Thursday, October 29, 2009

SLCM 2008

I signed up to run another marathon about a month back. I begin my two digit long runs in a few days and thought it would be good to remember what an actual marathon was like. I ran the Salt Lake City marathon in 2008 (it was my first marathon) and had written up a short report of it that I include bellow. (originally from 22 April 2008)

I ran the Salt Lake City Marathon this Saturday. It was my first marathon so my impressions are void of any comparisons between this and any other marathon. I’m writing this while my legs still feel the last bits of ache from the effort. I still remember the look in the eye of the volunteers who passed me half full cups of water as well as those who passed me cups that were half empty. I also wanted to write this out as an antidote to the ribbing and some heartfelt sympathy that I have gotten from people I know who do not think I finished. The timers of the Salt Lake City Marathon misfiled the results for the last 116 finishers (about 10% of the field) and have not replied to my numerous e-mails not only asking them to fix the problem but telling them how they could.

The race weather should have been perfect. Cloud cover, 50F, moderate humidity, not unlike a standard issue perfect Salt Lake City spring day. When the race started I felt a great leap of adrenaline up under the legacy bridge I could see heads begin to bob up and down. A couple of minutes later the crowd around me began to move. Then it stopped. Then it began to move again. We passed the speaker stack and the booming undifferentiated sound moved my viscera in ways indistinguishable from excitement. Still running slowly (The only speed I really run at) I passed my cheering family my oldest daughter began to run along side me on the outside of the barricades. By the time she stopped I was smiling with sense I had not achieved at any time on any training run.

The course is mostly flat feeling with one impressive mile plus drop at about mile fourish. There are some ups and downs other than the big drop but the wind that began blowing hard after mile 6 smoothed out my impressions of the terrain. If the wind was at my back (a good portion of the way after mile 15) it was as good as downhill. If the wind was blowing grit and dust into my eyes I mostly noticed the cracks and texture of the pavement. The big drop at mile fourish allowed me to just kick my legs out and pick up speed. I was flying, passing people whose memories of tortured quads kept them from flight. I was no longer bound by earth. The view across the salt lake valley and the mountains felt endless. Within an hour most views of the valley would be obscured by blowing dust that clung to every direction like an evil fog.

At the bottom of the big drop the half marathoners split off and there was no more crowd. I was back to earth. I still felt great but the sudden loss of 90% of the world’s population made me feel suspicious. Happy fit people would occasionally pass me with words of gleeful encouragement. I somehow felt that they were lining up to get a good look at me so that later they could say “you know that fat guy who died at the SLC marathon; I spoke to him just before he died”.

Then the wind started in earnest. To tell the truth the wind played a game of peek-a-boo around buildings and between other obstacles. It only came out into the open in the intersections where is waved garbage at the runners. Just after mile 14 the course turned onto the Van Winkle Expressway. I pulled off my hat to wipe my forehead and it felt like 120 grit sandpaper.

The Van Winkle expressway is a several mile segment of a four-and-more divided highway nestled into a suburban neighborhood. The runners had the road from the center grass strip to the crumbling edge of the shoulder. I wanted to run in the middle of the road, to own it for the few moments I ran down this section of the race. I kept catching myself veering off to the shoulder and toeing a clear path just to the right of the fog line. This section was perhaps the ugliest of the run and the one of the places I had the most fun. There was a place in my mind that wouldn’t just go play in the street. Most of the other runners that I could see also tended to the shoulder.

Unfortunately the neuroma in my right foot began bothering me after I left the Van Winkle expressway behind. I tried ignoring it for a couple of miles but it finally reduced me to a limp that made my walking pace appear fast. Perhaps I was paying for that marvelous downhill flight. I had to stop. I took off my shoe and massaged the bottom of my foot. The neuroma was bigger than I ever remember it being. It felt like a little gel packet of pain. I literally pushed it between the bones of my foot and it felt surprisingly better. I put the shoe back on and began to walk, then I began to run.

Even though the sun was muted by the duststorm I think the real clouds must have burned off by the time I reached mile 20. I could feel the radiant energy of the sun trying to touch me. The suburban streets in the several miles leading up to liberty park have big old trees lining them. There was real patchy shade. The warm-cool-warm of running through the shadows the trees cast was hypnotic. Unfortunately the neuroma wanted more attention. I knew what to do this time. I quickly found a seat that an apparently sagging runner made so comfortable looking with his “I’m not running another step” look on his face. I stripped off the shoe and sock, palpated the gel pack of pain, and was back on my feet in no time. I walked then ran then I saw Liberty Park. A mile or so later I passed through the 5K start and knew that I could finish.

With one more, this time protracted, stop to attend to the neuroma I was out onto the wide streets of downtown Salt Lake City. I began running faster and faster past places where I had only walked before. My neuroma began asking for more attention to which a small irritating voice in my head replied “I gonna get surgery and shut you up for good”. I began passing people, admittedly they were the struggling wounded at the far end of the race, till I turned into the final chute and performed a slow motion sprint across the finish. My wife and two kids met me past the finish. Each gave me a kiss careful to touch a little of my grimy grit encrusted coating as possible.

I had finished my first marathon. I finished it well under the six hour time limit for the race. It was kinda a big deal to me.

Within hours I could not convince myself to walk a single step. I became interested in what my finishing time was. I checked on the internet and found that AA sports had already published results for the marathon. Unfortunately my name was not on there. What had happened? Had I been disqualified for repeatedly taking off my shoe?

Since I am passingly familiar with common screw-ups in webpage maintenance I did some searching of the results server. The linked-to results were in a aptly named file called slcm08.htm in a directory called results/2008/. I found another file called slcm08.htm in a directory called results/2007/. I looked at this file and along with my results I found the results of 116 other slow runners like myself. I though all of us would like our results properly linked to so I e-mailed everyone whose e-mail address I could find associated with either the Salt Lake City Marathon or the timing company.

The next morning I asked my wife to pick up the Salt Lake Tribune when she went to the store (Sundays are a great day to get ones grocery shopping done in Utah). Every year the Tribune publishes an alphabetical list of the marathon finishers with finishing times. This list like the finisher’s medal is one of the proofs that remind people, after the pain fades, that they really did it. My name, and the names of the last 116 people, were missing. I emailed again, telling whoever would respond that they only needed to copy the file to restore the finishing times of almost one in ten of the finishers. Since it was Sunday I expected, and got, no response. I began getting sympathetic e-mails from friends who knew how long I had been training, had looked up the finisher list, and who were now telling me that there was always next year. I may have sent more e-mails to the organizers and timing company at this time.

On Monday I began getting the sympathy of my co-workers. I sent more e-mails. The only response I have gotten so far is from Scott Kerr. Scott is the president of the Marathon’s organizing group and actually the last person I expected to reply. He says that he has forwarded my e-mails to the timing company. So if you were one of the brave 10% who finished last your results exist on the timing company’s server, they just have to read some of the many e-mails they have gotten on how to fix the problem and they can fix it in about 10 seconds. If you want to see your results now go to:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Atheists suck

My Awesome Oldest Daughter (AOD) came home from her middle school yesterday so distraught she assured me repeatedly that “NOTHING IS WRONG” and that she was “OK”. Apparently one of her BFF had been told by A BOY in her carpool that AOD was “not a member of the LDS church and therefore a satan worshiper” and added that BFF should have nothing more to do with AOD. I should mention that this BFF has been on AOD to “just come and try out” a mormon Sunday service. What sane middle school student wants to sit in a mormon church for three hours on a weekend afternoon. I half believe this is a manipulative conversion plot by the BFF since a Satan worshiper turns to dust on entering a church or something.

Which leads me to say that atheists SUCK. There is not one other atheist at her middle school that she can conspire with. In fact over 95% of the student body of her school is mormon. In 1996 the mormon prophet of god who speaks directly for god to the member of the church declared that "The new battle is one against atheism.". I guess that middle school children are the foot soldiers. Who is there to protect AOD? Should she convert to avoid continued harassment and to gain a measure of social acceptance. Those of you who do not remember middle school might think these things trivial. Those of you who remember realize that middle school children would sell their soul just to eliminate a few pimples.

With all the events and outreach programs and youth ministries and etc…. The world of fantasy and religion opens their arms to the emotional and, more importantly, social needs of middle school aged kids. What do atheists offer? As far as AOD is concerned just loving parents and other useless stuff.

There is a list that I have found great pleasure in. It is called “Hundreds of proofs of gods existence”. Yet it lacks so many that would only make sence to a middle school student:

“Argument from social calendar
1) Evolution supposedly took hundreds of millions of years and god made the earth in seven days.
2)It is seven days to the dance.
3) Therefore god exists.”


“Argument by crush
1) God started with just one man and one woman.
2) [Insert name here] is the only [boy/girl] that exists for me.
3) Therefore god exists”

Or (most depressing)

“Argument from teen angst
1) Mom/Dad do not really really understand me.
2) Someone who says they believe in god says they really really really understand me.
3)Therefore god exists.”

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The committe MP3

I downloaded the MP3 of the committee meeting and listened to it. When I was done listening to the 3ish hours of it I wanted to take a shower.

So (towards the middle of the recording) Roy gets up in front of the committee and speaks of “feedback loops”. Are they positive or negative? Generally, do they compensate for input or do they amplify input? These are truly fundamental questions and worthy of much study. Roy’s use of the term “feedback loops” as opposed to feedback loop suggests that there are multiple feedback processes involved.

Perhaps carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by a chemical feedback loop. I can envision one. In this loop the amount of carbon dioxide influences the rate of carbon dioxide removal. The more CO2 the faster it is removed so the actual quantities remain the same. I could easily believe that such a process would exist as CO2 fixation is CO2 concentration limited in most environments. If this process existed then CO2 levels would top out and start to decrease. Since my imaginary process is driven by living organisms it should be a relatively rapid response. The rate change should only take a year or so. The problem with my feedback process is in the data. CO2 levels continue to increase at rates roughly tied to the rate of fossil fuel consumption. Bad feedback model.

The above points out a feedback loop of exceeding importance. Ideas are cultured, then exposed to data, and then the ideas are refined or discarded. The nay-saying victim scientist who is shunned and forgotten despite his righteousness is a tragic myth. These poor souls do exist in Hollywood movies, nuthouses and “Intelligent Design” rallies. That we should court them in public policy hearing is absurd.

Roy goes on and on about feedback loops without describing any. Well… that’s not entirely true, he does describe one, kinda…

Roy tries to make a point about clouds. Not that they get in his eyes or coffee but that they are involved in the warming of the earth. Roy suggests that a key positive feedback loop goes like this; “When the earth is warm there are fewer clouds which allow the earth to warm up more (then fewer clouds, then more warming….)”. Roy tries then to put this into perspective by asking “How do they know that warming causes fewer clouds and it wasn’t fewer clouds that cause warming?”. Roy provided a dramatic pause of a couple of prime seconds after this bombshell. He then went on to state how he published a paper on this and the news media did not beat a path to his door. I have also have not yet read his paper perhaps it would be more insightful because it does not appear to be a very earth shattering revelation. In order for one to have a positive feedback loop Roy’s “discovery” would be an essential part of it. How can he state what is an essential truth as a refutation of that system it is an essential truth of? Perhaps he is spinning a logical web? Unfortunately he jumps into semi-paranoid conspiracy warnings rather than develop his science.

Roy comes back to state that feedbacks are only negative but he does not describe any more feedbacks specifically. Then he begins to blame politics for deceptions of the scientific community. “Little Ice age”, “medieval warming period”, “every century a warming period”… all discounted by politically motivated scientists. Good thing Roy is there to set us all straight. “The main culprit or candidate (for nature’s cause of global warming) is the pacific decadal oscillation (PDO)” says Roy. The PDO is a statistical feature of temperatures. It is like saying that the cause is the fact that we have seen something like this before. He then goes on to state that output of the sun and volcanoes and just about any physical cause mechanism is not strong enough to drive climate change like mankind’s input.

He concludes then by stating that apparently global climate change is caused by global climate change. His implication that strong evidence for a part of a feedback loop is evidence that the loop doesn’t exist lies undisturbed. His paranoid ramblings about committees and bribed scientists use up half his testimony; time that could have been used to illuminate his work if it were really important to him.

So what does the committee take home from these scientific testimonies? Well they pickup on the paranoid ramblings about political conspiracies.

“I hope the science can in some way reach a broader consensus before we invest our entire future on a science that may not be conclusive” said Rep. Lorie D. Fowlke who decried the polarization of the science.

In keeping with the emphasis on the political portion of Spencer’s testimony Rep. Roger E. Barrus quotes Vaclav Klaus at length and then states that a coordinated response to carbon emissions will cause “Mass redistribution of wealth that will change our freedom”.

Finally we get a glimpse as to why a committee in Utah reached all across the country to pull Roy out of his hole in Alabama. Rep. Michael E. Noel, House Chair stated “I’m still questioning whether the scientists are totally resolved on this issue”. What makes a consensus to him if 99% of all climate scientists is not good enough? He lays it out in the following quote: “if there is still a question out there like Dr spencer I’m not sure I want to subject my constituents to (a list of bad economic things)”. So as long as someone in willing to say they disagree with mankind’s effect on GCC there is not enough consensus.

But just in case Roy was not enough there is a surprise testimony by Bob Ferguson “debunking” the junk science involved in GCC. How did Ferguson end up in a Utah public utilities committee meeting when his office is in Washington DC (is it related to his BA from BYU?)? He goes on for almost as long as Roy. More paranoid political ramblings from Bob. More unfocused objections (sort of like the “gaps” in the fossil record ID objections) from Bob. Who paid Bob to come out?
I could listen to the MP3 of the meeting again. I cannot decide if it makes me sad or angry or just incredibly bored to listen to this.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gary and Roy

I started this blog to serve as a venue to almost anonymously vent anti-religious rants where they would not have to bee seen by anyone. Yet another blogosphere clot of rambling flotsam. Unfortunately it may have served as a pressure relief valve and I have had little to say about atheism, god, evolution, or stupidity since I began it.

Then yesterday I read about the glorious Gary Herbert (governor by appointment of Utah) and his Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee meeting’s agenda for today (Wed. 21 Oct 2009). Gov. GaryH has been widely quoted as stating he is “not convinced by the science” behind global climate change (GCC). Today’s meeting of his committee contains as a key element of its agenda a discussion of the science behind GCC. This discussion is seen as designed to discredit the previous governor’s blue ribbon advisory committee’s findings (which were generally that GCC is caused by man’s CO2 output and is bad for Utah). Now the most likely reason for Gov GaryH’s skepticism is not that he has searchingly examined the copious science on the subject and found it wanting. The reason probably sits nestled in one of Utah’s back road coal powered electrical plants that are busily churning out kilowatts for California. Admittedly, they also churn out Utah coal mining jobs and plant operator jobs, and more importantly electrical company sponsored political lobbyist jobs. It is no shocker that a politician who is looking to actually be elected would cater to important constituent groups. One might even call this a secular exercise in power. Aside from the underlying lack of church-state separation that is a banal fact of life in Utah what is the importance of this attack on science to atheism?

Well, astute reader, I’m glad you asked.

The link comes in the type of logic Gov GaryH sought out to “clarify” the GCC debate into an acceptable level of opacity. Gov GaryH has elicited the help of Roy Spencer Intelligent design advocate and GCC sceptic.

Since there were no believable GCC skeptics to be found in Utah (even in provo!) Gov GaryH sent word to the University of Alabama at Huntsville where a bunch of them apparently hang out. UA sent one of their best. Roy Spencer is credentialed as an award winning climatologist who studied the effect of temperature differentials on wind patterns. Roy is not, in the strict sense, a GCC denier. His work and the data he helped produce are apparently undeniable proofs that GCC is occurring. Roy simply believes that man has nothing to do with it. Apparently god is doing it without man’s help. This is good news for Gov GaryH as he will not have to be mean to the power companies and by slipping a bit of cash to LDS sanctioned programs he can more directly affect GCC’s impact on Utah. It is a Win-Win.

The diluted lukewarm pseudo science that is “intelligent design” is more of an argument than a science. It raises shrill voices of discontent where reason speaks and attempts to drown it out. Has Utah’s Governor purchased discord of reason for his state to achieve short term political goals? I will look forward to reading the minutes (and perhaps listening to the proceedings if the link can be made to work).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Vibram fivefingers

After reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall I immediately set about obtaining some Vibram Fivefinger (VFF) shoes. [I also set about getting a large amount of Chia seeds but they are still in the mail.] In McDougall’s book these minimalist shoes are championed by Barefoot Ted; a character with more energy than sense, who is neither the fastest nor most likable individual described in the book. Ted, however, resonates with many folks and I think I may be in one of the harmonic subgroups.

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The basic idea that I culled from the information about running in the VFF is that the lack of “support” forces a mid-foot strike. I have been trying to develop a better mid-foot strike after reading Danny Dreyer and Christopher Bergland. After running ten feet in the VFF I had an almost perfect mid-foot strike. I also experienced pleasurable feedback from the road surface. I found myself seeking out gravely areas to feel the massage like quality of the gravel underfoot. These have become my go-to training shoes.

Of course I have only run about 8.5 miles in the VFF and strange things could happen. Every once in a while I would run over a large (>1.5inch) rock sitting on the road surface and experience a somewhat painful jab. Perhaps some injury producing jab is in their not too distant future? I got the KSO VFF which do not afford much thermal protection. I purchased some Injinji socks to extend the VFF’s useful season but it will probably get too cold for using these shoes in the coming weeks.

The Train

My company provides a shower to it's workers. This comes in handy after a lunchtime ride or a run. The shower is in a locker room type setting. Yesterday, while I was showering after lunch a couple of other folks were horsing around with an air powered horn. These things are very loud inside. Picture how nice you sound to yourself when singing in the shower. You have a more powerful voice and may even be on key. Similar effects are lent to an air-horn when it is discharged in a shower room. Person A snuck in while person B was shampooing their hair and let loose with the air-horn. I did not notice person A until I was leaping out of my skin. Needless to say I peed myself, but since I was naked and in the shower no one noticed. Unfortunately for person A he happens to be in my van-pool.

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My commute is a long one, over 60 miles, and it crosses a set of railroad tracks about 2/3 of the way home. The route travels over a mountain pass with many twists and turns and most people choose sleeping over carsickness. Almost everyone besides the driver are lightly asleep when the railroad tracks are crossed. Sometimes people wake slightly at the bumpy track crossing. The people in my van-pool have been passing over the tracks twice a day for over a decade and there is a subconscious tensing that occurs as a programmed response to the approach of the tracks. Sleepers go from half asleep to a quarter asleep for the few minutes that precede the tracks. This period of vulnerability is unique and I would make good use of it.

Person B is also in my van-pool and made it clear that he would be a willing accomplice in my revenge.

As we approached the tracks I slowed down slightly and commented out loud “ why is everyone slowing down”? I then sped up as if I was passing some folks. Mr B took his que and stated “Aren't you going to stop?” while handing me the air-horn. I prepped the air-horn while murmuring “What are you talkin' about?”. Person B then yelled “TRAIN”. At this point person A's head whipped up as he was completely awake. After the millisecond needed for him to see that we were indeed at the train tracks I let loose with the air-horn. I believe he crapped his pants at this point. I had no idea that human eyes could open so wide. It is perhaps a vestigial adaptation related to our reptilian ancestors who like modern snakes could perhaps open their mouths to swallow prey many times their size.

I should include a note of warning. This sort of malarkey is dangerous while driving. For several minutes I was laughing so hard that tears partially obscured my driving. On the bright side I did not know that person A was so fluent in French.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The sickness from outer space

There have been studies that link high levels of exertion with lowered immune response. The longer the exertion the worse the compromised immunity. Aside from the sparse number of refereed articles attesting to the after event immune response there are a smattering of articles that describe a pre-race increase in sickness related potentially to tapering. Both of these phenomena are well known. I've heard “Push yourself too hard and you will get sick” from many people (many of whom would never push themselves too hard because they know better.). “I caught a cold just before my A race” is a unfortunate refrain that many athletes mutter in defeat. Somewhere not too far down the road is a place where anytime one sweats one is at increased risk for disease. I would like to rally stats to show that there is some sort of continual health benefit that in its accumulation outweighs the event specific immune difficulties. I would like to but I have been quite ill. I got ill a couple of days after the White Rim Trial ride.

It has been a good illness if you are partial to those things. I don't think I have been really sick for more than four days in a row for...I can't remember. Two days off work clutching my stomach. I think I read most of an entire novel while sitting on the toilet. Great fever symptoms too. I woke drenched with sweat on Wednesday. I had to peal the sheets off of me. On Thursday I experienced such intense bloating that I repeatedly found myself picturing the scene in Alien where the proto-creature sprouts from John Hurt's stomach.

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I think I was told about the connection between the ride and my illness more times than I was wished a speedy recovery. I like to make the connection between the fact that my eldest was sick when we drove to Moab and the illness is more a testimonial to koch's postulates than voodoo exercise physiology. This has become easier now that my SO has started in with the symptoms.

Maybe I will make popcorn and tea so we can have an after diner movie night and watch Alien together.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

WRIOD (White Rim In One Day) report

The weather WAS perfect. The bike made it to the ride in almost perfect shape. The plastic front shifter adjuster cracked so I put the chain on the middle chain-ring and resolved to keep it their. I could actually down-shift by unclipping and rubbing the chain with my heal to push it onto the small chain-ring. I did not do this often.

I was so excited when I started out that I missed the proper short 4wheel drive trail from the camp to mineral bottom road and ended up wandering though the woods in deep sand until close to dawn (about an hour). I was able to go much faster down the mineral bottom road in full light, but I would have liked that hour back at the end of the day.

The White Rim trail is awesome! Everyone should do it. Basically, if a fat guy like me can do it in a day many other folks can to. Sure I pushed the bike up more hills than fashionable, sure I developed some marvelous bruises, sure I bonked like never before, but I was awe-struck and happy and in some element that I wished could be mine.

I arrived at the top of Murphy's Hogback at an average speed of almost 10MPH (discounting the “Lost” episode in the woods). Unfortunately I had burned up most of the available calories in my body. The rest of the White Rim (about half) would take twice as long. I was so toasted by Musselman arch that I did not even take the short stop to see it.

Unknown to me My wife had received the information that, although it is not marked, the road she was to meet me on was illegal to be on after dark. I do not believe this information, but the guys she spoke to were quite insistent. So when I arrived at the pickup spot as the sun went down she was not their.

I could not reasonably bike using my headlamp so I ended up pushing my bike for a couple of hours until I could cycle the last six miles on pavement to Gold Bar. I ran into a couple of workers on the commercial Potash road who gave me a ride till I was off their property (thanks).

All in all a marvelous day. I want to do it again in the spring. Better bike, slightly longer day, more food, and a camera!