Saturday, April 11, 2020

What am I even doing with my life?

Not much, is the answer. I still can't run up a hill to save my life. I tried yesterday, and every stride with my left leg hurt, enough that I was likely taking visibly uneven and limpy strides. So I'm sitting on the couch like a lot of other people. (Literally right now I'm sitting on the ground on my front porch.)

I wasn't signed up for many races anyway. Once I realized I was injured I didn't sign up for the March 50K or DC Rock N' Roll marathon as I had planned, the latter of which was canceled anyway. I started teleworking (government speak for working from home) 100% in early March, on my own initiative before it was really allowed since I didn't want to ride Metro and it makes almost no difference in my work in the short-term. Then it was quickly allowed, then encouraged, and finally nobody's-allowed-in-the-building mandated. Initially we weren't sure GF was going to be up here in DC, but she was visiting for the weekend, luckily brought a bunch of dirty clothes with her to do laundry, and her office was finally shut down the day she had a ticket to go home. So we're together.

I had been planning for about a year to start hiking the Hayduke Trail starting April 4. I bought the food and gear I'd need for resupply, and my hiking partner obtained our permits. As the virus started spreading I saw the writing on the wall, but didn't want to rule things out, and the uncertainty was really stressful. In the end we made the right call and pushed the trip to September. (6 of 6 national parks we'd pass through are now closed.) Maybe if we're lucky travel will be allowed then, with testing but still bans on mass gatherings? I mean, I don't exactly see how we get there without mass testing that the US clearly appears too incompetent to accomplish, but maybe.

So no, I'm not running, please don't ask. And no, I'm not hiking. Biking on largely empty streets is fun, but it doesn't satisfy me like running does.  And unlike Oakland and a few other cities, DC didn't do anything until this Friday to make more streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Yes, traffic is way down, but the cars that are there are going fast. I have a race in late June that's not cancelled yet but I assume will be, and one that was rescheduled from May to August. Maybe I'll get fanatical about my PT exercises and be recovered in time, and maybe the plague will end. We'll see.

Contagion: A-
Light of My Life: B
Zombieland: B+
Zombieland Doubletap: D+
Once upon a Time in Hollwood: A

Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America, by Conor Dougherty: B+
Mostly bored by The Library Book by Susan Orlean and The Long Walk by Steven King, feeling like I should read Moby Dick, The Count of Monte Cristo, or Infinite Jest since I have all this time.

Walking George, reading the news, video chats with friends, making bread (see pic), building a home seltzer machine (see pic), brewing kombucha. Most of that's pretty regular for me. So I order grains for beer and a wheat grinder to up my game. Anyway, we'll see.

Sunday, February 16, 2020


This year isn't starting off very well, neither for me as an Elizabeth Warren fan, nor for me as a runner. I strained my hamstring in the very race I wrote about in my last post where I laid out this year's plans. I rode my bike to and from the Al Lewis 10-miler, and felt fine, but then later that day when I was sitting on the couch, I felt much sorer than usual, and it hasn't gone away. I managed to do two big runs the following weekend: Saturday I ran the JFK 20K and then ran 13.5 miles home afterward. Sunday I ran the Waterfall 50K out on Massanutten with a two-mile shortcut in the middle of the race. I nearly shat myself and had to divert into the woods on the 20K, so my time wasn't going to be great regardless of injury, but I was only running 8:10-8:20 miles, and definitely still felt the muscle strain. Out on Massanutten I was OK jogging downhills and road sections, but flat sections were tough because Massanutten is so rocky that you have to lift your leg higher, and I feel pain every strong/fast/high stride.

Basically I can lollygag, but not run hard at all. My training has dropped off dramatically since then: weeks of 28, 23, and 21 miles, and that's typically including short walks. So not a lot of running! I went to a PT this week and he diagnosed the problem as something in my upper semitendinosus (the middle of the three hamstring muscles) and gave my some exercises to do. He's a running acquaintance and comes highly recommended, but his office is in Maryland, not Metro accessible, and I'm paying out of pocket, so I won't go back very often. More important is probably that I just do the exercises, which I have been doing every day, and I rigged a standing desk at work.

How long is this going to last? Right now it doesn't really mess with my walking or hiking very much, so I think I'll be fine for the Hayduke. Better be.

In other crummy news I didn't get picked in the Superior 100 lottery, so I have to decide on something else (Arkansas or Pinhoti). Maybe Arkansas because Pinhoti is just after the election when I may have used all my vacation up again doing GOTV stuff.


Sunday, January 12, 2020

2020 Race Schedule

Here's my list of races for 2020.

I'm starting off the year with some short road races put on by DC Road Runners. I ran the Al Lewis 10-miler in 69:40 yesterday. That's not nearly as good as 2019 Cherry Blossom, but I did do sub 7's, which seems decent for not having done one single ounce of speed work since the Turkey Trot. Hopefully these low-key races will both inspire me to do serious speed work and act as speed training themselves, so that I can do well in March at a local 50K and the DC Rock and Roll Marathon. (I'm not sold on or signed up for either of those yet--if there is another comparable area marathon in March I could be convinced to do that instead.)

April I take off on the Hayduke Trail.  May I'll come back and will hopefully have lots of time on my feet as training for the Capital Backyard last person standing race. I suspect I may die of chafing, but if I can keep that in check, I think I can do very well at a last person standing race.

June & July: I was thinking for a while I'd do the Highlands Sky 40 in West Virginia, and my reaction to my long night at High Lonesome 100 (and Massanutten and Grindstone before that) was that I wanted to do fewer hundreds. But I can't help myself, and I hate the summer weather out east, so I'm tempted to fly out west and do the Black Hills 100 in South Dakota. July I don't have anything planned but I'm tempted by the Palisades 100 in Idaho and the Wyoming Range 100 in August. Hopefully I'll only sign up for one of these, and only two 100-milers for the year.

August there's an unofficial offtrail run in Desolation that I've been meaning to do for years.

September I will hopefully get into the Superior 100 and get my Western States qualifier for the year. I put in for the lottery and will find out this coming week. If I don't get in, maybe Pinhoti in November or Arkansas Traveler in October.

October I'll go get my butt kicked by Euchre Bar Massacre.

November and December I'll try for two of Horton's races and gf and I will probably do the Richmond Marathon again.

Just before the start of the 10-miler yesterday

Bold indicates higher interest. *=Western States qualifier.

DC Road Runners Events

    Al Lewis 10 Miler, January 11

    JFK 20K & MLK 5K, January 18

    Langley 8K, February 8

    Club Challenge 10 Miler, February 23 (tentative)

    Burke Lake 12K, March 1

    Fort Hunt 10K, March 8

March 7, 2020 Seneca Creek Greenway 50K

March 28, 2020 DC Rock and Roll Marathon

May 23, 2020 Capital Backyard

June 20, 2020 Highlands Sky 40-Miler (Reg opens Feb 2)

June 26, 2020 Black Hills 100, South Dakota

June 27, 2020 Manitou’s Revenge 54-miler, NY

July DCRR Track Mile

August 9: Ute 100 (about to fill up)

August 8, 2020: Eastern States 100*

August 17-18: Desolate Peaks

Aug 22: Twisted Branch 100K*

September 11, 2020: Superior 100* (Lottery opens Jan 1)

September 12-13, 2020 : Mogollon Monster 100

September 19, 2020: Barkley Fall Classic

October 3-4?: Arkansas Traveler 100*

October 12: Euchre Bar Massacre

[Election Day Tuesday Nov 3]
November 7: Pinhoti 100*

November 7: Mountain Masochist (MMTR) 50 (opens May 1)

November 14: Richmond Marathon

December 12?: Hellgate* (Lottery/application. NB: Qualifier for following year WSER)

Thoughts? Anybody want to join me? What am I forgetting/doing wrong?

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 in Review: Getting after it, subject to constraints

365 consecutive days of running at least two miles done, and 2,601 miles of running for the year.

I set a goal to run every day this year. I just ran six more miles, putting me at 2,601 miles for the year, and 365 consecutive days or running at least two miles every day. I'm glad I completed the streak, but I will not be continuing. I used streak running as a means to increase my total mileage, which has long been a goal. I was successful in that goal, as I surpassed my previous highest mileage from 2015 of 2,485 running miles. The obvious caveat is that this is running miles, as I doubt I will ever cover more miles on foot that in I did hiking ~6,000 miles round trip hike on the CDT in 2007. It's less than half the yearly mileage, but in 2007 I walked from sun up to sun down for 178.5 days, while in 2019 I had a mortgage, held down a full-time job, and published a book and a couple papers, so I feel like I'm doing a decent job of getting after it given the constraints.

George and I at the ATC HQ in Harper's Ferry

I've long considered higher volume (or really, better consistency, which would lead to high volume) to be how I could get faster. I could probably do some stats on my workouts to test this, but I won't, and instead will just assume it's true that if you subtract race mileage, my highest volume month was February, when I was seriously training for Virginia Beach Shamrock Marathon. It's definitely true that's when I was trying hardest. I set a PR, breaking 3:00. (Maybe it was the shoes? I have no desire to run a race in heavier, less-cushioned shoes to add N=1 to the data.)

I was then really bummed when that leg speed didn't turn over into success on trails. It turns out the weather is really humid and awful in the summer on the east coast. My 100 milers (Massanutten, High Lonesome) didn't go that well, but I did fairly well at shorter ~100K races: Laurel Highlands 70.5 and Castle Peak 100K. Then a mediocre and rainy Marine Corps Marathon (3:21) followed by a second Boston qualifying marathon for the year at Richmond (3:08).

March--Shamrock Marathon (2:59:40 PR)
April--Cherry Blossom 10-miler (65:29)
May--Farm Park Challenge (47 miles)
May--Massanutten 100 (34:00)
June--Laurel Highlands 70.5 (16:45)
July--High Lonesome 100 (34:41)
August--Castle Peak 100K (16:38)
October--Euchre Bar Massacre (Missed cutoff after 5 hills)
October--Marine Corps Marathon (3:21)
November--Richmond Marathon (3:08)

There were a few other casual things in there--I don't quite know where the line is between casual group runs and formal races is for VHTRC events, but I also ran Hashawa Hills 50K, Boyer's Furnace 40, and a 5-mile turkey trot.

So what's next, and why won't I be continuing my streak? I didn't really like being consistent on a day to day basis. Weekly maybe, and monthly definitely, but some days I'm in the groove in the office and want to stay late and make progress on a paper, get home after dark, drink a beer, let George pee in the back yard, and go to bed. Without running two miles in 90 degree weather or on icy blacktop in 20 degree weather wearing screw shoes. Aside from burning calories, are those lazy 10-11 minute miles with frequent breaks for George to pee really doing anything for my conditioning? I doubt it.

Importantly, I also plan to do a major hike in 2020. I managed to drop my pack and run two miles on days I went backpacking this year, but doing that every day on what will be a 5 or 6-week, 800-mile trek is just dumb. No thanks. I would like to do something every day that I'm not on trail, perhaps stretching, foam rolling, or core exercises, but it won't be running. My not running may begin as soon as tomorrow. I'm glad I have the choice.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Turkey Trot: Last Race of the Year

I've run my last race of the year: a 5-mile turkey trot in Alexandria, VA. I did as much speed work as I could in the twelve days between Richmond Marathon and the turkey trot (which is not much), but I finished in 32:16. I'm happy I went under 6:30 pace, but more importantly, MRB beat me. He warned me not to start too fast, and then I immediately went and started too fast! I just don't feel like waiting for the people who clearly shouldn't be near the start to slowly filter out--I'll go around the now, please and thank you. So he passed me after about 3/4 miles, but then I kept him in sight the whole way.

I felt like maybe I was gaining on him in the last mile straightaway, and then I definitely was gaining on him with about a quarter mile to go when our fellow high school friend was loudly cheering us on and enjoying the intense chase. But I was gassed, and there were too many turns around the school to really know where the finish line was, so he beat me by 10 seconds.

The end.

That's it for 2020. Sort of. I'm still planning on doing a 40-mile fat ass the weekend after Christmas, but I don't think that counts as a race. I already have over 2,400 miles for the year. I'll write more about that later, but I'm done racing for the year.

Here's what I did:
February--Hashawa Hills 50K
March--Shamrock Marathon
April--Cherry Blossom 10-miler
May--Farm Park Challenge, Massanutten 100M
June--Laurel Highlands 70.5M
July--High Lonesome 100M
August--Castle Peak 100K
October--Euchre Bar Massacre
November--Richmond Marathon, Turkey Trot

Not my highest volume of racing by any stretch. I did great on the road. My two hundred milers were pretty crummy, and my two hundred Ks were great. That gives me a lot to think about for next year.

Marine Corps and Richmond

 Back in January or February, however, when I contemplated trying to break 3 hours in a marathon this year, I didn't think I had enough time to do it in a spring race. I thought I would get somewhere around 3:05, and then try to maintain my consistency over the summer and break 3 at a fall race, either Steamtown or Marine Corps. But then I did end up breaking 3 at Virginia Beach. I signed up for Marine Corps anyway. I figured I should run every big city marathon while I live there at least once (though I never did Oakland or SF.) But then in September I contemplated doing hill repeats for Euchre Bar or speed work for Marine Corps, and I ended up doing mostly neither. Still, I was signed up, and so were 30,000 other people, so I figured it would be fun. My buddy L flew into town to go to a World Series game with his cousin, and he said he'd join me, so it should definitely be a fun time.

Except for the weather, as it was supposed to rain a lot. But it was still just a Metro ride away, so no big deal.

Morning Happy Face
 I put on my happy face and rode to the start. If I'd been one train cycle earlier, I would have been fine, but I was pretty late. I didn't get to poop at the start, and by the time I dropped off my gear, I was way at the back of the pack and still moving towards the corral when the gun went off. My gun-chip differential was about 5 minutes, and the first several miles was packed, with serious effort expended getting around and between other people to get up to desired pace.

 When it's that crowded, I'll brush people on the elbow with the back of my hand to let them know I'm passing. I did that to one person, and then I felt them push me in the back. Again. A third time. Are they mad that I passed them? What is going on? Oh, hey! It's Lucas! We hadn't been able to meet up before the start, but then in a sea of 30,000 people I ran right into him. He hung with me for a mile or two.

Overall it was extremely windy and rainy, with several intersections full of three to six inches of water. The DC section of the course was fine, though I thought there were too many turns and an unnecessarily circuitous course. Check out this weird salamander of a course:

Then once you cross back into Arlington, the course is again turn-y, and pretty dumpy, and then at miles 23.5 to 25.5 or so, right when you're barely hanging on, you're running through the Pentagon parking lot and surrounding areas that are just dead. No fans, nothing. An empty giant parking lot with all sorts of security around it and nothing else. Then the last few hundred yards to the finish is an uphill to get to the base of the Iwo Jima Marine Corps War Memorial. The climb is an enjoyable sharp slap in the face right at the end, but the finish line was barely marked. There was no arch, just timing mats and a marine pointing at the ground. Hopefully that's just because of the windy conditions, since having an obvious and visible finish line is good.

The Watermelon Lobby handing out samples
For bad weather and a lack of training, I was pretty happy with my performance. I did slow down over the course, going from 7:20 to 7:30 to 7:40 with three miles in there closer to 8:00, but I was pretty happy with my performance. I didn't wear my Nike Vapor Flys, because I didn't want to put extra wear on them in the wet conditions, and I wasn't sure how their grip would perform. I wore Adidas Adizero instead, and my legs were completely shot when I was done.

So I had a good day in DC, and a local runner friend told me about Richmond too. I don't remember if we signed up before or after Marine Corps, but the races are only three weeks apart. GF and I booked a private room at the hostel, I took the train down Thursday night, and we picked our bibs up Friday. The hostel was only a quarter mile from the start, and the place was entirely booked up with runners, and a cool place generally, I'd recommend it--hotels in downtown Richmond seem weirdly expensive for a second-tier city, but both GF and I really like the city. It's walkable, with some cool neighborhoods, A+ urban whitewater, very good murals, a mix of cool old buildings, and bus-rabid transit for this urbanist to nerd out on.

After my mistake at Marine Corps, I got to Richmond in plenty of time. But there wasn't much reason to use the drop bags, so I was just cold until other people started taking off their warm-up clothing and I picked up some discards until right before the gun. I started off just a few yards shy of the 3:00 pace group, but even right off the bat I could never really hang with them. I felt a really good strategy at Virginia Beach was to start about 25 seconds after the 3:00 pace group, with a 25-30 second gun-chip differential. You can catch up to the 3:00 pace group with your initial go-out-too fast, and then you've got a little tiny cushion for mile 22 when you can't hang with them anymore.

Anyway, I tried that, but I could never really catch up to the group, and I felt right away that 6:50's weren't happening. But 7:00 was good. That I could do. My watch shows I did miles 2 through 5 around 6:50, and also 7 through 10, but the race clock shows me doing 7:00. I remember going through the halfway point around 1:32 and thinking I might be able to hang on for a 3:05.
I heard a guy near me talking about ultras and David Horton (who I saw riding his bike around the course), so I chatted him up, and warned me about the Lee Bridge at mile 16. Holy balls that was hard. I tried to draft off two bigger guys, and I did manage to keep up a good pace, but I'm sure it didn't cut the wind at all. It felt like we were thousands of feet in the air, and the bridge was so wide (in both directions) and cold. And then once you're off the bridge, there's a final bad climb up to mile 18, and the rest is flat or downhill. I slowed to between 7:20 to 7:40 from mile 20 through 25, but the very last section is a pretty fast runnable downhill, so I did a 7:00 mile 26, and finished in 3:08.

I was definitely happy with that. GF came really close to breaking two hours in the half, so we both did well. I think we both liked the course, and had a good time in the city, so we might run it again next year.

Pipeline Walk
The next day we walked around Richmond. I brought my packraft, but I was too cold and my muscles were sore, so I didn't have it in me to try the pipeline rapids, unfortunately.

Next Time

My Favorite Race of the Year...

...and I forgot to train.

Euchre Bar Massacre happened again. After heading out to California for Castle Peak in August, and doing reasonably well, my training dropped off in September. I did have two 60+ mile weeks, but mostly was down around 40 per week. I rode the 60-mile WABA 50-States Ride (where you ride a bit of every state-named avenue in the District). That was an interesting way to see the city, and I had fun doing it with the group, but as far as the biking itself goes, it's mostly terrible. I did some pretty lame scouting of the Tuscarora trail, as I was sort of thinking about setting an unsupported FKT on it in the future, but I didn't really enjoy this section all that much.  I also went out to West Virginia and did a 40-mile loop in Dolly Sods Wilderness for my birthday. I'll never get around to blogging about it, but I highly recommend the Sods if you're in the DC area--the northern section is a high plateau  with scrubby windblown trees that brought back memories of Alaska, sort of. The southern part is your regular West Virginia river canyons, but there are some decent views.

One night I looked at a topo map, and went to a spot in Rock Creek Park where I'd previously thought "OK, if you went off-trail downhill here, you might actually be able to get some vert." I did it two, maybe three times, getting no more than 125 feet each time, thought "this is dumb," and stopped. I can spend all day climbing, but 125 feet per repetition feels worthless. In Berkeley I could get more than 1,000 feet right off campus, and even more than that on Tam or Diablo. Those I can do repeats on, but not 100' climbs. I thought briefly about switching over to speed work for the fall marathon season, but that mostly didn't happen either.

So that's how trained up I was for Euchre Bar, and then I heard that the course had gotten harder. When I first did this race, I explained why I loved it so much saying, "you bushwhack up crazy steep climbs and then bomb down steep runnable trails." Since then, two trail descents were moved off-trail, and two more were removed this year. I still love it though.

I took the train to Sacramento and caught a ride with Caveman to the campground. Thirty seconds before the start, I realized I didn't have my hat. So I ran back over to my hammock and grabbed it. Then thirty seconds after the start I realized my maps had fallen out of my chest pocket while I was digging around for my hat, so I went back to grab them. Thankfully, Sean asked what I was doing and just handed me a set he had handy, so I didn't lose much time. The leaders all missed a turn, so they were behind me briefly anyway. Within a mile or so from the start, the course had changed. No more bombing down the Green Valley Trail, instead we went left, failed to go left far enough, started some rock slides that were pretty sketchy given how close this was to the start and how tightly clumped we all still were, and finally went left enough to descend in a gully instead of off a cliff.

Not left enough

Go further left

Looks like a lovely place to squat on public land
I traversed along the river to the gravesite for the first book, followed the old ditch, and climbed up to the Euchre Bar sign. Yu caught up to me after having lost his phone and spending 30 minutes finding it, meaning I could only keep up with him for a few minutes; once we started the next off-trail descent down Idiot's Gambit he was gone.

One climb done

Second descent to the usual bridge

The North Fork, possibly the North Fork of the North Fork
I got the book at the confluence of the North Fork and the North Fork of the North Fork (not a typo), and followed the trail to the big iron wheel. There were about 10 people, and we picked up the bag that the book was supposed to be in, but there was no book. We'd just seen Yu running the other way and he'd said "that book was an adventure!" but where had it gone? Finally somebody read the note in the bag: "crawl through the person-sized hole..."

So into the mineshaft we went.

Unlike some others, my group took the correct turn, and was reasonably able to peel apart pages of the wet book to take our page and go. We crossed the river again, scrambled off trail a bit, and began a climb on old mining trail that wasn't too hard to follow. I made my way to the next mineshaft and book pretty easily, but the book was just off trail a few hundred yards, and on the way back to the trail I saw Eric and Suzanna, stopped to try and explain where the book was, got confused, and didn't descend all the way back to the trail. After a half mile of awful traversing and occasionally thinking I was on the trail, I heard E & S go by below me. They were clearly on trail, so I dropped straight to them and we set off together.

Swimming holes to die for

Damn, was that only the second climb? This was not going my way. The third climb up Ebeneezer's was fine, having done it before. This year, we didn't even have to climb the rusty unsafe ladder onto the water tank. The ridge of 17,000,000 blowdowns was fine; I've never particularly had problems with it. Just stay to the left. I made it to the dropbags, three climbs done, with plenty of time for the first cut-off. I was happy that I ate a lot there--three donuts, a burrito, and lots of snacks. Eric dropped at the aid station, so I asked Suzanna if she wanted to go with me on the next leg, very much hoping she would. She seemed to have the same reaction, eagerly wanting company, too. So we started off, and immediately, immediately, took a wrong turn, traversing on some very well groomed trail or firebreak along the ridge, instead of taking the obvious descent down the Italian Bar trail. I tried to enjoy this, my one trail descent, but my pack was a bit heavy with all my nighttime clothing.

We crossed the river and began climb four, that was new this year: Sawtalian. JFC, this was hard. There are obvious cliffs to your right, so we went a little left, but eventually ran into two sections of cliff that we had to climb. Not worse than class 3, but still, vertical exposed climbing, and enough to give me some sewing-machine leg and set off some leg cramps that weren't particularly welcome when you're testing small rocks to see if they're secure enough in the dirt to hold your weight. We topped out into a grassy, burr-filled bench. I saw rock spires and cliffs at the top of the canyon to the left, and what looked like a more rounded way up straight ahead, so we bore straight/right. Then for the next three hours or so we backtracked and tracked and backtracked to try and find our way through endless brush. Like, Enchanted Gorge, Type 2.5 fun nightmare stuff, full on commando crawling under manzanita. We should have gone left.  We really should have gone left.

Can you tell how much fun I'm having?

A tiny percentage of the burrs
 We finally made it to the top, followed the road to the outhouse and our second to last book. We descended down Government Spring, on what I think was a decent line. I kept checking GPS to make sure not to miss the trail when we got down to where it (sort of) still exists; I'm not sure if that's a waste of time. We crossed the river and got our last book at the old cabin near the American River Trail. We slowly climbed out the Mumford Bar trail, wishing aloud that Sean would be waiting with the car at the campground at the top. When we topped out, Sean was sadly not there. I began trudging along the road, and Suzanna said she felt like running. Damn, that's impressive. She still had it in her to run at a time like this? And she wanted to run the road section at the top of Sawtalian too! How can you do anything but wallow in 2.5mph misery like me? (I mean, she did miss the next turn, so I had to yell for her to come back. So she didn't really gain on me, but still. Impressive.)

Finally, under a mile from the drop bags, I nearly made the same mistake I made two years ago. There's a difference in the old USGS and newer USFS maps, and I think the older USGS map has the road going through to the trailhead, while the updated, and correct one shows that it doesn't go through, and if you stay on the road, the route is quite circuitous. Luckily this year I realized the error and we bushwhacked our way to freedom, the aid station, our drop bags, and Sean's car. We were timed out after completing five hills. In previous years I completed six before timing out. I took my phone off airplane mode, and momentarily got a bit of reception. A text message came in. It was Sean, hours ago offering us a ride from the campsite. What a nice guy! Except for the whole putting Sawtalian in the race thing.

I went and got some sleep, and woke up in time for Caveman to come in to the finish. Back in March I thought this would be my year. I'd just broken three hours in a marathon and run a 65:41 10-miler. Then I realized that didn't turn over into trail running, and then it was 90 degrees and humid for five straight months. Oh well, I still had fun with friends in the woods.

Caveman's Finish

Friday, November 15, 2019

A Transparent and Reproducible Ultramarathon Lottery

I wrote the code to transparently and reproducibly run the High Lonesome 100 lottery, which will be conducted tonight (November 15, 2019). The code is available on Github here, and the web app to actually implement the lottery is here. The app has all the details and instructions, but simply put, you just need to pick the seed for R's pseudo-random number generator (PRNG). I don't understand all the gory details of how PRNGs work, but basically, if you write code involving randomly generated numbers, you can set the seed so that every time the code is run you get the same answer.

In order to fairly set the seed, the race director Caleb Efta will have public participants roll several 10-sided dice at Laws Whiskey Bar in Denver Colorado tonight. If you didn't set a seed, the code would give you a different answer every time you ran it, so participants couldn't be sure which run the actual results came from. If we just picked some arbitrary seed (my usual is 1492) then participants couldn't be sure that I hadn't run the code thousands of times until I got a result guaranteeing that people I liked got into the race. So instead we roll dice live and in public.

Thanks to UC Berkeley Stats Professor (and ultrarunner, and former colleague at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science where he led the Reproducibility and Open Science working group of which I was a part) Philip Stark for this idea, which he used for much more serious stuff--namely risk-limiting audits of elections. Thanks to Colorado for caring about election security enough to enact this fraud prevention. Thanks to RD Caleb Efta for taking me up on my offer to volunteer to set this up. I'm happy that instead of just complaining about what I think is bad about other race lotteries, I got to help implement what I think is a better system (and it's fun that my reproducible stats world and my ultrarunning world collided).

Monday, October 28, 2019

Apparently I Never Wrote May or June Race Reports: Laurel Highlands

So my May races sucked, but then I went to Pennsylvania and had a good time running the Laurel Highlands Ultra.  I got a ride up with a member of the early-morning-type-A runners and his pacers/crew, and it was fun to talk to them and not have to get up stupid early to ride the bus to the start.

The race is a point-point that is 100% singletrack along the Laurel Highlands trail, with the exception of the first mile or so to get out of a State Park and its parking lot and such. The park has a nice small waterfall at the start.

There are nice views.

The ferns are really big, and there are a lot of them. Seriously though, it's really cool. I would love to go get some spores or a small sample and try and grow them in my backyard.

The trail was runable for the most part. I kept telling myself to run every runable step, and for the most part I did. I stopped at one aid station after about 40 miles and changed my shoes and socks and felt refreshed. I dropped a friend from my run group with whom I had been playing cat and mouse all day with about 12 miles to go.

It got dark, and I kept feeling good and passing people, and then the final 4 miles is all downhill. Really downhill. A consistent, beautiful 6% grade. So then I was really passing people. And then I heard footsteps behind me and saw a light actually catching up to me. WTF? No. You cannot be middle of the pack all day and then pass me on a downhill to the finish. This is my thing. (Feel free to be in the lead and crush it all day and do the downhill faster than me; people do it all the time.) Was it one of the Floridians who had passed me much earlier in the day, disappointed that I caught up with them? No time to find out, I had to motor. Every time I let off the gas even a little bit, this person would breathe down my neck. One of these time the person spoke, and she taunted me: "C'mon, you're not going to let me pass you, are you?" Hell no, bring it!

So we kept burning, momentum carrying you downhill like you're skiing moguls with just enough time to think one wrong step would snap a femur like a twig, until the trail popped out on a road and which way do we go and wait is that the finish line it's not marked very obviously I guess it is and oh shit she's making a move and speed up again and almost run some spectators over and slam into a parked SUV and shit did she pass me at the last second? Yes she did.

Great run to the finish by the anchor of the only women's relay team. In reality it was only 9-minute miles, but that's good enough for 7th all time on the Strava segment, and I had a great day, so I'll take it. I finished in 25th place in 16:45.

Did I mention the weather was lovely? There was a cooling breeze most of the day, there wasn't much humidity, and with the exception of one exposed climb I can remember, it was nice all day. This is apparently unusual for this race (and June in Pennsylvania generally). I kept saying "if you could promise me weather like this I'd run this every year" and people replied "we can't." Once was sure fun, though.

Apparently I Never Wrote May or June Race Reports: Massanutten 100

After my disappointing performance at Farm Park, I didn't really have high hopes for Massanutten Mountain Trails100. It was going to be hot again, and the course is very rocky.

This rocky

And this rocky
So you basically have to look at the ground the whole time. And I feel like you're using your core a lot more, almost like you're squatting or in a wrestling stance, in a much different running form than usual, and it really wore me out. Also, my knee quit working at about mile 24.

I blame my La Sportiva Akasha shoes, that have a high (12mm) heel drop that I'm no longer used to. The aid stations were well-stocked, so I was able to ice it and just walk. It was really hot (85, 90? Can't quite remember) and humid. I walked and walked, and it got dark, and I started losing my mind a bit, and I just wanted to lay down somewhere, anywhere, and sleep, but every time I sat down I found ticks, or another runner would pass me and ask me how I was doing, so I wasn't even going to get even a minute's rest.

On the positive side, I did see a bunch of these dirty, filthy orchids, and this big black rat snake.

you should be ashamed of yourself

keeps going

Finally, early the next morning I made it to an aid station around mile 78 or 80 that a friend of mine was running. He's a professional chef, so there was good food, and I told him to not let anyone talk to me for 10 minutes, so I actually got to sit down in peace and quiet for a few minutes. I didn't get to nap though, so I left the aid station before too long and did the next climb. Again I looked for a place to nap on top of the climb (Signal Knob--really good views) but it was too windy on the exposed vista, and then there were too many ants on the nice flat area nearby.

Other runners passed me, and I heard them talking about what it would take to finish. I better get my butt in gear. All night and all morning I'd been thinking I really need to finish this race so that I never have to come back. I started being able to run again, and finally there was a long gravel descent, a long stretch of flat gravel road, and the Terry Gross interview with Howard Stern was good (especially where they discuss Stern's interview with Stephen Colbert--I guess it's a pretty meta-interview), and I finished this awful, hard race in 34 hours, 0 minutes, and some change.

I mean, it felt awful, but it wasn't. It had reasonably good views, the aid stations and the volunteers were terrific, the camping at the start line the night before was fun, and VHTRC is good people. It was indeed very hot and humid, my knee didn't want to bend for half the day, and the majority of the course that isn't a fire road is quite rocky. I don't think I'll be running this one again any time soon, but I'd like to go back and volunteer.

Apparently I Never Wrote May or June Race Reports: Farm Park Challenge

It's almost November, and I still haven't written about my May or June races. In March and April I performed well at Shamrock Marathon and Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, finally breaking 3 hours in the marathon and running just over my goal 6:30 pace in my first 10-miler ever. I thought I had a lot of leg speed built up that I'd be able to use in ultras throughout the year, kicking butt at the Massanutten 100-miler in late May, for example. That did not happen, however.

Farm Park Challenge
May 4 I ran the Farm Park Challenge. It's a bit like a last-person-standing race, but instead it's a fastest-person-on-the-last-lap race. You run a 5.2-mile loop every mile, and there are multiple races held concurrently, a 3-hour, 6-hour, and 10-hour. The last hour/loop of each event is the real race, you just have to run a full loop every previous hour to compete in it. It sounded fun and some runners in the group-for-which-I-cannot-wake-up-early-enough-but-of-whom-I-am-jealous were running. I of course signed up for the 10-hour.

It wasn't terribly hot, but it was warm, and it was extremely humid. April was wonderful, a month that actually made me not-depressed about living on the east coast. Then on race day in May, awful humidity descended, and my inner thighs started hating each other and getting into a big ol' chafing fight. My shirt must've weighed an extra pound with sweat.

I managed fine through 6 laps, when there was plenty of competition and other runners on the course. Only four runners started lap 7 though. I joked and said we should all introduce ourselves, but immediately after we did (everyone was nice), I couldn't really keep up any more. I still managed to come in on time on laps 7 and 8, but 8 was a squeaker with probably under two minutes to do the turnaround. Lap 9 I struggled, with no single mile under the sub-12:00 minute pace necessary. I finished almost 6 minutes over, and wasn't allowed to go out on the last lap, as per the rules. This felt especially grating once I learned that the last lap doesn't have a cutoff, so I obviously could have finished if it I'd made it on lap 9.

GF had an excellent question for me after: "Why didn't you just try harder?" Ugh, exactly. I really thought there would be some benefit from having just set a marathon PR. But nope, hills and humidity are a different sport, I guess. I went in thinking I might have a chance to win an event like this; instead I didn't finish.

What am I even doing with my life?

Not much, is the answer. I still can't run up a hill to save my life. I tried yesterday, and every stride with my left leg hurt, enough ...