^zhurnaly 0.79

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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in volume 0.79 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 = 0.78 ... 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

Mathematician's Blog

Terence Tao is a UCLA professor of mathematics, a former child prodigy who has won a Fields Medal and a MacArthur Fellowship. A Forbes magazine article led to his blog, which is mostly incomprehensible—far too arcane for my feeble brain—but which occasionally has tidbits that a non-mathematician can appreciate. The 5 Nov 2009 post re the "no self-defeating object" argument is an example. It discusses a progression of proofs-by-contradiction, starting with "there is no biggest number" (if so, add 1 to it!) and working its way through Gödel's Theorem and other deep concepts. Neat! Likewise, the 29 Oct 2009 post re a cute Periodic Table that shows entertainingly practical uses for each element—from which Tao goes on to speculate about how such a table might usefully be made for the major concepts of mathematics. It reminds me of the silly Periodic Table of Awesoments and my sporadic attempts to design a Periodic Table of Running Injuries ...

(cf. RootsOfCommensurability (2000-01-26), Periodic Tables (2007-11-17), ...)

- Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 14:30:52 (EST)

2009-11-10 - Deer Day Afternoon

9 miles @ ~8.6 min/mi

Home early the afternoon before the Armistice Day holiday, I don shorts and singlet to visit the bank and pick up the title for our old green car, so we can donate it to charity some time soon. The Matthew Henson Trail beckons: Ken Swab and I saw the first couple of miles of it a few months ago, and Caren Jew rambled a mile farther along it with me last Sunday. The official trail map shows another ~1.5 miles of path beyond that. I navigate out to the new Winding Creek Local Park [1] at the corner of Dewey & Edgebrook Roads, and remember starting from here with Christina Caravoulias back on 2006-12-09.

Today feels ripe for a tempo run. I start from the water fountain at the junction of Rock Creek Trail and the MHT, just short of milepost 9, and crank out miles of 8:45, 7:59, and 8:36 including several seconds spent waiting to cross major streets. Yellow-brown leaves speckle the trail. Within the first mile I see a pair of small bucks, a one-pointer and a two-pointer, hanging out and acting cool within 20 feet of me. Ten minutes later a three-point stag lifts his head to monitor my passage. Farther along the trail three medium-sized does amble past. After gentle dips and steeper climbs the trail begins to trend downward again. Long boardwalks, then traffic lights at Layhill Rd. The path curves down past young trees watered by big green drip-bags, bark protected against hungry deer by steel grids.

Milepost 13 is at a minor road crossing and, distracted by threatening cars, I miss it outbound. The trail T's into a post labeled "13.4". I zig and zag to each arm of the "T" to add a little mileage, then turn back. Outbound time is ~40 minutes, ~8.9 min/mi. Returning I push a bit, take advantage of downhills, cross streets aggressively when traffic permits, and get miles 7:56 + 8:41 + 8:03 + 8:11 and an inbound total of ~37 minutes, rather faster than I anticipated.

- Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 06:10:08 (EST)

Stream of Time

At the end of the chapter "What I Lived For" in Walden, Henry David Thoreau describes in poetic language what he strived for:

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things. I do not wish to be any more busy with my hands than is necessary. My head is hands and feet. I feel all my best faculties concentrated in it. My instinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing, as some creatures use their snout and fore paws, and with it I would mine and burrow my way through these hills. I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts; so by the divining-rod and thin rising vapors I judge; and here I will begin to mine.

- Friday, November 13, 2009 at 04:51:54 (EST)

2009-11-08 - Ken-Gar to Matthew Henson

10 miles ~ 12.7 min/mi

Caren Jew is skeptical, but I assure her that my feet feel fine when at 0646 we meet at Ken-Gar. Rule One of running with a good friend is "Always Tell the Truth!", and I promise her that if I sense any problems developing I'll speak up immediately. Earlier this week I experience sharp twinges in the left metatarsals on Sunday evening, following the 2009-11-01 - Potomac Heritage 50k 2009. Sensibly (for a change) I go to the doctor's office on Monday afternoon, by which time the sore foot feels entirely better. The physician who sees me wites, "Patient reports foot pain after running two marathons in the past two weekends."

"No," I correct her, "it was one marathon and one ultramarathon!" She laughs, and advises me to wear thicker socks and better-padded shoes, as well as to watch my gait. The x-rays come back looking fine, so on Thursday I do 20 miles with comrade Kate Abbott (2009-11-05 - Appalachian Trail and Canal Towpath). After that my left foot still feels good, but the right foot gets twingey, especially on the top and outside. Perhaps my trail shoe (Brooks "Adrenaline") is laced too tight?

I skip the Saturday morning MCRRC Candy Cane 5k race and by that afternoon the right foot seems much better, so a bit of begging by me kind Caren agrees to let me run with her. As usual our wide-ranging conversations are a delight and the miles flow by smoothly. We head upstream from Ken-Gar Park, starting our watches at milepost 7 of Rock Creek Trail. Just before milepost 9 the new Matthew Henson Trail beckons. We trot upstream, crossing Veirs Mill Rd and Georgia Av. The brisk morning air chills me in an unmentionable place, but I eventually warm up.

Caren has "The Eye": she spots a herd of well-camouflaged deer on the other side of Turkey Branch, then a Cooper's Hawk perched high above us in a bare tree. I peer and peer, and finally descry the creatures. We cross boardwalks and climb hills. At milepost 12 we turn back. Our outbound pace is a bit slower than 13 min/mi, including traffic delays and pauses to birdwatch. The return trip is faster, ~12.5 min/mi. I speculate about mindfulness meditation and its application to running, pain management, and self-improvement.

(see [1] for Matthew Henson Trail information, including map; cf. 2009-08-23 - Matthew Henson Trail, ...)

- Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 05:22:03 (EST)

Re-Touching the Void

Recently I stumbled upon my copy of Touching the Void and re-read it, and re-watched the movie version. The book remains über-inspirational the second time through; the movie's a bit less so, but still visually stunning. It's Joe Simpson's true story of mountaineering in the Peruvian Andes and his near-miraculous survival after a disastrous fall broke his leg. Much credit goes to his climbing partner Simon Yates.

In the afterword "Ten Years On ...", a paragraph appears that I overlooked before. It's part of a quote from Simon Yates's book Against the Wall:

Ultimately, we all have to look after ourselves, whether on mountains or in day to day life. In my view that is not a licence to be selfish, for only by taking good care of ourselves are we able to help others. Away from the mountains, in the complexity of everyday life, the price of neglecting this responsibility might be a marriage breaking down, a disruptive child, a business failing or a house repossessed. In the mountains the penalty for neglect can often be death.

"Look after ourselves"—the vital importance of which is only slowly dawning on me. I'm working on it ...

(cf. TouchingTheVoid (2004-06-02), ...)

- Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 09:26:24 (EST)


A word that catches my ear and eye whenever it appears: virtuosic — meaning in music, a composition that lets performers show off their skills (like certain incredibly-hard Paganini caprices for the violin). More generally, virtuosic refers to something associated with virtue, skill, or another appealing-to-me term, areté — the Greek concept of excellence, goodness, achieving one's full potential. "Be all that you can be" self-actualization, in other words. An appealing concept!

(cf. MyOb (2002-08-18), GuYaJia (2002-12-27), Warrior Mind Training (2009-09-16), ...)

- Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 04:43:35 (EST)

2009-11-05 - Appalachian Trail and Canal Towpath

~20 miles @ ~15 min/mi

On Sunday evening I feel sharp twinges in the left metatarsals following the 2009-11-01 - Potomac Heritage 50k 2009. Taking the excellent advice of friends Caren Jew and Mary Ewell, I go to the doctor's office on Monday afternoon—by which time the sore foot feels entirely better. The physician who sees me writes, "Patient reports foot pain after running two marathons in the past two weekends."

"No," I correct her, "it was one marathon and one ultramarathon!" She laughs, and advises me to wear thicker socks and better-padded shoes, as well as to watch my gait. X-rays come back looking fine, so after a little arm-twisting comrade Kate Abbott agrees to let me run with her on Thursday, provided I'm careful.

In two weeks Kate is doing the JFK (see JFK 50 Miler 2008 for her report on last year's) and has multiple missions today:

My mission is to have fun and not get hurt. Our route covers the terrain of last year's 2008-10-14 - JFK AT Familiarization run, during which I stumbled, fell, and broke my left arm. Kate recognizes the spot, near mile 12 of the trek. "Shall we run it?" I ask.

"Do we dare?" Kate responds.

"Yes!" I reply, "We've gotta exercise the demons!" (Well, actually I say exorcise — but exercise is funnier, so I'll revise my remarks retrospectively if Kate doesn't object too much.)

As for the rest of the experience, it's as uneventful as all good training runs should be. I arrive at Weverton late due to bad traffic. Both Kate and I are wearing identical sky-blue long-sleeved technical shirts from the 2009-02-15 - Washington Birthday Marathon—pure coincidence, no prearrangement! A fat and friendly black-and-white cat is lurking near where Kate parks her minivan, and she's tempted to take him home. I drive us to the Old South Mountain Inn in Zittlestown where we commence our run ~10am.

We reach Gathland in one and three-quarters hours, right on schedule in spite of several cellphone interruptions. I tweet: South Mountain Appalachian Trail - a few raindrops - chill breeze - my thumbs are numb at Gapland Gap. A deer hunter stalks past us in the woods, and we meet a dozen AT backpackers.

Alluding to a catchphrase around Kate's household, as we trek along I tell Kate, "Lucky I didn't tell you to 'Run from your heart' back there at the scenic overlook."

"Yes," she responds, "and you're better not remind me when we're on the switchbacks at Weverton Cliffs!"

Two hours later we're safely back at Weverton; I refrain from tempting fate during our descent. We average ~17 min/mi on the AT. A trot past Kate's car gets us safely across the train tracks and onto the C&O Canal Towpath. We progress upstream comfortably at ~12 min/mi to milepost 61, and then turn back. A few cyclists pass us. As we near Harpers Ferry I lure Kate into diverting across the pedestrian bridge. We tap our toes on the West Virginia soil, then dash back past tourists taking photos. A noisy freight train rumbles next to us, heading south along the Shenandoah River towards Massanutten Mountain.

Back on the towpath we continue downstream past loud rapids and another idling freight to the turnoff at Weverton. We go a few tenths of a mile more to milepost 58 so Kate's GPS achieves 20+ miles. The sleek stray kitty is nowhere to be seen, though a bin of food is in the bushes waiting for him. We ride together back to Zittlestown where we part ways. Kate feels no blisters. Her walk-break towpath strategy seems sound.

- Monday, November 09, 2009 at 04:41:21 (EST)


From an article in the August 2009 issue of Runner's World by Benjamin Cheever:

Running is my anchor. It's not what I do, but it's what makes everything else I do okay.

Fascinating concept! And what are other "anchors", now or at other times in one's life? Art, religion, music, relationships, ...

(tnx to Anton Struntz for link to Cheever's essay at [1]; cf. DoWithout (2005-06-04), ...)

- Sunday, November 08, 2009 at 05:30:58 (EST)

Dramatic Fallacy

Text-message length limitations encourage pithiness at the cost of clarity. When I recently tweeted:

Easily envisioned: hero pulls gun, kills bad guy. Hard to see: stats of violent death, risks of nuts with weapons to self, others.

the point I was trying to make was that humans commonly fall into unsound reasoning: we mistake vivid dramatic stories for valid evidence. It happens in issues such as gun control, alternative medicine, politics, education, economics, ...

(cf. SquareRootOfBaseball (2005-05-13), ...)

- Saturday, November 07, 2009 at 20:32:19 (EST)

2009-11-01 - Potomac Heritage 50k 2009

31+ miles @ ~15 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/PHT_50k_2009_Pimmit_Run.jpg"Wait, let me squat down to make it look deeper," I tell Doug Sullivan as he takes a photo of me crossing Pimmit Run about 24 miles into the Potomac Heritage 50k. The past day's rains have raised the waters to flood stage. The torrent rises to mid-thigh as I continue. My foot slips between two rocks and I fall forward, dipping my beard into the water as I catch myself on both hands. Oopsies!

(photo by Doug Sullivan)

"Damn—I just broke a nail!" Karen Donohue exclaims to no one in particular at mile 14 of the Potomac Heritage 50k trail run.

"Sounds like you should drop now," I jest. Karen and friends move ahead of me early in the race, but I catch up with them near Ft. Marcy, after a challenging crossing of Pimmit Run.

Today is a delightful day for trail running. Heavy overnight rains lift streams with waters that rush like shoppers to a sale. Morning drizzle lubricates the autumn leaves, orange and red and yellow and brown, that blanket rocks and conceal roots. My three-year-old cellphone, already erratic after I sweat-soak it during the Marine Corps Marathon last week, is thoroughly hosed. Late in the race after the sun appears I take the phone out of its plastic bag and run with it open, in an attempt to dry it. By turning it off, removing and replacing the battery, blowing on it, etc., I manage to text-message Twitter and Facebook updates.

In other equipment news, a new Nathan vest/backpack "hydration system" works wonderfully—many thanks to friend Caren Jew for recommending it. It comfortably holds ample energy gels, candy, electrolyte capsules, and other supplies. With the weight on my back my hands are free to maintain balance and avoid (most) falls. Plenty of water lets me blitz through aid stations, only pausing to snag a few cookies. My shoes (Brooks Cascadia) and socks (thick Thorlos) do a fine job even when soaked, as do the old-new Nike shorts that I found in a thrift store (with $11 in the inner pocket—woot!).

I meet a flock of fine people during the race. Cindy Cohen, president of the Prince George's Road Runners Club, chats with me at the back of the pack for the first few miles. James Moore helps several of us get back on course as we figure out the tricky path approaching the first aid station in Battery-Kemble Park. I grab-and-go there, and for the next segment find my way alone through the woods. After I scramble through the scary culvert under Canal Road and clamber over the fence to Fletcher's Boathouse suddenly Anstr Davidson appears; he's waiting for friends whom I estimate are a few minutes behind me now.

At the second aid station near Theodore Roosevelt Island I catch up with Roc Myers who runs with me for a spell. Roc and I met at the Andiamo 44.5 mile race, where he was stricken with the 'flu and couldn't finish. He came back strong a fortnight later to do the Marine Corps Marathon. After the next aid station I meet Doug Sullivan who is enjoying the day and pausing to take pictures. I volunteer to snap a few of him, using his camera, at various landmarks when we find ourselves together. Approaching the mile 17 Turkey Run aid station tireless Carolyn Gernand is crusing along. She took an early start to avoid cutoff worries. I thank her for being Race Director of the Andiamo and make her promise to lead me along the Massanutten Mountain Trail some time soon.

Various aid stations offer humorous challenges that runners can perform to earn time subtractions from their race result. I try and fail to hula-hoop, try and fail to throw lawn darts into a target ring, and don't even try to do push-ups or dare a bite of mystery-meat (Spam?). "Sorry," I declare, "I'm a vegetarian!"

Before my face-first fall into Pimmit Run, near mile 19 I slip on wet rocks fording Dead Run and tumble backwards. Fortunately the PHT 50k is a "Fat Ass" race, and my ample qualifications in that department help cushion the impact. During my second visit to the Chain Bridge aid station I see ever-cheerful Gary Knipling and mug with him for Doug's camera. Gary has achilles tendon issues today and sensibly is finishing his race early.

The final half-dozen miles for me are solo, with considerable walking of hills and sporadic pauses to figure out where the course has gone and why I'm not on it. I manage to avoid major mistakes until the final stretch, when I overshoot Woodley Road and continue on for a few blocks of bonus distance on 29th Street. Local pedestrians direct me back to the finish line; I only lose a couple of minutes.

I sign myself out at 7 hours 45 minutes on the honor-system log sheet, ~40 minutes faster than in 2007. I feel fine, but later in the evening when I try to sit cross-legged on the bed I get a sudden twinge in the left metatarsal bones behind the lesser toes. Probably nothing serious, but when it recurs on Monday morning during a walk to the Metro I take the excellent advice of good running friends and go in to the doctor to have it looked at. The pains don't recur, and nothing shows on x-ray: apparently it's simply bruising or bone misalignment, not a stress fracture. Whew!

Timing Information

location miles 2009 time split 2007 time split
Aid Station #1 - Battery-Kemble Park, DC ~4.71:061:061:011:01
Aid Station #2 - Teddy Roosevelt Island parking lot ~8.61:540:481:520:51
Aid Station #3 - Chain Bridge ~12.53:031:093:041:12
Aid Station #4 - Turkey Run Park ~17.04:091:064:191:15
American Legion Bridge (turnaround)~18.54:390:304:450:26
Aid Station #4 - Turkey Run (returning)~20.05:100:315:130:28
Aid Station #3 - Chain Bridge (returning)~24.56:141:046:321:19
Finish - Woodley Park, DC (Kerry Owens's home)~31.17:451:318:271:55

Kudos to the race organizers and volunteers!

(cf. official results and Potomac Heritage 50k 2007 (2007-11-04), ...)

- Thursday, November 05, 2009 at 06:16:57 (EST)

Making Hay

In the preface to the 1997 edition of his 1986 book Making Hay Verlyn Klinkenborg reminisces:

When I think of Making Hay, I think mainly of two things. I think of sitting in that small white room, learning to write, learning to attend to the specific gravity of words, to the wave-like energy that pulses through sentences, its rhythms shoaling and deepening, always in flux. And I think of driving along a gravel road in northwestern Iowa, learning to breathe again. The road marked a north/south crest in the landscape, like the edge of a moraine. Out the passenger window, to the east, Iowa held itself steady, level, a succession of townships receding in strict perspective toward the counties where I had grown up. But out the driver's-side window, the earth crumpled and fell away into a shallow river valley and climbed again. I was driving across what passes for upland in northwestern Iowa—not the Grant Wood hills, the erotic mounds and protuberances of eastern Iowa, but a rising shelf of soils upon which farmers wait, exposed, for the weather blowing in from the arid spaces to the west where cornfields turn to prarie and prarie turns to badlands and rimrock. A thunderstorm had just crowded past, and the air had been scoured clean. Water stood in the road, but the sun was already burning in a blue sky. The time was early June. The scent was of alfalfa.

The poetic language continues throughout Making Hay, a deceptively simple book about a deceptively simple concept: cutting and drying and storing plants to feed animals. There are gritty moments of farm life, as in the Chapter 6 explanation of what it means to "heifer" a steer. There are comic moments, as when city boy Verlyn gets a flat tire on the tractor he's driving. And there are rhapsodic moments, as in Chapter 12 when the author is riding out to the field on the fender of a tractor driven by his uncle Elmore Jack Klinkenborg:

The day ascends into beauty. For some reason the first line of a George Herbert poem comes to mind: "Rise Heart, thy Lord is risen." The eastern sun has not warmed this field. Cool, dense air, dark in shadow, clings to it. A slender fringe of unmowed grass skirts the fenceline and catches the wind in its heads. Beyond the shaded field, the landscape lies open to light like a body of water. A pickup skims along the gravel road that borders the field on the norht, for a moment raising a rattle of stones and a tail of lucent dust. Two miles to the northwest lies Everon's place, and Janelle and Louie's to the northwest farther still. Due west two miles sits Edna, a hamlet. Beneath my seat, a great tire turns like a waterwheel, churning dew into light. From under the oaks of the grove I see penumbral country all around.

(cf. What We Know (2006-08-15), Full Moon Metaphors (2007-10-29), Verlyn Klinkenborg (2008-07-11), Let It Snow (2008-07-25), Abject Reptile (2008-07-29), Rural Life (2009-08-26), ...)

- Wednesday, November 04, 2009 at 04:37:08 (EST)

Nighttime Hallucinations

In Chapter 70 of The Old Curiosity Shop Charles Dickens vividly describes the same nightmarish visions that many ultrarunners report seeing during overnight odysseys on the trail:

Shading his eyes from the falling snow, which froze upon their lashes and obscured his sight, Kit often tried to catch the earliest glimpse of twinkling lights, denoting their approach to some not distant town. He could descry objects enough at such times, but none correctly. Now, a tall church spire appeared in view, which presently became a tree, a barn, a shadow on the ground, thrown on it by their own bright lamps. Now, there were horsemen, foot-passengers, carriages, going on before, or meeting them in narrow ways; which, when they were close upon them, turned to shadows too. A wall, a ruin, a sturdy gable end, would rise up in the road; and, when they were plunging headlong at it, would be the road itself. Strange turnings too, bridges, and sheets of water, appeared to start up here and there, making the way doubtful and uncertain; and yet they were on the same bare road, and these things, like the others, as they were passed, turned into dim illusions.

- Tuesday, November 03, 2009 at 04:37:41 (EST)

Personal Best

The 1982 movie Personal Best didn't age well. It was ostensibly about elite women's track and field competition, but recently viewing it again makes it clear that the real focus was on women's bodies (plus a wee bit of male nudity). Athletes in Personal Best spend most of their time carousing, drinking, taking drugs, and fighting with one another. Actual competition is an excuse for artsy slow-motion rapid-cut photographic effects. Quite a contrast with the sports films Without Limits or The Long Run. Not even close to the documentaries Running on the Sun, A Race for the Soul, or The Runner.

- Monday, November 02, 2009 at 05:05:08 (EST)

Unselfing Again

From the chapter "Selfing" in Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

The elusive nature of a concrete, permanent, unchanging self is quite a hopeful observation. It means that you can stop taking yourself so damn seriously and get out from under the pressures of having the details of your personal life be central to the operating of the universe. By recognizing and letting go of selfing impulses, we accord the universe a little more room to make things happen. Since we are folded into the universe and participate in its unfolding, it will defer in the face of too much self-centered, self-indulgent, self-critical, self-insecure, self-anxious activity on our part, and arrange for the dream world of our self-oriented thinking to look and feel only too real.

(cf. FreedomEvolves (2003-07-03), Unselfing (2009-01-14), ...)

- Sunday, November 01, 2009 at 06:13:06 (EST)

When the Air Hits Your Brain

Frank Vertosick's memoir When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales of Neurosurgery is fast, funny, and fascinating—as well as gritty, gruesome, and gross. It's his story of learning to be a brain surgeon and some of the cases he saw during his residency years. From the first chapter ("The Rules of the Game"), the five rules that a senior resident told him when he began his assignment:

1. You ain't never the same when the air hits your brain. Yes, the good Lord bricked that sucker in pretty good, and for a reason. We're not supposed to play with it. The brain is sorta like a '66 Cadillac. You had to drop the engine in that thing just to change all eight spark plugs. It was built for performance, not for easy servicing. ...

2. The only minor operation is one that someone else is doing. If you're doing it, it's major. ...

3. If the patient isn't dead, you can always make him worse if you try hard enough. ...

4. One look at the patient is better than a thousand phone calls from a nurse when you're trying to figure out why someone is going to [expletive deleted]. ...

5. Operating on the wrong patient or doing the wrong side of the body makes for a very bad day ...

In between anecdotes of skulls sawed open and oozing brain tissue, Vertosick offers wise thoughts on how to handle stress and crisis. He describes how he emerged from depression after his first major failure, a delicate aneurysm operation that went sour. (Chapter 11, "Nightmares, Past and Future") It's a failure that killed a patient. But as his senior colleague tells him when he's thinking about quitting the profession:

You didn't make his aneurysm bleed ... his wife did. And his hypertension, years and years of hypertension—he was no doubt too [expletive deleted] busy to see a doctor about it, too. You didn't kill him; you were just asked to step in and prevent him from dying on his own ... and you couldn't. Yeah. Thor Sundt wasn't there, but Thor Sundt can't do every aneurysm in the country. And I'm sure Thor Sundt has torn a few aneurysms in his lifetime, great as he is—you think he came into this world with a clip applier in his right hand? There will always be people better than you and worse than you. If you worry about not being as good as someone else, why don't you just give up every case right now? Just set up a phone hot line and sit in an office and match people with the very best surgeons in the whole universe. No point in cursing humanity with your own sorry skills, is there? C'mon! Quit feeling sorry for yourself and do the best you can with those who ask for your help. ...

Vertosick is wrong, I think, in his discussion of evolution and death (Chapter 12, "The Wheel of Life"). But he's so right in so many other places that one can excuse his occasional literary license. Brain surgery is like trail running and child rearing and lots of other areas in real life. Messy stuff happens. As Vertosick's friend tells him, "Yeah, it's a nightmare, but that's neurosurgery. Land of nightmares. There are plenty more nightmares in your future. ... Clip the aneurysms and take what happens." Good advice.

(cf. MoveOn (2007-01-16), SolveTheProblem (2007-05-24), ...)

- Saturday, October 31, 2009 at 12:53:43 (EDT)

2009-10-25 - Marine Corps Marathon 2009

26.2 miles @ 10.15 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MCM2009/kate_z_MCM_2009_1.jpg"Kate," I ask as we pass the White House, "is this the right time for me to say, 'You need to run from your heart'? Or should I wait until mile 20?"

"If you say that to me at mile 20," she replies, "I'll push you off the bridge!"

Kate Abbott and I are doing the 47th annual Marine Corps Marathon together, along with 21,000 of our closest friends. The cliché "You need to [X] from your heart!" has become a humorous mantra around Kate's household recently.

The MCM turns out OK for Kate and me, though we don't make our goal of running sub-10 minute miles the whole way. I finish in a Personal Best, 4:25:30, slicing ~5 minutes off my previous marathon time (2009-02-15 - Washington Birthday Marathon). Kate sets a Personal Worst for the MCM, coming in ~4 minutes behind me.

But no worries: for both of us today is only a training run for future ultramarathons. We do the first 20 miles together. Then Kate tells me she feels sick and asks me to run ahead. Has she simply had enough of my bad jokes?

(photo by Bobby Gill)

After tasting the MCM in 2002 for my first marathon (see Bless the Leathernecks & MarineCorpsOrdnance), and trying another helping in 2004 (see MarineCorpsMarathon2004) I swear off mega-races with their crowds and expense (see ThePowerOfSmallNumbers). Then kind comrade CM Manlandro tells me that her comrade Deb O'Connell is ill and wishes to transfer her MCM entry to another local runner. I dither a few minutes, then ask, and am delighted (and terrified) when Deb says, "Yes!" The MCM isn't on my ill-conceived 2009 Summer-Fall Tentative Race Calendar. It falls only a fortnight after the 44.5 mile Andiamo and a week before the Potomac Heritage 50k. But whoever said I was rational?

On Sunday morning Kate Abbott and her fast young friend Jorge Lugo meet me at 0645 in the Arlington Cemetery Metro station, close to the MCM starting line. We hang a while there, then head out. Abruptly the escalator stops moving as we're riding it up to the surface—an ominous sign? But hey, anybody who wants to run 26.2 miles should be able to climb a few stairs!

Jorge moves toward the faster runners' corral (he goes on to finish nicely in 3:55:04) while Kate and I stand in line for the porta-johns, then sit on the grass near the sign for our 4:15-4:30 cohort. As race time looms we discard outer garments (to be collected for charity) and climb over the spectator barrier into the swarm of competitors. We chat and chatter in the chill until shortly after 8am when a howitzer fires to mark the start.

Then we wait ... and wait ... and several minutes later, begin a shuffle. Nine minutes post-gun we accelerate to a jog across the chip sensors under the inflated arch that marks Mile Zero. I text a message to Twitter, which auto-forwards to Facebook so friends online can track my progress.

(photo by Ken Trombatore)


Thick clots of folks who should have started farther back hamper Kate and me; we're 10+ for the first three miles. But that's OK; we'll need the energy later. After 31:26 for the initial 5k we accelerate, modulo hills and aid stations. During the eighth mile, heading into Georgetown, Kate's sharp eyes spy Ken Swab and Wayne Carson just ahead. We banter as we pass. At the halfway mark, near the end of Hains Point, we're within seconds of 10 min/mi. My MCRRC "Welcome to the Dark Side" shirt from the 2006 JFK 50 miler provokes good conversations with nearby runners.

As Kate and I approach mile 20 people on the side of the road are holding up placards. One cardboard poster is partially obscured by massed humanity in front of it, so all we can see is:


"Does that really say "YOU SUCK!?", I ask a woman running near me.

"It sure looks like that to me!" she replies. Then the crowd parts and we can see that the sign actually reads, "YOU ROCK!" Whew!

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MCM2009/z_MCM_2009.jpgAs we begin the 14th Street Bridge crossing of the Potomac River, mile 20, Kate orders me to run onward. Fearful of her wrath (and averse to a swim) I obey, and manage to push out my fastest mile of the day, a 9:06. A sip of beer from Hash Harriers at mile 22 tastes great. As the course hairpin-loops back upon itself near mile 23 I look in vain for Kate; as it turns out, she's still too close behind me. I spot Ken Swab running smoothly along; we shout encouragement at one another.

Now I'm starting to smell the finish line. (It's not all that smells: my deodorant failed long ago.) Running now feels hard but good. When I take a short walk break, my left metatarsals twinge sharp enough to make me think "Stress Fracture", but as soon as I recommence running the pain vanishes. A clue that celerity is now needed!

Miles 25 and 26 both are at the sub-10 pace that I had fantasized before the day began. I consult my watch and, thanks to faulty mental arithmetic, imagine that I can finish in under 4:25. Alas, that is not to be—but at least I'm making an honorable charge up the final hill to the Iwo Jima Memorial finish line, unlike in past MCMs.

(photo by Ken Trombatore)

Insane crowds surround the finish area and although Kate is near I never see her. My phone has stopped working for voice calls, which I first blame on cell overload but eventually realize is damage. Perhaps it's due to sweat or jostling during the race, when I carry the phone tucked into Kate's discarded neoprene ankle brace that I wear stylishly on one wrist. I exchange text messages with Robin and report that I'm walking an extra mile uphill to the Courthouse Metro stop, since Rosslyn is packed solid with humanity.

My journey home is uneventful, aluminized mylar space-blanket wrapped across my shoulders toga fashion. I chat with a triathlon runner on the train, then walk home from the local station. No blisters, minimal soreness: I can easily walk down stairs the next day. I lose ~4 lbs. during the race, but alas it all comes back with interest after a few days.

Is another Marine Corps Marathon in my future? Or any other race with thousands of participants? Never again! ... at least, not until a friend needs company.

Raw Data

During the MCM Twitter and Facebook updates work well. I pre-compose and store in my phone four minimalistic text messages which arrive timestamped within a fraction of a minute:

The day before the race I subscribe Gray and Robin to chip-sensor text-message runner-progress updates from the MCM itself. Gray never receives any. Robin gets only about half of them, typically delayed by 40 minutes. Perhaps the system is overloaded, as it seemed to be in previous years.

Post-race numbers from the official web site for me:

Finish Time: 4:25:30
Overall Place: 8513
Gender Place: 6081
Division Place: 177
Pace: 10:09
5K: 31:26
10 K: 1:02:36
15 K: 1:33:47
20 K: 2:04:41
Half: 2:11:43
25 K: 2:36:21
30 K: 3:08:44
35 K: 3:40:14
40 K: 4:12:22

Timing information from my watch, based on mile markers:

mile time split

- Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 21:50:05 (EDT)

Morning Glory

In Walden (the chapter "What I Lived For") Henry David Thoreau meditates on the nobility of morning and what it means, metaphorically (and literally) to be truly awake:

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself. I have been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks. I got up early and bathed in the pond; that was a religious exercise, and one of the best things which I did. They say that characters were engraven on the bathing tub of King Tchingthang to this effect: "Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again." I can understand that. Morning brings back the heroic ages. I was as much affected by the faint hum of a mosquito making its invisible and unimaginable tour through my apartment at earliest dawn, when I was sitting with door and windows open, as I could be by any trumpet that ever sang of fame. It was Homer's requiem; itself an Iliad and Odyssey in the air, singing its own wrath and wanderings. There was something cosmical about it; a standing advertisement, till forbidden, of the everlasting vigor and fertility of the world. The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night. Little is to be expected of that day, if it can be called a day, to which we are not awakened by our Genius, but by the mechanical nudgings of some servitor, are not awakened by our own newly acquired force and aspirations from within, accompanied by the undulations of celestial music, instead of factory bells, and a fragrance filling the air—to a higher life than we fell asleep from; and thus the darkness bear its fruit, and prove itself to be good, no less than the light. That man who does not believe that each day contains an earlier, more sacred, and auroral hour than he has yet profaned, has despaired of life, and is pursuing a descending and darkening way. After a partial cessation of his sensuous life, the soul of man, or its organs rather, are reinvigorated each day, and his Genius tries again what noble life it can make. All memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere. The Vedas say, "All intelligences awake with the morning." Poetry and art, and the fairest and most memorable of the actions of men, date from such an hour. All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise. To him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning. It matters not what the clocks say or the attitudes and labors of men. Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me. Moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep. Why is it that men give so poor an account of their day if they have not been slumbering? They are not such poor calculators. If they had not been overcome with drowsiness, they would have performed something. The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ...

But then again, maybe morning is more glorious to a lark (aka "morning person") than to an owl ("night person") ...

- Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 04:54:56 (EDT)

LISP Lover

I'm a LISP lover: for decades now the classic programming language LISP has thoroughly enchanted me. It's so simple, so pure, so powerful, that it has to be a source of deep magic. Why isn't it more popular? Why hasn't it taken over the world?

Paul Graham is a LISP lover who asks the same questions, and writes articulately in his 2001 article "Being Popular" about how LISP could still become a winner. (Richard Gabriel perhaps anticipated and answered him in "Worse Is Better", in 1989—but no matter.) Graham is a charming essayist, and "Being Popular" sparkles with wit, e.g.:

A really good language should be both clean and dirty: cleanly designed, with a small core of well understood and highly orthogonal operators, but dirty in the sense that it lets hackers have their way with it. C is like this. So were the early Lisps. A real hacker's language will always have a slightly raffish character.

Graham talks about general social issues of innovation, as in:

Inventors of wonderful new things are often surprised to discover this, but you need time to get any message through to people. A friend of mine rarely does anything the first time someone asks him. He knows that people sometimes ask for things that they turn out not to want. To avoid wasting his time, he waits till the third or fourth time he's asked to do something; by then, whoever's asking him may be fairly annoyed, but at least they probably really do want whatever they're asking for.

Most people have learned to do a similar sort of filtering on new things they hear about. They don't even start paying attention until they've heard about something ten times. They're perfectly justified: the majority of hot new whatevers do turn out to be a waste of time, and eventually go away. ...

and concerning creative tension:

... You have to be optimistic about the possibility of solving the problem, but skeptical about the value of whatever solution you've got so far.

People who do good work often think that whatever they're working on is no good. Others see what they've done and are full of wonder, but the creator is full of worry. This pattern is no coincidence: it is the worry that made the work good.

If you can keep hope and worry balanced, they will drive a project forward the same way your two legs drive a bicycle forward. ...


It's tricky to keep the two forces balanced. In young hackers, optimism predominates. They produce something, are convinced it's great, and never improve it. In old hackers, skepticism predominates, and they won't even dare to take on ambitious projects.

On the topic of LISP itself, Graham quotes:

In "How to Become a Hacker," Eric Raymond describes Lisp as something like Latin or Greek—a language you should learn as an intellectual exercise, even though you won't actually use it: "Lisp is worth learning for the profound enlightenment experience you will have when you finally get it; that experience will make you a better programmer for the rest of your days, even if you never actually use Lisp itself a lot."

So will LISP ever "catch fire"? Maybe not, and maybe that's OK.

(cf. CrystalsMudAndLife (1999-04-19), MudAndCrystals (1999-11-13), PersonalComputerHistory (2002-02-25), PersonalProgrammingHistory (2002-04-02), DreamSongs (2004-02-12), ...)

- Monday, October 26, 2009 at 04:46:18 (EDT)

Gentle Foods

Before a big race I like to eat what I call "gentle" foods—things that won't come back to haunt me 20 miles later. A few examples:

Less good, based on actual experience:

- Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 04:18:05 (EDT)

Funny Vision

My eyes are strange. Since my teen years, at least, I've had a left eye that's nearsighted and a right eye that's normal-to-farsighted. This is inconvenient sometimes, since I don't have good depth perception (binocular vision) and thus have a hard time in a variety of games and activities. On the other hand this is convenient sometimes, since I generally don't need to wear glasses. I can read with the left eye and look at distant objects with the right.

But a few decades ago, when I went to a new optometrist, I got a different diagnosis. He measured my eyes using some of his odd devices and told me that I wasn't actually nearsighted on the left side, but had focal oddities. He gave me some glasses with a prismatic effect, that offset the angle at which each eye looked out. I tried them for a while but eventually gave them up since I couldn't learn to fuse the images without getting headaches. Besides the alignment problem, things looked too small through one eye and too big through the others.

But recently I was trying some experiments on myself and discovered that, maybe, that long-forgotten optometrist was onto something. When I try to tense up the muscles that I imagine focus the lens of my eyes, the left eye—which "should" become even more nearsighted—somehow produces a smaller but sharper image for distant objects. Screwing the eye up really tightly lets me read distant signs that are otherwise a blur. The phenomenon seems similar to what I see when I push on the eyeball (through a partially-closed eyelid), though that sharpening is less useful since the pressure soon results in a graying-out of vision. (Ouch!)

So maybe my problem isn't simple myopia in the left eye? Perhaps the lens isn't shaped properly to bring light to a uniform focus on the retina? I wish I could understand what's going on in detail.

By the way, my kids all seem to have a mirror-imaged problem: they're generally nearsighted in the right eye and have more-or-less normal vision in the left eye, opposite to my anomaly. Hmmm ...

- Saturday, October 24, 2009 at 07:39:31 (EDT)

Dusty Graves

In Chapter 54 of The Old Curiosity Shop Charles Dickens comments on "unvisited graves" in dialogue that correlates with George Eliot's conclusion to her novel Middlemarch:

'And do you think,' said the schoolmaster, marking the glance she had thrown around, 'that an unvisited grave, a withered tree, a faded flower or two, are tokens of forgetfulness or cold neglect? Do you think there are no deeds, far away from here, in which these dead may be best remembered? Nell, Nell, there may be people busy in the world, at this instant, in whose good actions and good thoughts these very graves—neglected as they look to us—are the chief instruments.'

'Tell me no more,' said the child quickly. 'Tell me no more. I feel, I know it. How could I be unmindful of it, when I thought of you?'

'There is nothing,' cried her friend, 'no, nothing innocent or good, that dies, and is forgotten. Let us hold to that faith, or none. An infant, a prattling child, dying in its cradle, will live again in the better thoughts of those who loved it, and will play its part, through them, in the redeeming actions of the world, though its body be burnt to ashes or drowned in the deepest sea. There is not an angel added to the Host of Heaven but does its blessed work on earth in those that loved it here. Forgotten! oh, if the good deeds of human creatures could be traced to their source, how beautiful would even death appear; for how much charity, mercy, and purified affection, would be seen to have their growth in dusty graves!'

- Friday, October 23, 2009 at 04:41:24 (EDT)

Earth Flyby Anomalies

A fascinating article appears in the October 2009 Physics Today magazine: "Earth flyby anomalies" by Michael M. Nieto and John D. Anderson. It's a lovely example of a real scientific mystery, an apparent violation of known physical laws, measured repeatedly and with great precision over the past two decades. When the orbits of solar system probes pass close by the Earth, getting a gravity-boost, some of them gain or lose a little extra energy, a few parts per million. Their outbound speeds disagree with predictions by a few thousandths of a mile per hour. Tiny, but significant, and not explainable by gravitational perturbations from the Sun or Moon or any other visible body.

What's up? Nieto and Anderson speculate that it could be: dark matter near the Earth; modifications to special relativity, general relativity, or inertia; strangeness in the speed of light; oddities in the gravitational field; or something else completely unknown. Maybe there are errors in the measurements, or in the computer models of the satellite orbits—but multiple independent groups have tested both. The authors conclude, "For now the anomalous energy changes observed in Earth flybys remain a puzzle. Are the result of imperfect understandings of conventional physics and experimental systems, or are they harbingers of exciting new physics?"

It's a perfect example of the big difference between "voodoo science" and genuine scientific inquiry: accurate and reproducible measurements, exposed to the world for verification, in close agreement with established facts but showing significant differences in detail. Probably the answer will turn out to be something ordinary, but there's a tiny chance we're glimpsing the first signs of a revolution—just as happened a century ago with new theories of electromagnetism, motion, gravity, and subatomic forces.

(cf. Earth Flyby Anomalies by Nieto & Anderson, The Puzzle of the Flyby Anomaly by Turyshev & Toth, ...)

- Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 06:56:16 (EDT)

Deepness in the Sky

Vernor Vinge's 1999 sf novel A Deepness in the Sky is a prequel to his 1993 tour de force A Fire Upon the Deep. It's a plot-driven romp reminiscent of Keith Laumer at his best (though without Laumer's tongue-in-cheek humor) and Hal Clement (though with less of a physical-science foundation). The aliens are entertainingly different, though not terribly "alien" in their psychology. The big theme—the evil of slavery—echoes Richard Adams's Shardik. Thoughtful, readable, distractingly improbable ... and far too much hang-by-a-thread save-the-universe by luck to be fully satisfying. But nevertheless, a fun read.

(cf. VernorVinge (2001-09-17), CountermeasureAndGodshatter (2004-10-30), ...)

- Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 04:43:07 (EDT)

Free Speech

Re the lack of politeness in modern political dialogue, a recent article in the Washington Post quotes George Washington:

... in a free and republican government, you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude. Every man will speak as he thinks, or more properly, without thinking.

Apparently things haven't been that different for (at least) centuries!

(from a letter by George Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette dated 1 September 1778, cited by [1] "In Today's Viral World, Who Keeps a Civil Tongue?" by Ann Gerhart; cf. Knowledge and Public Happiness (2003-07-29), ThyNameInVain (2004-03-26), ...)

- Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 04:48:42 (EDT)


Rebecca, the 1938 romantic suspense novel by Daphne du Maurier, is clever in its plot, lovely in its prose, fascinating in its characterization. The movie version, in contrast, is a disappointment. Alfred Hitchcock's style, especially the moody lighting and threatening shadows, is magnificent—but it didn't redeem the jumpiness that resulted from squeezing the 400+ page book into two hours. And how could any film match the poetic opening paragraphs?

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.

No smoke came from the chimney, and the little lattice windows gaped forlorn. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me. The drive wound away in front of me, twisting and turning as it had always done, but as I advanced I was aware that a change had come upon it; it was narrow and unkept, not the drive that we had known. At first I was puzzled and did not understand, and it was only when I bent my head to avoid the low swinging branch of a tree that I realised what had happened. Nature had come into her own again and, little by, little, in her stealthy, insidious way had encroached upon the drive with long tenacious fingers. The woods, always a menace even in the past, had triumphed in the end. They crowded, dark and uncontrolled, to the borders of the drive. The beeches with white, naked limbs leant close to one another, their branches intermingled in a strange embrace, making a vault above my head like the archway of a church. And there were other trees as well, trees that I did not recognise, squat oaks and tortured elms that straggled cheek by jowl with the beeches, and had thrust themselves out of the quiet earth, along with monster shrubs and plants, none of which I remembered.

The drive was a ribbon now, a thread of its former self, with gravel surface gone, and choked with grass and moss. The trees had thrown out low branches, making an impediment to progress; the gnarled roots looked like skeleton claws. Scattered here and again amongst this jungle growth I would recognise shrubs that had been landmarks in our time, things of culture and of grace, hydrangeas whose blue heads had been famous. No hand had checked their progress, and they had gone native now, rearing to monster height without a bloom, black and ugly as the nameless parasites that grew beside them.

Perhaps it was a mistake to try to watch the movie so soon after reading the book; it felt like a clumsy abridgment. Maybe in a few years ...

- Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 17:19:46 (EDT)

2009-10-17 - Chilly CCT

~10 miles @ ~12 min/mi

Brrrrr!! Frigid rain and wind numb my hands so much that I lose all strength and can't touch thumb to little finger for an hour, until a hot shower starts to thaw the tendons. It's the first cold day of the season. Double-layer shirts chafe my chest, thick socks are soaked, and skullcap cooks my head until I take it off after a mile.

But the run is fun, on the Capital Crescent Trail from Bethesda past Fletcher's Boathouse and back, 5:10-7:20am with Gayatri Datta. Before the alarm goes off at 3am I wake up, listen to the rain on the roof, and reset the alarm to 4am. Forget about the plan to run an extra 8 miles, to/from our start/finish. Instead I drive, and am thankful. After Gayatri and I do 10, Barry Smith meets us to accompany tireless Ms. G for another 10. I salute her.

Small world alert:

- Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 18:19:41 (EDT)

Dickensian Hell

In Chapter 45 of The Old Curiosity Shop Charles Dickens depicts a horrific vision that brings to mind the "dark satanic mills" of William Blake, or J. R. R. Tolkien's images of Isengard and Mordor:

A long suburb of red brick houses,—some with patches of garden-ground, where coal-dust and factory smoke darkened the shrinking leaves, and coarse rank flowers, and where the struggling vegetation sickened and sank under the hot breath of kiln and furnace, making them by its presence seem yet more blighting and unwholesome than in the town itself,—a long, flat, straggling suburb passed, they came, by slow degrees, upon a cheerless region, where not a blade of grass was seen to grow; where not a bud put forth its promise in the spring; where nothing green could live but on the surface of the stagnant pools, which here and there lay idly sweltering by the black road side.

Advancing more and more into the shadow of this mournful place, its dark depressing influence stole upon their spirits, and filled them with a dismal gloom. On every side, and far as the eye could see into the heavy distance, tall chimneys, crowding on each other, and presenting that endless repetition of the same dull, ugly form, which is the horror of oppressive dreams, poured out their plague of smoke, obscured the light, and made foul the melancholy air. On mounds of ashes by the wayside, sheltered only by a few rough boards, or rotten pent-house roofs, strange engines spun and writhed like tortured creatures; clanking their iron chains, shrieking in their rapid whirl from time to time as though in torment unendurable, and making the ground tremble with their agonies. Dismantled houses here and there appeared, tottering to the earth, propped up by fragments of others that had fallen down, unroofed, windowless, blackened, desolate, but yet inhabited. Men, women, children, wan in their looks and ragged in attire, tended the engines, fed their tributary fire, begged upon the road, or scowled half-naked from the doorless houses. Then came more of the wrathful monsters, whose like they almost seemed to be in their wildness and their untamed air, screeching and turning round and round again; and still, before, behind, and to the right and left, was the same interminable perspective of brick towers, never ceasing in their black vomit, blasting all things living or inanimate, shutting out the face of day, and closing in on all these horrors with a dense dark cloud.

But night-time in this dreadful spot!—night, when the smoke was changed to fire; when every chimney spirited up its flame; and places, that had been dark vaults all day, now shone red-hot, with figures moving to and fro within their blazing jaws, and calling to one another with hoarse cries—night, when the noise of every strange machine was aggravated by the darkness; when the people near them looked wilder and more savage; when bands of unemployed labourers paraded the roads, or clustered by torch-light round their leaders, who told them, in stern language, of their wrongs, and urged them on to frightful cries and threats; when maddened men, armed with sword and firebrand, spurning the tears and prayers of women who would restrain them, rushed forth on errands of terror and destruction, to work no ruin half so surely as their own—night, when carts came rumbling by, filled with rude coffins (for contagious disease and death had been busy with the living crops); when orphans cried, and distracted women shrieked and followed in their wake—night, when some called for bread, and some for drink to drown their cares, and some with tears, and some with staggering feet, and some with bloodshot eyes, went brooding home—night, which, unlike the night that Heaven sends on earth, brought with it no peace, nor quiet, nor signs of blessed sleep—who shall tell the terrors of the night to the young wandering child!

- Friday, October 16, 2009 at 04:41:59 (EDT)

One Transcend Suffices

If you figure out how to "jump out of the system" one time, is that enough to keep escaping at higher and higher levels?

For example:

But on the other hand: are there cases where the same trick that got you out of one level of the game won't get you any farther, and a radically new trick is needed to continue to move up in the hierarchy?

(cf. DoMeta (1999-05-08), InTheName (1999-08-19), OnSomethingness (2000-01-17), ThirdNormalForm (2004-02-28), HigherLevelLanguage (2007-08-17), ...)

- Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 05:03:22 (EDT)

2009-10-10 - Andiamo 2009

~44.5 miles @ ~10.7 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Andiamo_2009_pace.gifThe 2009 Andiamo 44.5 mile run turns out OK, as friend Caren Jew predicts. I clip an hour off my 2008 Andiamo time and manage to tweet along the way, meet a bunch of fine people, and experience what it feels like to work really hard for the last several miles. My 6th place finish this year is the same position as in the 2008 results.

The goal today is to see if I can maintain a slightly sub-11 minute per mile pace and thereby finish in under 8 hours. After a deliberately deliberate start, including considerable conversation with other runners, between miles ~7 and ~38 (W&OD markers ~37 to ~6) I trot along mostly by myself. On the hours I take an energy gel, and on the half-hours a Succeed! e-cap. At aid stations I refill bottles and snag cookies and chips to nibble. Between, I sip water and electrolyte drinks. Comrade Kate Abbott phones encouragement, then meets me at W&OD mile 16.8 with a welcome gift of cheese curls and Dr. Pepper (tnx Kate!).

All's well until with less than 10 miles to go the wheels threaten to fall off: glowing visual disturbances make it hard to see when the trail goes under bridges (an ocular migraine phenomenon?); legs turn to concrete; walk breaks get longer and more frequent. I've run out of energy gels, so I tear open a packet of peanut butter that my brother sent me (tnx Keith!) and wash it down with the last of my water. I try to watch my breath, meditation-fashion, and push onward, pausing carefully at street crossings to avoid getting hit by cars.

Finally the last little hill comes into sight. I crawl up it but start running before the top, so Race Director Carolyn Gernand and others waiting there won't catch me walking. Happy ending! — 7:55:25 by my watch, 7:55:51 on the official clock.

Gory Details

Runners park in Shirlington at Mile 0 of the W&OD trail—the finish line—and at 5:45am climb into cars for the hour-long ride to the end of the path in Purcellville, mile 44.5. Others meet us there, including Debbie Casola's training group who set off at 7:15am on their 24-mile trek. I eat a mini-bagel and drink several cups of fruit juice to pre-hydrate, and then scarf down a Snickers candy bar for good measure.

At 0731 the Andiamo racers line up for RD Carolyn Gernand to launch us on our way. I'm carrying my cellphone and send in mini-updates to Twitter and thereby Facebook en route. The story, expanded from those tweets, with pace information from my watch:

time split comments
44.50:00:00---tweet: GO!! - ominous clouds - tailwind - 14 starters :-)
43.50:12:2812:28Everyone dashes off as Lou Jones and I fight for the honor of Last Place (aka DFL). We met long ago at the 2008-01-01 - Red Eye 50k, and ran together here at last year's Andiamo. I tell him I remember him as a geodesist, another of those exotic words that appeal to me so much.
430:17:295:01Lou slows and I trot ahead to catch up with Rob Daley, who tells me that he's training for his first 100 miler on Halloween—the Javelina Jundred in Arizona.
420:27:3310:03I tell Rob about Marathon & Beyond magazine and the excellent article in it (cf. SolveTheProblem) that I remember seeing a couple of years ago concerning the Javelina race.
410:38:3411:01Rob takes a walk break and I trek ahead to catch Niki Evans and John Acker, whom I met halfway through last year's Andiamo. Then, they had never done more than a half-marathon; now they're experienced ultrarunners who know how to pace themselves. We discuss their backpack hydration systems. I just bought myself one, but haven't tried using it yet.
400:50:4012:06tweet: Caught up with Rob & Niki & John - chipmunk crosses trail at sunrise
391:01:2810:48Veteran James Moore appears ahead; with his friend Rebecca (volunteering today) he rode with me to the starting line. James asks about Kate and sends his regards to her.
381:12:4411:16James and other runners pause at the first aid station, where the trail crosses Route 7. I do a quick grab-and-go and zip onward.
371:22:2509:41A gently downhill segment lets me blitz out the fastest mile of the day. When I see my watch, I admonish myself to slow down.
361:32:4310:17Clouds remain thick; intermittent drizzle falls.
351:43:0210:20My quads feel a bit tight, perhaps the aftermath of too-hard running last Sunday (2009-10-04 - Artemesia Tempo Trot).
332:04:1721:41I miss seeing milepost 34 as the trail passes through Leesburg.
322:14:3010:14Increasing numbers of other runners appear, and for a while I follow a young lady and her cyclist companion.
312:24:4510:15An stone abutment stands by the trail near mile 31.2; instead giving it a slap, I brush my lips against it for luck. I don't want to hit The Wall this year!
302:34:4009:54tweet: Sticky fingers and beard from gel - pause to kiss old stone wall mile 31 - tight quads
292:45:1610:36At the quarry overlook I catch up with Debbie and her "Casola Cruisers". One of them does a little dance, stretching her legs as she waits for the rest to get started again.
282:55:5810:42The path straightens out through Ashburn. Flattened snakes lie on the path, roadkill from cyclist traffic.
273:06:0710:09Kate phones to check on my progress.
263:16:1110:04Two does eye me from a nearby field.
253:26:1410:03More cyclists zip past, some in peletons that occupy two-thirds of the width of the trail.
243:37:2511:12Another welcome aid station, near the MINI Cooper dealership where we bought my wife's car five years ago, and where I began and ended several training runs.
233:48:0010:35Rob Dolan emerges with his dog Ashley from a neighborhood side trail and runs a bit with me. He finished the Grindstone 100 miler last week—wow!
223:58:2810:28I catch up with Debbie again and we run together.
214:09:0310:35Debbie races ahead to the end of her group's run.
204:19:3110:28tweet: 2 deer - flat snakes - kind Kate calls - Debbie C & Rob Dolan & dog Ashley run with me - rain
194:29:5310:21The route here in Herndon becomes more familiar, from past training runs with Mary Ewell and others.
184:40:0910:16I pass the parking lot where Kate Abbott and I met before our first run together, training for her first ultramarathon last year (2008-09-26 - WOD Marathon Run).
174:50:3710:28She has Sanskrit on her shirt! Yogini Kate meets me during her lunch break to cheer me onward, with a gift of Dr. Pepper and cheese curls. I partially refill my bottle, seize a handful, and enjoy orange-tinged fingers.
165:01:3010:52Kate's appearance re-energizes the bunny who blasts outfast—yes, too fast—for the next few miles.
155:11:4510:16Alas, the water fountain at Sunset Hills Rd is dysfunctional again this year, just as it was for the 2008 Andiamo. I regret not having taken Kate's entire bottle of DP when she offered it to me.
145:22:2110:36My water supply runs out, as it did here last year. This time, however, I know how far it is to Vienna, and know I can make it.
135:32:4710:25Alone now with the power lines and the brush, I'm thankful that today is cooler and cloudier than last year.
125:43:5811:11tweet: lovely valkyrie Kate takes break from yoga class - meets me at Wiehle Av with Dr Pepper & cheese curls - WOOT!(note: this describes events 4+ miles earlier)
115:55:2211:25I refill my water bottles at the fountain near the Vienna caboose.
106:05:5910:36Charlie Mercer emerges from a side path, where he visited a Vienna antique store. We run together for a while, then I have to slow and walk a bit.
96:17:1211:13Charlie reappears to visit some more with me at intervals. He seems to have a lot of speed still left in his legs, though he tells me that they've "turned to concrete", a metaphor that definitely applies to mine. We get some welcome aid from a kind VHTRC volunteer who lives next to the trail here. Charlie races on.
86:27:3410:22"Cool beard!" a kid on a bicycle compliments me.
66:48:0620:32I miss milepost 7, and definitely am feeling the distance at this point.
57:00:1012:05The big job now is to keep moving and not fall down. A 12 min/mi pace would let me finish barely under 8 hours, but I force myself to maintain an 11 min/mi pace to build up a time cushion.
47:10:5510:44The trail winds and forks here, so I have to concentrate and avoid taking a wrong turn—there's not much time to spare! Charlie is far out of sight now.
37:22:1711:22Increasing numbers of street crossings make me pause for lights to change at crosswalks.
27:32:5310:36Almost there, I find myself wishing I had the energy reserves to blast out the final miles like last year—but there's scant gas left in the tank.
17:44:1511:22Walk, jog, walk, jog, ...
07:55:2511:10tweet: FINISH LINE!!! - OFFICIAL TIME 7:55:51 - last 5 miles were TOUGH!

- Monday, October 12, 2009 at 19:29:30 (EDT)

Word Up

Another word for the word collection: "Word". The other day I saw a listserv message, on a thread about indigestion in trail running, agreeing with a prior posting. It simply consisted of:

As the ultra-cool hippie mountain biker boys I know would say ...


I can't remember hearing "Word" before, but RadRob tells me it's not that uncommon. Online sources say it means "Yes", "Right on", etc.

- Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 13:57:27 (EDT)

Personal Transmission

How important is the "personal transmission" of some concepts? The topic seems to come up quite a bit in religions, e.g., Zen Buddhism where the phrase "... a direct transmission outside the scriptures" is part of the high-level description. When does that turn into a cult of personality, or a self-fulfilling prophecy that ensures jobs for teachers and gurus and coaches and the like?

Or are there some things that just can't be properly learned from books, or discovered by oneself, and that therefore require a personal touch from a teacher?

- Friday, October 09, 2009 at 05:10:42 (EDT)

2009-10-04 - Artemesia Tempo Trot

~11 miles @ ~8.8 min/mi

Orange-brown fuzzy caterpillars creep across the pavement as I slosh around Lake Artemesia, a pair of water bottles on my belt. Son and daughter ride with me to UM. At 12:30pm in a parking lot near the engineering building our paths diverge. I canter down Paint Branch Trail to the lake, debating whether to do 6 or 9 circuits of the ~1.35 mile course. My pace answers: I start off too fast for the longer choice. Walkers and cyclists return nods as we meet. Christina phones to report on her Army 10 Miler this morning. Laps are fairly consistent (11:39 + 12:01 + 11:46 + 11:41 + 11:43 + 11:38), comfortably brisk at ~8.7 min/mi. The final mile back up PBT past the bamboo grove is a blitz 8:24. Then Robin lets me into the mechanical engineering student lounge where I buy a soda, chips, and candy. I phone Ken and CM to learn how the Wineglass Marathon went for them. My quads are sore for the next few days.

- Thursday, October 08, 2009 at 04:39:47 (EDT)


Another one of those strangely captivating words: "bespoke". It means custom-made, and especially applies to clothing that is specially tailored to an individual's order, not made from a pattern or modified from something pre-built. Besides clothing, bespoke can be used to describe any custom-made object or system. As [1] notes, it "... looks rather strange, because it's an adjective formed from the past tense of the verb bespeak ..." which itself is rather obscure. All I know is, I like it!

(cf. PhysicsWords (2001-10-22), FascinatingWords (2001-12-02), ConfoundedConflation (2007-12-18), ...)

- Wednesday, October 07, 2009 at 04:55:08 (EDT)

Out of Shape

From the chapter "Odysseus and the Blind Seer" in Coming to Our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

The fact of the matter is that it is not so easy to come to our senses without practice. And as a rule, we are colossally out of practice. We are out of shape when it comes to our senses. We are out of shape when it comes to recognizing our relationship with those aspects of body and mind that partake of the senses, are co-extensive with the senses, are informed by the senses, and are shaped by them. In other words, we are colossally out of shape when it comes to perception and awareness, whether oriented outwardly or inwardly, or both. We get back in shape by exercising our faculties for paying attention over and over again. And what grows stronger and more robust and flexible through such workouts, often in the face of considerable resistance from within our own mind, is a lot more interesting than a bicep.

(The term "Blind Seer" is itself a wonderful phrase! cf. [1] for background about the Greek legend of Tiresias ...)

- Tuesday, October 06, 2009 at 04:52:02 (EDT)

2009-10-03 - Bunnies on the CCT

~18 miles @ ~12 min/mi

As we're entering the Wisconsin Av tunnel Sara Crum makes the mistake of mentioning that she rides horses. I commence a monologue on the subject of how the discovery in the 1890s of the optimal way for jockeys to crouch (cf. [1]) increased horse speeds by 5% within a decade. Fortunately for all I manage to stop myself within a few minutes.

It's a cool but hyper-humid morning as I leave home at 4:01am and jog ~4 miles on the Capital Crescent Trail to downtown Bethesda. A rabbit scampers away from my headlamp's glow as I'm crossing the Columbia Country Club segment of the path. Then another one darts out and swerves back to dive under the fence. Gayatri Datta is perfectly on time like last week (2009-09-26 - CCT RCT Loop Plus) and shortly after 5am we're heading south on the CCT.

Two more rabbits race away from us in the first mile. We discuss family and I try to learn the names of Gayatri's sons (Rahul, Arup, and Shomik). At Fletcher's Boathouse we pause to powder our noses and I phone Sara who is already on her way to Bethesda from her home in McLean. Gayatri and I turn back at CCT milepost 8.5 and peer ahead in the gloom in anticipation of seeing Sara. After several mistaken-identity cases it's light enough for me to turn off my light, and near mile marker 5.5 Gayatri recognizes Sara's silhouette and running style approaching.

As the sun rises two more rabbits race across the trail ahead of the three of us. I try to learn Sara's sons' names (Tyler and Wade) and we joke about how poor memory becomes during a run. Back at the Bethesda parking lot now herds of runners are gathering for group training jogs. I greet Jim Farkas and others that know me better than I know them. After a car stop to refuel we go eastward across the high trestle and I continue straight as Gayatri and Sara branch to the Rock Creek Trail. The new shoes I bought last Sunday at the RnJ Sports half-price room—Brooks "Trance" size 12-D—feel like wings on my feet. Most of the run today has averaged ~11 min/mi, including break times, but after 17 slow miles I blast out a final mile home in 8:23.

- Monday, October 05, 2009 at 04:59:18 (EDT)

Common & Rare

From Chapter 19 of The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens, a hilarious carnival-talk explanation of why rare things are so valuable, and how to keep them so:

'How's the Giant?' said Short, when they all sat smoking round the fire.

'Rather weak upon his legs,' returned Mr. Vuffin. 'I begin to be afraid he's going at the knees.'

'That's a bad look-out,' said Short.

'Aye! Bad indeed,' replied Mr. Vuffin, contemplating the fire with a sigh. 'Once get a giant shaky on his legs, and the public care no more about him than they do for a dead cabbage stalk.'

'What becomes of old giants?' said Short, turning to him again after a little reflection.

'They're usually kept in carawans to wait upon the dwarfs,' said Mr. Vuffin.

'The maintaining of 'em must come expensive, when they can't be shown, eh?' remarked Short, eyeing him doubtfully.

'It's better that, than letting 'em go upon the parish or about the streets,' said Mr. Vuffin. 'Once make a giant common and giants will never draw again. Look at wooden legs. If there was only one man with a wooden leg what a property he'd be!'

'So he would!' observed the landlord and Short both together. 'That's very true.'

'Instead of which,' pursued Mr. Vuffin, 'if you was to advertise Shakspeare played entirely by wooden legs,' it's my belief you wouldn't draw a sixpence.'

'I don't suppose you would,' said Short. And the landlord said so too.

'This shows, you see,' said Mr. Vuffin, waving his pipe with an argumentative air, 'this shows the policy of keeping the used-up giants still in the carawans, where they get food and lodging for nothing, all their lives, and in general very glad they are to stop there. There was one giant—a black 'un—as left his carawan some year ago and took to carrying coach-bills about London, making himself as cheap as crossing-sweepers. He died. I make no insinuation against anybody in particular,' said Mr. Vuffin, looking solemnly round, 'but he was ruining the trade;—and he died.'

The landlord drew his breath hard, and looked at the owner of the dogs, who nodded and said gruffly that he remembered.

'I know you do, Jerry,' said Mr. Vuffin with profound meaning. 'I know you remember it, Jerry, and the universal opinion was, that it served him right. Why, I remember the time when old Maunders as had three-and-twenty wans—I remember the time when old Maunders had in his cottage in Spa Fields in the winter time, when the season was over, eight male and female dwarfs setting down to dinner every day, who was waited on by eight old giants in green coats, red smalls, blue cotton stockings, and high-lows: and there was one dwarf as had grown elderly and wicious who whenever his giant wasn't quick enough to please him, used to stick pins in his legs, not being able to reach up any higher. I know that's a fact, for Maunders told it me himself.'

'What about the dwarfs when they get old?' inquired the landlord.

'The older a dwarf is, the better worth he is,' returned Mr. Vuffin; 'a grey-headed dwarf, well wrinkled, is beyond all suspicion. But a giant weak in the legs and not standing upright!—keep him in the carawan, but never show him, never show him, for any persuasion that can be offered.'

- Sunday, October 04, 2009 at 05:54:33 (EDT)

2009-09-30 - Parking Lot Loops

~4.5 miles @ ~8.7 min/mi

"You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" plays on the loudspeakers in the gym as I suit up and head outside. Clouds promise rain during my first lap around the parking perimeter. It's a cool day with brisk westerly winds. Holding back somewhat the first ~1.5 mile circuit is at ~9.3 min/mi. During the second the gusts begin, followed by a light shower that would be chilly if I weren't running. I accelerate to a fast-but-comfortable ~8.7 min/mi. Halfway around I overtake a chunky tattooed guy chugging along. "Great day, isn't it? You're moving good!" I tell him. The final lap, pushing hard, is a brisk 7.8 min/mi. The rain stops as I finish.

- Saturday, October 03, 2009 at 03:24:05 (EDT)

Double Shadow

Near the end of Walden, in "The Pond in Winter" Henry David Thoreau reports his observation of an optical-geometrical phenomenon that by chance I noted in a shiny corridor a few years ago:

... Sometimes, also, when the ice was covered with shallow puddles, I saw a double shadow of myself, one standing on the head of the other, one on the ice, the other on the trees or hillside. ...

(cf. UpsideDownShadows (2007-11-29))

- Friday, October 02, 2009 at 04:47:22 (EDT)

2009-09-27 - Seneca Creek Greenway Trail

~8.6 miles @ ~15 min/mi

"Like a snow globe!" Caren Jew observes, as we see midges dancing in a sunbeam ahead of us on the trail. "Or a colloidal suspension!" She immediately disclaims any other recollections from chemistry class.

"How about anions and cations?" I ask. "Those show up in crosswords all the time." Caren concedes.

We're on the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail, heading toward to the Rt 355 parking lot where we began the out-and-back journey at 2:30pm. Last night's 1.5" rain has left muddy bogs in low-lying parts of the path, but for the most part it's well-drained and quite runnable. Caren's assignment is to do 2 hours 10 minutes, and we hit it almost on the nose, with 1:03 outbound to Brink Rd and 1:08 for the return.

Buff young runners race by us both ways. Caren tries to incite me to pursue a fast lady, but I demur; she steps aside for a shirtless gentleman to pass. I overuse the word misremember and struggle, typically male, to come up with the name of the color of Caren's shirt. After many minutes: "Ha! Fuchsia!" I crow. Caren reminisces about past conversations on the trail and we marvel at how some memories lodge deep—different ones for different people.

(cf. 2009-05-31 - Schaeffer Farms, ...)

- Thursday, October 01, 2009 at 04:52:37 (EDT)

Poetry 180

A few weeks ago at the local library I found Poetry 180, the book version of this project. Thumbnail review: it's a collection of poems in one-a-day easy-to-swallow doses for high school students, selected by former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Most of them are sugar-pill placebos, but one did give me an instant buzz: "Tour" by Carol Snow.

Near a shrine in Japan he'd swept the path
and then placed camellia blossoms there.

Or — we had no way of knowing — he'd swept the path
between fallen camellias.

OK, I'm a sucker for foreground-background illusions and abrupt perspective shifts—and brevity, clarity of vision, and coy Zen definitely add to its appeal. Sure, there are other good bits in Poetry 180; Billy Collins himself has a delightful Introduction to Poetry, and I love the adroit inversion of William Stafford's At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border. But there's far too much sameness among the bulk of the offerings in this anthology, too much tell-a-little-story with ragged-right-margin prose that calls itself a poem. Maybe it's good to set the bar low and encourage kids in their own efforts. (I could use some encouragement too!) But maybe young people should see a few of the more brilliant, classic examples of verse—poems that burn and sting and tickle, not just ones that toss their hair and flounce across the page.

(cf. InMyJournal (2005-01-29), DangerousLiterature (2006-06-03), PoeticLines (2007-07-12), MAPCO Logo (2009-07-05), ...)

- Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 04:35:43 (EDT)

2009-09-26 - CCT RCT Loop Plus

~29 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

"Sorry about my Purple Line rant!" I apologize to Rebecca Rosenberg and Sara Crum for about the fifth time. Earlier today, running along the Capital Crescent Trail with Gayatri Datta and her friends, I get carried away and overdo my answer to an innocent question. Note to self: don't do that!

The run begins at 3:59am as I leave my front steps and head for Bethesda to meet Gayatri. Forgetfully I take a wrong turn on the way to the CCT and add a half mile by going via Walter Reed Annex to Rock Creek Trail. In the light of my headlamp the pathway under the trees is spooky, especially when I flush a big rabbit that dashes away at my approach. I take plenty of walk breaks and average ~12 min/mi. At the CCT plaza near the parking lot I refill my bottle and am eating half of a Snickers candy bar when Gayatri arrives, right on time.

After some yogic stretches we set off southward on the CCT, pace beginning ~11.5 min/mi and then accelerating to 10.5-11 as Gayatri warms up. The weather is cool and comfortable. We chatter about Indian culture: literature, Bollywood movies, etc. After Fletcher's Boathouse the glowing eyes of a big stag by the trail startle us; he's accompanied by a couple of does. After an hour we begin to see other runners and cyclists, and by the time we arrive at the end of the CCT in Georgetown it's light enough for me to turn off the headlamp and slip it down around my neck.

We zig-zag around construction on the Potomac waterfront and refill bottles at the Thompson Boat Center from a garden hose; I finish my Snickers bar. Groups from the Arlington Road Runners are starting their long run here, and we overtake several of the slower squads as we progress upstream along Rock Creek. Chalk arrows on the path confirm that Gayatri and I are on course. At the National Zoo I take an energy gel. From here onward I remember where the "P-P" point-to-point mile markers were painted (they've mostly been paved over) and can estimate our pace, which remains sub-11 min/mi after more than a dozen miles. Gayatri is training for the Richmond Marathon in a bit over a month, and I'm trying to get ready for the Andiamo (10/10) and the Marine Corps (10/24) as well as other long runs.

Gayatri's friends Rebecca and Sara want to do ~16 miles today but can't start pre-dawn, so they converge in downtown Bethesda and head the opposite direction, planning to meet us near the Zoo. But they begin late and we're faster than expected. I phone and Sara confirms that they're still ahead of us; onward we all go. Finally Gayatri sees them approaching when we're north of Bingham Rd, less than 3 miles from the DC-MD line. After introductions and some dithering debate we all proceed back toward our start, which will be the desired 21 mile loop for Gayatri but only ~10 for Sara and Rebecca. But from there I still have to run home, so I promise to take S&R back to the eastern end of the CCT and get them their extra six miles.

Fresh company makes fresh feet. Gayatri and I are energized and trek onward, still ~10.5 min/mi between restroom pauses. Both Rebecca and Sara are vegetarians, so we discuss that as well as our favorite ice cream varieties and other fun issues. Sara has two young sons and soccer-game schedule constraints this morning, but a phone call to her husband reserves enough time to finish her run. Rebecca and I discuss Yom Kippur; she's studying some Vietnamese, the language of a Buddhist boyfriend. I comment on Zen and how staying "in the moment" and focusing can promote happier running. Gayatri explains Bengali holidays; later today she will don her sari and go to the Durga Puja celebration in Damascus.

Gayatri sprints ahead to finish strong. Sara and Rebecca and I cheer her, proceed back to the 3.5 mile marker, pause at the water fountain, dash back through the tunnel under Wisconsin Av, and continue at a brisk ~10.5 min/mi to the end of the CCT. "As soon as you're out of sight, I'm going to start walking home!" I promise. And in fact I do slow down and walk the hills for my final solo mile, ~12 min/mi. Overall time 6 hours, including all breaks, for ~29 miles.

(cf. 2006-10-07 - Caren's Loop, 2007-10-20 - Mary's Loop, 2009-01-10 - CM's Loop, ...)

- Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 04:46:11 (EDT)

For back issues of the ^zhurnal see Volumes v.01 (April-May 1999), v.02 (May-July 1999), v.03 (July-September 1999), v.04 (September-November 1999), v.05 (November 1999 - January 2000), v.06 (January-March 2000), v.07 (March-May 2000), v.08 (May-June 2000), v.09 (June-July 2000), v.10 (August-October 2000), v.11 (October-December 2000), v.12 (December 2000 - February 2001), v.13 (February-April 2001), v.14 (April-June 2001), 0.15 (June-August 2001), 0.16 (August-September 2001), 0.17 (September-November 2001), 0.18 (November-December 2001), 0.19 (December 2001 - February 2002), 0.20 (February-April 2002), 0.21 (April-May 2002), 0.22 (May-July 2002), 0.23 (July-September 2002), 0.24 (September-October 2002), 0.25 (October-November 2002), 0.26 (November 2002 - January 2003), 0.27 (January-February 2003), 0.28 (February-April 2003), 0.29 (April-June 2003), 0.30 (June-July 2003), 0.31 (July-September 2003), 0.32 (September-October 2003), 0.33 (October-November 2003), 0.34 (November 2003 - January 2004), 0.35 (January-February 2004), 0.36 (February-March 2004), 0.37 (March-April 2004), 0.38 (April-June 2004), 0.39 (June-July 2004), 0.40 (July-August 2004), 0.41 (August-September 2004), 0.42 (September-November 2004), 0.43 (November-December 2004), 0.44 (December 2004 - February 2005), 0.45 (February-March 2005), 0.46 (March-May 2005), 0.47 (May-June 2005), 0.48 (June-August 2005), 0.49 (August-September 2005), 0.50 (September-November 2005), 0.51 (November 2005 - January 2006), 0.52 (January-February 2006), 0.53 (February-April 2006), 0.54 (April-June 2006), 0.55 (June-July 2006), 0.56 (July-September 2006), 0.57 (September-November 2006), 0.58 (November-December 2006), 0.59 (December 2006 - February 2007), 0.60 (February-May 2007), 0.61 (April-May 2007), 0.62 (May-July 2007), 0.63 (July-September 2007), 0.64 (September-November 2007), 0.65 (November 2007 - January 2008), 0.66 (January-March 2008), 0.67 (March-April 2008), 0.68 (April-June 2008), 0.69 (July-August 2008), 0.70 (August-September 2008), 0.71 (September-October 2008), 0.72 (October-November 2008), 0.73 (November 2008 - January 2009), 0.74 (January-February 2009), 0.75 (February-April 2009), 0.76 (April-June 2009), 0.77 (June-August 2009), 0.78 (August-September 2009), 0.79 (September-November 2009), 0.80 (November-December 2009), 0.81 (December 2009 - February 2010), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2010 by Mark Zimmermann.)