Friday, December 26, 2008

I Ran Around San Francisco Bay

I later connected this route to the Western States Trail in the Sierras, and eventually I got all the way to the Nevada line. Check it out here - I really am as awesome as I seem!

Yes, I ran around the whole San Francisco Bay. I really am that awesome. The following account thereof is profoundly fascinating, and if you don't read it all the way through, that only shows that you're a bad person who's tired of life. The way I did the loop it came out to about 250 miles traveled on foot, about 3 miles of rowing, and 100 yards of swimming. Actually 115, thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard. This means I probably ran something like 400-450 miles, because even though it's a loop, you have to run to the start of the next leg, and then turn around and go back, unless you plan on sleeping at the park entrance until next weekend - or pay for a cab, or have a kind spouse with free time. No, I didn't exactly follow the Bay Area Ridge Trail (although I did for maybe half of my route), nor did I do it in order (although I mostly did), and I sure as hell didn't do it all at once or on contiguous days like Don Lundell and Gillian Robinson or Dean Karnazes. But along the route I did end up doing a lot of things I didn't anticipate, like retracing a route used by anti-Franco smugglers. So that should count for something.

To runners thinking of doing the same thing: Don Lundell's description is a better resource because he bothered to do things like remember which trails he took and write down the mileage. If I tried to reconstruct my route by referring to trail names I can't guarantee it would be right, and it wouldn't be helpful if you kept reading entries like "turn left I think on that single track that goes up that ridiculous hill right past the eucalyptus grove; there you will find a bearded man who will give you the Dragoncharm." In fact, if your choices of information sources for planning such an endeavor are either this post, or a stone monument covered with eroded, half-deciphered glyphs of the Maya, go with the Maya.

Am I doing a good job of setting expectations for this blog entry?

The Statistics

I think the route was about 250 miles:

From Around the Bay

Note that "250" is an ex post facto Google Maps ballpark figure; those GPS watches are the devil's work. ("Kids today don't know how to read satellite maps..." etc.) It took me ih, two and a half years of heading out on weekends when I felt like it to finish it up.

Why Did I Do It?

My first inspiration for this endeavor was to run the exact Bay Area Ridge Trail all the way around, but as hard as the Ridge Trail Council has worked (and continues to work) on it, it's not complete yet. Consequently following it exactly would be difficult - and would also involve getting multiple permissions to run across private land, as Don and Gillian did. Second, I wanted to use this run around the Bay to keep me motivated. I'd been in the Bay Area long enough that I wasn't as excited to get out and hit the trails as I used to be. Third, it's cool. And I'd be lying if I didn't say that noted Marin ultrarunner (and devoted viewer of Jim Schollard motivated me by saying he had done part of it too. Having that guy pass me would have sucked.

What Were The Rules?

1. Safety first - I wasn't about to risk my skin for this silly little adventure. As much time as I spend belly-aching about mountain lions, I fully realize that the biggest risk when you run is getting hit by a car. This is why, if you look at the map, there's a section I didn't run (the black part). It extends from the northern gate of Purisima Creek Redwoods on Rt. 35/Skyline Drive, 4 miles north to 92, down 92 west to US 1, and up 1 past Pacific to McNee Ranch. Most of this route is high-speed highway with little or no shoulder, and if I have to pick between not getting hit by a car, or impressing you people reading my blog, guess what? I did make up for the mileage though - I made sure to run an at least equivalent mileage and at least equivalent elevation change to replace the section I didn't do around the Bay.

2. The order and route of the legs - I didn't always go exactly in order, geographically, although I mostly did. I always made sure that at a connection between legs, I either touched the same tree/rock/fence post etc. or at least crossed my path. I also didn't strictly follow the Bay Ridge Trail - sometimes to shortcut, other times because there was a prettier section. I run trails for the psychological benefit. The physical fitness aspect is secondary. Everyone has different reasons for trailrunning, but if you're not appreciating the world around you I wonder what the point is.

3. Only prior-dedicated legs counted - To keep myself from being too tempted to cheat, my rule was that I had to commit my run to the Round-the-Bay effort before I started. I couldn't say, "Ah, I remember running that trail three years ago with a group of people, so I'll count that one as done"; neither could I get halfway through a non-committed run and say "Hey, here's a marker saying I'm crossing the Bay Ridge Trail, what do you know! I might as well turn onto it and count it" (which did happen several times on "extracurricular" runs).

4. Enjoy myself.


The Start

I decided to run clockwise around the Bay in case doing it the other way made time go backwards like in Superman, and at the end of the trail conquistadors arrested me. But I probably didn't have to worry about it since Superman's mile time is better than mine. What this means is that I started in Berkeley, and I headed south. Keep in mind that in the interest of narrative coherence I'm presenting the legs in geographic order, which is a little different from how I actually did them.

Thanks are in order to the men and women a) who maintain the parks, trails, and open space of the Bay Area for everyone to enjoy, b) who have set and continue to set aside these parks in the first place over the last century as open space for everyone to enjoy, and c) the people of California and the Bay Area who know what's good for us and keep voting to support them. WE RULE! Seriously though, get out there and give the Trail Dogs your support. These guys are a volunteer trail maintenance organization and they're pretty cool.

Tilden Park

I took my first steps in this enterprise at Lone Oak Campground in Northern Tilden around February of 2006. If you make it all the way through this writeup, you'll see that I'm quite obsessive about tracking dates and mileage. By "obsessive" I mean "quite sloppy, because who cares, it was fun". My first legs through Tilden were all through familiar territory. I lived in Berkeley until recently so Tilden, Sibey, Redwood and the EBMUD lands between are all like home to me. Still, setting out directly from my house led me on some long runs. And when you're on gorgeous trails like these, who cares?

EBMUD Land, Sibley and Huckleberry Parks

I hit the Steam Trains at Tilden and continued south through EBMUD land, crossed Fish Ranch, and entered Sibley. The volcanoes seem to be staying dead, which is always nice. Entered Huckleberry, crossed whatever that road is that goes down into Moraga, and entered Redwood near Skyline Gate.

Redwood Park

All I remember is that I took French Trail, because I always take French Trail. Going to Redwood and not taking French Trail is like getting a salad at McDonald's. And then I crossed Redwood Road and entered Lake Chabot. I think I ran into Berkeley ultrarunning legend Mike Palmer somewhere in the East Bay on one of these runs, but in any event he gave me a lot of good information and resources for how to accomplish this project.

Lake Chabot

I should add that I now felt like I was out of my home territory, and I started wondering whether this was still a good idea. From Big Bear Gate (I think it's called that and I'm too lazy to look it up) I started into Lake Chabot as far as Grass Valley staging area. From there, another day I ran to the Lake Chabot Marina and back. By the way, until now this has essentially been the route of the Golden Hills Marathon.

Cull Canyon, Five Canyons Regional Open Space

South of Lake Chabot there are some sections weaving through the backside of San Leandro and Castro Valley where the trail marking was impossible to follow, and I found my way only by following a creek and then asking kids playing at a ranch house where in hell I was. That same day I had woken up two coyotes and was getting spooked about snakes in the high grass, and found out later from a friend that he'd almost stepped on a rattler in that very spot. I ran through a section of Hayward mostly because it contained parks I'd never been in; I started off dehydrated and got worse. When I stopped to ask directions a nice old lady insisted on giving me 2 bottled waters. I came back the next day with a whole case to repay her.

Garin Dry Creek

Next was Garin Dry Creek on a warm fall day (see, I started in February and it's already fall. As you can tell I was really busting my ass.) I had an odd scare when I came around a turn in a shaded creek valley and in the brush saw a bunch of brown forms running through the grass. Again, not mountain lions. Wild turkeys. A lot of them.

The Netherworld: South Hayward

South of Garin the hills are all private property, so at the southernmost trailhead of Garin I came out to Mission Boulevard in unincorporated south Hayward - "civilization" - and no offense to unincorporated Hayward, but the quote marks are definitely needed. Okay, offense to unincorporated Hayward. Anyway, that was about a 15 mile run and I did it at night; a little too ghetto fabulous for me. [Edit: a helpful Redditor pointed out that in fact this whole areas actually is within incorporated Hayward. So, all offense is due to Hayward proper.]

Mission Peak and Ed Levin Park

Mission Peak is one of the highest points in the Bay Area, but not one of the prettiest - if you're familiar with the East Bay, think of that triangular brown heap you can see miles and miles down 880, looming above Fremont, and that's it. It was bright and in the 90s that day and windless, and there is zero shade on that mountain; it's classic California sun-bleached grass and steep hills, and that's all there is to it.

The next leg began at the top of Mission Peak (see what I mean about always having to do everything twice?) so I ran back up to the peak and down the back side, a section so steep it looked like I was coming out of the Rockies. It was a nice feeling when I emerged from the trail into the parking area to see the little post that said "End Bay Area Ridge Trail" but I knew this was an artifact of where I'd started; I wasn't even half-way.

Silicon Valley

The next two runs were horrible - that is to say, through San Jose and its suburbs, if indeed San Jose isn't itself a suburb, as it seems to be, in some horrible residential analogy to distributed processing. After the Mediterranean scrub oaks and redwood forests I'd been through, 13 miles of Sunnyvale office parks made me think I was in a new ring of Hell that Dante had left out for being just too awful, even compared to burning ash and stinging flies. But it was a shortcut, and hey: if there's anything this great country stands for, it's cutting corners.

Rancho San Antonio and Monte Bello

After a seeming eternity condemned to Sunnyvale, I had made it to the entrance to Rancho San Antonio, and the next visit after that I climbed up the high ridge east of the park in Monte Bello Open Space. I remember that run being a tough one - hot, steep, and I was badly hydrated to start with. I should add that here began a series of parks that in 10 years of trailrunning in the Bay Area, I'd never once visited. And they're fantastic.

Skyline Park

On the back side of Rancho San Antonio and Monte Bello is Skyline Park, where again the forest animals lay in wait just to scare me when I wasn't paying attention. A pair of coyotes jumped out onto the trail in front of me before nonchalantly heading up a hill into the woods, looking back over their shoulders at me. Oddly, in Skyline Park I picked up the Bay Area Ridge Trail again. I didn't want my run through the center of hell to be in vain so I wasn't about to retrace the points on the Ridge Trail south of where I found it.

Fantastic Peninsula Parks

From there I came up through a number of San Mateo County Open Space parks: Russian Ridge, Windy Hill, El Corte De Madera, Purisima Creek - alternating from rugged exposed grass-covered hills, to Mediterranean scrub oaks, to riparian woodlands and redwood cloud forests. You might even make some new friendy-friends in these parks! Soda Springs Trail in Purisima has to have the highest beauty:notoriety ratio of any trail in the Bay Area. I'm almost hesitating to put it on my blog here for fear of despoiling it when my millions of readers flock there. Just the drive to get to the trailheads is itself relaxing.


It was here that some will say I cheated. There is a busy 4 mile stretch of Skyline between the northernmost trailhead in Purisima, and then you have three options:

A) Run through San Mateo reservoir land by making an appointment with the water district people well ahead of time, and basically walking with them.

B) Run down 92 west into Half Moon Bay and get run over by a car, then turn right and get run over by cars running 10 miles north into Pacifica on Route 1 along Devil's Slide.

C) Run down 92 east toward the reservoirs and get run over by cars, then run along Rt. 35 into Millbrae (some variant of which is what Don and Gillian did).

D) None of the above.

All the roads are accident-prone as it is, and dangerous for pedestrians. In the end I opted for D and ran equal mileage and elevation elsewhere, and not risk my life for the sake of my little projecty. As an aside: don't you think it's sobering that there are places you can't get to on foot, not because of natural impediment, but human design?

The equal mileage I ran was in two places: 1) Tilden in my back yard, and 2) Andorra. Yes, the one in the Pyrenees. Because of Andorra's "charming" square mileage (as real estate agents would call it) I was able to literally run "cross-country". To Spain. The mountain pass I used turned out to be a Spanish Civil War and WWII smuggling route. I think that counts for something. Cooler than just running down dumb 92 anyway. I also could've counted the Camino Santiago for mileage - this is the famous medieval pilgrimage route to Compostela in Spain.

From Europe Oct 07 - Paris, Basque Country, Andorra

The Camino Santiago was also traversed by Charlemagne's forces (indeed this is where Roland was killed in 778, memorialized in Le Chanson de Roland about the defeat at Roncevaux, or Roncesvalles, depending which language you prefer) but I forgot to dedicate the run ahead of time. See how scrupulous I am?

From Europe Oct 07 - Paris, Basque Country, Andorra


I picked up again in North America in Pacifica at McNee Ranch, where 4 years ago I was stalked by a mountain lion at dusk in the fog (in case you were wondering: it's not a good feeling.) Up and over the wicked coast range, down into San Pedro Preserve, and from there through a Pacifica neighborhood and up to Sweeney Ridge, where Portola and his men stood one day in 1769, as the fog rolled back to reveal San Francisco Bay, making them the first Europeans ever to see it.


More Civilization

From Pacifica it was various twists and turns through San Bruno and Daly City and Colma neighborhoods, and up the side of San Bruno Mountain. Starting at Guadalupe Canyon Park on San Bruno Mountain, I came to the northern edge of the park and there, spreading out before me, was the city of San Francisco. Just as I'd discovered new parks during my loop around the Bay so far, I discovered new neighborhoods of San Francisco that day; not all of them nice ones. I've lived in the Bay Area 10 years and was in San Francisco all the time, and still had never seen these parts of the city. And San Francisco isn't a big city. It made me realize what sheltered circles we must travel in.

The Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands

I finished the city leg at my place in Pacific Heights. I ran the next one to the the Golden Gate Bridge, the next one after that was from the Bridge across into Marin and to Rodeo Beach, and the next one after that was to Miwok Trail, winding up through coastal scrub. The hilltop vegetation in Marin is noticeably different from that even in the southern hills I was in like Skyline; greener, more windblown, because the Pacific currents that control the weather change even in that short stretch of latitude. Once on Miwok Trail I ran to and through Muir Woods, reinforcing my impression that the rangers at Muir Woods really are dicks. (If there was another accurate word, I would use it.) From there it was on to Mt. Tamalpais, which I ran up via Natalie Coffin-Green park on New Years Eve.

Northern Marin and Novato

From there, it was past the lake, up and over to Deer Park (not a very enlightening place at all - tee hee, get it, that's my little Buddhist joke - no, it hasn't made anyone laugh so far). Then through Fairfax and San Anselmo and Sleepy Hollow Preserve. I understand that one of these areas (I can't remember which one) is actually private property and although the owner has historically let people use it, he's now (controversially) closed it due to vandalism, perhaps by the metal militia. If it really gets closed, that would be the thing that should not be; I might even hold my breath as I wish for death. In any case I exited light, and entered night. (Yes, those are inside jokes.)

Then it was across Lucas Valley Road and up over the ridge east of Skywalker Ranch (which really sucked - the ridge, not the ranch), and then down the north side of the ridge to Indian Valley College and the edge of Novato. Of course, this all sounds very simple, but for me it was really an education in local geography. Bay Area geography, while it tends to be dramatic, also tends to be simple - it's hard to get lost because no matter where you are there's the Bay, there are the hills (and faults) parallel to the Bay, and if you still don't know where you are you're a dummy. But once you're running north and east of Mt. Tam, you notice that Marin County is broken into a series of ridges and valleys perpendicular to the San Andreas Fault. When I say "you notice" I mean "you're suffering horribly on the hills to the extent that you're constantly cursing your parents for creating you, every animal unfortunate enough to be in earshot, and plate tectonics in general". But let's not forget that it was fun! Right?

After that, I ran through Indian Valley College and Novato to the top of Mt. Burdell, on which trail I encountered the remains of a turkey that was eaten rather vigorously judging by the feathers everywhere, who knows by what. From the top of Burdell, it was down the other side to Olompali State Park, a Northern California Indian village site that was continuously inhabited for thousands of years right up until the present - they traded with the Russians based up at Fort Ross, as well as Mariano Vallejo when he was governor of Alta California. Pretty nifty.

Petaluma, Sonoma, Napa: Back Roads and Ranchlands

Roads were definitely my greatest hazard in this stretch. Don Lundell was kind enough to direct me to his own route and give advice but I worked it out with a different private property owner so I could run across their land (the only time I did it for this project). Private land is often the least developed and the most remote. At one point when I sat on a fallen tree to tie my shoe, something scrambled from underneath and shot off like a rocket back into the woods I'd just come from - something big enough I was glad it decided to run away. I convinced myself (mostly to keep calm) that it was probably just a sleeping coyote I'd woken up; in fact this wouldn't even have been the first time this happened during this project. It ran so fast and kicked up so much dust in the bone-dry Bay Area summer that I couldn't be sure. In any event, I don't want to say exactly how I got from Olompali to Petaluma because these landowners were nice enough to me but they probably don't want every other weirdo coming to them asking "I want to run exactly along the 38th parallel during a solar eclipse but I have to go through your land". One weirdo running through it is enough. Having said that, Ireland has an arrangement where all farmlands are open to the public for hiking and running, as long as you close gates behind you to avoid the livestock escaping. Isn't that cool? It's not even that different from the arrangement we have right now in a lot of the East Bay Parks.

Once I got to Petaluma I was running entirely on roads, which was by far the greatest hazard of my route, particularly on Stage Gulch Road/Route 116. (Here's the route:)

View Larger Map

I should mention that you could smell the grapes on the vine once I got east of Petaluma and south of Sonoma. This part of the route was a novel experience for a Bay Area runner - miles and miles of flat terrain! It was nice to be able to concentrate on my form for a change. What's more is that I actually became envious of the great country life these folks have in the delta area north of San Pablo Bay - one memory that I hope continues to stick in my mind is of passing two young brothers and their dog playing with a hose in their front yard, having just about as much fun as it's possible to have. Then a few miles later there were the yipping terriers who charged me from an open garage, until their owner, an older gentleman, appeared and shouted at them until they came back into the house. "They're just a coupla assholes," he explained.

Solano County

Notice how the route on the map ends at the old train bridge? It would be suicide to try to run the 29/12 bridge across the Napa River; why not swim? So I did. I can't say the water is particularly clear, but I did meet a huge barn owl in the decommissioned train trestle that day. For the next run, I met my buddy Anup one weekday morning at the opposite bank (thanks for the lift); he drove me to downtown Vallejo and I ran back to the river.

Vallejo is an interesting case. Immediately to the south of Napa, you emerge out of wine-and-ranch country into this place, which looks like an inner-city cut out of the country's rust belt and dropped at the edge of the Bay. After I got to the intersection at Sonoma and Tennessee, from there I ran to the shopping center on Columbus Parkway right between Vallejo and Benicia. I felt a little uncomfortable running through Vallejo and probably wouldn't do it at night. Then one weekday evening I ran from that shopping center to downtown Benicia and back. Benicia has a pretty cool little downtown and if you're up that way you should stop and check it out.

The Carquinez Strait

If you're looking at the map you might ask why I ran to Benicia. The Carquinez Bridge is a freeway; you can't just go running across it. So I could either swim the strait, or kayak it (under my own power; no motors). I was pretty enthusiastic about swimming it - thanks to Erin and my mom for offering to help such an attempt in various ways - but thanks to Erin who is primarily responsible for talking me out of it. As a funny aside - I went to Benicia Point to survey the strait. Of course I understand rationally that hypothermia, currents, and freighters are the biggest risks. But human psychology is a strange thing, and because hypothermia, currents, and freighters do not rush at you from the depths with row upon row of jagged teeth, all I could think about was whether great whites came that far into the Bay. So I asked a fisherman who happened to be sitting at the point that day for his thoughts. He said no, there were no great whites there, because there are no seals for them to eat. Literally less than one minute later, as we were still talking, a seal appeared in the water 30 feet offshore and watched us with passing interest, then swam away. "Damn if that's the first time I ever seen one here," the fisherman said.

Fortunately Erin hooked me up with Mark from Westwind Adventures for the kayak trip. Mark took good care of me and we paddled over from the Martinez Marina and got into the Benicia Jazz Fest for free, because we came by boat. This was my 3 mile paddle and my 15 extra yards of swimming when, ironically, I was capsized by a Coast Guard vessel in the middle of the strait, hence why I'm wet here:

From Around the Bay

Note: I did not buy a martini in Martinez (where they were invented) that time. But you should if you're over that way (yes I got Belgian waffles in Belgium and French fries in France, but I couldn't get Thai iced tea in Thailand). There's also the John Muir House, which is extremely cool. Also they have wild beavers living downtown, which is kind of neat. No, I'm not being dirty. There are really flat-tailed aquatic rodents that build dams.

Back in tha 510

From Martinez I ran through the unintentional park between Martinez and Crockett - unintentional because the road has been closed for years due to a mudslide. From there to Eckley Pier, from there to John Swett High School in Crockett (these are short legs but I didn't quite know what I was doing route-wise at this point owing to the strait-crossing).

From Crockett I ran to the northern gate of Wildcat Canyon in El Sobrante (thanks to Thurston for the 5am pick-up). This was a long one and again, I've lived in the East Bay 10 years and have never seen some of these communities (many of which are regular middle class places). From Wildcat Canyon I ran to - Lone Oak Campground. I was home.


Chronologically speaking, the very last segment I completed to close the loop was to run from Olompali State Park to the top of Mt. Burdell. It was August of 2008. As I got to the top of Mt. Burdell and stepped onto the trail that I'd run from the other direction, I imagined I could feel some kind of current coursing through the now-closed circuit around the Bay. It was done.

When I started this project I thought I pretty much knew every park in the Bay Area. Not hardly. Being forced by this project and geography to pass through certain areas, I not only discovered some fantastic new open spaces but also communities that I never knew were there (the pub in the tiny town of Port Costa has a stuffed polar bear, and the table on which the Treaty of Versailles was signed). I reflected on what it means that we can't travel on foot from Point A to Point B, even though we want to. And now that I'm finished I also have to find another reason to stay interested in running (usually it's challenging friends to races).

When you execute a loop you end up in the same place, and the only real benefit you can expect is experience. Of course, that's just fine with me. Along the way, people frequently asked me if I was doing this for charity and, to be honest, that never occurred to me until they started asking. Without any such motivations, a project like this is the very definition of "for the hell of it", a tradition which was reborn in Europe with Petrarch's ascent of Mt. Ventoux in 1336. And really, what more reason could you need?

Now get out there and do your own project, and tell us all about it! In the meantime, cheers!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mountain Lion Kill in Point Reyes

I wish I had a picture of this for you, but you'll just have to settle for print. Today, about a half mile from the trailhead at Pierce Point Ranch in Point Reyes, I came upon an obvious mountain lion kill. Large portion of the rump gone, as well as most of the flesh around the head and neck (which appeared broken). The meat was still bright red. I reported this to the park service through their website since I didn't want to assume someone else already had. Oddly, I had to snail-mail in a form, which I grudgingly did. Maybe that's just a hoop the Park Service sets to keep people from sending in bogus reports.

In closing: given the consumption pattern on the deer, it seems the lions really do, as I often say, eat your face.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Volcano Vids from Pacaya, Guatemala

My friend Larry got his bad self married in Guatemala this past summer and honored me by requesting I be the best man, despite that by most reasonable estimations I am very nearly the worst one. Nonetheless I hauled my bad self down there and did my bit. My hosts (his in-laws and their friends and family) were of course incredibly gracious and generous. One day I got antsy and wanted to get out of Guatemala City so I got directions to Pacaya, an active volcano maybe an hour drive outside town.

I got six videos of it you can check out on my Youtube page. I was trying to capture the actual sounds of it erupting for Larry but there's nothing that's obviously volcano vs. wind. Still, here's probably the most interesting one.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

This Town Is Surely A Noble Place

Somehow I managed not to drive the 8 miles out of my way to visit this sacred site in the South Dakota prairie.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mountain Lions Repopulating Their Old Range

If you spend any amount of time out on trails in Western North America, you (hopefully) know we have mountain lions. In fact I've developed an unhealthy obsession with them, and given the many nervous conversations I've had with other runners on trail, I'm not alone. I generated this graph from the data on the central mountain lion interaction website, (all attacks on humans and domesticated animals and incidents of aggressive behavior from 1890 to present are reflected; incidents known to involve the same animal are only counted once).

This is from a century of recorded attacks, and as you can see, there's barely enough data to infer a trend. For what it's worth, it's rainy here in January and warm and dry in September. Yes, it's NorCal-centric, but that's where I'm most often trying not to get eaten by mountain lions.

I agree that mountain lions are beautiful animals - you'd have to be a fool not to see that the fearful symmetry of the great cats sets them at the pinnacle of predator evolution at this point in Earth's history. Their unwavering focus on predation extends from their nervous system and musculature straight down to their hemoglobin, specially engineered to allow quick-release bursts of oxygen for explosive speed and power (and in the kind of biochemical arms race we often see in evolution, ungulates have developed the same trick). But the cliches of savage nature's grace won't reassure you very much when you're going for a little walk with your four year old and you see one. It's odd to think that, like Africa, we still have enough powerful land predators to pose a threat to lone humans, and mountain lions are definitely around. I have seen two in a four year period, the first within 32 miles of the San Francisco city limits, the other within five miles. There have since been confirmed sightings even closer to the city than that, and five weeks ago I saw a classic track in mud on a trail in East Bay public watershed land within less than two miles of the Oakland city limits (not our photo - from

Current estimates of the California population run from four to six thousand; presumably the density is similar throughout the West. If you spend any time in the great outdoors in this half of the country, even if you've never seen them, they've seen you. Of course, they typically would rather eat deer, but it's more than a little disturbing that the relatively small number of interactions is a result of their choice, not ours.

Unfortunately their decision process seems to be changing. Interactions are unquestionably on the upswing. For well over two centuries North America's mountain lions were on the run, hunted as dangerous vermin with the new weapons brought by European settlers on the East Coast; my home state of Pennsylvania is a microcosm in this regard. Still today mostly covered with temperate forests and tasty deer, Pennsylvania was apparently overrun with the things (hence Penn State's mascot) until pioneers like Daniel Boone began seriously hunting them out in the mid eighteenth century. Ironically enough, the last known kill in PA was in Boone's home county of Berks in 1874.
(As it turns out, mountain lions were already exterminated from North America once, by the first Native Americans across the land bridge, then recolonized the continent from South America. That is to say, the lions we now have haven't even been here as long as Native Americans. For more on the soap opera of mountain lion biohistory check out this seriously cool blog post.)

Today, like other East Coast residents, most Pennsylvanians are shocked to learn that there are even coyotes anywhere in their state, let alone that 150-lb. predators were once running around. It shouldn't be such a shock; they still have plenty of Appalachians and plenty of bears.

One of the main reasons that we twenty-first century citizens like going out into the wilderness is because we're inspired and humbled by a world which is, in its untamed-ness, at once beautiful and indifferent to us. You're reminded that the world exists independent of human inanity. But this experience is best appreciated by people who endure danger and physical discomfort only by choice, to inject a thrill into an otherwise very safe and even life (like the ones modern Americans have). When I'm out on those trails, it's to have fun. When Daniel Boone went out the door to hunt, he was protecting homesteads and earning a living. Even a twenty-first century trail addict like me gets spooked sometimes, and I have to admit that I enjoy running when I visit Pennsylvania because I can banish all thought of two yellow eyes coolly tracking me from twenty yards back in the brush. (Yes, I know the odds of getting hit by a car at a road crossing are worse, but it's psychology. Cars don't have sharp teeth. The same argument applies to tides vs. great whites in the channel between Alcatraz and San Francisco, and let's see you go swimming out there and not worry about them.)

The East Coast of North America does in fact still have mountain lions - in the Everglades, and in Quebec and New Brunswick. Of course the next question is, if they live in Quebec and the Maritime Provinces, why wouldn't they also be in Upstate New York? Passport problems? In fact in several eastern states - Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Kentucky - there have been a slew of mountain lion sightings in the last decade. That said, people are excitable, and until you see a photo or an expert can inspect wounds from an alleged attack, you're better off believing the fish & game authorities.

Unfortunately fish & game authorities in some places have denied reality even where there was medical or photographic evidence. In Pennsylvania there is no such evidence, but the reports were enough to get the US Fish and Wildlife Service to open an official inquiry. This is more than can be said for the authorities in any number of states further west, where it seems only embarrassingly concrete evidence will force the local agencies to admit the presence of mountain lions. The Black Hills of South Dakota are openly acknowledged as mountain lion territory. Think that they won't re-cross the plains? Check out this camera-trap photo taken near Duluth, Minnesota in 2007. Since 2001 there have been attacks on humans in South Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas. Lions have been killed (by guns and cars) in Iowa, and been seen repeatedly (and even attacked horses) in Michigan (take your pick on Youtube). And of course there was the "CNN" mountain lion, the one in suburban Chicago, which was related to the ones in the Black Hills. That lion crossed more than 900 miles. The confirmed lion population in Quebec is about 900 miles from Washington D.C. That horse attack in Michigan happened about 400 miles from central Pennsylvania.

The problem is not so much that the lions are recolonizing their old range, but rather that they're doing it in a place where citizens and authorities are in denial that they exist. (See this article by a former Fish and Game official in Arkansas.) What's more, in Daniel Boone's day, lions knew that when they saw humans, they either got shot at with an arrow, or they got shot at with a gun. Either way, they knew we were bad news. Today, their attitude is changing. When they do see humans, for the most part we're not hunting, and we really don't pose a threat. This is especially the case at urban-wildland interfaces - classic cases being Boulder, Los Angeles and Phoenix - where the lions are accustomed to the people who live there, but where the people who live there might not be aware of the lions.

I'm posting this not as an exhortation to charge into the wilderness with guns blazing, but as a call to awareness to avoid exactly that. A confirmed attack on a human in an area that didn't think it had mountain lions is one sure way to create a cougar lynch mob. Here in the Western states, we may not always agree on exactly how to use resources (especially water), but we're fortunate enough to have public lands management that's typically transparent and rational, and where there are mountain lions, there are signs saying so. In the Midwest, the mountain lion re-colonization is coupled with authorities who for whatever reason refuse to acknowledge the evidence, until there's a tragedy - and there already have been some.

I'm no wildlife expert, just a runner obsessed with mountain lions and wanting to make sure people know that there is another apex predator in North America besides us. If we all know they're there, then both species are less likely to get in trouble with the other, and less likely to react with a mob mentality that endangers wildlife when there's an encounter.

So what's the solution, besides awareness? I'm really not sure. The following story suggests one method: once I was near the Idaho-Oregon line, about to run down to the bottom of Hells Canyon. First I scrambled up to the fire look-out at the summit and chatted with the look-out guy. When I told him about my planned run, he asked "What are you carrying?" I said "Well, water, some Power Gel -" "No," he cut me off. "What are you carrying?" And then patted the 9mm on his belt that I hadn't noticed. He went on to tell me that several mornings before, when he got up at dawn, there was a mountain lion watching him through the glass walls from about 25 feet outside the look-out window, and he'd worn the weapon since then. For someone whose profession keeps him or her in the equivalent of mountain lion-Manhattan (and human-Idaho) for months on end, that's a legitimate option. For city-boy and -girl hikers, probably not so much.

Here's another one: in Denali National Park, when there is a grizzly-human interaction (even if one gets into your food when you're away from your tent), the National Park Service shoots the bears with rubber bullets, scares them with noises broadcast from helicopters, and generally makes the bear(s) in question associate human interactions with unpleasantness. The difference is that grizzlies are much more frequently seen in the open than mountain lions, so that deterrence programs can be more "personalized" to them. Maybe parks and open space authorities could put out deer meat once or twice a year that has some sort of human scent on it, but is loaded with some kind of emetic - not to kill the lion, just to make it sick. Lions that show interest in humans often seem to be young ones that don't know any better, and indeed it's been shown from spoor analysis that they do have a learning curve - for example, you're much less likely to find porcupine quills in the spoor of a lion older than two, because they finally get smart and realize porcupines are no fun to eat. That's why the young ones are good candidates for amygdalic programming this way.

In the meantime, remember: with all the trail users around the Bay Area, and all the lions that must surely have seen them, that there has never, ever been an attack. There have been lions that made the fatal mistake of meandering into cities (like Palo Alto), fatal because tranquilizer darts are only instantaneous in movies, and if the lion won't leave town on its own, you don't have much choice. It's worth pointing out that even during the in-town encounters they didn't bother anybody. And even though the chances of being attacked are remote, they are still not zero. Keep kids and small dogs near you in mountain lion areas; if you see one, look big, don't run, and fight back if attacked. And make sure you tell people as far east as Michigan that yes, they definitely do have mountain lions.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Improve Your Workouts: Don't Stretch

At least not in still poses. I always hated this and I never, ever stretch before or after I run. I've been running distance for 17 years, and at 34 I've never had a cramp or shin splits.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Twelve is One of the Connotative Meanings of Seven least according to celebrated onanist Chi è il Vostro Padre. Not surprisingly, Mr. Daddy's Seven Summits of San Francisco was falsely advertised and it was actually a Twelve Summits Run: Mt. Davidson, Twin Peak #1, Twin Peak #2, Sutro, Tank Hill, and then some other ones. One is forced to conclude that he dirty, he low-down, he some snitches. Fortunately the company was fun and it was a clear crisp Northern California winter day, though Sunday night and Monday morning I felt surprisingly stiff and sore for a 17.5 miler (with my return run). I'm not used to running that far on pavement anymore. At the end (that is to say, the half-way point) we gathered at Rogue Ale House in North Beach. Mr. 'Skin will be putting up some scenic, terrible pics and vids he took along the way but they hain't up yet. Ellen posted hers here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Alameda County: Vote Yes on WW

Measure WW is a bond measure that will give the East Bay parks valuable funds to acquire thousands more acres. If you enjoy the outdoors, this seems like a no-brainer, right? (Like many ballot initiatives this year - I posted my own choices here.)

Unfortunately a small but loud group of mountain bikers is opposing it. The main advocacy group for bikers in the East Bay (the BicycleTrails Council) is for measure WW, as is anybody else who enjoys the parks. But one group has essentially thrown a political temper tantrum because they don't think there are enough trails for bikes, and unfortunately they're organized, and they've had some press, and they're trying to stopthe park system from expanding and improving at all. And now they're within reach of stopping WW and limiting enjoyment of the parks for other mountain bikers and everyone else.

From the article: "'It's the most important park measure that's comebefore East Bay residents ever,' said Jim Townsend, Trails Development Program Manager for the district."

Vote YES on WW.

The Stupidest Marathon Ruling in the World

The Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco is open to both genders, but for obvious nomenclature reasons is more popular with women runners. Turns out just running fastest doesn't win the race. I've run maybe two dozen marathons and while I'm no elite runner, I figured I would have heard about a rule like this before. Track and field rules really miss the point sometimes.

Art Devany Has No Clothes

I originally wrote this in early 2008, inspired by Art Devany's increasingly puffed-up sails. If you don't know who he is, briefly: he's a runner-phobic economics professor from UC Irvine who is best known for his exercise philosophy. Some of my statements below are relevant to comments that were being discussed on related message boards at the time. I expect a lot of hate mail from his disciples who Google me, but I also wouldn't mind reasoned discussion either.

Full disclosure: of course I am a distance runner, though I am not the Darth Vader distance freak that Devany assumes all distance runners must be. While I have run probably twenty marathons, I am certainly not a serious competitive marathoner, and I currently average 25-30 miles a week. This moderate program is not atypical even for repeat marathoners.

Devany frequently conflates claims that distance running is not the best workout for everything (which it's not) with claims that it actively hurts you; he has a clear and severe bias against running, to a point which makes me wonder if it's not associated with some tragedy in his life. Here are some major issues with Devany's claims:
1) Devany almost invariably provides examples of "extreme" runners who are champion marathoners or extremely high mileage runners who develop health problems. These folks are overdoing it or biting off more than they can chew.

I know a lot of other runners, and I don't know a single one who thinks it's a good idea to be like, or look like, the Paula Radcliffes and Alberto Salazars of the world; no one is surprised that the kind of training they put in hurts them. Similarly, a casual neighborhood softball league player doesn't get rotator cuff or knee injuries like many professional baseball players do (who overtrain), unless of course said casual player suddenly undertakes a major-league type training regimen (and bites off more than he can chew). Furthermore, there are many, many injuries that result directly from the type of training that Devany advocates. This is not an indictment of Devany; injuries can result from every type of training, Devany's included. I should add that after 17 years of distance running, the worst injury that has ever happened to me is a sprained ankle suffered when an air pocket blew out of a shoe.

In contrast, if a fifty year-old man hasn't trained adequately and keels over during his first marathon, he has no right to be surprised; just like I would be risking injury by jumping right into one of Devany's advanced upper-body regimens without building up to it. Extreme-anything hurts you, and under-training for any big athletic event hurts you. This should not be a revelation to anybody.

(2) Devany argues from an evolutionary standpoint, essentially boiling down to "when you behave in ways inconsistent with our hunter-gatherer heritage, you risk disease and injury". Evolutionary thinking is powerful, but it clearly does not support Devany's argument against distance running.

(Image credit to Alex Gregory and the New Yorker)

This idea is at base a good one and it's been around for awhile - in the 90s it was referred to as evolutionary medicine; it's also known in anthropology as the mismatch hypothesis, and in many cases it gives good results. Unfortunately, in Devany's case it falls apart on several levels. That is to say, the theory is falsified. To wit:

a) Hunter-gatherers frequently did go through periods of gorging themselves and starvation, forced on them by the whims of nature (otherwise how can you justify the fasting that is often part of Devanian regimens?) It therefore becomes difficult to argue that our ancestors would have adapted in such a way as to always require for optimum health a more discretely divided, continuous supply of good nutrition than most Americans now have. For example, the need to gorge occasionally is why we have a (now vestigial) appendix. Devany has claimed that eating a huge meal (like Thanksgiving) has a long-term negative impact on our metabolism. He either has to drop this claim, or get major points off the evolutionary basis of his theory (or just explain why something that happened to us constantly for hundreds of thousands of years would now start hurting us).

b) During a discussion on Devany's website about how distance-running was never seen among our hunter-gatherer ancestors, one contributor on his website (an anthropologist who had actually hunted with the classic hunter-gatherer Maasai) stated "I've actually hunted with the Maasai, and they run for hours after their prey," Devany's response was "No they don't. They stop and start." (I'm paraphrasing, but fairly.) So now we have Art Devany, Economist, and Fitness Guru, AND Maasai anthropology expert. Interestingly, his response is a classic economist position: either my theory is right, or my theory is right but your're giving me the wrong data.

c) One evolutionary theory for the growth of brain surface area during the evolution of hominids is that the brain grew to dissipate heat during running (the radiator hypothesis). This is evolutionary evidence that distance running is a part of our evolutionary heritage, not a perversion of it.

d) The Khoisan (less PC term, Bushmen) sometimes run for days to get to game herds whose dust plumes they see on the horizon. The Khoisan are studied by anthropologists precisely because they are thought to be the closest in lifestyle to our African hunter-gatherer ancestors. Again, it seems that distance running plays a part in our evolutionary heritage. And again refer to my comment about overtraining before: even the Khoisan don't engage in this behavior as much as Paula Radcliffe and Alberto Salazar.

e) There's also an Apache hunting technique of running down a deer for several hours until it's too tired to walk anymore. The technique works because deer (as animals) are not good distance runners, and we are. Again, the burden of argument is on Devany if he claims (as he must, to support an evolutionary basis for his theory) that the non-agricultural Athabaskan-speakers of the Four Corners area are atypical hunter-gatherers. Note that here I've pulled out three groups of people from two continents in only five bullet points, off the top of my head.

3) Many, if not most, cyclists and runners are cycling and running for different reasons that those for which Devany is exercising.

For many runners, it's a relaxation sport. For me, running is not "for" anything, except enjoyment for its own sake. It's my treat. It's like dessert to me. It makes me feel great, in a way I've never heard even one high-impact lifter say their workout made them feel. I don't have it on a to-do list, but rather I look forward to it all day. I would still do it even if I believed Devany's claims about its effects on my health, much like I know I shouldn't drink beer or go out in the sun without a hat. But both of those are fun too, and I enjoy running for its own sake.

And finally, I can't imagine how miserable it must be to equate your workouts with being indoors, and sitting on machines that have been sweated on for years, around other miserable people watching CNN on the screen in the corner, instead of in a gorgeous forest or meditating while you run through the mountains. Even Art said in one of his posts, "Run because you love it." Note that I'm not making an argument that running is a better training program than Devany's because I don't care. I would react the same way if you told me that I should stop drinking wine because it's not making my biceps bigger. It's just not relevant to my reason for drinking wine.

4) To put it bluntly: I don't know of any personal trainers who have offered me an analysis of the global credit market meltdown.

The truth or falsehood of Devany's assertions are ultimately independent of Devany's background - they're dependent on whether the data supports or falsifies them (and based on the counterexamples above, I think that's clear). Devany is an economist, not a physiologist. In fact he takes an Austrian school/libertarian viewpoint on economics that I happen to strongly agree with, largely because guys like Devany who know more than me about the subject often take that viewpoint and argue coherently, with data, in its favor. But in a nutshell, when a young specialist within a field of study contradicts received wisdom, s/he is often right; when someone from outside a field of study contradicts received wisdom, s/he is usually wrong.

A big red flag is that medically speaking, Devany's attempts at synthesis of already published exercise science results are highly selective and oversimplified to the point of being flat wrong. To wit:

a) He cites high CK levels in runners after marathons. The medical-jargon response to this is "Duh." CK is creatinine kinase, an enzyme fouund in muscle tissue. Finding it outside muscle cells (that is, circulating in your bloodstream) used to be regarded as evidence of a recent heart attack; now we look more specifically at the form of the protein that's found in the heart (CK-MB), but it's STILL not part of the differential diagnosis for cardiac trauma, that is to say, it's not meaningful enough that you include it as part of the observations required to conclude, "Yes, this person has had a heart attack." Know why it's so nonspecific? Your CK levels go up any time you do anything to exert yourself; the assay is just measuring damage to muscle fiber by looking in your bloodstream for an enzyme that normally exists only inside muscle cells (and therefore if you see it in the blood, all it means is that those muscle cells have been torn open). Guess what - after a lifting or tennis session, your CKs will be just as high. What's interesting is that the person who first explained this to me years ago was a cardiologist who was also a serious weightlifter, and he used the example of weightlifting as providing a false positive. And what's a little embarrassing about this is that it's common knowledge in sports medicine.

b) Devany likes to claim a link between running and brain cancers, and points out a high tumor marker rate in the blood of some marathon runners after a race. Here the mistake is cause-effect rather than specificity. Yes, the markers he cites are indeed used in cancer diagnosis, but in non-cancer settings they have no known link to cancer. That is to say, if you have cancer already, they're a good indicator of the severity of your disease; if you don't have cancer, there's no evidence that levels of these markers mean your cancer risk is higher. And these indicators are used for lots of other, non-cancer assays too. And even in cancer no one knows what most of them do (certainly not that they're causative or indicate some sort of pre-cancerous state). To illustrate by analogy: imagine a murder case that led to a conviction because the police officer on the scene found the still-warm gun in the suspect's car. Imagine the same officer later goes over to a friend's house and finds a still-warm gun in the shed, and accuses him of murder, regardless of the fact that the gun is sitting on top of a stack of used shooting-targets and (more importantly) no one has been found dead or turned up missing.

It's worth pointing out that pharmaceutical companies often use tricks like this when they have a drug with data that doesn't really bottom-line show that the drug does a good job of treating the disease. Their marketing people will draw your attention to some proxy indicator or pharmacokinetic endpoint and say, "You should buy our drug because it has the best concentration-over-time area-under-the-curve." Such claims are literally true and sound impressive, but it doesn't matter what else is going on as long as the competitor drug treats the disease better. You're interested in the outcome, not a proxy indicator that doesn't necessarily translate into outcome.

5) Heredity matters. A lot.

Devany jihadists often demand that I look at the results of his program. And indeed, Art Devany appears to be in good shape, especially for a man his age. Unfortunately for his theory and fortunately for him personally, he's probably just lucky (and the few such jihadists I know personally don't look as good). Many, many studies (here's one) have suggested strongly that genetics, not exercise and diet, is far and away the best predictor for obesity. We all know that there are people who stay lean throughout their lives, regardless of what they do, and Devany may well be one of those. Were other people in his family lean? I bet he had a good set of genes to start with. One of Devany's better-known advocates is Nicholas Nassim Taleb, who wrote Fooled by Randomness. It's an incredible book, and I would love to think more like Taleb; I would not love to look more like him. No, you can't count one guy as evidence against the theory, but you can't count evidence from one guy for it either.

Why did I write this article poo-pooing Devany's program? Because I've gotten tired of his disciples poo-pooing me for running. It's really getting very smug and even cultish; but in Devany's defense, the people I've encountered have been much more aggressive in their evangelism than he has been himself in interviews and on his blog. It really comes across as exactly that, evangelism, and it has almost religious overtones of "my way is the right way, and if you won't submit to the will of Devany the compassionate and merciful, you are morally inferior". So I'll say this: if people would rather do weights, squats, rapid-movement exercises in a gym, whatever, then that's fine. People exercise for different reasons. I know several people who do Crossfit training, and they don't enjoy it nearly to the degree that I enjoy running. Maybe they don't care; maybe that's not why they're in there, and that's fine too. I just ask that if you're part of this fitness subculture that you don't a) try to take away an enjoyable pastime from the rest of us who are actually happy with our exercise while we're doing it, b) try to generalize the health problems suffered by an over- and under-training minority to the activity as a whole, and c) dress up the theory in evolutionary and biomedical clothes that don't fit.

Good Performance in Golden Hills Marathon

I turned in a performance at Golden Hills Trail Marathon that I'm pretty happy with (4:46:16, 34th out of 132). This was a 41 minute improvement from my horrible performance in this same race 5 years ago at age 29. I only entered this year because a) I had just finished my round-the-Bay effort in August and needed motivation to train and b) my friend and noted Vancouver, B.C. ultrarunner Baldwin Lee told me he was running this thing, and I'm sure as hell not letting some damn Canadian run a race unchallenged in (almost literally) my own backyard. The stakes were of course pride, and as it turned out two margaritas the night after the race at a Tartarus show, because I needed the salt, as you can tell by the after-race pictures.

As it turned out, Baldwin didn't make it to the start on time due to a series of hilarious (to everyone but Baldwin) mishaps, including accidentally running eleven miles from Castro Valley to Pleasanton. As a result he was a little tired at the starting line, where he arrived a full hour and five minutes late (he may post the full story at his blog). Despite this handicap, he says I would have beaten him soundly anyway, but I would rather have done it in a race that was more enjoyable for both of us. Even still, on the course I could only know that Baldwin must have started at least one minute behind me; assuming anything more would have been baseless speculation given the limited information I had. So in the last two miles where the trail around Lake Chabot sometimes offers good views of the trail behind, and the runners on it, every single runner for a full mile behind me started looking like an Asian guy with a crewcut. So the competition did help my time, even though it was imaginary!

I paced myself very well, and felt fantastic at the end, despite checking my voicemail after the finish to find a confusing 7:06am message saying that Baldwin was in Pleasanton. (Huh? Why would he be in Pleasanton? That can't be right.) Several other runners commented on my pacing, which isn't usually my strong suit, so here are my ruminations on why I turned in a strong performance.

1) I trained on the course, and only on the course. I think this was the single biggest factor; in a marathon with 5800' of elevation, you have to do this. That way I knew which hills would kill me in advance. Macdonald Trail, an extremely rude climb of 500 feet in a mile (at mile 18 no less) had done me in back in 2003. This year I passed at least a dozen people both going up and coming down and felt great when I topped out. A lot of it is psychological too. From the starting line to about the halfway point in Redwood Park, the race is going through my home territory - places where I never have to consult the maps. Once I get to the southeast part of Redwood I don't have all the trails memorized. Except this year I did, because the majority of my training was in the northern part of Lake Chabot.

2) I noticed about two weeks before the race that if I eat honey on bread in the morning then head out for an afternoon run, I don't get tired. In my few conversations about training regimens with other people, I don't know of anyone else who uses honey, but I do know there's a product from Japan that consists of weird sugars that wasps produce, and a few people I know swear by it. I had honey the morning of the race. (Update: thanks to Mike Palmer for engaging the ultra community in a discussion about everyone's routines with odd forms of complex carbohydrates.)

3) Two days before the race I hiked to the summit of Mt. Charleston near Las Vegas (11,918'; check out my summit log entry; photos came out pretty nice too.) I wondered if the altitude's effect on my RBC count would offset the tiredness of my legs. My legs weren't noticeably tired when I started the race.

4) While I was in Vegas I consumed a carne asada burrito which at the time of this writing is still playing games with my GI tract. I had to stop twice during the race as a result. The second time I stopped was around mile 15; when I sat down, I felt terrible. When I got up, I felt great, and I kept feeling great until the end of the race. Maybe it was taking a break and sitting for five minutes that did it; I hope so, because I'm not deliberately getting diarrhea any time soon to shave 2 minutes off my time.

5) Typically in marathons I take 2 x 200 mg ibuprofen and 2 x 200 mg caffeine at mile 12. (Doping scandal!) This time I waited until mile 14 for no good reason other than until then I was enjoying French Trail and started feeling bad on the descent into the canyon to get to Stream Trail. At the mile 20 aid station I still felt great and took 2 x 200 mg ibuprofen again. I'm putting this here in the interest of full disclosure, but then again, since I always do it, I'm not sure why it would have had a Popeye-eating-Spinach effect this time.

Once I was on the flat trail around Lake Chabot I was banging out at least 8 (if not 7!) minute miles to bring it in; I was actually a little annoyed at myself for having so much left. I also noticed at mile 19 (the descent on Macdonald Trail) my hands were tingling, which I only experienced once before, in the 2004 Ohlone 50k. Enkephalin release? In any event I'm not sure how to engineer this so it happens every time.

Most importantly, it was a fun day, the weather was perfect, the views were outstanding, the racers were all enjoying themselves (even the 50-milers - shout-out to Whitney, Mike, Jerry and Mark) and it was great to see everyone out there on the course. Thanks to the RD and volunteers who made it happen.