Iron Horse Ultra Race Report October 4, 2014

This is the first time I have had an opportunity to post about this Ultra which I ran October 4, 2014. Below is the race report. I just want to say in terms of an update that I am just now beginning to run again after 5 weeks with only 2 short runs since the race. Other home and work related issues kept me from running sooner. I got myself some new Salomon shoes (XT Wings 3) which I plan on breaking in for next year’s Ultras. I discovered Yoga which is really helping me with mobility and flexibility issues. I am back at Karate also so my workout week normally consists of 2 karate days, 3 running days and 2 yoga and indoor rock climbing days as well as pumping a little iron. It sounds like a lot but I have to say that I rarely achieve all 7 workouts (at least so far). Minor injuries and getting the flu are slowing me down a little bit now, but things are looking up. So now, on to the race report which many of you have already read:

First thing is I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to my wife, Marilyn Matlock for supporting me and for doing an amazing job helping me through the transitions. I really would have failed if not for her.

How can I keep a long story short? I can’t so forgive the long post. Probably I can keep it short in the same way I kept an Ultra run short, by running little “bullet” paragraphs at a time. So if you want to get a feel for what it felt like, then please try to read this while standing in a dark freezer on one leg while sprinkling yourself with water. :) So here are my bullet points:

-started at 7 AM in a cold and raining Iron Horse morning in St. Paul.

– watched ALL of the runners disappear into the dark morning, leaving me behind (never saw them again).

– wondered what the cold miserable rainy morning would bring with 100 km of trail still ahead of me.

– got confused and lost in St. Paul just after the boardwalk 7 km on, and had to call Ben for directions.

– ran leg 1 and the flag people were pulling flags thinking there was no one left on that part of the course.

– by sheer luck Ben on his truck saw me going the wrong way and redirected me back onto leg 1 (the flag puller was only a half km ahead of me).

– going downhill in leg 1, I realized that my current pace of 9 min per kilometer was not achievable because my left knee suddenly decided it did not like going down hill. Possibly because I had bruised it during a rock climbing session the previous week.

– leg 2 is a blur and I don’t remember much of it, other than that the sun came out (during leg 1) making the rest of the day absolutely a perfect fall day in stark contrast to the rainy cold morning.

– leg 3 for me was brutal more in the downhills than the uphills. Still sunny and warm but very windy. I got all touristy seeing as my time goal was shot so I did not mind stopping and taking a couple of pictures and one video in various places.

– coming into the aid station after leg 3 things began to get interesting as it got dark really fast. I ran most of leg 4 and all of leg 5 in the dark. At that point, my GPS coincided perfectly with what the race director said was the distance so far, 64 kilometers but with my getting lost in St. Paul and a few other short misdirections on trail I read 66 km.

– leg 4 was when I realized that I could no longer eat according to plan. I felt nauseous so could not eat. I was quite well hydrated though. I don’t really remember exactly when the real pain started. All of the weak links in my body were singing their discordant and chaotic symphonies at the same time. Should I list them? Infected big toenail, arthritic flareups in both big toe joints, bruised knee which did not swell up too much because I’ve done this before so I took care of it by gingerly walking downhills and also thanks to KT tape, sore back and aching shoulders due to rock climbing and yoga cross-training, multiple heel blisters on both feet which had not yet totally healed before the run, multiple open bleeding rashes in my nether regions in spite of liberal application of body glide at transition zones and one calf muscle which threatened to rebel into painful spasms. All of these things my brain was internally and often consciously monitoring for potential race stopping disasters. And part of my brain was screaming, demanding that I stop immediately while the other part was saying, “quit and I’ll freaking kill you.” That takes a whole lot of brain energy.

– I took care of that wasteful energy squandering by zoning out and methodically hypnotizing myself into a relentless plodding along. Which is dangerous in it’s own right because your attention to detail suffers. Part of the trail into the swamp got my shoes totally soaked with the wonderful aroma of swamp water. Also it was beginning to get really cold because I could not run fast enough to generate body heat.

– got into the aid station after leg 4 and took some sugared ginger ale which promptly caused me to violently expel the contents of my stomach. The best energy for me became just a couple of candy bars and Marilyn made me a hot chocolate which was REALLY good.

– after an assessment at the aid station Marilyn agreed that I was fully rational,conscious, and alert, it was just my body that was letting me down we agreed that I could finish in about 22 hours so off I went. There was almost a full moon out there in the night skies and the stars were breathtakingly amazing. In the Edmonton region we don’t notice the sky at night because of all the light pollution but St. Paul was dark and the stars were utterly amazingly bright, almost 3 dimensional in their brilliance. Orion was jaw dropping!

– leg 5 was OK but went a lot slower than I wanted. I seemed to be just crawling along. When I hit the last stretch of bush country, the chaotic trail was painfully slow. I did not want to risk breaking anything. Once out of the bush, I ran along the Iron Horse trail until the last big hill through the bush and onto the range road back to St. Paul. At that point I noticed there was frost on the ground. Also at several points on the trail, in the dark, I heard startling splashes into the numerous water bodies there and I figured that I’d just startled beavers going on with their business. I got confirmation of that during one splash event when I saw, out of place, a sopping wet poplar brush lying right across the trail with drag marks leading from the bushes on my left into the water on my right. At the top of that hill, I noticed that a very thick freezing fog was rolling in out of nowhere, it seemed. Suddenly everything was gone and there was a literal white-out in the glare of my headlamp.

– it was a real challenge finding the flags. There was some indicating that I should follow the power poles but I could not see the next pole and the flags were too few and far between for those conditions. So I had to look up with my headlamp and then I could see the general direction of the power lines and followed those to the next pole.

– when a flag was visible it was really visible from a long distance away because of the red reflectors on the flags, but if the flags had been trampled to the ground or turned in the wrong direction you could not see them. So from that point on, whenever I saw a trampled flag or felt that a rotation of the flag this way or that would help the next runners behind me (the 100 milers) then I fixed it to make it easier for them to see the flags.
– finally made it onto the long 10 or 12 kilometer straight stretch of road into St. Paul. The fog was totally obliterating all light so that for that entire distance I could not even see the slightest glimmer of hope from the lights of St. Paul. All that way it was terribly lonely and depressing and cold and miserable. Rather than dissipating the fog, a strong breeze seemed to make it a driving impenetrable haze of light speed special effects. Vision was very small tunnel. I had to stare at my feet just to know that I was still on the gravel road, and at times I wandered off into the side ditches. I felt I had no depth perception at all. I started hallucinating, that is, in all that blinding light haze of driving fog particles, I could not focus properly and so the gravel at my feet seemed to be flowing and I had to blink a few times and shake my head to bring myself back to reality. Hard to explain so I’ll leave it at that.

– that time on the road into St. Paul seemed endless. But finally, I saw a truck which stopped. It was one of the volunteers who said the turn right into St. Paul was just ahead, which meant that I had only about 3 km to go. He said to follow the flags and keep the flags on the left, then went off in search of other runners. Apparently the race directors had decided at this point to pull runners off the course who had not yet made it this far because of the difficulty of finding the flags. But if you were on the road it was pretty much impossible to get lost so a lot of runners went on anyway.

– So I finally caught a glimpse of St. Paul lights and noticing the time (6:15 AM about) I was very happy to know that I would make it to the finish line a good 10 minutes or so under 24 hours. Unfortunately I got lost yet again. Following the flag advice, I came to an intersection and saw that there were 3 flags in a arc on a side walk and another flag about 50 feet down that road so I turned and ran on. I remember thinking that I could not get lost now I just had to follow that road, so I got distracted looking for lights ahead. Then I came to another intersection where I could make out a school in the fog and some sort of Town of St. Paul gas plant. I suddenly realized I had not seen a flag for some time and began looking around for one. Then spoke with Marilyn on the phone who had been looking for me for 20 minutes or more and, long story short, ended up burning up all that spare time just 1.5 km away from the finish line. I ended up finishing in 24 hours and 15 minutes or so. And yes, the fog was that bad. I felt very angry and betrayed about that but there was no one to blame, really and I was pretty tired so happily my brief period of internal anger rapidly dissipated.

– and that, my friends, is the story of my first official Ultra.

Posted in Everyday Stuff, Very Special Runs | Leave a comment

Death Race 2014

The Death Race in Grande Cache, Alberta honestly wasn’t even on my bucket list but I got drafted into doing it by the irrepressible Sheryl Savard, who, incidentally, helped me recover from leg 3 so I could go on to run leg 5. I want to keep this post brief so I’ll just give a quick summary of what I learned.

I learned how awesome Ultra runners are. I learned something about running in extreme heat. I learned that every single detail of a run like this can make or break you. For example, even a minor detail like the position of your zipper can cause you to either succeed or fail, even if everything else is perfect. I was carrying my extra headlamp in the top of my hydration pack, and for the first time ever (in spite of numerous training runs with the same equipment) the zipper worked its way open and I lost my spare headlamp twice on leg 5, the second time permanently. I then realized that the first time I lost it and heard my headlamp fall to the ground was not an accident of leaving something unzipped. After it happened again I realized the problem of a newly loose zipper could be solved by putting both sides of the zipper at the bottom and not the top. But by that time it was too late I had lost that spare headlamp. Something as trivial as the zipper position could get you pulled off course if you lost a critical piece of required gear no matter how great you felt.

Other pieces of gear that I thought I had tested proved to be failures in the end so those ideas and modifications were deleted. But for the most part I was well prepared.

I did the right thing by choosing not to run in my V5’s for the first time since I began running in them in June of 2011. I knew it was a risk but the terrain would have been too much for them and I did not want to let my team down. But I am very sore from running in shoes for the first time in years so I learned to now alternate running in V5’s and in shoes to be ready for any trail.

Our team, consisting of three people, finished in 19 hours and 20 minutes. Todd was our leg 2 and leg 4 runner and he was awesome. He is the reason we were able to finish. I could have made that finish time in less than 19 hours if I had not been sick. I lost somewhere between 35 and 45 minutes hiding in the bush suffering from upset stomach/diarrhea caused by the extreme heat. I actually now think that drinking and entire bottle of Gatorade in 5 minutes just before the start of my leg 3 might not have helped my digestive system. Anyway, I successfully ran leg 3, suffered from dehydration, recovered during the 4 short hours Sheryl treated me with electrolyte tabs and Pepto Bismol, and went on to finish leg 5 in the dark. I got no sleep in between legs as I spent most of the whole time I should have been napping sitting on the toilet instead.

But my story is just a small part of the grand story told by numerous runners that weekend. Am I hooked? Oorah!

Posted in Everyday Stuff | 1 Comment

On the Value of Training Specificity

Well, it has been a long time and many events since I updated this blog. So I wanted to make a few comments about training specificity and jot down a few things I learned from my own training for the Iron Horse 100 kilometer solo Ultra this October.

There are people who are good at one thing, like running. I am not one of them. But I want to give some examples of what I mean by training specificity. If you want to get better at something, you have to actually do it. The army is a well trained fighting force and probably unbeatable in the open field, but move them to an urban warfare setting and they are toast. Which is why the already well trained and professional army is now training specifically in model urban warfare settings.

If you are a martial artist and love kata and are good at it, you may suck at sparring because you avoid it. If you are a road runner and are very fast, you will probably be shocked at how much harder real trail running is than road running and wonder why the trails just destroyed your awesome pace. You can do all the squats you want and yet end up losing an uphill race against someone who has actually run those hills. I think I’ve made my point that you have to do the actual thing you want to do if you want to get better at it. The strength and flexibility thing is just as necessary of course but won’t help you much if you don’t actually do the thing you think you are good at. You can read all the books you want but suffer in the field because of not actually training for it. Which is how I have discovered the following during my training:

1. Those comfortable arm sleeves you put on to keep the bugs out and to be slightly warmer as the sun sets have turned into sandpaper that carved holes under your arm pits several hours later. Also those red spots on your shirt where your nipples used to be are the result of blood. Next time put band-aides on your nipples. Oh, and did I mention you should probably shave your chest first. Unless you like ripping out your chest hair using band-aides. Body Glide is your friend. Use it or lose it. You will know where to apply it after you gain some run experience.

2. You are aware of pain but do not realize how bad a blister really was until you stop. Because while you were running, it just felt like a minor irritation. And now that you’ve stopped and noticed the pain, every fiber in your body is screaming that you should not run anymore. But you do anyway because although the pain is 100 times more intense when you try to ignore it and begin running again, it eventually fades away, waiting until you stop again to remind you what a stupid idea this was.

3. Your hydration pack tweaks and modifications that worked well while you were standing around in your house testing it failed miserably after 3 hours (or 10 minutes) in the field.

4. Those Nordic poles with the straps on the end drove you absolutely bonkers after several hours of the straps slap slap slapping around. The next time you remove the straps because you don’t need them and the silence is beautiful. It really was just like Chinese water torture where you get one tiny drop of water on your forehead repeatedly and randomly. You laugh at a tiny harmless drop of water that just dripped onto your forehead, but after the two thousandth drop you are driven berserk.

5. That tasty cookie or (insert food here) for your regular fueling just melted in your bag or just crumbled into dust which caused you to almost choke to death or became so sticky that you end up covered in sticky dirty dusty slime. Also, never put anything into your 2 liter hydration pack other than water. That coconut water that tasted so good for the first liter eventually becomes unbearable, like trying to jam half-cooked broccoli (assuming you do not like brocolli) into your digestive system through your eye balls. Yes it really does become that hard to drink. If you need electrolytes, incorporate them into your solid fuel and wash it down with your sweet clear water. From your hydration pack. Which you won’t have to autoclave because you didn’t put mold food into it.

6. When using those Nordic poles, try not to plant the sharp end into the top of your leading foot. Also, when using the poles to deflect branches, try not to have the pole get tangled in your legs.

7. That wonderful trail turns into a nightmare at night. Your headlamp ensures you end up with tunnel vision. You have to focus carefully on a small spot of light in front of your feet and slow down considerably unless you actually enjoy doing face plants into the dirt or gnawing on rocks and worms. If you have to do anything other than focus on the illuminated trail right under your feet, you pretty much have to stop dead in your tracks. Let’s just say that a highly technical trail just isn’t user friendly at night.

8. I have just begun wearing compression socks and I have ordered some compression sleeves for my calf muscles. Although they do not make you faster, they absolutely do help you recover more quickly after a run (no really, the difference is almost miraculous). They work well during the run by dampening the vibrations absorbed by your calf muscles which allows you to go farther with less pain. This actually works. Before, at the end of a really hard and long run, my calf muscles felt like they had turned to soup and liquified. They had lost all shock absorbing qualities. So they work if you wear them during a run, and they work if you only wear them after a run. They just work.

There are so many more points and tips I could write down but I think this is enough for now and clearly illustrates my point, which is: If you want to do something and succeed at it, you actually have to train for by doing it. If you just read this post and think you’ve got it nailed, you will fail.

Posted in Everyday Stuff | 2 Comments

Iron Horse Ultra

Well, it’s been a while since I last posted anything at all so I thought I would share my experience with the Iron Horse Ultra in St. Paul, Alberta. This was absolutely not on my horizon this year. I had been training to run an 80 km Ultra solo without benefit of any support or event. Just me out on the trails. So as the year’s training progressed, I began upping my distances. Starting July 21st and every Sunday ending August 11th I ran 31, 40, 46, and 50 kilometers in Edmonton’s river valley trail system. I planned on backing off for a bit of recovery time before pushing again for my 80 km but on a run with some of my friends I broke the little toe on my right foot when I slammed into an unseen stick on the trail.

After that my “long” distance runs went back down into the 10 kilometer range until the 5Peaks Half Marathon in Devon where I placed third in my age group of 50-59. Yes, I know I turned 60 in May, but my first race came before my birthday so I was stuck in that age group for the rest of this year.

I was asked by one of my friends if I was willing to be a substitute team member for the Iron Horse 100 km event. Long story short, I said yes. One of the original team members was injured and could not compete.

Iron Horse Gate, St. Paul, Alberta:

Iron Horse Gate, St. Paul, Alberta

Iron Horse Gate, St. Paul, Alberta

The morning after the race. In the background is Bro-Code team leader Todd Savard and his wife Sheryl:

The morning after the race. In the background is Bro-Code team leader Todd Savard and his wife Sheryl.

The morning after the race. In the background is Bro-Code team leader Todd Savard and his wife Sheryl.

Team Bro-Code shortly after I came in to finish. Left to right is Greg with his baby girl, Todd, John, Angelo, and Clint:

Team Bro-Code shortly after I came in to finish. Left to right is Greg, Todd, John, Angelo, and Clint

Team Bro-Code shortly after I came in to finish. Left to right is Greg, Todd, John, Angelo, and Clint

So I really enjoyed it. My team members were all great people and very talented. They are so much faster than I am, but I was happy to finish my 21 km leg fast enough that they were not robbed of the victory they so richly deserved. I ran my leg, the last one, in 2:20, although there are some discrepancies depending on what source you use for the numbers. We came in about 35 minutes ahead of the second place team which is a huge, unbelievable lead.

St. Paul was a wonderful little town with about the same population as Devon but with more of a business core and more self-contained in terms of services and businesses. That’s because Devon is pretty much a local suburb of Edmonton and our business base is therefore much smaller. Everyone likes to go to Edmonton to shop but in St. Paul they do not have that luxury which explains why their downtown is so much larger and more diversified.

My leg had me running a lot on the secondary roads and not much in terms of trails. But what trails there were was pretty difficult in terms of footing. I had to run a few kilometers on a Quad trail which was pretty chewed up. The quad tracks were deep and the trail was punctured by a lot of deep footprints of game animals and I, assume, cattle. There was a lot of dead-fall and debris on the trail all nicely hidden by a fresh layer of autumn leaves that covered up all the hazards. Looking at my RunKeeper data, I confirm that this trail indeed slowed me down a lot because I did not want to risk turning an ankle or other injury just half way through my run.

I came out of the trail and onto the Iron Horse Trail which is the old railroad right of way graveled over with the old tracks removed. I was able to pick up the pace again until I turned back into the bush for a very steep uphill climb back onto a secondary range road on which I ran all the way back to St. Paul.

The leading solo runner, Oleg, caught up to me just a kilometer or so before the finish line, and he finished a few minutes ahead of me. This is the first time I have ever finished first (for a team), and ran across a finish line ribbon that Monique, the race director, and Marilyn held up for me at the finish line.

My team members seemed very surprised that I finished so soon, and one of them asked me how I had gotten there so fast. I’m not sure but it may be a PR for me in terms of a half-marathon.

Now that I am back home, I will be paying attention to several issues I have namely, letting my broken toe heal, and using the new Rumble Roller I bought dig into my too tight leg muscles to break up that tightness. I think I have abandoned my 80 km goal for this year although I would not guarantee that just yet. I will be doing some night running training here at home and in Devon.

For now, I am in healing mode partly because I am working very hard at very physically demanding tasks such as cutting, hauling, and splitting wood for the winter and other acreage related pre-winter maintenance chores. Plus I have to get ready for grading to a new belt level in karate this fall. I will be grading for my Shodan-Ho which is a brown belt with a black stripe in the middle. It is the last step before getting my first level Black Belt. But I plan on being a Shodan-Ho for a long time before ever thinking about that next step. For your information, Black Belt is just the beginning. When you being to train seriously. There are over a half dozen levels above the Black Belt rank.

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The Earth will be just fine. Or will it? I like optimists, but not ignorant ones.

I was reading the Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 ISSN 1556-5696 issue of eSKeptic, the email newsletter of the Skeptics Society and it inspired me to make a couple of comments. I am talking about a book review wherein some of the ideas presented in the books were just plain absurd. The books reviewed were The Future Is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, and Robert Zubrin’s Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism

Here is just one quote I have issues with:

Even though no studies have shown DDT to be a major danger to birds, as Carson contended, much less humans, American politicians worked to ban it and to promote the ban in other countries. Zubrin says perhaps 100 million died in subsequent decades, mostly in Africa, because of restrictions on DDT.

Either the authors are really bad scholars, and have no idea how to research the validity of their claims, or they have no problem fabricating a deliberate lie.

The above quote is clearly an assertion and not a fact. What then, caused the near extinction of multiple bird species including the American Bald Eagle? DDT had the effect of thinning eggshells so that the birds could not give birth to unbroken eggs. The toxic effects and harm DDT and its derivatives did to the environment can be easily found.

If you have no time to check out the facts, just Google 1973, Peakall et al. and you will be taken to page 134 from which I quote:

Eggshell thinning in birds reached widespread public awareness in the 1960s and 1970s largely because of field observations in wild raptor populations including the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and osprey, and the association of these effects with abrupt population declines. Experimental studies established a scientific link between DDT/DDE/DDD exposure, particularly DDE, and avian eggshell thinning, which weighed significantly in the decision to ban most domestic crop uses of DDT in the 1970s (EPA 1975). In general, raptors, waterfowl, passerines, and nonpasserine ground birds were more susceptible to eggshell thinning than domestic fowl and other gallinaceous birds, and DDE appears to have been a more potent inducer of eggshell thinning than DDT (Cooke 1973b; EPA 1975; Lundholm 1997; WHO 1989). Further, reproductive disturbances associated with DDT/DDE/DDD exposure continue to be reported in North American populations of predatory birds and/or birds that migrate to regions such as South America where DDT is still used (Lundholm 1997).

And now lets talk about another widely propagated misconception, that of being able to mine the asteroids for the mineral resources we need. In my opinion, this is highly overrated and there is little room for optimism for a number of reasons.

There are a number of complex reasons why we have minerals to mine on Earth. The emplacement of mineable mineral deposits requires water, long term geothermal heat, and loads of time. Often the enrichment of certain minerals requires assistance from biological processes, such as bacterial metabolism. Plate tectonics also plays a major role. If it were not for water, heat, and time we would have no gold, no iron, no copper, no tin. Our ancestors would never have found any of these metals, let alone be able to create the copper, bronze, and iron ages.

Without these enrichment processes, iron and other siderophilic elements would have sunk to the Earth’s core (as much of it did) and the other calcophilic and lithophilic elements would be so dispersed into the rest of the crust as to make their presence invisible to early man. The terms siderophilic, calcophilic, and lithophilic refer to the earth’s core, mantle, and crust respectively. Elements which are siderophilic have a tendency to collect at the earth’s core for chemical reasons. If you want more information on this see the Wikipedia entry on “Goldschmidt classification.” There is also the term atmophilic which refers to the atmosphere loving elements, namely oxygen and nitrogen.

Water is essential because it circulates deep into the earth’s crust and under extreme pressures and temperatures it dissolves important elements then precipitates them in cooler or less pressurized regions in a highly enriched and concentrated form. Even iron, a normally siderophilic element, is on the earth’s surface because of hydrothermal mobilization and organic catalytic concentration. Most of the famous iron mines in the world are banded iron formations created in the Precambrian era in a process which requires water. Copper is concentrated into large formations by geothermal aqueous deposition. For those of you not familiar with geochemistry, these elements are rarely in their elemental state but are usually simple oxides or other compounds from which the element is easily and economically extracted.

Without this water enrichment process that deposits minerals into an economically viable concentrated form, mining would not be economically possible. For example, the average amount of gold to be found in a chondritic or stony meteorite is (and let’s be generous) 0.2 ppm with respect to silicon. This means that for every one million silicon atoms there are 0.2 gold atoms. So one would have to process 5 million silicon atoms to get one gold atom. If you wanted one gram of gold, you would have to process 5 million grams of silicon.

Silicon is significant because it is the element which comprises most of the rock, or meteorite. At an average density of 3.4 grams per cubic centimeter, that means you would have to process 17 million grams of rock to get 3.4 grams of gold. What does 17 million grams of space rock look like? Well, it would be a chunk of rock 10 feet on a side. So think about whether you would want to invest in a company that spends 4 billion dollars to tow a space rock into earth orbit to extract such a tiny amount of gold or other elements.

Some mines on Earth, coincidentally, have a concentration of 3.8 grams of gold per tonne, or per one million grams of ore. This is 294,177 cubic centimeters which is 10 cubic feet which is a cube 2 feet on a side. And this gold on earth is relatively easy to extract. Most of the minerals on Earth are found in granitic pegmatites, limestones, or other hydrothermal deposits. Such useful elements and minerals such as as tin, tungsten, lithium, most of the rare earth minerals, gemstones of every description, salts of many kinds including table salt, and most of the really useful minerals in which are found uranium, gold, silver, lead, copper, molybdenum, and many more are only found because of one or more processes that only occur on the Earth, such as the action of water, organic precipitation, time, and heat.

So to think that we can just zip up into space and mine any old space rock only displays ignorance of the processes that concentrate them here on Earth. Sure space is big and contains a lot but we have to realize just how unique and very special the Earth as a planet really is.

Of course, there are enormous supplies of energy in the form of hydrocarbons such as methane in the solar system. No doubt you have read about this and that some people are optimistic that this can be a plentiful source of rocket fuel or for shipment back to Earth. Strangely, I have never heard anyone mention one little problem with that scenario: Where are you going to get the oxygen to burn this fuel? Are you going to ship it back to Earth to burn it? How much methane do you think we can import onto our planet before all the native oxygen is used up? And don’t get me started on what that would do for global warming.

Assuming that we can just ignore the problems created by our civilization because research in science and technology and health care is awesome and very promising is to ensure the failure of our civilization. Disastrous consequences can only be averted by paying attention to serious issues such as global warming, the release into the environment of genetically modified organisms, the pollution of our environment and the environment used by other life forms by the unrestricted use of compounds which do not normally occur in nature, and many other issues, especially social issues regarding education and getting along with each other.

The point is that optimism has its place but only if based on reasonable assumptions. And I am very optimistic about the future of mankind, provided that more and more people become proactive about the global issues of our time. We have to make it happen; it just doesn’t happen all by itself. Everything you do impacts our planet. So it really is your fault if we fail.

Posted in Astronomy, Everyday Stuff, Geology, Physics, Science Friction, The Uplift War | Leave a comment

New Zealand approves same sex marriage? Meh.

I see that New Zealand has joined the ranks of nations who have recognized the rights of same sex couples.

Am I happy that New Zealand has joined in supporting same sex marriages? Not really. Meh. It is not the best course of action.

Allowing same sex marriage under law is only a very short sighted, short term solution. This action will only open the door to more and more demands for the same rights by people who do not share the two people thing. So what is the real answer? I know it and I am surprised that no one else seems to know it.

It is really very simple. The best course of action would be to abolish marriage under state law altogether. People can still get married in their churches or by secular means if they want, but that should never be a criteria for the granting of special rights. Any financial assistance benefits or property sharing after separation garnered under marriage laws could easily be implemented based on a legal contract (on a personal level) or on a governmental assistance level to people who are raising a child.

Marriage is purely a religious thing, an attempt by the religious authorities to maintain or gain control over the people, and by extension, over the state. Religion by its very nature is exclusive, dictatorial, racist, and bigoted. Any benefit claimed by any religious organization is meaningless in that there is nothing religions can accomplish in terms of social assistance, charity, or community that cannot be accomplish by purely secular means.

In short, religion creates more problems than it solves. Although I support and will protect the right of anyone who wishes to believe in God, that support stops the instant it begins to impose itself on others.

The best course of action is to only define special benefits for people who need it regardless of whether or not they are married. Are you married? Fine. You get nothing. Why should merely the legal recognition that two people have agreed to live together deserve special privileges that single people do not have? Do you want to get married? Go ahead, it should not make any difference to the state. Do you have a child or are you pregnant or are you and your mate(s) raising a child, adopting a child, whatever? Fine. Give them government financial assistance. Base it on the need, on the child, not on whether that child has two or one parent or ten parents and a goat.

It’s really so much easier than trying to define and redefine a derelict, pointless, and archaic religious union between two people that the Church itself doesn’t respect in any case. Marriage as a requirement given by God is a sham, it always has been. And to my gay and lesbian friends, you need to look at the bigger picture.

So to those people who are fighting so hard for equal marriage rights under the law for gay and lesbian couples, I say “Good job!” You’ve done well and I am happy for you. But, I ask, why don’t you go for the gold and eliminate state interference in marriage altogether by lobbying for the state to support people in need regardless of marital status? Remove marriage from its special privileges under secular state tax and civil laws. Problem solved. Big picture folks, look at it.

By the way, you really have to read the first comment.

Posted in Religion, The Uplift War | 2 Comments

Run 140, 2012 …my first Ultra

This post is all about reinventing the wheel, isn’t it?

The activity log and picture attached to a map can be found here:

I did my first Ultra, a 50-52 km run on Sunday. The range of distance reflects the uncertainty because we measured the drop off point using our car’s odometer and I used my GPS RunKeeper to map my way back to the end point of my run. We zeroed the odometer in Devon and drove via HWY 60 to HWY 39, to Leduc and HWY 2A to just south of Millet. We measured my starting point at 50.3 km.

There is nothing much to say about the run since it was really boring but I did learn a few things and so I would like to share them.

1. It was the longest run I have done in my V5’s since my last trail run of 29 km.

2. Running that far on asphalt in V5’s is really painful. By kilometer 44, the bottoms of my feet were so sore I could barely walk without great pain. I abandoned trying to walk, preferring to keep moving with a shuffle gait. Sometimes I could run on the shoulders of the road which were softer gravel and sand, but 90% of the distance was hard asphalt. It may be that I am just not used to such a long distance on a hard surface and maybe my feet would eventually adapt better to a hard surface over these distances.

3. I did not train properly for this run but given the weather window and other commitments, it seemed to be my last chance to try and so I decided to do it. I chose this route in order to avoid any hills and to avoid having to do multiple loops of the same route. I would prefer running trails, but there are no trails without hills and I knew I could not handle any serious hills over that distance.

4. Just over half way in the route, I discovered what I think was the “Ultra-runners shuffle”. I had heard of this before but now began to use it.

5. After I am recovered I want to try to use this shuffle and measure my actual pace as accurately as I can. That way I can assess if I can use it from the beginning, saving my real effort for the end of the run.

6. The absolute worst part of the run was the traffic. I would not have minded the literally unending stream of traffic whizzing by in both directions if it were not for the horrible noise the vehicles made. The decibel level was excruciating and after many kilometers began to get very painful. I remember thinking to myself “WTF, where the * are all these people going?” Very nasty, nasty enough that I swear I’ll never attempt another road Ultra. The scenery may have been worth talking about, but I was so focused on bracing myself for the onslaught of traffic that I could not enjoy it. I did stop occasionally to take a picture, which I attached to the map at the above link.

7. My V5’s toes had big holes in them (although not visible as the holes were on the side in between the toes). They got filled with gravel. Either I need to buy new ones, or duct tape the holes shut. I wore toe socks with them and that helped. I did not get hurt by the gravel; it was just a minor discomfort but the potential for blisters was pretty high.

8. I could have stopped and remove my V5’s to dump out the gravel, and I could have stopped and put body glide on areas rubbed raw but I did not. I discovered that I was too lazy and impatient to stop and take care of myself. I think that was a mistake. I deluded myself into thinking that I could finish before it became a real problem and wiggled the larger chunks of gravel out of my V5’s as I was running.

9. Body Glide really works well and I applied it to areas known to be subject to getting rubbed raw and they were fine. The problem was that over that distance, I discovered for the first time other areas without body glide that became an issue. The lesson here is there is no training like actually doing what you are training for. It called is training specificity. You will discover things you never thought about and things unique to yourself that you can fix for next time. You will never learn this stuff by reading about it.

10. I had enough energy. I carried in my hydration pack 2.5 liters of coconut water (not milk), which is high in potassium and other salts and minerals, to which I added pure dextrose. The dextrose and coconut water gave me a total of just over 1000 extra calories. I carried three power bars, but ate only one. By the end of that 2.5 liters, though, I got really sick of all that extra salt and I was wishing for some pure water. This was a good experiment. Next time I will use only pure water and make my own gels out of dextrose, potassium and sodium salts, and other ingredients. I did not run far enough to need any real food. I am very pleased with the dextrose, because unlike other more complicated sugars, dextrose is what your body can use directly with no enzymes needed to absorb it. So there were absolutely no digestive problems such as many people experience when they consume more complex sugars than they have enzymes to digest. Dextrose (glucose) is the same sugar that doctors can put directly into your blood stream via IV which is why it is such a good choice for sugar in my opinion. Dextrose can be purchased at a wine or beer making store as corn sugar.

11. Finally, I want to say that my gel recipe is not for everyone, but if you are interested, it is made mostly of adzuki beans and sugar. These are the same beans I think that go into Red Bean Cakes and other Chinese cuisine pastries. I add one or more flavorings and other ingredients such as brown sugar (now to be replaced with dextrose only), chia seeds, pinole, coco, instant coffee, or vanilla as well as half and half regular and potassium salt. In the past I have put this paste into the toothpaste type tubes you can get from camping stores, but in the future I need to make the paste much more liquid rather than pasty. The reason for this is that it is easier to handle and to consume if it is not too thick. However, since I really have never run far enough to actually need food, I have not tested this extensively. My longest races are only a half marathon, and although I do at least a marathon a year, I never actually race these so I do not need much running food.

I will be thinking about this run for a long time and I am sure I will think of other lessons I can learn from it but in the meantime, I hope it helps you all think about what you want to do with your own running goals and training plans. Now it is recovery time for a few days and then it is back to my daily 4 km runs combined with a three times per week 10 or 11 km run before I again ramp it up for next spring in 2013. Until then, take care and remember, if you run, run like you mean it!

Posted in Everyday Stuff | Leave a comment