^zhurnaly 0.96

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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in volume 0.96 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 = 0.95 ... 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

2012-04-07 - Philly 100 Endurance Run

~52 miles @ ~19 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Philly100_Rocky_Steps_GPS.jpgWhen I reach mile 50, halfway through the Philly 100, I'm passing in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum. It's late afternoon on Easter Saturday and the crowds are starting to thin. On a whim I leave the official race course and run up and down the "Rocky Steps" made famous by the Sylvester Stallone movies. The GPS trackfile shows the digression.

Earlier that day I'm trotting along the west side of the Schuylkill River Trail. It's partway through my fifth loop of the ~8.5 mile course. A group of nicely-dressed people is standing in the park, clustered around a boy in a suit who's sitting on a bench, talking quietly. On my next lap they're gone. A dozen lilies lie on the ground under a tree.

The Philly 100 is an unsupported "fat ass" event organized by Lauri Fauerbach Adams, friendly Philadelphia ultramarathoner. 2012 is the fourth annual and, Lauri says, last running of the race. Jackie Ong, official Marathon Maniac whom I met at mile ~25 of the Stone Mill 50, tells me about it during our Bull Run Trail excursion together. It sounds crazy enough to be fun. The course is far far easier course than the Massanutten 100 on which I DNF'd two years ago. And the price — free! — is irresistible.

Jackie picks me up at my home about half past midnight. At 3:30am we're driving around downtown Philadelphia trying to locate the right place to park legally near the start/finish of the race. At 3:47am we're geared-up and ready to go. I carry a printout of directions with me and we follow them as well as we can in the darkness. Our first loop, clockwise, includes a couple of wrong turns that add a fraction of a mile. We stop at the north end of the circuit at a 24-hour Dunkin Donuts for coffee. Along the way we meet a few other runners who started early. Some of them are almost done already.

At the end of our circuit #1 it's a bit before 6am. We refuel at Jackie's car. Race Director Lauri Adams is lecturing to a small crowd at the starting line. We salute her and set off in the counter-clockwise direction. There are pauses at portajohns and considerable walking. My left metatarsals begin to ache. Jackie is cheerful and optimistic. Back at her car we refill bottles and eat. I'm getting tired now, mainly from lack of sleep. Heading clockwise again we do another orbit. When we get back to Jackie's car at ~10am I decide to stop and take a nap. I wake up a bit after noon. My feet feel much better and I'm ready to try some more mileage. Jackie is back from her fourth lap and sends me out early on mine.

A group of Marathon Maniacs have set up an impromptu aid station on the east side of the river at a parking lot. I meet "Thunder", "Kino", and other friends of Jackie, and thank them for the cookies and soda. Mostly walking, I do ~5.5 miles before Jackie catches up. We're both suffering now from chafing in unmentionable places. I jog ahead and lie down next to the car to await Jackie's arrival. I practice the yoga Savasana pose, also known as "Corpse". A passing runner shouts, "Are you OK?" and tells me he thought I might be dead. Apparently I'm doing the pose well!

When Jackie arrives I refill bottles and head out. Back at the car a couple of hours later the sun is getting low and the wind is chilly, so I wrap myself in an aluminized mylar "space blanket" from the Marine Corps Marathon of 2009. Passers-by ignore me as I rest for ~25 minutes until Jackie arrives again. Refuel, and head out. This turns out to be the last lap for us both: we're tired, I'm past 50 miles. Jackie is beyond 60, and she has a couple of major races coming up during the next few weeks. Yes, we could have gone farther, but no need. The ride home is lovely, with splendid conversation about running and life. A big moon rises behind us. Jackie gets sleepy near Baltimore and I take over driving. At home it's a hot shower and a warm bed.

GPS track files for my run: laps 1, 2, and 3, laps 4 and 5, and lap 6.

Times for each lap from my stopwatch (which never pauses):
Lap 1 = 2:03
Lap 2 = 1:58
Lap 3 = 2:13
Lap 4 = 4:44 (includes nap for a couple of hours in Jackie's car while Jackie did her Lap 4)
Lap 5 = 2:12
Lap 6 = 2:50 (includes nap for 25 minutes or so by Jackie's car before starting the lap)

Start time = 3:47am
Finish time = 7:46pm
Total time for my 6 laps = 15 hours 59 minutes.

See also Philly 100 Run 2012 - Tweets for my Twitter posts during the event, including some comic poetry.


- Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 04:40:31 (EDT)

Is That Your Bomb

"Excuse me, is that your bag?" the woman's voice on the DC Metro subway PA system asks every day. "Such small words can mean so much. Safety is everyone's concern." The announcer goes on to suggest that people report abandoned packages to Metro authorities.

Such funny euphemism! Why not say, "Excuse me, is that your bomb?" Clearly the concern is terrorism, but apparently saying it explicitly isn't allowed. Would it make the tourists panic?

- Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 04:37:28 (EDT)

Road Running Records

Recently I pulled together an interesting (to me) chart of my personal best road race record times at various standard distances, with a column for pace in minutes/mile and with the second-best results also included:

Distance PB year pace 2nd year
1 mile 6:3120096.66:332011
2 mi 13:4120096.913:522010
5 km 21:5420107.122:152009
8 km 37:5120117.648:432002
5 mi 41:5120088.444:402007
10 km 46:5720097.647:072012
10 mi 1:18:0020127.81:18:412012
1/2 mara 1:55:3320098.91:57:482011
marathon 3:58:1520129.14:01:062009

Eyeballing it, clearly I've badly neglected 5 miles over the years and have only run 8 km (= ~4.95 miles) seriously one time. Graphing the pace values versus distance on a log scale is even more revealing:


Half a dozen of the dots form a nice almost-straight line of records from 1 mile through 10 km. On the average, every time the distance doubles, my pace slows by about 0.3 min/mi. But those top three points are the anomalies, at 5 miles, the half marathon, and the marathon. Can they be pulled down to that same trend line, by more disciplined training, more mental toughness, etc.?

(cf. SpeedUpSlowDown (2004-10-18), Running2006Analysis (2007-01-27), Year of Running - 2009 - Further Observations (2010-02-01), ...)

- Monday, April 16, 2012 at 04:34:12 (EDT)

2012-04-02 - UM Track with Robin

2+ miles @ ~8 min/mi

Pay in advance: before going to the Marathon Deli in College Park, son Robin and I hit the University of Maryland track. I'm not feeling powerful after yesterday's trek on the Bethesda Trolley Trail etc., so for me it's just two miles in lane #2 with half a lap recovery walk between. Mile times: 7:48 ⇒ 7:17.

- Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 04:56:58 (EDT)

Retirement Tips - 1

Part One of excerpts and highlights from the notes I took in a pre-retirement class (October 2010) ...

If interviewing for a new job, be sure to:

In general, and especially if leaving the workforce for good:

Further notes on retirement strategies to follow ...

- Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 16:22:25 (EDT)

2012-04-01 - Bethesda Trolley Trail Loop

14+ miles @ ~10.5 min/mi

Happy April Fools Day from my GPS! The trackfile shows how things go wacky as I emerge from the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda: as satellites are re-acquired there's a big glitch in estimated position. I definitely did not run a sub-8 minute mile there.

For years I've tried to do the entire Bethesda Trolley Trail but never properly found either official end of the path. Today before setting out I study the BTT map and, once out of the aforementioned tunnel, take Woodmont Av north to Norfolk Av which, after some dithering, leads to the little park where the trail begins. Cherry trees and other plants are blooming in profusion all along the way. My left metatarsals start to hurt, perhaps due to tight shoes and thick socks, after a dozen miles. I take the shortest possible route home and find a new near-optimal cut-through along Capital View Av to avoid a dangerously narrow curve without sidewalk.

- Friday, April 13, 2012 at 04:52:09 (EDT)

This Is America 2

From the New York Times of 2011-12-06, in "A Conversation with George Dyson":

Q: And today you make your living as a historian of science and technology. How does a high school dropout get to do that?

A: Hey, this is America. You can do what you want! I love this idea that someone who didn't finish high school can write books that get taken seriously. History is one of the only fields where contributions by amateurs are taken seriously, providing you follow the rules and document your sources. In history, it's what you write, not what your credentials are.

(George Dyson is the son of physicist Freeman Dyson and the brother of technology pundit Esther Dyson; cf. AuthorizedVersusForbidden (2005-07-03), WhateverYouWant (2007-02-26), HeadphoneWars (2007-07-13), AsimovOnHappiness (2007-11-07), Smells Like Freedom (2011-08-09), This Is America (2012-03-17), ...)

- Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 04:39:35 (EDT)

2012-03-27 - Five 800m Repeats

~3 miles @ ~8 min/mi

Robin and I visit the Silver Spring International Middle School track on the way to pick up the other kids and dinner. In half an hour Robin jogs a couple of miles and then sprints a final 1:52 lap. I do two-lap intervals with a half-lap recovery walk. Times smoothly descend until the last: 3:31 ⇒ 3:25 ⇒ 3:24 ⇒ 3:23 ⇒ 3:24. Walkers, pram-pushers, soccer kids, and a few other runners occasionally get in the way.

- Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 04:35:05 (EDT)

Ementor Emantras 2

More bite-sized text-messages of Mentoring Advice from almost a year ago (cf. Ementor Emantras for earlier suggestions) — tips that may help a person get ahead in a large organization:

... plus a few newer thoughts:

- Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 04:37:15 (EDT)

Philly 100 Run 2012 - Tweets

Real-time posts to my Twitter account during the Philadelphia 100 Endurance Run of 2012:

Time Tweet
1:29am Riding to #Philly100 with Jackie Ong -- looking forward to the run!
3:45am Starting #Philly100 with Jackie Ong now! -- in front of Lloyd Hall, near Art Museum -- chilly!
5:49am Lap 1 mile 8.4 #Philly100 ... including stop for coffee at Dunkin Donuts!
7:50am Lap 2 mile 16.8 #Philly100
10:04am Lap 3 mile 25.2 #Philly100 - GPS says 26.35 - left metatarsals ache - will nap in Jackie's car while she does next lap - then see ...
12:28pm Good nap! About to start my lap 4, Jackie's lap 5 #Philly100
2:42pm Lap 4 mile 33.6 #Philly100 - walk most of the way - Jackie gives me a head start while she changes, catches me at mile 5.5
4:57pm Lap 5 mile 42.0 #Philly100 - solo - kudos to 'Thunder' and other Marathon Maniac friends of Jackie for kind help at their aid station!
5:44pm Practiced yoga savasana = 'corpse' pose on ground by Jackie's car for 25 min - then refueled, now starting lap 6 #Philly100
6:21pm On the Schuylkill River Trail / Apparently it's de rigueur / In tight pants or Spandex shorts / To display one's derriere
7:55pm Lap 6 mile 50.4 #Philly100 - I run up and down the 'Rocky' steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum when I reach them at mile 50 - \(^_^)/
8:54pm Jackie and I have had enough #Philly100 fun - stop at her mile 60+ and my mile 50+ ... now, to home, a hot shower, and a soft bed!

- Sunday, April 08, 2012 at 11:14:33 (EDT)

2012-03-25 - MCRRC Piece of Cake 10k

~6.2 miles @ ~7.6 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Piece_of_Cake_10k_2012_z_kt.jpg"I'm a really BAD pacer!" I explain at mile ~1.5 of the MCRRC "Piece of Cake" 10 k race, when a runner passes me and notes the "12:00+" on the back of my singlet. I push hard, with mile splits by my watch of 7:36 ⇒ 7:30 ⇒ 7:47 ⇒ 7:40 ⇒ 7:27 ⇒ 7:42 plus a final ~0.2 mile in 1:26. The result is not quite a PB (Personal Best) at 47:07 (gun time, within a second or two of my estimated chip time). Three years ago at the 2009-03-21 - Piece of Cake 10k I finished ten seconds faster, 46:57. But it's a good comeback from last year's 2011-03-20 - Piece of Cake 10k at 50:43. Today the official log puts me 79th overall of 254 finishers, 68th of 200 males, 9th of 24 in the male 55-59 cohort. The GPS trackfile is high by ~3%.

Barry Smith kindly gives me a ride to the event. He's a volunteer course marshall. We arrive well over an hour before the 9am start, which provides time for relaxed visiting with comrades. Christina Caravoulias is super-busy running the registration tables. Mayra Fairbairn, Race Director, gives Barry his instruction sheet and map. We snag cups of coffee and, feet already wet from the soggy grass, hike back to Barry's car and move it to near the 1 mile mark where he will direct runners. While waiting we chat about random topics. Barry recommends Collision Course, a book about the 1981 air traffic controller strike. I'm currently reading The Coming Fury, book 1 of Bruce Catton's centennial history of the Civil War.

(Mark Zimmermann near mile 5.5 — photo by Ken Trombatore)

At ~8:30am I warm up by jogging again to the start/finish area. Ken Swab and Don Libes are there and we chat. Friendly rivals Sara Burkheit, Tom Young, and Dee Nelson tell me of their recent runs and past experiences at this race. Priscila and Warren Prunella greet me. I dash out fast and after the first mile am mostly alone. On the out-and-back segments I get a chance to greet Betty Smith, Julie Trapp, and other friends.

Tom Young is a target but after mile 4 escapes from sight ahead. Beverly Black finishes a few seconds behind me; I manage to chase her down in the final fraction of a mile. Waiting near the finish line afterwards I cheer Ken Swab in and claim to offer him a cup of free beer. He mock-swerves but then resumes course. Walking back to Barry's car I meet Gwynne Roth, who had planned to run the Philly 100 but probably can't after all. Barry drives me back to the post-race banquet area. I haven't signed up, however, so instead of crashing the party I carry volunteer gear back to the start/finish zone and then assist the clean-up crew. We fold up half a dozen big pavilion/rain-shelters and load the MCRRC truck with timing gear. When that's done, with thanks from RD Mayra, I sneak into the Awards Ceremony tent and applaud the winners. I take photos of Jeanne Larrison and her cake, then head for home with Barry.

(photo by Dan DiFonzo)


- Friday, April 06, 2012 at 05:37:45 (EDT)

Coming Fury

Robin strongly recommends Bruce Catton's Centennial History of the Civil War as worth reading. Volume One, The Coming Fury, confirms that assessment. The book focuses on 1860-61 and explores the events that produced that war. Catton's prose is a bit dramatic at times, but maybe that's appropriate given the scope and importance of the subject matter. In Chapter 2 ("Down a Steep Place") section 2 ("The Great Commitment"), for example:

The motives that compel men to act are sometimes as confusing as the things that grow out of the completed actions. When the Southern delegates walked proudly out of the Democratic conventions they drew armies after them, and put the touch of fire on quaintly named places which no one then knew anything about—Chickamauga Creek, Stone's River, the tidewater barrens at Cold Harbor, and the drowsy market town of Gettysburg, to name but a few. But why they did this and why it had to come out as it did are questions that no one then could have answered and that remain riddles to this day. In part, what was done and what came of it depended on what other men would do in response—it took two sides, after all, to bring about a Sumter bombardment, a battle of Antietam, or a rough-neck march from Atlanta to the sea. But a certain part of it came out of a refusal to admit that the nineteenth century was not going to end as it had begun. For a great number of reasons the American South was fated to try to stay just as it was in a time when everything men lived by was changing from top to bottom. This was the commitment that had been made and that would be paid for. Why?

Catton then explores some causes of the war, including immigration ("Germans, Irish, French, Italians, ..."), sudden social disruption, and major technological breakthroughs (e.g., railroads, telegraphs, semi-automated factories, financial innovation, ...). And of course, central to it all was the monstrously evil institution of slavery. From later in that same chapter:

To fear change meant to fear the alien—the man who looked and talked and acted differently, and who therefore was probably dangerous. And of all the groups whose migration to America had caused strain, the largest of all, and the one whose presence seemed to be the most disturbing, was one racially homogeneous bloc which, to men of that day, seemed to be entirely beyond assimilation. Its members had been coming in for the better part of two centuries. When they arrived they did not fan out across the land, dispersing and mingling and losing clear-cut identity among people already stamped with Americanism, as most immigrants did. These, instead, settled in large groups, congregating in some states until they actually constituted a majority of the population, going to other states hardly at all, clinging with pathetic tenacity to their own customs and folk ways. Of all the immigrant groups these were the most distinctive—in language, in appearance, in culture—and although they were among the most peaceful, easygoing, and uncomplaining people the world has ever seen, their mere presence frightened native Americans almost beyond endurance. Because this was so, the navy patrolled the seas to see that no more of these people took ship for America, and in the states where they settled there were strict laws, rigidly enforced, for their control.

These people, of course, were the Negroes, who had come from Africa—mostly from the enormous, ill-omened bight of Benin, the Slave Coast, from the steaming concentration camps which had been set up for them on those pestilential shores as depots of embarkation. That they had emigrated from their native lands through no desire of their own made no difference; they had come from beyond the seas and now they were here, and a bewildered country that was inclined to give all immigrants some of the blame for its unresolved problems had become so exasperated by the mere presence of these Africans that in 1860 it could discuss its present difficulties and its future way out of them only in terms of this one specific group.

The long voyage across the sea to America lies embedded in the subconscious memory of every American. It was a hard trip even under the best of conditions, and many people died trying to achieve it, but it was made more tolerable by the unvoiced promise that lay at the end. After it was made, its hardships and dangers faded slowly out of sight because those who came were volunteers led on by hope, and there was something in the New World to justify that hope after the trip had ended. But for the Negro it had been different. The trip itself was worse—fearfully, unspeakably worse—and what came after it was very little better than the trip itself. The institution of slavery had become comparatively benign, to be sure, but it was still slavery: a vast system of forced labor that sustained the economy of half a continent, offering to those who labored no prospect whatever for a better life. To the Negro, hope was denied. There was only survival, bought at the price of surrendering human dignity. The Negro had to remain what he was and as he was, his mere presence a mocking denial of the nation's basic belief in freedom and the advancement of the human spirit. He was the one man in America who could not be allowed a share in America's meaning.

Catton returns to this theme two hundred pages later, in Chapter 4 ("Two Presidents") section 4 ("Talking Across a Gulf"). He discusses the communications breakdown between Secretary of State William H. Seward (of New York) and Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell (of Alabama):

Seward and Campbell got nowhere. They were neither heard nor followed; and perhaps, when all is said and done, they could not have gotten anywhere no matter who might have heard or followed them. Perhaps it was not really possible for slavery to die peacefully and quietly, while everyone waited hat in hand for the mills of God to finish their grinding. Perhaps the essential fact about slavery was that it could neither be kept alive nor done to death rationally. Its foundations went far down into the pit, down to blackest wrong and violence, and when the foundations were torn out, wrong and violence would surely be loosed for a season. The institution's defenders had both overplayed their hands and overstayed their time.

Volume One ends with the first battle of Bull Run, July 1861. More to follow ...

(cf. GettysburgCoordinates, Lincoln Memorial, Marble Steps, Team of Rivals, ...)

- Thursday, April 05, 2012 at 04:36:47 (EDT)

2012-03-21 - Lake Artemesia Crossover

~2.6 miles @ ~9 min/mi

Robin and I drop Gray off at the PG Philharmonic orchestra rehearsal and head for the track at UM to run laps — but alas, it's Spring Break and the groundskeeper tells us that it's closed for restriping. We thank him and walk to Cole Fieldhouse in hopes of experiencing the indoor track that Robin has run in the past, but it's locked. So we drive through campus and park at the College Park Community Center near the Paint Branch Trail. After picking our way through the brush and along/around the fence we jog the fraction of a mile down the PBT to Lake Artemesia. I accelerate and do an initial mile, including that warmup, at 8:09, followed by a 7:30 mile, then curve off the loop to cut across to the bridge and hook back to meet Robin on the path back out. The GPS trackfile shows the path. Venus shines bright above Jupiter as Metro and Camden Line trains rumble past us.

- Wednesday, April 04, 2012 at 04:33:36 (EDT)


‎"You must smoke a lot of weed!" the guy at the impound lot tells me on Friday evening. He's amazed that I'm not angry at him, unlike everybody else whose car has been hauled here. "What's with you, man?" he asks.

But hey, I know I'm guilty of parking where I shouldn't have. And Rule #4 posted next to the service window at the towing company says that "We are persons too" and that it's inappropriate to abuse the staff behind the heavy armor-screened window. Apparently nobody trying to ransom their vehicle reads the rules, or cares to follow them.

So I give the young lady who takes my registration a smile and a candy bar. And I'm glad that the MINI Cooper is here, not stolen as I feared when I couldn't find it in the strip-mall lot. I left it there and walked across the street to fetch dinner, contrary to warning signs. Son Merle saves the day, picking me up so the food can get home, then taking his sister to orchestra rehearsal and me to the towing lot.

The total bill is $124, far less than I had feared: $100 for the tow (since the car is less than 4 tons), $20 for storage (less than 24 hours), and $4 for the mile from the parking space to the lot. Rather a steep surcharge on the Chinese carry-out! But this is the only time in my life that I've been towed involuntarily. Perhaps it's a corollary to the proverb, "If you don't miss a flight once in a while, then you're wasting too much time waiting in the airport." If you don't get towed once in a while, are you're wasting too much time finding (and/or paying for) a legal space?

- Monday, April 02, 2012 at 04:41:54 (EDT)

2012-03-19 - Rock Creek Loop with Robin

~2.5 miles @ ~14.8 min/mi

On a Monday evening, warm and humid, Robin sets the pace. A few cyclists and walkers are on the pathway as we jog at 11-12 min/mi down to Rock Creek and, from the 1.5 mile point, walk back up the steep hill, pausing to lean against the guardrail to let cars cruise by on the narrow road. The GPS trackfile shows the route.

- Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 07:05:04 (EDT)

Mindful Driving

In Chapter 9 ("Living Practice and the Divine Abodes") of their book Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation Arianna Weisman and Jean Smith tell of a humorous-serious approach to practicing metta (lovingkindness) in heavy traffic:

I used to be at my worst driving a car. I was my nastiest, my least generous. When I saw someone waiting to make a turn from a side street, I would not stop but would continue to go on ahead. If there was someone on the sidewalk waiting to cross, my first impulse was to keep on driving through. If someone cut me off or was slow in front of me so that I missed a green light, I started to feel very nasty things about the people in that car. Quite simply, I was a horrible driver. So I took it as my challenge to become less horrible. I tried to practice being kind by saying the following phrases over and over again: "I give thanks for the gift that the Earth has given me in the form of fuel to go to where I need to go. I give thanks to the sky for being an umbrella for me. I hope that all these cars and all the people in front of me are free from danger. May the slow driver in front of me be free from harm. May our use of transportation come into balance. May my little car have a long life." I sent a lot of appreciation to my car for taking me where I needed to go. At the same time I connected to these phrases of kindness, I also reconnected with my body and my understanding that I was sitting and driving. This practice was hugely transforming. — AW

- Friday, March 30, 2012 at 04:41:32 (EDT)

2012-03-18 - RCT with Caren

~6.5 miles @ ~12.3 min/mi

A happy twofer Sunday: after my morning run with Clair, friend Caren Jew invites me to join her on a sunny afternoon trek along Rock Creek Trail while Caren's daughters enjoy a karate-school barbecue. It's a peaceful journey as we exchange gossip and family news, injury reports, and random musings. I discover to my surprise that, although the sub-4-hour [[2012-04-04_-_B_and_A_Marathon?|B&A Marathon]] didn't seem like such a big deal right after I finished it a fortnight ago, as time passes it becomes a happier and happier memory. Marathamnesia?

- Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 04:35:04 (EDT)

2012-03-18 - Metropolitan Branch plus Speedwork with Clair

~12 miles @ ~11 min/mi

It's 5:45am and I'm feeling heavy (the scale reads almost 150 lbs.) as I start out on a cool foggy morning from home to downtown Silver Spring and thence along the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Single-passenger buses and empty taxicabs dominate the traffic as the sun rises. The GPS trackfile reveals how I lose the trail and zig-zag quasi-drunkenly along Longfellow St NE and 1st St NE. At last I find my way to the Ft Totten Metro and rejoin the right route. DC's street-naming convention is a runner's delight: backwards down the alphabet from three-syllable names (Tuckerman, Sheridan, Rittenhouse, ...) to two-syllable (Kearney, Jackson, Irving, ...) to one-syllable to single-letters. That's progress!

At Catholic University I pause to read aloud and voicemail myself the words inscribed along the top façade of the Columbia Law School building: "Conscience Honesty Learning Integrity Service Community Fairness Liberty Justice Equality Truth Compassion Fidelity Wisdom Charity Trust", reading right-to-left. Lovely and inspirational — one hopes the student-lawyers occasionally look up. My thumbs are numb as I text a progress report to Comrade Clair to make sure that arriving half an hour ahead of sched is OK.

We meet and then it's six quick laps around the track at McKinley Technology High School near her home: 400m intervals, commencing with 1:47 and descending to the last at 1:42. Clair gets dry heaves after the fifth one, a proud sign the speedwork is not too easy. She's signed up for some 5k races coming up soon and has asked me to help her prepare. I chat at first to distract, but not so much as our pace accelerates. Then it's Metro home for me, and cross-training by helping haul the old washing machine up the basement steps and out to the street.

- Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 04:32:28 (EDT)

Wallops Island Sounding Rockets

At 0500 yesterday my son Merle and I are standing outside in the darkness in our back yard. He's barefoot. I'm wearing sandals but otherwise am just in my nightclothes, t-shirt and shorts. The temperature is near freezing. I hold an open laptop, connected to the home WiFi signal that leaks out. We're listening to a webcast countdown and watching the eastern horizon between almost-bare limbs of trees. Over the next five minutes Merle spots the points of light slowly rising and shows me where to look. As they get higher the dots leave behind glowing white trails that spread and then fade.

It's a set of five sounding rockets from the NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility about a hundred miles from here. The suborbital launches start near the Atlantic Ocean, on the little finger of Virginia that hangs down from Maryland and Delaware that forms the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. According to the press release describing the experiment, "The Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX) mission will gather information needed to better understand the process responsible for the high-altitude jet stream located 60 to 65 miles above the surface of the Earth."

For us, it's distant fireworks, slow and silent. Cute! But at 5:10am our feet are cold, so back inside we go, Merle to bed, me to rush off to work.

- Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 05:26:22 (EDT)

Paul Mbugua on Running

In the set of essays First Marathons collected by Gail Waesche Kislevitz, the story narrated by elite Kenyan runner Paul Mbugua is one of the most striking. He tells of growing up incredibly poor, running three miles to school in the morning, back home for lunch, back to school, and then after running at recess again running home — before doing his chores. He was a national champion while in high school, and in his early 30's moved up from European track racing to the marathon distance in the USA. His explicitness about the financial forces driving a Kenyan athletic career is refreshing, as are his comments about training and marriage. He concludes his tale:

My plan is to run three marathons a year and in five years when I become a master I will even be be better and make more money. Right now I spend about two months back in Kenya training. The training camps are very focused, very disciplined. It's like being in the army. We live there anywhere from three weeks to two months, training as a team. We have a different training routine for every type of race. Don't forget, running is what we are used to doing every day just to get around, so the camps take running to a much higher level, something even we are not accustomed to. The team concept is very important to us. I think it is the number one difference that makes us better than other countries. We associate only with runners. And once there, you do not leave. There are no distractions from daily life such as phone calls, kids, spouses, whatever. In other words, there are no excuses. When you wake up in the morning, and maybe you don't feel like running, you have to. Your team is making you. You cannot hide. The team gives you the support to get through the training. We rely on each other. It doesn't matter if you are married or anything. You still go the camps. And most of the elite runners are married because they want a wife to stay home and protect their money. Most of them want to build big homes and it can't get built unless someone is there to supervise. One win, which could be as much as twenty-thousand dollars, can get you a very, very big house. Men who are not married usually end up spending their money foolishly, but a good wife will take care of it while they are running marathons back in the States. We are very desirable husbands. Women wait at the airport for us when we come home to train. I could get married anytime I want. Women have their way of letting us know they want to marry us. They have their own devices.

Our diet is not much different from what you eat here in the States, but we eat more red meat. And we never worry about getting fast. That's all I hear in the States. Everyone is worried about getting fat. They think so much about their weight. Just run like we do and you can eat whatever you want and never get fat.

I would love to bring my mother over to America for a visit. I told her in the year 2000 I will take her to the top of the Empire State Building and put New York City at her feet. I think she will like that.

- Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 04:28:34 (EDT)

2012-03-17 - CCT with Gayatri

~14 miles @ ~10.7 min/mi

Approaching Bethesda on the Capital Crescent Trail there's a jogger far ahead of me — blue shirt, black tights. Gender? Not sure, but as I close the distance slowly I suspect it's a lady — and something about the style of her running makes me think it could be comrade Gayatri Datta. But it's still ~5 minutes before our planned rendezvous. Did she run out to meet me and then turn back early? As I catch up she looks back and yes, it's Gayatri! She got there half an hour ahead of schedule, jogged for a mile with a fast MCRRC training group, and started her return trip early. I stop my GPS as we walk together back to the parking lot, where Gayatri gets ready for our planned 10 mile run down the CCT past Fletchers Boathouse to mile post 8.5 and back.

Gayatri gives me $10 which she says she has owed me for months, since I gave her a bottle of Succeed! electrolyte capsules. I had completely forgotten, so it's like free money. Gayatri reports that her husband Atin said to her, "Since it's not enough to buy a house, don't worry about it!" I like that attitude, and remind Gayatri of Atin's remark some time ago, when she was worried about what would happen if they both were unemployed. "We'll just go stand in line at the soup kitchen!" was his reply.

We run together at about 10 min/mi pace for the first few miles (see the GPS trackfile for details) but then slow down a bit. The sun peeks through morning fog and sends godrays down past treetops. I keep the watch running during walk breaks and stops at water fountains. Lots of cyclists, walkers, and other runners are out on the trail today, as are flocks of sparrows and the occasional cardinal. Gayatri picks up the pace just before our turnaround point. At the end of the run my GPS says I need to do another quarter mile to get past 14 total (from the start at my house) so I sprint ahead when Gayatri stops at her 12 mile mark. She kindly gives me a ride home.

- Monday, March 26, 2012 at 04:26:20 (EDT)

Cat Ladies

Funny coincidence — or is it? At present among my friends are (at least) four women who share an interesting, unconventional (one would have thought) set of characteristics: they're all single, no kids, in their 40's or 50's, professionals with advanced degrees in science/engineering, employed with good jobs in (or associated with) the public sector, and they all own their own homes. Nothing extraordinary there, except perhaps an unusual degree of success.

But they also all have from half a dozen to a dozen cats co-resident with them. (Cats can't really be "owned", people say.) Some of these friends foster-care felines which are awaiting adoption. Some feed and occasionally catch feral cats in their neighborhood, take the captured kitties in to the vet for shots/sterilization, and play with the critters to "socialize" them. In general, these self-described "Cat Ladies" are cheerful — but they all seem to have episodes of angst about their lifestyles, perhaps a bit more openly so than most people. On the other hand, maybe they're just showing a healthy degree of self-awareness?

- Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 05:56:11 (EDT)

2012-03-15 - 5k at UM Track

3+ miles @ ~8 min/mi

Robin and I prepare for dinner at the Marathon Deli by running around the University of Maryland track this evening, 2+ miles for him, 3+ for me (12.5 laps). The GPS trackfile thinks each lap is about 4% long tonight, but I take the splits and estimate the miles at 8:24 ⇒ 8:00 ⇒ 7:36, a nicely descending pattern as prescribed by Coach Manlandro. Sprinting hard for the final half lap gives a 5k of ~24:52.

- Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 05:45:58 (EDT)

2012-03-14 - Ladder o' Laps

~5 miles @ ~8.7 min/mi

Jupiter and Venus glisten high above the western horizon as twilight sets in at the University of Maryland track. A few walkers, a sprinter stretching, a couple of guys tossing a football back and forth, a javelin thrower warming up, and a handful of other runners are with me this warm evening, temps in the upper 70's. A young lady in crimson shorts runs steadily and just a bit too fast for me to keep up. The 1-2-3-4-3-2-1 ladder goes smoothly since I manage to commence it slowly enough, with times = 2:06 ⇒ 4:04 ⇒ 5:57 ⇒ 7:42 ⇒ 5:42 ⇒ 3:39 ⇒ 1:45 with half a lap (~2 minutes) recovery between intervals. GPS trackfile has the usual ~0.5% overestimate of distance.

- Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 05:42:34 (EDT)

2012-03-13 - Kensington Loop

~3 miles @ ~8.5 min/mi

Robin is enjoying a gift certificate at the Suburban Trading Post in Kensington, a semi-fancy café, so I take advantage of the opportunity to run a loop this warm afternoon. Starting near the Post Office it's a downhill blast along the Kensington Parkway (~8.5 min/mi pace) and then Beach Dr to Stoneybrook Dr (~8.2 min/mi). Mile 3 includes the climb up the Mormon Temple Hill and then the mostly-flat trek along Kent St etc. back to the start (~8.7 min/mi), 26:26 for the ~5k circuit, back just in time to advise Robin on what carry-out to order for the rest of the family. GPS trackfile shows the route.

- Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 05:37:48 (EDT)

Not Thinking vs Not Not-Thinking

Jessica Macbeth's book Moon Over Water explores alternative, complementary techniques of meditation, and suggests some interesting categories (in Chapters 8-12):

"Nearly all meditation techniques are 'doing'," Macbeth says. As for Non-Doing:

The non-doing techniques are those that have no focal point other than stillness — and even stillness is not the focus. Simply being focused is the focus. These techniques are usually very difficult for most people and generally are more suitable for someone who has been practising for a while. Not thinking of anything, not even of 'not thinking' is quite a mental balancing act. In describing non-doing there is a Zen saying: I am not thinking! I am not not-thinking!

(cf. VarietiesOfNotCaring (2004-06-19), HinduVsBuddhist (2008-01-01), ...)

- Friday, March 23, 2012 at 04:44:34 (EDT)

2012-03-11 - Pimmit Run Trail (Upstream)

~10 miles @ ~14 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Pimmit_Run_Trail_upstream.jpgIt's Game Day at John Ferguson's in McLean VA. After playing a round of Dominion that Robin's friend Tom Beigel wins handily I take a break to run for a couple of hours upstream along the Pimmit Run Trail, for which I've printed out a map. The house John and Jane are renting is in a gap of the trail's right-of-way, and my attempt to find its entrance leads me along neighborhood streets in a roundabout path. Eventually I arrive at the trailhead near the Highland Swim Club .

The PRT is quite pretty as it meanders through neighborhoods and across a few busy streets. It includes several tricky stream crossings on stepping-stones. Blazes and trail signage are minimal and I get lost repeatedly, as the GPS trackfile illustrates. There's particular trouble near the I-66 bypass to the Dulles Toll Rd, where a wrong turn leads me into a brambly dead-end featuring a dangerous-looking narrow wet culvert under the highway. When I was younger I might have ventured to crawl through it, but no more. Four big deer watch with amusement as I cast about, give up, and backtrack to the true path.

Pimmit Run Trail ends in somebody's back yard, where a fellow wielding a chain saw persuades me to turn back. The return trip is uneventful and includes only a couple of inadvertent digressions. On the street approaching John's neighborhood I find an unofficial short-cut and make it back in time to play Ticket to Ride, a railroad-building game.

- Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 04:39:11 (EDT)

Sister Marion Irvine

Gail Waesche Kislevitz's book First Marathons includes the story of how Catholic nun Marion Irvine gave up smoking, lost weight, and and ran her first marathon at age 50, on her way to qualifying for the Olympic trials at the distance in 1983. As Sister Irvine describes it, "There's nothing quite like your first marathon. The adrenaline just flows. With no expectations, I ran pure and simple. Somehow it all just all came together." Looking back on her experience, years later she observes:

... I was sixty-one years old and starting to feel it. I had so many injuries my body didn't know how to recuperate anymore. When the doctors advised six weeks rest, I'd take six days. I ran through injuries, was always battling fatigue and constantly putting my health in jeopardy. There comes a time when you can't cheat your body any longer and I guess I reached that point.

Someone once did a computer analysis of my running times and factored age into the equation. Basically, they were trying to determine just how much better a runner I would have been if I had started in my twenties instead of my fifties. Of course, the computer had me winning every Olympic distance event for the next century! But I never look at my career as starting late and I have never regretted the choices I made in life. If I had started running earlier, chances are I wouldn't be a nun today, and I have never regretted my religious life. My running career came at the perfect time. It was a reawakening for me. I truly believe God created us to be fully alive, to experience life. Prior to running, I wasn't experiencing life, wasn't alive inside. Running gave me that opportunity. It changed my life in ways I never expected. When I'm outside doing a dawn run on the Oregon beaches, I look around and thank our creator for the breathtaking scenery. I've had incredible out-of-body experiences running the Washington Cascades, admiring God's canvas of natural beauty. I've seen bears in the river catching salmon for their lunch, beautiful mountain wildflowers that dazzle the landscape. It gives a new meaning to the word spiritual. I'm not talking about organized religion here, I am describing the spiritual process of getting in touch with one's self, i.e. our spirit, our inner self, our person. You don't have to go to church to experience spirituality. Running can bring you to that place.

I'm a more compassionate person than I was. Prior to running, I had little patience with people's frailties and shortcomings, never having experienced my own physical limitations. But now that I've been battered and bruised and stressed to the test, it's as if I've finally joined the human race, reached a level of humanity where I feel compassion for my fellow person. I know what it's like to suffer and hurt. My life before running was too insular to understand and feel those things. ...

- Wednesday, March 21, 2012 at 04:37:53 (EDT)

2012-03-10 - Millennium Trail and Rockville Pike

~8 miles @ ~9.4 min/mi

The rising sun blinds me as Cara Marie Manlandro and I head toward it along Gude Drive, following the Rockville Millennium Trail. "Don't blame me!" I warn, "You're leading!" The pace on my GPS fall below 9:45 min/mi, and CM pleads guilty. She's running on less than 4 hours of rest after a family emergency kept her up into the wee hours of the morning. "Lack of sleep is an advantage!" I tell her, but she disagrees. We fist-bump salute each other for joining the Sub-4 Club with recent marathon PRs, and compare notes on how the races felt. I'm wearing B&A Marathon windbreaker pants over lime-green shorts discovered at the Value Village thrift store recently. New York City Marathon ladies shorts I bought there are a gift this morning to CM, who ran NYC a few years ago.

After ~3.5 miles we reach Rockville Pike and agree to cut short the loop and take a more direct route back to her home. When CM tells me there are only ~2 miles to go I request permission to run on ahead. "You promise you won't hate me?" With her blessing I accelerate up the Pike into the chilly wind and finish with a couple of fast splits in spite of a slightly uphill grade. The GPS trackfile records 9:48 ⇒ 9:37 ⇒ 9:39 ⇒ 10:15 ⇒ 9:49 ⇒ 9:39 ⇒ 8:09 ⇒ 8:04 min/mi plus a cooldown fraction. CM finishes shortly behind me.

- Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 04:37:19 (EDT)

Law School Inscription

On the façade of the Columbus School of Law building at the Catholic University of America, some inspirational words:

Trust Charity Wisdom Fidelity Compassion Truth Equality Justice Liberty Fairness Community Service Integrity Learning Honesty Conscience

(building observed yesterday during a run along the Metropolitan Branch Trail, address 3600 John McCormack Road NE, Washington DC 20064; cf. 2011-08-21 - Metropolitan Branch Trail to Clair, 2011-12-24 - Metropolitan Branch with CM, ...)

- Monday, March 19, 2012 at 04:39:17 (EDT)

2012-03-07 - Fence-Jumpers at the UM Track

2+ miles @ ~9 min/mi

At 7:30pm as Robin and I arrive at the University of Maryland track, a golf-cart-like vehicle drives in through the gate. When we follow it in we find two groundskeepers locking up the facility. Can we still run? "Sure," one of them tells us, "We tell people that, if you don't mind jumping the fence to get out, go ahead!"

"Thanks," I reply, "because I really need to do some intervals!" The crew leaves and Robin and I commence our laps — for me, half a dozen 400m repeats at ~1:40 each, with half a lap of recovery walk between. When it's time to escape Robin finds a convenient corner where we can clamber over the chain-link. He leaps to the ground and I pass his water bottle across, then climb and descend with the help of an old trash can on the other side. Whee!

- Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 04:42:41 (EDT)

This Is America

http://zhurnaly.com/images/This_Is_America.jpgSporadically I glance at a few Internet humor sites. The Onion no longer shows up at the Metro entrance or the University of Maryland campus on paper, the medium in which I formerly enjoyed it most, but it's often worth a chuckle online. So is Cracked.com, though it tends to be cruder. The Register focuses on the Information Technology industry and sometimes provokes a smile. Down a notch are College Humor and Something Awful, often sub-sophomoric.

But my favorite du jour quickie-jokes at the moment come from Humor Switch. It features silly giggles among which are real or made-up chat dialogues. This one made me laugh and reminded me of the classic "This is America — you can do whatever you want!" line that a trail runner told Caren Jew and me half a decade ago.

The image here is clipped from yet another snicker-site, 9GAG, that overlaps Humor Switch somewhat in content.

- Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 05:38:03 (EDT)

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