Sports: October 2008 Archives


October 16, 2008

Prior to last night's debate there was a lot of talk about how McCain should "take the gloves off". This is actually kind of a confusing metaphor. If you punch someone with your bare hand, you have to be quite careful where you strike;if you hit someone square on on the skull, you have a pretty high probability of breaking some of the bones in your fingers. On the other hand, if you wrap your hands in gauze/hand wraps and then put on boxing gloves, you can strike directly at pretty much any part of your opponents body without too much fear of breaking your hand (which isn't to say that it doesn't hurt, by the way). The gloves don't really improve the situation that much for your opponent, who I can assure you, experiences a quite substantial impact. Of course, if you really want to "take the gloves off" you could dip your hands in broken glass (see also putting on the foil, coach).

October 11, 2008

After doing the Skyline-to-the-Sea 50K, several people encouraged me to do a 50 miler and I ended up selecting the Dick Collins Firetrails 50. Unfortunately, this event didn't go so well and I ended up DNFing. The problems started well before the race, my right patellar tendon was quite sore after Skyline-to-the-Sea and it wasn't helped by doing a 3-day backpacking trip at Desolation Wilderness. However, that was just an issue of soreness and I figured that in the worst case scenario I could just pop a bunch of ibuprofen and suck it up. Still, it was worrisome. Then, on Tuesday with 3 days to go, I managed to pull something in my back and spent the next three days sucking down vicodin and trying to avoid moving. I managed to get a massage on Thursday night which mostly cleared up my back, though it was still a bit tender. Then, on Friday, I finally managed to get in an easy run, and the interior part of my right knee started to hurt. After all this, I was fairly concerned that one if not all of these injuries would flare up today and take me out of the race.

The first few miles of this morning's race everything seemed to be going well and then, right on schedule around mile 4, my patellar tendon started to hurt. I figured I could deal with that and pressed and and then the interior of the right knee started to hurt. Again, it was just an ache so I figured I'd ignore it, until my left ITB started to hurt. This worried me for three reasons. First, it was a new injury—I've had ITBS before, but on the other knee, and not for years. Second, my last experience with ITBS wasn't fun and you can easily get to the point where it's so painful it essentially precludes running. Third, for some reason ITBS seems especially bad when running downhill, a serious problem in an out-and-back course with 7800 feet of climbing (and thus extension). I pressed on to the 10 mile aid station where I asked one of the workers whether if I had to drop out I would be able to get a ride back to the start or whether I'd be stranded (for obvious reasons I didn't want to get further and further away if I definitely had to run back). They said I could probably get a ride back eventually though I might have to wait a while, so I pressed on.

The next 7 miles actually went pretty well. There was an easy descent and then a bunch of flat trail and the pain in both knees started to subside. It may also have helped that I got stung by some bees (again!) and this took my attention off my knee. Things seemed to be going well: I was walking the hills but doing a solid 10 min/mile and feeling very strong up till the 18 mile aid station which was in the middle of a long descent. My left knee started to hurt again on the way to the aid station and immediately afterward the pain became acute. I stretched a bit and tried to walk it off but nothing seemed to help and after a few more tentative strides it became clear I probably had to drop out. I started limping up the quarter mile walk back up to the aid station [Incidentally, people kept asking me if I was OK as I was walking back. Nice sentiment (I suspect reflexive) but I'm pretty clearly not OK. OTOH, it seemed like I was being a jerk if I said "no" since I didn't need any help. I finally settled for saying "I can make it back to the aid station.] About 100 ft away I wasn't in quite as much pain and decided maybe I should keep going. I tried running a few tentative strides uphill and the pain in my knee was so sharp it basically buckled and I almost tripped. This seemed like a good signal I should stop.

I made it up to the aid station to learn that "eventually" was indeed a while, but it turned out that another runner had twisted his ankle and had called his wife. About an hour later, she came to pick him up and I hitched a ride back to the start and headed home. I spent that hour walking around and never got past the point where the range of pain-free motion in my knee was more than about 45 degrees, so it seems pretty likely it would have gotten a lot worse had I chosen to keep going. Even now, I only have about 100 degrees before it's painful and that's probably because I've been sitting around rather than running. That said, it's always a bummer to DNF, and after the usual rest/ice rehab, I expect to make a try at another 50 miler.


October 1, 2008

Monday night Brian Korver and I got back from a backpacking trip to the Desolation Wilderness, mostly on the PCT:

Trip Summary: (map, pics) Echo Lake to Lake Aloha on the PCT. Over Mosquito pass to Clyde Lake. North to Velma Lakes Trail. Over to the PCT at Middle Velma Lake. South back to Echo Lake trailhead. Two days of hiking (Spread over 3 days), 30 miles, 5+ kft. [Note: statistics from TopoUSA. The Tom Harrison Maps think this was a few more miles.]

This trip has been delayed twice now (since May!). The first time I was sick, the second time Brian was sick. But we finally managed to get out the door last Saturday.

On the first day (about 3 PM) we started at Echo Lake and went north on the PCT. This part of the PCT is really busy this time of year (other people are just as capable of doing the math about how it's close as we are) and we spent the first stretch up to about Lake Aloha dodging people on the trail. We actually saw a ranger who wanted to see our trail permit—first time that's ever happened to me—though he thanked us profusely for getting one (even though it's required). One wonders how many people don't. Much of this section was over scree and talus and the footing was tricky and very tiring. By the time we reached the top of Mosquito Pass our feet (and my right knee) were quite sore and we were glad to see the turnoff to Clyde Lake. Unfortunately, Clyde is actually pretty far down the hill from the turn and we had trouble finding a good site near the rocky lake, especially as it was getting dark. We ended up camping at a small flat spot right off the trail which turned out to be super-comfortable and pleasant ((pic)), except for the long walk to the water. I tend to get up early but there was a great rock where I could turn my thermarest into chair and get some reading done (pic).

The second day was our long day (~14 miles) and we knew we really had to make Gilmore Lake or it was going to be a long Monday. The trail was a mix of wooded dirt and wide open, unshaded talus and by the time we reached Fontinillis Lake and the climb up to Dick's Pass it was threatening to rain, so we had to push hard to make Gilmore Lake before it got dark or we got rained on. Early on in the day we thought we'd seen signs of bear (if you know how to identify bear scat check it out here and let me know) but we never actually saw anything bigger than a woodchuck. We got to Gilmore Lake, which is a small, flat, round lake nestled in some cliffs (pic) around 6, and saw the first people we'd run into all day who had already camped. We camped a bit away from the lake nestled in some trees.

The next day we headed back to Lake Aloha and to the trailhead. This was mostly downhill but over a lot of talus. The rain that had been threatening the day before finally showed up a bit and it intermittently drizzled on us all the way down. Really, we were incredibly lucky because it never actually rained seriously and we never got really wet, but the rocks got pretty slippery towards the end. Finish time ~3:10 PM.

Overall, I'd recommend Desolation for a weekend trip. While the terrain is as empty as the name suggests, due to proximity with the Bay Area (about 3 hrs away), the hiker population is pretty high. Weather was generally good and there weren't any bugs. If I had time, though, I'd probably rather go somewhere a bit further away and less popular.