Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Ultra 2017 Update

My update is that I got into Lake Sonoma, and I am number 17 on the Barkley waitlist. I was 28 last year, and the list went 13 or 14 slots deep. That means I've got a shot. The worst possibility is if I get to be number 2 or 3 on the waitlist and then don't make the trip out there, but then my name gets called, that's apparently my shot, and I go to the back of the ~1200 person waiting list.
  • February 4, 2017 Rocky Racoon 100
  • March 4, 2017 Way Too Cool 50k 
  • March 11, 2017 Marin Ultra Challenge 50-Miler
  • April 1, 2017 Barkley Marathons 
  • Backup: April 1, 2017 Bone Tempest 
  • April 15, 2017 Lake Sonoma 50M
  • May 14, 2017 Quicksilver 100K 
  • June 24, 2017 San Juan Solstice 50 (lottery Jan 15-22)
  • July 14-16, 2017 Hardrock 100 
  • August 11-15, 2017 Bigfoot 200 
  • October 7, 2017 Euchre Bar Massacre
Anyway, I ran 2,178 miles in 2016. That's 10 miles more than the AT is long (or at least how long it was in 2002 when I hiked it) so I don't feel terrible, but it is a few hundred fewer miles than last year. With Hardrock, Bigfoot, and potentially Barkley, I hope to step it up in 2017. And read books, and stretch, and waste less time on the Internet, and wake up and get to work earlier, and publish my old paper on the military, and do regular push-ups and pull-ups and sit-ups, and everything else.

End 2016

GF and I wished 2016 good riddance together, which was fun. We had the house to ourselves for Christmas and after making pancakes and vegan (TVP) sausage Christmas morning, I found a discarded tree in perfectly good shape not half a block from my house. So we gave it a new home and decorated it with cut-outs from Science and the New Yorker.





We also went to see the SF Gay Men's Chorus at the Castro Christmas Eve. Camp is definitely, definitely not my style of humor, so mostly I enjoyed it for the fact that they, unlike MoTab, would pretty clearly not perform at the inauguration of the next president even if they'd been invited.


I finally managed to find GF a steel-framed bike that fits her (47.5cm Terry Symmetry), so that was her present. We took it for rides around the marina and Treasure Island.







We also went to Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument. I didn't really know anything about it before going, I was just looking for nearby BLM land a month or so ago. I assumed there had to be some, and there is (see publiclands.org to find public land near you). BSM is just 90 minutes to the north, and then there's a patch just west of I-5 as you head south called Clear Creek, but apparently that'll give you cancer because there's so much asbestos in the soil, so no thanks. BSM is new (Thanks, Obama!) so it was hard to find information on it on the fly. It's Forest Service land in the north half, and BLM land in the south.  The Tuleyome non-profit's trail guide is the best resource for the southern BLM portion, and the standard FS maps of Mendocino NF and Snow Mountain Wilderness will get you through the northern FS, though the Snow Mountain Wilderness map is outdated and doesn't show the expanded coverage of the wilderness.

Anyway, if you're looking for easy dirtbagging as I like to do (sleeping in your truck on the edge of wilderness) I'd recommend both the north's Snow Mountain (FS) or the south's Cache Creek (BLM) wilderness area for a couple days of winter exploration, where you can get snowed on and potentially stuck on the top of Snow Mountain, or be in short sleeves among oaks and grassy slopes the same day. There's no granite, and I'm sure it's hot as hell in the summer, but off-season it was nice. There are a million places to car camp in Mendocino NF to the north, but we actually ended up coming home a day or two early because we kept striking out when looking for places to dirtbag on the edge of Cache Creek. All the sites along Highway 16 (Cowboy Camp, the Yolo County's Cache Creek Regional Park) were closed, with gates locked, and the bridge on Road 40 across Cache Creek itself is out. If you're on the west side along Berryessa Knoxville Road, I think you'll have better luck.








Monday, December 12, 2016

Ultra 2017

2017 is shaping up to be a year. Bold typeface indicates I've already registered.
  • February 4, 2017 Rocky Racoon 100
  • March 4, 2017 Way Too Cool 50k 
  • March 11, 2017 Marin Ultra Challenge 50-Miler
  • April 1, 2017 Barkley Marathons 
  • Backup: April 1, 2017 Bone Tempest 
  • April 15, 2017 Lake Sonoma 50M (Dec 1-15 lottery) 
  • Backup: April 15, 2017 Grizzly Peak 50K 
  • May 14, 2017 Quicksilver 100K 
  • June 24, 2017 San Juan Solstice 50 (lottery Jan 15-22)
  • July 14-16, 2017 Hardrock 100 
  • August 11-15, 2017 Bigfoot 200 
  • October 14(?), 2017 Euchre Bar Massacre
That's about it. Rocky Racoon isn't really my style, but it's an excuse to visit friends in Houston, and I think I can wedge it into a multi-destination work trip. Barkley I'm not sure about, and I never am, but why not go balls out the same year I finally get into Hardrock and have already signed up for a 200-miler?

That's right. I got into Hardrock on my fifth application. To be exact I'm fourth on the waitlist, and the waitlist has never gone fewer than four spots, so I'm almost guaranteed entry. I'm pretty excited about that. And since I am unable to keep my big mouth shut and I'm supposed to be some sort of expert on research transparency and reproducibility, I will say regarding the lottery kerfuffle that running a lottery on a computer is exactly  how you leave an audit trail. Write the code, put it on the Internet beforehand, hundreds of us will inspect it, then you livestream a few people rolling dice to set the seed for the psuedo-random number generator, or use atmospheric variation from Random.org if that's not good enough for you. Cutting up strips of paper introduces a far greater possibility of human error, and if you're not livestreaming the whole paper-cutting and name-picking process, forget it.

Also, I keep making (lowball) offers on houses, I've got a few papers in the hopper, I plan to go on the job market again (contradicts point one, I know), and the world is going to Hell in a handbasket. So there's that.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

A Month Part 2

I also:
Enjoyed vegan ramen with friends.
Then I went up to the Sierras.

Got into Emigrant Wilderness one last time before serious snow closed the trailhead.




Ran on the lower Tuolumne River canyone



San Francisco's Water Supply




That's a nice canyon you got there.

I was a little cold and wet so I just came back to the East Bay and hit a far flung park I hadn't been to yet.
 Brushy Peak





I also rode bikes with friends.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dab_(dance)

Pt. Reyes


And now you're caught up. Oh wait, did I mentioned that I'm pretty sure I cracked a rib falling while climbing into the back of my truck in the middle of the night while camping? And that I'm number four on the waitlist for Hardrock next year? Both those things happened, too.

A Month

What have I done lately?

I went to DC.

GIVE ME THE LIBATIONS!

Let's hope so.
I attended a conference on open science and visited a friend working for the Council of Economic Advisers in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Truman Bowling Alley: I'm gonna miss you, Barry.



GZA and I saw Lucius at the Fillmore. They rock.

I acquired some emergency earthquake/fascism supplies.


I went for a long bike ride.



Monday, November 07, 2016

I went places and did things

I went to a conference in Budapest, and spent a day in the mountains in Slovakia. Slovakia was cloudy, but I stumbled across a fun English speaking wine tasting. The conference in Budapest was disappointing, but the city itself is beautiful.

Slovakia photos
Budapest photos

I went from Budapest to a conference at Mohonk Mountain House in the 'Gunks, and afterwards spent a day at NYU. The service at the high end hotel was absurdly bad, but it is one of the most beautiful natural hotel settings in the world, especially during peak leaf season.

Mohonk photos

Then I took a train to Florida and tried to preserve democracy. We'll see how that goes.

Florida photos

I'll leave you with this Brooklyn racoon.

Euchre Bar Massacre

After missing it last year with a cold, I was able to run my favorite race again this October: the Euchre Bar Massacre. I love it. I'm not supposed to share the exact route with you, but it's up and down the steep and deep canyon of the North Fork of the American River eight times, following written directions to a series of books hidden in the woods to act as checkpoints. Most of the downs are on trail, most of the ups are off trail. I love it. Even if it's 40-45 degrees and raining the entire day. I missed the cutoff at 1AM so I did not finish.

I love it.

 Photo by Sean Ranney

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Just Plain Tough

I ran the Plain 100. It was difficult.

Plain may be the first 100-miler I had ever heard of in the sense that I actually knew anyone who ran it. My ultra/grad school mentor ZG ran it back in '04 or '05 and not only did he win it, he was the first person to finish it in several years. Plain runs quite a bit under the radar due to its length (108 miles) and absence of any course markings or aid stations. That's right, no aid stations, and no course markings. Less than a month after running a 24-hour rogaine that has the same conditions, that might not seem like a huge deal, but compared to standard hundred mile races, it is. Also note that in my rogaine, I covered a whopping 44 miles without aid or course markings.

The other major issue with Plain is that it a very high percentage of the course is on motorbike trails. Motorbike trails are unpleasant to run on for several reasons:
  • Pavement. To prevent erosion, trail maintainers lay concrete paving stones. So you're basically running on a concrete sidewalk instead of a regularly cushioned trail. 
  • Waves. Motorcycles create waves in the trail. Irregular 2-3 foot undulating waves in the trail as often as every dozen yards. I bet on a dirtbike it feels like pure joy, but running the waves, it's painful on the knees and impossible to find a rhythm.
  • Ditches. When the trail isn't paved, the dirtbikes carve a narrow ditch in the trail, somewhat similar to horses or stock in muddy season. The ditch can get to be waste deep, and the sides can be banked. Running it, you have to try and put each foot directly in front of the other in the dead center of the ditch, which is not at all normal running form.
  • Circuitous. Motorbikes love lazy 'S' turns that don't go anywhere. Runners don't.
Anyway, the course is essentially a figure eight, with a 62-mile loop and a 45 mile loop. There are no aid stations, so you need to carry all your food and get water from natural sources, except that you can get whatever assistance you like at the dropbag station (i.e. your car, the start/finish, also the center of the figure eight). There are no course markings, so unless you've done it before, you need to carry a map and course directions. This isn't Barkley, so there's nothing off trail, and trail junctions are generally well-marked, but it's by the Forest Service for general use unrelated to the course.

I enjoyed the first loop. I started out in the back of the pack because I ran back a few minutes after the start to grab extra rain gear (a trash bag for emergency extra warmth) from the car, but I caught up with the mid-packers after 7-10 miles. A surprising number of us hung together for the next 10-20 miles. This year there were fewer than 30 runners who started the 100 mile race (there's also a 100K race that consists of just the first loop), but there were 5 of us running together briefly. Compare this to one of the guys I carpooled with who ran for 24 hours in the latter portion of the race without seeing a single other runner, which is more the norm for Plain.




The reward for a 4,400 foot climb in the wind and rain

The weather was rainy, windy, and quite cold during most of the day Saturday, but the course was pretty, and it started to mellow out Saturday night. I got back to the car at 11:30PM, cooked some ramen, and left at midnight.

The second loop was brutal. The motorcycle waves made me pretty miserable, and I started doing under 3mph. I was running on empty. I'd listened to all the podcasts I was excited about, and when Terry Gross started talking about how to train your cat, I had had enough. But as soon as I turned it off, my mind started getting loopy, I started imagining weird house-warming party scenarios on repeat in my brain, and I slowed way down. I found a dry spot under a tree and took a dirtnap by the side of the trail, but another runner came up behind me and woke me up with some sort of comment about hypothermia. I popped up, said "No, I won't!" and left him behind on the rest of the climb. I finally remembered I hadn't caffeinated, so I took a pill and started to come back to life.

The morning was still rough, however. I was doing 23-minute miles, and kept doing the math to try and figure out if 3mph would get me in under the 36-hour cutoff. I was 80 to 90 miles in, with 20-30 to go, and that 7-10 hours remaining was not sounding good. Mostly I thought of how I had better finish so that I would never have to come back to this race.

It was a bit hard to appreciate how pretty it was on Sunday
Finally, after learning how to train a cat and having the bejeezus scared out of me by a Forest Service guy minding his own business standing by the trail while some weirdo in a trance staring at the ground trudged by him, the last climb ended and the trail dropped steeply down the mountain at mile 92. I was able to make up time with some 4-5 mph stretches set to the tunes of Ratatat.

I reached the bottom with about 2.5 hours left and seven annoying motorcycle miles to go, and finally shuffled across the finish line in 35 hours and 16 minutes. [Results]
  
In retrospect I'm glad I did it, and of course glad I toughed it out. I think I might recommend people do the 100K instead of the 100-miler, since the course is quite pretty, and the organizers are quite nice. However, the second loop and all the concrete really just seemed like I lucked out not getting a stress fracture in my foot or some sort of IT band issue like happened at Zion last year. Or maybe I'm just saying that because it may have been the hardest race I've ever run.

If you want to watch how my whining increased and pace decreased, I filmed a little bit every 10 miles or so: