Monday, April 29, 2013

Tour of the Thun Trail

Along the Thun Trail. From gil.cva34's Berks County page.

Hey Berks County runners, et al: Thun Trail has been the site of a few highly publicized crimes and this has unfortunately made it underutilized. There's a security effort being put in place, reported here.

This is one good way to encourage people to use the trail. A year and a half ago when I was home I ran from Victor Emmaneul's down to Gibraltar and didn't see a single other soul. Truth be told, I was more worried about hunters thinking I was a deer than some bad actor thinking I was a target. Just now I went to (a great tool when you base your safety on data rather than rumors) and in the last 6 months, found only one possible violent crime along the trail rather than in a nearby town. Being in the tiny hamlet of Gibraltar was far more dangerous. And Gibraltar's pretty quiet.

Here's another thought to popularize the trail: a volksmarch. One version of this tradition is basically groups of families setting out for a long walk and stopping at small villages along the war for a nice bier. It could start at Trooper Thorn, stop at the Naomi Hotel, and end up at Player's in Birdsboro (for example). Positives:

1) it's not about drinking, it's about having a nice time, and the kids would have a blast (but the adults could relax and the bar/restaurants would benefit from the business;
2) safety in numbers;
3) would require very little organization; Just a few families to agree on a date, with one or two people leaving cars at the end to deliver everyone back.
4) in keeping with Berks County's German heritage!
5) people will think of the Thun Trail in a different light. Guaranteed it will be a lot of wholesome fun and grow next year if people want it to.

Seems like an idea that fits summer or late spring...

From the Schuylkill River Trail's website.

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The Burning Man 50k

More info here.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"This Was a Terrible Mistake"

From economist Dan Ariely on mountain climbing: "...if people were just trying to be happy, the moment they would get to the top, they would say, 'This was a terrible mistake. I'll never do it again. Instead, let me sit on a beach somewhere drinking mojitos.'"

The first time someone runs a difficult race or class of race, they generally have that reaction near or at the finish line. Then that night, they're looking for online running calendars to find the next one.

It must be said that the beauty if you go climbing in Latin America, mountains and same (or next) day beach mojitos are not mutually exclusive. You can get mojitos in Washington State and drink them on the beach but somehow it's not the same.

Below: two awesome beaches.
As an exercise, reason out on which a mojito is best consumed.

What Are Pingoes

They are natural, rather than being the landing site of an alien ship, or a buried giant turtle (although arguably the latter phenomenon is natural, just weird. But so are these.) Here's what pingoes are (and here), and here's what they look like.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Winners of Boston Are Winners, Period

Let's not forget one important thing about the race: the winners! This year it was Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia). Another incredible story is the 1946 winner, Stylianos Kyriakides (Greece), who used the race quite deliberately to raise awareness and money for his war-torn country's recovery.

While we're at it, let's not forget Vanderlei de Lima (Brazil) who got attacked on the course in the 2004 Olympic marathon in London and lost his shot at gold and got the bronze.

Feinstein Bill Would Add 1,600 Acres to SW Yosemite

Information here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Creek to Coast Cleanup, Torrey Pines, Sat. Apr 27

Join us! We'll be at the Torrey Pines/Sorrento Mesa site; details here. Even if you don't sign up for that site, sign up for one of them!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The San Diego Relay: Preliminary Plan

I'm posting this for people who are interested in the stup I mean uh, fun idea we've been talking about to run the length of San Diego County, from the northern boundary until we don't have any more USA to run in. If you're not already involved and this sounds like fun (and it will be) email me at and we'll see if we can make you part of the team.

The first choice we have to make is a date. That's being hashed out offline with the folks that have confirmed their interest.

The second choice we have to make is which way we want to go: along the entire coast of San Diego County (easy logistics, boring terrain) or a little bit inland (more fun, mostly trails). (Can you tell which one I want to do?) And the very rough, approximate routes are below, subject to revision and clarification to accommodate the team's wishes. Because it's our relay and we'll run where the hell we want to. To that end, so far our choices are:

The coast+inland route: (Note, neither map can be embedded because they contain manually-drawn, non-road pieces to account for trails; links below.) This has the advantage of getting to the coast anyway by the time we're down as far as La Jolla, as well as passing directly by the Lair of Darkness(tm) in Poway. This will be a great mix of trail, mountain, open fields, and road. I vote for this one. Please note, I will personally run and drive this route before we do it. You will also note I haven't attempted to follow the actual trails on the map as yet just because it will take a lot of time. If we settle on this one I will produce a very detailed map.

The all-coast route: My only comment here is that you will note the route through the actual neighborhood of La Jolla (vs Torrey Pines) is very approximate. I leave this up to the other runners. I'm in favor of whatever route gets us through this place the fastest. We would also have to figure out what we're doing about getting from Point Loma to Coronado. Basically it's ferry (boring+cheating) vs. kayak (awesome and not cheating; we will have to solve the Coronado problem for the coast+inland route above as well.)

Please don't hesitate to ask questions - in the comments here is probably the best so everyone can see the discussion.

Heads-Up: Infected Ticks Around Los Penasquitos Canyon

With the bacterium that causes tularemia. Straight from SD County: "Symptoms in humans include lymph node swelling, headache and fever. Other symptoms include a skin ulcer at the site of the bite, fatigue, body aches and nausea."

Bad. Not good. Get seen, even if you're not aware that's from a tick.

Does this mean every tick carries the bacteria? No, but it does mean that, as always, if you pull a tick off of yourself, you should be vigilant for any illness that follows. It's not unusual to find this bug in CA although it's usually further north; it's commonly found in rabbits and in fact is named after Tulare County, where it was first discovered. But the point is a) you don't want it, so if you get a tick bite or these symptoms even without one, see a doctor, and b) the good news, it's very treatable with antibiotics.


There isn't much to say except that this won't stop big running events, Boston, or the U.S. from what it loves. Thoughts of course are with the victims and families. We'll find who did this.

Monday night with friends I went out for a Boston solidarity run in Poway. And in that vein, many SD runners will be doing the LJ Half that's coming up, and I imagine there will be a moment of silence and/or a huge cheer at the starting line for Boston.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Another Set Back for the Tunnels/Del Mar Mesa

Del Mar Mesa is one of my new favorite open spaces in San Diego County. Your best view of it without actually being inside it is that wide open space south of the 56, behind the Mobil at the Camino del Sur exit. It's technically not open to the public, but that doesn't stop many people. Why should we care? I've heard stories of people being fined for being back there (but never firsthand), and of course we want the open space protected. And to that end, one concern I've heard from several people is that it's the residents of Del Mar Mesa holding it up, because they don't want the public there. My own paranoia is that these developers want some of this land to get freed up and we'll lose this open space, and the developers are causing these delays as part of that.

McGonigle Canyon, inside the open space. From the San Diego Mountain Biking Association.

I spoke to someone in Councilwoman Lightner's office today (so I'm actually breaking this news - but it's not hard to be ahead of the Union-Tribune) and they were helpful and responsive as always. The plan to give this open space some official status has been under discussion for over 10 years, and finally everyone recognized that it was good for all involved (including the local residents), and finally everyone thought it was about to go ahead - until the SD Development Services Dept. announced that the plan was subject to CEQA (California environmental rules) and specifically that there are two archaeological sites that need to be investigated first. Another delay.

My own suspicion is that private developers had some influence over this decision at Dev Services - these are the usual "customers" of this department - and they have reasons to want to delay what was otherwise a done deal to finally make Del Mar Mesa legit. However another source in city government circles says that developers aren't as powerful in SD as they've been in the past, so I might just be paranoid. And looking at it from a developer's point of view, delaying the official open space designation wouldn't mean reversing it. Either way it's frustrating for all involved, but if there are in fact archaeological resources to be protected, I hope this setback isn't for naught. And I also hope we can have official open space back there sometime this century!

*Not to be confused with the nearby small community park on the north rim of Penasquitos Canyon, which was just announced.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Alternative Transport in San Diego: Bike and Horse

1) There is a plan to connect the Route 56 bike corridor to UTC - without making people ride along I-5 with no barrier protection, as is the case now. Unfortunately we're looking at >2 years to complete it. More here.

2) The Border Patrol uses horses to patrol at the Imperial Beach/San Ysidro border. Yes, there is Customs cavalry. I just thought this was an interesting story.

New Bay Area Ridge Trail Section Looks Awesome

I don't think I ever got to these parts before, up around Sonoma and Napa:

More here from the Ridge Trail Council.

Snowpack in Yosemite

I'm heading up to the Sierras in May so I was trying to calculate when Tioga Pass will open, based on previous dates. NPS is pretty smart to say "we don't know" and then give the actual data since 1980 so you can make a bet if you want to. May 12 is my best guess based on a linear regression with R^2 of 0.7194. (Don't email me a month from now and say "I planned on May 12 and it wasn't open!" because I'm not as nice as the people who run Yosemite and I will make fun of you.)


I also checked this data to see if Sierra snowpack is decreasing, since that's the conventional wisdom. The R^2 there was much less robust so it's not worth giving the answer here for only 30-odd years of data; but here's a study last year that says it's been consistent over 130 years.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What Frickin Planet Is This On

The answer is Arizona of course. From my new favorite website, Trailporn. One of my biggest pet peeves is when you see gorgeous non-CGI landscapes in a movie or especially somewhere on the web, and they don't tell you where this place is. Because it makes it harder to go there dammit. (Cross-posted to my geek blog, Speculative Nonfiction.)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Problems With the San Diego Neon Run?

Some folks who ran the Phoenix Neon Run said it was bad, and want to warn the San Diego registrees for the race this weekend April 13. And it made the news.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Carlsbad Open Space and a New Microbrewery

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I've been working Friday afternoons at Scripps Coastal for almost a year, noticing trails on the hill out the window, and not realized how much space there was back there. I've run at Calaveras Lake once before and somehow didn't remember how interesting and precipitous the topography was, especially in the (apparently) quarried-out section. Besides the north end of that open space over the line into Oceanside, the southern end is a maze-like area of flowers and oak woodlands in the mini-canyons. The maziness of it and the dramatic up-and-down makes this a longer run than you think you came in for. The private property boundaries are tough to respect because they're inconsistently marked. At one point I inadvertently stumbled on paradise - a clapboard shack surrounded by banana and palm trees with a couple bicycles, waaay of the grid. Someone had a TV on, apparently hooked up to a car battery or solar charger. Who was it? Old surfers working a garden in the North County earth? Laborers who take care of the development to the south in exchange for living there? But since paradise was already occupied by folks who seemed to value their privacy and I wasn't sure if I was trespassing, I headed back north toward the lake.

Afterward I went to the just-discovered-by-me On The Tracks Brewery tasting room and picked up a growler of their ESB. They're doing experimental stuff and they seem pretty new over there, and like many San Diego microbreweries their outlet bar is in a corner of an office park. They have an experimental green tea beer, which I haven't yet tried. Reward innovation, my fellow Americans! 5674 El Camino Real Suite G in Carlsbad, between Salk and Faraday.

Finally, if you're in the area when it's light out, check out the north side of Cannon Road just east of the 5, because they have strawberries. TOTALLY NICE.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Running Surfaces and Your Knees

The next time someone brings up the old canard that running is bad for your knees, now you'll have evidence to the contrary. Running is not only not bad for your knees, it's actually better than not running, in terms of developing osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear kind of arthritis. (2008 Stanford study here;(1) 2011 Australian meta-analysis here).(2)

I also wanted to see if there was a controlled study comparing running on pavement to running on soil or sand, in terms of osteoarthritis or acute injuries. In this I admit I was partly motivated by my snooty trail-runner's disdain for the very roadist culture of the San Diego running community.

Surprisingly at least to me, no such study has been done. Common sense (and expert opinion, i.e. orthopedic surgeons) say soil is better. Unfortunately in medicine, the weight of expert opinion isn't as good as good old data, and it's labelled as mere Class C evidence; in contrast, the Australian meta-analysis above is by definition Class A, because it draws from multiple controlled studies. That said, the Australian study is somewhat limited because it looks at anatomy correlates of knee damage, rather than at the clinical manifestations of osteoarthritis (as in the Stanford study), which is what we care about. That is to say, sure there are osteophytes, but how much more or less often do runners' knees hurt than non-runners'? This looks like a sports medicine study waiting to happen! (Incidentally, here's another post with some more information but which still found the same lack of data on this question.)

I had been coached in high school track that running frequently on sand was bad for your knees, and I'd long stuck with this belief. But I recently revisited that belief based on a conversation with a long-time distance runner patient of 70 years who prefers running on the beach, and whose knees are none the worse for it. There's no study there either, so again for now we'll have to provisionally go with common sense/weight of opinion, and I've now updated my belief that sand is bad for your knees, to sand is probably at worst neutral and maybe better than pavement.

1. Long Distance Running and Knee Osteoarthritis: A Prospective Study. Eliza F. Chakravarty, MD, MS, Helen B. Hubert, PhD, Vijaya B. Lingala, PhD, Ernesto Zatarain, MD, and James F. Fries, MD. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2008 August; 35(2): 133–138.

2. What is the effect of physical activity on the knee joint? A systematic review. Urquhart DM, Tobing JF, Hanna FS, Berry P, Wluka AE, Ding C, Cicuttini FM. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2011 Mar;43(3):432-42.