Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ultramarathon by James E. Shapiro

How many of us who do extreme things like ultrarunning, long distance hiking or ultracycling have had people tell us .. "you should write a book"? After my manic attempt in my youth to crawl on my hands and knees to Patagonia, which ended up taking more bus rides and hitch-hikes than any real crawling (other than a few drunken episodes in guatemala), or my through hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, or the Furnace Creek 508, more than a few people have mentioned I should "write a book". Not being a real writer, or having a clue how to do it does not matter to these kind folks. Somehow, they figure that just by being certifiably insane to try things that no normal person would ever do qualifies one to write a book.

Sadly enough, in my zeal to collect every single book written by ultra runners, hikers, cyclers, walkers and a few crawlers, I can tell you that most people who wrote a book were unable to convey their experiences in a compelling way. Most are utter failures.
I plan to blog on these tedious examples in the future.

Luckily, a real writer shows up now and again. James E. Shapiro author of Ultramarathon
beautifully describes the experience and motivation of the Long Distance runner with a prose rarely experienced in the ultra writing. He describes the history of the sport from the wobblers of the CC Pyle Races Across America, the history of Comrades, and great description of his own attempt at an American record in the 24 hour during an event at Crystal Palace in London.

Why We Run the Ultras

Why do we do it?
The idea always comes first. It begins as it must, as a perverse whim that offends the ordinary commonsense. Bit it is a bit of inspiration, a diamond grain in the shoe that demands an itch.

Shapiro goes onto interview Peter Gavuzzi who ran in CC Pyles 1928/29 races across america who describes the joy of running 45-50 miles a day for 70 straight days in the Bunion Derbies. More than a simple history of Ultrarunning, Shapiro digs deep into the mind and motivation of those driven to the Ultra sport coming closer than anybody I have read in making sense out of those who need to push beyond the normal limits of physical effort.

The book is long out of print and quite expensive, but you can get a copy. You will not find a better book on Ultrarunning.


Murder in Mountain View

Mountain View Mini Tour at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:Share GPS tracks

Trip Stats
Duration: 1 hour, 55 minutes, 22 seconds
Length: 10.5 miles
Vertical up: 1253.7 ft
Vertical down: 1280.5 ft
Average speed: 5.5 mph

Was running at night alone with my ipod cranking on a moonless night along the bay trails. I was feeling amazing last night, almost euphoric as I passed the Googleplex and towards Shoreline golf course where I have taken to a bad habit of running down the fairways at night. There is something about running at night with your music cranking on pitch black trails that is very exhilarating and scary at the same time. I was running down the 18th fairway at Shoreline road about 90% cranking hendrix on my ipod and life was good. Running along the dark trails near NASA Ames at 10:00 PM I was remebering my old life of working at NASA Ames in college and after and thinking how it felt like a different life. All of a sudden I got this intangible fear and I would start running faster thinking somebody was following me. I would turn around and see nobody and calm down. At one point on a long bridge that goes over Central Expwy on Stevens Creek trail I got the willies as a lone figure passed me. As soon as we crossed paths I started running a 7 minute pace automatically speeding up trying to outrun this phantom that was causing me to be scared for no apparent reason other than plain stark naked fear. I kept running to El Camino where the lights of the city calmed me down and I headed back home.

On Higdon road right near Villa I saw a ton of cops. A young kid was just shot and killed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mission Peak

Mission Peak at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:Share GPS tracks

Trip Stats
Duration: 1 hour, 27 minutes, 11 seconds
Length: 6.1 miles
Vertical up: 2206.3 ft
Vertical down: 2206.3 ft
Average speed: 4.2 mph

This is my first run up Mission Peak which I will be visiting later this year at the Ohlone 50k. I took me a bit over 50 minutes to summit. It is a pretty steep climb at points, that eases up in the mid section with some nice long switch backs. Needless to say, there was a lot of walking involved. It was a gorgeous day and my legs felt really good. I did not take the exact way the Ohlone 50k goes as I took the straight shot to the summit. They take the more round above Horse Heaven Trail that I will save for another time.

The one bummer about the run is the Montrail Hard Rock's tear up my right heel creating a ton of friction and blisters. I like the feel of the shoes, otherwise. With that complaint out of the way, my left hamstring hung in like a champ. Took it really easy on the descent, though.

It would take a real monster to run up this without stopping. My buddy Jason was able to make it up the Powerlines Trail at Rancho sans stopping, but I could never do it. I don't think I would every try to get up Mission Peak that way. Too steep for me. But it was really nice doing a run/walk combo. Plan on coming back prior to Ohlone 50K and running down the backside into Ohlone Wilderness.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Alameda Creek Trail Bay Side

Alameda Creek Trail Bay SIde at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:Share GPS tracks

Completed the Alameda Creek Trail from Ardenwood to the end for a 7.75 mile jaunt. Walked with Agnes and Megan the first 2.75 miles and ran the last 5 miles. They turned around at 2.75 miles and I kept running to the end and turned around and barely caught them before the car. A little unintendend speed work at 7:15-7:30 pace to make sure I caught them. Was really pretty out there. That is one long trail. I would hate to call it boring, because its really pretty, but it gets monotonous. But, those living in Fremont are pretty lucky to have 12.5 miles of nice trail in their neighborhood.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Discovery Channel Fraud

Discovery Channel HD Theater had a special called "Riding the Tour de France: Livin the Dream" where two contestants get to get kitted up with trek bikes and train a bit with the discovery team and to ride "Stage 16" of the Tour De France. One of the guy was way out of shape about 6 foot 1 235-240. The other guy was in decent shape. Stage 16 was long. This was a nice little show about how two lucky guys get to live their dream and ride "the toughest" stage in the 2007 tour. Luckily for them, the nice producers had a trick up their sleeves to make their job not as difficult as advertised.

Stage 16 was long. In the world of the pathetic and desperate producers at Discovery, they magically turned the stage into approx 128 km, magically cutting off the 25 miles of flats plus the Category 1 Col De Larrau.

Discovery must have decided it would good tv to show how a schlub they pulled off the street could compete with the Pro's and Michael Rasmussen's time. This would be Suspension of Disbelief at its most grotesque. As I was watching this silly docudrama and these guys look like average double century guys at the back of the pack (I have no issue with that as I am middle of the pack at best double century rider). At this point, I had no criticism and was thinking it would be great to have been one of these guys. But near the end, they start saying the skinnier guy was only 45 minutes slower than the fastest pro's. as he climbed up the A'ubisque. I was thinking WTF are they smoking? Knowing how hard core ex professional winners of the L'Etape du Tour are often 45 minutes slower on the same stage as the Pro's, I had to look into this. Turns out that the Discovery Channel guys magically cut Stage 16 down from 218.5 KM to 123 KM to make their docudrama more interesting. A complete fraud and they lied through their teeth to make it "interesting". They did not just lie, they did it with relish pumping up their sad-sack amateur into something he clearly was not.

"The Professional Winner of stage 16 finished the stage in 6:23. If Joe can continue this pace, he will finish just a half hour behind the pro time. An impressive time for an amateur rider".. the Discovery voice over says in the middle. At the end, they say how awesome it is that he finished stage 16 in 7 hrs and 17 minutes. Just 54 minutes off of the fastest time in the Tour De France.

99% of the people who watch this would think, that wow... If I just work out a bit more than my 12 mile ride into work and back and get my VO2 max evaluated by Chris Carmichael I too, can almost compete with the Pros. The audacity to lie to everybody and make it seem that anybody could ever come with 45 minutes of Rasmussen's time on Stage 16!! There are probably 300 people in the US that could dream of doing that. But in the magical world of Discovery, anybody can handle a 130 mile stage with 14,000 feet of climbing in less than 8 hours!

I watched this moron show fully expecting it to be full of stupidity, but to downright lie makes me sick. I wonder who on that team decided nobody would know if we cut close to 100K from the stage length. I mean... who would know? Who would care?

This is docudrama gone very bad. I expect these shows to be somewhat cheesy, but they should never lie. People need to know just how good the Pros are during this the toughest ride in the world. To lie about this is nothing less than pathetic. Being one who always marvels at the ability of the Tour Pros, and really wanting to know how tough a tour stage is, I found this cheat to be irksome. Most likely it would have taken these guys 10-12 hours to finish this stage. That would not have made the TV show they wanted. The editors of this show deserve an emmy.

Knee Tweaks

Managed another sharp but short knee tweak today on a simple run down the train tracks to the Farmer's Market. No lingering pain, however. I am going to take it easy this week and ice up a ton and do some easy walking/running. I cant determine if its a hamstring issue or something inside the knee. It feels to be in the back of the knee somewhere and the pain was sharp but short and sweet. I happened jumping off the train tracks today on the concrete. I need to drag my ass away from the evil concrete. It is way to easy to run on it, but I am at the edge of what I can take with a 5 week running average of 34.5 miles. Looking back at the logs, things started going bad when I got the Brooks Beasts. Could be a cooincidence, but keeping things simple and scientific, this is the most obvious difference. I am sticking back to the Addictions for now and will drop miles this week and chill out. Still optimistic. We runners are almost chronic hypochondriacs with our aches and pains to the point of freaking out over what could be a minor temporary tweak. Not that I would advocate ignoring pain, but I dont want a 1 second tweak to freak me out into giving up. Going to ice this week and take it easy.


The RAAM 2006 DVD produced by Allen Larsen is a great documentary about the 06 RAAM. This was the year that introduced the short lived Enduro category, had the return of Jonathan Boyer, and he introduction of the always interesting Tinker Juarez. Lots of great interviews with RAAM legends including Jure Robic who ended up dropping out during at Wolfe Pass due to Pneumonia. I think that RAAM is one of the greatest sporting events that has limitless drama from the front runners to the back of the pack. I find it surprising that RAAM has so little following here. I had to purchase the RAAM dvd's at that Race Across America Store which had a pre 2000 lack of SSL. Being a RAAM junkie, I was willing to risk buying the DVD even without https. I am a true maniac. To think that just a generation ago, this was featured for three straight years on ABC Wide World of Sports is amazing. The interest in those who toil in obscurity for no money has waned.

Allen Larsen does a good job with his video production. Lots of good shots of riders in the western expanse and good interviews. He did not mention that Jonathan Boyer was riding this ride after being busted for child molestation. Am amazed how a 51 year old like him could win the event, but his history really makes you think twice about his heroics.

Worthy of a purchase for anybody into cycling, suffering and struggle.

4/5 stars

Friday, February 01, 2008

Alameda Creek Trail

Alameda Creek Trail at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:Share GPS tracks

Trip Stats
Duration: 3 hours, 35 minutes
Length: 19.5 miles
Vertical up: 900.5 ft
Vertical down: 924.1 ft
Average speed: 5.4 mph

Flat run. Ran 3/2 run walk with runs between 8:30-9:30 and walks between 14:00 and 16:00. For a sub 20 miler, I was pretty damn sore. I think the Brooks Beast plus the new Dean Karnazes Sole Inserts were partly to blame, plus a moderate knee tweak earlier in the week stepping up funny from sit ups. It sucks to be getting old ;) Duc the jedi master of sweating managed to cramp up not too bad today, but ended up needing to jones some of my S-Caps as the Enduralytes would never work for a sweater of his caliber. Once he popped a couple of S-Caps at mile 16 he picked up to a sub nine minute mile again which put the hurt on me. Duc also brought his magical GU which consisted of maybe 600 calories of Grade B Maple Syrup left over from one of those trendy Burroughs Lemonade diets I forced him to do. I can be a real bully. I could not help but cringe watching him toss the last 20 years of Ultrarunning science out the window watching him shoot down shots of Maple Syrup. Duc is a traditionalist. He even hates S-Caps and Enduralytes because the pills are not "natural". I am going to get him a salt lick for our next run so he run in peace.

I heard about this area because of the Fremont Fat ass 50k that recently happened. Its pretty nice flat running. We did see an old geezer punch his dog in the face though. That set me back a few years. It seemed the dog was used to his dysfunctional relationshiop though as he did not seem to mind the abuse. Duc and I just looked at each other in horror and kept running. The city of Union City also decided to defund the water stops along the way. Duc being jedi sweat master makes this reality tough to face. We could not quite run to the end of the trail as this would have sent him into convulsions. We got a nice loop at Quarry Lakes at the end to make up for it.

Overall, a great run and tons o fun...