Sunday, April 26, 2009

ADZPCTKO? Check. ABDPCTSRA? 88% Likely.

Class of '04: Me, Nacho, WC, Too Obtuse, and WS Monty, among others

Class of '09. Look closely.

Nitro sporting a ball-hat.

I had an awesome weekend at the ADZPCTKO at Lake Morena Campground with Ducky, Firefly, Freefall, Gazelle, Hawkeye, Heinz, Jug, Leap Year, Mags, Mattress, multiple Monties, Nacho, Nano, Nitro, Pro-Deal, Scarlet, Shrek, Skittles, Sly, So Far, Splash and her blister Seymour, Squatch, Suge, Tattoo Joe, Tomato, Weather Carrot, Wildflower, Yogi, and everyone else whose name is not popping into my head immediately in alphabetical order. It was a little more chill than last year, probably because it was freezing at night so it seemed like a huge ordeal to leave the campfire where I was already hanging out with Nitro and her mantourage to go watch hiking videos or go to the cabins and party. Also, have you tried using a laptop outside in the sun? It doesn't work that well. I did do a 20-mile run from the lake to Kitchen Creek road and back on Friday, however.

Tomato and Mattress just before heading north on Sunday

Billy Goat and ? representin' the 80's.

Tattoo Joe spinning a yarn about the crazy days.

Oh, and apparently my friend Squatch was on Anderson Cooper once. Watch.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Freaking OUT.

Orals (AKA qualifying exam AKA advancing to candidacy) three weeks from today? Yikes! That seems like the last day everyone will be in town. Holy crap. And I'm heading out tomorrow for the weekend at ADZPCTKO. I guess I'll just have to be a stick in the mud running regressions while everyone else is having a grand old time.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Diablo 50-Miler number 5

You know what the lamest part about running ultras in extreme heat is? The shower afterward. You spend all day sweating out salt and chafing in as many as four places (anus, thighs, nipples, armpits) and then you hobble your way into in the shower, and the water washes all the salt on you into the open wounds. It's like the Macaulay Culkin aftershave scene in Home Alone, only with more expletives.

I ran the Diablo 50-Miler for the fifth consecutive year yesterday, and managed to take over 50 minutes off my previous best time, finishing in 12:39, despite it being 90 degrees. The race almost immediately goes on singletrack, creating a long singe-file line of people trudging up the steep slope. After climbing straight to the top of Eagle Peak, the single track drops off steeply. Steep technical downhills are my favorite part of running and probably my relative strength, in that I love to bomb down stuff where other people might pick out individual steps. So this year, for the first time, I started near the very front of the pack, in the first 15 runners, so that I would be able to let loose on this section instead of getting caught behind more sensible, cautious people. Only I didn't really slow down after that. I reached Rock City the first time (mile 24.5) in 5 hours. If I'd managed to keep that pace the entire 50 miles, well, I'd be insane and I would've maybe won the race. To make a long story short, I slowed down, puked, didn't really bomb the last 8 mile downhill section like I normally love to do, but still managed to finish before dark for the first time.

Some thoughts and gear and technique and stuff:
  • Bottles vs. Hydration Pack
I feel like the extra weight of a hydration pack slows me down, especially on climbs, so I just used my Ultimate Direction strapped hand bottles. At first I thought I should totally get the larger 26 oz. ones instead of the 20 oz. ones I currently use, but capacity is not the issue. Even if you fill the bottles full of ice, in 90-degree heat, holding the bottles in your palm, your drinks are grotesquely warm within just a few minutes. I've been told your stomach absorbs cold liquids (55 degrees) quickest, and I really feel that when I drink warm stuff it just sloshes around in my stomach. I should probably just invest in a lighter, better (read: Nathan) hydration pack and use my technique of blowing back into the tube after each sip to prevent the water from baking in the tube.
  • Electrolytes
I feel like, based on a lot of hiking experience, I get by with a lot less water than most people. I'm just a little guy, and I've carried just 3 liters for hot 30-mile waterless stretches and done just fine. Of course, I'll usually cover that stretch in just under a day, so maybe time between water sources is a better measure than distance. I also feel like I don't need as many electrolytes, but I think a lot of people would disagree with me. I currently use Succeed! caps, but I'm not really a huge fan as it seems like a pretty large dose and sort of a shock to the system. I prefer eating bananas and boiled potatoes with salt. On occasions like yesterday when I've been nauseous, people have told me to take more salt, but I think the salty stuff itself tastes nauseating (not yesterday, but in the race where I took the most caps, I literally gagged trying to get the last couple down), and I feel like a good way to tell how much salt you need is by how good it tastes in the moment. You want to take in electrolytes, among other reasons, so you don't die from hyponatremia, but when I've been running in really hot weather, feeling miserable, and possibly not getting enough salt, my infrequent urine has still been very dark (not blood-in-it dark, just yellow dark). Anyway, I should probably see if I like Salt Stick better than Succeed!--less sodium, more potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
  • Training Specificity
Despite all this talk about gear and nutrition, what I really believe in is training specificity. If you want to run very hilly ultras in extreme heat, train by running very hilly ultras in extreme heat. I think I did OK in the race because I have been doing a lot of hilly training, but it's always hotter on Diablo than it is in Berkeley, and yesterday was the hottest day of the year thus far, so I basically didn't do any heat training. I remember the first day of my PCT hike, climbing in the heat out of Hauser Creek I felt horribly nauseous after drinking my water that had been baking in the sun, but I soon got used to it and was fine drinking warm grossness.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Apple Anger, Again

iTunes 8.1 broke syncing with 2nd generation iPod Shuffles (the ones that're postage-stamp sized.) It's been long enough that it seems like they're not fixing it on purpose to encourage people to buy the new 3rd generation Shuffle.

Here's a story about it. It's not bigotry like Amazon's recent flub, but maybe this story can help the meme spread.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Harsh Review of the Worst Book Ever

Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics is the worst book ever. If ever an author wrote a book just to prove to the world that she's smarter (and can try and pose for a more glamorous author photo) than everyone else, this is it. It's everything I don't like about Scott Stapp, Ayn Rand, Susan Jacoby, and Peggy Noonan all rolled into one. The characters are arrogant, hypocritical, disingenuous caricatures of real people, and the book is verbose for verbosity's sake--nearly every paragraph has a citation to some obscure (often non-existent) reference encyclopedia or literary work that does nothing to advance the story. The book is about a smart high school girl (Blue Van Meer) who looks down on everyone else and hangs out with the rich/cool kids who similarly look down on everyone else, including Blue. Then after 400 pages, nothing has happened, so plot devices drop from the sky, main characters turn out to be domestic terrorists, and the book ends with, oh how witty, an exam on the book itself, because Ms. Pessl wants you to think she's smarter than you, so she lies and tells you that all 528 pages of her book were in fact necessary because all along they contained clues about the true outcome of the book, which unintelligent readers like yourself were unable to discern.

F---. You. Marisha. Return to your previous career in finance.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Nearest Neighbor Matching

I finished reading Eric Ryback's The High Adventures of Eric Ryback. Ryback thru-hiked the PCT as an eighteen year-old in 1971. It's a crazy experience to be trudging across an endless high-altitude snowfield, getting cold and wet from postholing up to your hips every third step, cursing the day you were born and screaming angry expletives at the top of your lungs until your voice is gone, and yet, at the end of they day, loving it all and thinking there's nowhere you'd rather be and nothing you'd rather be doing, and Ryback does the best job of capturing that beautiful dichotomy of any hiking book I've read.

Man on Wire is a great happiness-inducing live-life-to-the-fullest movie. Season four of The Wire is good, but I think there are too many characters at this point, so we spend all our time just keeping up with everyone 30 seconds at a time instead of seeing characters in-depth. Freaks and Geeks is amazing, and makes me wish I hadn't waited till grad school to become a slacker.

I think I may have found 3 profs that don't hate my baseball idea. Maybe orals might actually happen.