setting an aggressive pace. He says he's just trying to make it in before the rain gets worse.

- Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 05:16:07 (EDT)

2011-06-15 - Langley High School

~4+ miles @ ~10 min/mi

Ms. Stephanie chooses the route this cool morning: out-and-back along Georgetown Pike. Jaguar and a Mercedes-Benz threaten on their way in to the Langley HS parking log, as students hurry to get to class. Big woodchuck humps ahead for a few steps before taking to the brush. Outbound 18:49, return trip 17:46.

- Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 05:11:57 (EDT)

Verbs, Not Nouns

A poetic thought from Sylvia Boorstein's It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness in the chapter "Anatta: Emptiness":

... Since everything is change happening, there is no one who owns the changes and no one to whom the changes are happening. We are verbs, not nouns, experiences unfolding, stories telling themselves as sequels to other stories previously told. ...

(reminiscent of Daniel Dennett's model of mind as "narrative center of gravity"; cf. Thoughtful Metaphors (2000-11-08), Buddhism Without Beliefs (2008-09-19), Quiet in There (2011-05-31), ...)

- Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 06:03:46 (EDT)

2011-06-14 - College Park Loop

~10.7 miles @ ~9.9 min/mi

Tyranny of the GPS: during the final mile when the display suggests sub-10 min/mi pace is feasible, it suddenly becomes compulsory, a foolish-inevitable drive to achieve. Coincidence: this warm Monday afternoon is a reprise of precisely two years ago on Flag Day, the same 2009-06-14 - UM Loop course along the circuit of Paint Branch Trail, Northeast Branch Trail, and Northwest Branch Trail, at about the same pace. A loud bang! from the tiny airport leads me to check for bullet holes, until I see smoke rising from a golf cart on the runway. Perhaps it's a system to scare away birds? After half a dozen miles fatigue sets in. Two S! electrolyte capsules and five hard sugar-candies fight it.

(cf. GPS trackfile, 2006-01-09 - College Park Loop, 2006-12-08 - Anacostia Tributary Orbit, 2008-09-18 - Anacostia Evening Loop, ...)

- Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 04:54:07 (EDT)


A new form of apparently-automated posting has recently begun to appear on ZhurnalyWiki comment pages: brief generic remarks that all have the same form of typographic error, an artificial non-human transposition of characters. Some examples:

Some time after such a content-free comment is added and not removed, further wiki-spam begins to appear — links to online pharmaceutical sales sites or the like. Perhaps the nonsense-posts are markers that robots can follow to find places to leave their unwanted advertisements?

(cf. Spamdexing,[1], GamingTheSystem (2004-05-17), ...)

- Monday, June 27, 2011 at 04:51:17 (EDT)

2011-06-13 - Potomac Heritage Trail - Turkey Run Loop

~3.6 miles @ ~15 min/mi

Midges orbit like stars in the sunbeams. The trail cuts through primordial ferns and skirts poison ivy thickets. Late afternoon light glints blinding off the river. A young man sits by the water, smoking meditatively. After today's visit to friends Mark & Kimberly I'm on the south side of the Potomac as rush-hour traffic clogs the roads. So I park at the end of Live Oak Dr, where Mary Ewell (2008-05-24 - PHT and CJT) and Kate Abbott (2009-01-19 - PHT Valkyrie) joined me for Potomac Heritage Trail runs in years past. Deadfalls make the descent to the American Legion Bridge a scramble. At the sign "Turkey Run Loop" I branch right and follow yellow blazes upstream and then uphill until the trail intersects the path down from the PHT 50k aid station at Turkey Run Park — familiar terrain from 2007, 2009, and 2010 (plus 2010 photos). By the time I'm back to the car rush hour traffic has cleared.

- Sunday, June 26, 2011 at 16:42:38 (EDT)

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