Potawatomi Ultra (150, 100, 50, 30) course tour

Note: I posted this back in 2008 when these were called the McNaughton Trail runs. The new name is Potawatomi Trail Runs, but the course is virtually identical. The name of the park is the John McNaughton Park.

Because the Potawatomi Trail Runs are coming up, I’ll talk you through one of the 10 mile loops (note: in the 50 miler you do 5 of these, 10 for the 100, and 15 for the 150).

Note: on race day, the course is very well marked with bright yellow tape and glow sticks.

Note: if the course is muddy, it can become a gigantic mud bath. Here are some examples:

See here for more “mud” photos.

The start is near where the McNaughton Park blacktop road runs out. Note: there is a red arrow pointing to the right (as you look toward the end of the road loop). This is the start of the 7.5 mile “red trail”. If you want to do the trail course, you look left. You’ll see a wide, somewhat muddy trail heading down hill. Start there.

You go down hill and empty out into a field. Starting in 2006, the course turns left and you go around the field, hugging the outstide.

The race course has a “short cut” marked; if you go all the way around you’ll add a couple of minutes to your loop time. Stay around the field (don’t follow the horse trails out!) and, at about .8-.9 miles into it, there will be a small entrance into the woods; that leads you up your first climb.

The entrance can be hard to see during the summer; remember it comes at “almost 1 mile” into it. You go up this hill and empty out into a grassy field.

You can see the start of the course on your right and you head straight across the field toward the woods (near where the woods get closest to the road). This is where the “red trail” starts. Again, this entrance can be hard to find when the course isn’t marked. Here is a summer and a spring view:

Now the trail goes through the woods and you’ll go over several “dipsy doodles” (mini ravines). You’ll also cross several mini streams and possibly pick up some mud. Note: recently, a couple of cool foot bridges have been added. Eventually you’ll turn right and go up your second good uphill

and face another field to cross; this one has a foot path and features tall grass on either side. You’ll cross under some power lines.

You are closing in on mile 2. Then you’ll head back into the woods for some more single track; here you’ll encounter 3-4 more mini-ravines and perhaps a small stream. The footing is mostly good but the ravines are momentum killing. Eventually, you’ll come to yet another footbridge and that means that you are close to exiting this woodsy section.

This takes you to the totem pole aid station, and I have a hard time believing that I don’t have a photo of that. Here, you are at mile 2.5, and this is the first aid station.

Here is Jerry Davidson’s:

From this station, you head out following the red trail, for a little while. Eventually, you break away from the red trail:

Note that the red trail moves off toward the left; to follow the race course you go to the right of the tower that you see. This takes you past a bathroom and through some open fields.

Though this stretch, you might encounter some fallen limbs, maybe a stray root and some gopher tracks/holes. But mostly you can make good time.

When I am out on my own, I always get lost here (and so I usually just follow the red trail). But when it is marked, you can see where to cross the first small rectangular field (short side), and go between two trees into a footpath through the woods. You empty out and follow another field going along the long side of the rectangle, then when the field jogs right, you turn left thought the woods again, and move up over a tiny grassy hill.

Then you hug the field and then turn left through some woods

and this path connects to a very sandy path; you turn right on this path and head downhill.

The down hill area is called “the beach”. Stay on it and then go uphill to leave the sandy area; the path becomes packed dirt again. Then downhill to the first major creek crossing:

Note: during the summer, this crossing is sometimes dry:

And you are about 1/3 of the way through the loop!

Across the creek, you turn right and follow the dirt path. Here (when it isn’t marked for a race) it is easy to get lost and miss that first uphill section; you don’t want to miss that! 🙂

This first post-creek uphill takes you about half way up the bluff that you are about to get familiar with. Then you go down, take the dirt paths that run along side the creek and stretch out those legs getting them ready for the bluff section.

You eventually head toward the bluff and go along side of it for about 100-200 meters until you then make a hard right turn right up the side of the bluff: welcome to golf hill!

You are at about 4 miles into the loop. This hill has a rope during the race.

This starts you on an interesting 1 mile section where you repeatedly go up the bluff and almost all the way back down it:

You do have some flat stretches along the bottom of the bluff. The third uphill is the longest though not the steepest. You have one up-down part on this third uphill,

but eventually you’ll come to the end of this section where you will see this:

That is the signal that you are about to take a long downhill toward the creek. Note that this has been changed this year; no more screaming downhill but rather a more reasonable, gentle downgrade.

This bridge is just a hair shorter than half-way! On the other side, you’ll have a minute or two more of a few minor dipsy-doodles

prior to crossing another small foot bridge and emptying out at the base of a hill, where you will turn left and go up a long uphill, which features a wide trail and another wooden footbridge.

You empty out into a field for about .5 miles worth of easy running or walking:

Along the edge of the field you’ll pass a small family cemetery. Then you’ll pass an easy to miss (when not marked) clearing on the right. This is about 5.8-5.9 miles into it and is called “Heaven’s Gate”. Turn into this clearing and you’ll be at aid station number 2 and 3, as you pass it twice. Head towards the end of the field and you’ll see an entrance into the woods. Follow it, but then when you get on the foot path, take your first right (easy to miss) If you go straight, you’ll cut off about .5 of a mile.

This takes you down toward some woodsy paths that run along side the creek. I call this the slalom course as you frequently twist and turn between the trees. Eventually you empty out into a grassy field and follow that for a while.

Off to your right, you can see the mile 8-9 section of the loop.

Eventually, you head back through the woods, up hill

and back into the Heaven’s Gate field. You exit that, turn right, and head out along the outer perimeter of the field; you have about 3 miles left in your loop.

Here it gets a bit tricky again if you are not out there when the race course is marked. Keep going so long as you see the red markings on the trees.

You exit the field to the right and go along a wide grassy clearing.

You keep going until you see woods off on your left, and at about 7.25 miles or so, there is a small opening into the woods:

Yes, that one:

And that takes you through just about a mile of small ups and downs, with perhaps one good sized hill.

You pass over one small footbridge, and at about 8.1-8.2 miles you’ll see a larger one:

Turn right when you cross this bridge; this takes you on a bit more of path which empties into yet another field and a downhill.

Here you get easy grass running/walking for about a quarter of a mile.

When you come back toward the woods, there will be a right turn that you do prior to moving toward a field (where you first went downhill at the beginning of the loop. Turn right and after about 200 meters you’ll find the third steam crossing.

yes, that is Andy, the race director, and on the other side you see where the trail picks up again.

You go up a steep hill and past a hole in the Disc (Frisbee) golf course; don’t be deceived; you still have about 1 mile left.

You go through some woods, alongside the creek again, and then back into the woods on a steep uphill.

This part is the most mentally taxing for me, as it appears that you are finally about to get out of the woods, but then you are directed back into them again. The uphill is followed by a downhill, then two more minor uphills and downhills.

The downhill which has the wooden marking post signifies the end of the last wood section; you then empty out onto the disc golf course!

Turn right, follow the red signs on the trees. This takes you across a field, to a path where you go right. The lake will be on your right as you go past. Then as you see a big uphill on your left, take the hill and go through the clearing. This is the last hill of the loop.

Then as soon as you are on the top, turn hard left and follow the treeline. You’ll go through a clearing toward another “hole” of the golf course, but then turn right through yet another small path.

That path empties you out into yet another field, where you will be able to see the start of the course.

Congratulations; you now have another 4-9-14 of these to do. 🙂

Update: this shows what things can get like if it rains hard:

Note the tape on the tree to the right; that is the kind of tape that is used. I see this as a very bright green but perhaps it is really yellow? 🙂 (re: Brian’s comment)

Here is another photo showing a muddy course and the tape:

Both of these, I believe, come from the stretch between the last stream crossing and the disc golf course.

January 31, 2013 Posted by | running, ultra | , | Leave a comment

Hey, it is better to workout with the shoes you have than not at all…

Well maybe. I hate it when I forget to pack my gym shoes:

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(from: Girls in Yoga Pants)

January 31, 2013 Posted by | humor, spandex, weight training | | Leave a comment

Case study: religion doesn’t make you moral.


No: I don’t like this “automatically adding a tip” stuff either. Yes, I tip (usually 20 percent because I eat at inexpensive places) and I do like the “suggestions” that some receipts have (15 percent, 18 percent, 20 percent).

But this surly “I only give God 10 percent…” well; you can give a fictional character any amount you like but that is another story. This person is being an ass; he/she is leaking all over waitstaff for a management policy. So not only is this person a jerk, but this person isn’t very bright either.

But it gets better: the waitress has been fired from Applebee’s:

Earlier this week, we posted a story about a restaurant customer who not only chose to deny the waitress a tip, but also wrote “I Give God 10% Why do you Get 18?” on the receipt. Now we’ve learned that the server who posted the receipt online has been fired.
“I originally posted the note as a lighthearted joke,” says Chelsea, who was dismissed from her job at Applebee’s on Wednesday, as the story began to spread across the Internet. “I thought the note was insulting, but it was also comical. I posted it to Reddit because I thought other users would find it entertaining.”
Chelsea tells Consumerist that the receipt was actually not even for her table. Rather, the server on the receiving end of the note showed it to Chelsea, who snapped a photo of it later that night.
As posted originally on Reddit’s Atheist page, the image contained the customer’s full signature. Chelsea says she didn’t think to edit that out because she had assumed the name was illegible.
But the Internet is a remarkably curious place, so sleuths began trying to identify the self-described “pastor” on the receipt.
“All throughout the comment thread on the Reddit post, I withheld any identifying information,” Chelsea explains, adding that she provided an inaccurate physical description of the customer just to throw people off.
She eventually replaced the image with a version that did not contain the signature, but by that point, people were posting their guesses as to the customer’s identity.

Yes, posting this with the signature wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but why did this person get fired?

Bell said she learned yesterday that a copy of the receipt was online when a friend called to say she was “all over Yahoo. You went viral!” In response, she called the Applebee’s to complain about the dissemination of her receipt, which includes her easy-to-read signature.

In a follow-up conversation with an Applebee’s manager, Bell said she was told that the waitress was immediately terminated.

But gee, now she says that she is sorry.

In a TSG interview, Alois Bell said that the online firestorm created by the receipt has left her stunned. “My heart is really broken,” said the 37-year-old Bell. “I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.”

Hey, Pastor, how about asking Applebee’s to give the waitress her job back?

January 31, 2013 Posted by | religion, social/political | , | 1 Comment

Getting it in…

It was around 20 F (- 7 C) and windy; there were a few scattered ice patches here and there but nothing to really slow you down. Oh, I was slow all right: 1:07:26 for 6.4 miles (10.4 km)


This features 417 feet of climb. To be honest, my mind wandered all over the place and I didn’t pay attention until the last 1.03 miles (9:14). Nothing hurt and I was very happy about that. 🙂

January 31, 2013 Posted by | running | | Leave a comment

Harmony of Nature…Indeed

An eagle hunts mountain goats by taking the young ones and knocking them off of a cliff (to kill them)

But some moms save their young ones….

follow the discussion at Jerry Coyne’s website.

January 31, 2013 Posted by | nature | | Leave a comment



We are never that far away from potential trouble…just an untimely illness here, or a lay-off there can put almost any of us in tough circumstances.

January 31, 2013 Posted by | economy, nature, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Hint to New Teachers: watch what you post on twitter

Screen shot 2013-01-31 at 5.14.08 AM

Screen shot 2013-01-31 at 5.14.31 AM

What are these photos about? A math teacher posted these photos of herself on twitter, along with rather interesting statements about being stoned.

Uh….how about using a fake account maybe? Use your head!

Where were these math majors when I was in school? 🙂

Now for a different kind of delusion
Some tea party types put this out:

Screen shot 2013-01-31 at 4.55.23 AM

Incredible; evidently some don’t believe in polls. Then again, and yes, I know: Bernie Sanders is smarter than either of these, but on a national level he’d be just about as electable, but many seem to think that outspokenness makes for an electable candidate (on a national stage). Not really.

January 31, 2013 Posted by | big butts, bikinis, education, political/social, politics | Leave a comment

Math is hard…

Workout notes Weights plus 25 laps of the track (walking; roughly 5K): 38:30 (37:00 for 3 miles): 13:15/12:13/11:30
Weights: rotator cuff, 5 sets of 10 pull ups
Bench: 10 x 135, 4 x 180, 6 x 170, 8 x 160
pull downs/rows/curls: pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160, rows: 3 sets of 10 x 65 (dumbbell, single arm), curls: EZ curl bar 10 x 75, 10 x 65, pulley: 10 x 52.5. Note: 10 x 75 was not full motion.
incline: 9 x 135, 6 x 135. military: 2 sets of 15 x 45 lb. dumbbells, 1 machine: 10 x 70 (each arm). Also, abs, back, etc.

(from Fail Blog)

Social From the front lines: here is an example of helicopter parenting:

Thirteen years ago, when I was a relatively new teacher, stumbling around my classroom on wobbly legs, I had to call a students’ mother to inform her that I would be initiating disciplinary proceedings against her daughter for plagiarism, and that furthermore, her daughter would receive a zero for the plagiarized paper.

“You can’t do that. She didn’t do anything wrong,” the mother informed me, enraged.

“But she did. I was able to find entire paragraphs lifted off of web sites,” I stammered.

“No, I mean she didn’t do it. I did. I wrote her paper.”

I don’t remember what I said in response, but I’m fairly confident I had to take a moment to digest what I had just heard. And what would I do, anyway? Suspend the mother? Keep her in for lunch detention and make her write “I will not write my daughter’s papers using articles plagiarized from the Internet” one hundred times on the board? In all fairness, the mother submitted a defense: her daughter had been stressed out, and she did not want her to get sick or overwhelmed.

In the end, my student received a zero and I made sure she re-wrote the paper. Herself. Sure, I didn’t have the authority to discipline the student’s mother, but I have done so many times in my dreams. […]

I haven’t seen comparative data to see how widespread it is; I am surprised when I found that some of my students got help from their parents. My parents NEVER, NEVER helped me with academic work…not once.

Nature Those “cute” kitties are really killing machines, and the feral ones do a great deal of damage to wildlife; more that you might think:

In a report that scaled up local surveys and pilot studies to national dimensions, scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats in the United States — both the pet Fluffies that spend part of the day outdoors and the unnamed strays and ferals that never leave it — kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat.

The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation. More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes.

Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and an author of the report, said the mortality figures that emerge from the new model “are shockingly high.”

“When we ran the model, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Dr. Marra, who performed the analysis with his colleague, Scott R. Loss, and Tom Will of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “We were absolutely stunned by the results.” The study appeared Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

I laugh when I see people who either own or work for defense contractors complain about “tax and spend”:


As far as economic ideas: the bad ones tend to become amplified in the “Very Serious People” echo chamber. Keep in mind we are talking about the punditry and not the economists.

January 30, 2013 Posted by | economy, education, nature, political/social, politics, weight training | , , | 2 Comments

Progress: math and running

Workout notes: I did my “Cornstalk 8” plus “out and back” for roughly 10.1-10.2 miles in 1:46:05; the 8 portion was 1:23:40 (average). But it was…roughly 60 F (15.5 C) and wet; highly unusual for Illinois in January. I kept the pace conservative because of my pitiful 14 last Saturday; no problems. But it was about 2:20 slower than a week ago.

I’ve also been tackling a tough mathematics problem. Part of the problem involved a very tedious calculation; one which is highly prone to “transcription” errors.

(for the curious: there is a way of finding an invariant for fundamental groups. If one has two groups presented as generators and relations; e. g. {x, y| xyx=yxy } it is, in general, difficult to see if one group is isomorphic (equivalent) to another. So one thing one can do is to find a map from the groups to something that is easer to manipulate; in this case one can get a map from groups to polynomials (called Alexander polynomials). Isomorphic groups map to “equivalent” polynomials (up to multiplication by a unit in the ring). One way to get the map is to use Fox Calculus. In doing so, you take a “partial derivative” of the relations in the group; the “product rule” for this calculus is slightly different than the product rule that one usually encounters in elementary calculus.

The problem is that this process is every error prone, especially if the calculations are long.

However, in my case, the object of interest is, in fact, equivalent to a known object that has been tabulated.

I was studying this object:


which I found could be deformed into this object:


Yes, I confirmed this by playing with colored yarn!

How did I know to do this? I used software to compute the hyperbolic volume of (the complement of) the first object and then matched that volume to known links:


And that gave me the data that I needed.

My point: having all of this data available really helped save me a couple of weeks of work; perhaps that is one reason why it is easier to make progress in some areas of mathematics, and perhaps why it might be a good time to review old and still unsolved problems and clean some of them up.

Anyway that is my goal.

January 29, 2013 Posted by | mathematics, running | , | Leave a comment

Don’t need no book-learning….

It looks as if the assault weapons ban is going nowhere in the Senate; not even in an up-or-down vote. Reason: many of the Democratic Senators come from red states (West Virginia, Arkansas, North Dakota, Alaska, Montana).

I wish more people would remember this: there is a LOT of variation within the Democratic party and a bill that makes it with unanimous Democratic support isn’t going to be an especially liberal one.

As far as the issue: I understand banning weapons based on potential (e. g., we ban private possession of nuclear weapons, though they haven’t killed anyone since 1945). But in the United States, most of the actual harm is caused by handguns, even though the semi-automatic weapons are out there. I am conflicted by data, “what would be the most effective policy versus what is merely “feel-good”, etc.”.

Note: I don’t like guns and do not own any and have no intention of ever owning any, though as a bit of trivia: at one time in my life I was qualified to wear the “Marksman” ribbon based on pistol shooting (barely; it was the lowest category of ribbons for shooting: “Marksman”, “Sharpshooter”, “Expert”).

So while I have an “oh, yuck” feeling about guns, I really don’t know what the best feasible policies would be.

I love the “can you see the animal in this photo” games. Jerry Coyne has 8 photographs of well-camouflaged animals; many (including some BIG ones) are hard to spot at a glance! You will find them; these aren’t some “10 pixel sized” needles in a hay stack photos. Most really aren’t (intentionally) hiding.

This is natural selection in action: easy to spot animals often become someone else’s dinner…or have trouble finding dinner.

Religion Jerry Coyne also comments on a couple of Non Sequitur cartoons. The idea: a fisherman does out without checking the tide charts and his boat gets stuck in mud, so he gets out walks to shore, and appears to be “walking on water”. He therefore,…well…you know the drill:



The second one is even funnier: he doesn’t need no egg-head scientist telling him about, well, science! 🙂

Hey, scientists are not the only ones troubled by such nonsense. Paul Krugman went on Morning Joe; evidently Mr. Scarborough didn’t understand what he was saying (a real shock, I know).

1. Keynesian economics is NOT at all controversial, even if some economists don’t go along with it. If that “doesn’t make sense”, remember that there are many competing schools in established sciences such as biology (weight given to different mechanisms for evolution, for example) or physics (say, interpretations of quantum mechanics). Keynesian economics is an established school of economics; it is only considered fringe to the “Very Serious People”.

2. Paul Krugman has not said that the debt (and deficits) “doesn’t matter” or “should be ignored”; he says that it is a problem. He does say that, in these current conditions, unemployment is a far greater problem. You deal with the more serious problems first; cutting spending during a recession can stop economic growth.

Why is this so difficult of a concept to grasp? You do DIFFERENT THINGS in DIFFERENT SITUATIONS….you know; in football if it is 3’rd and less than a yard, you are more likely to run; if it is 3’rd and 10 you are more likely to pass (of course, that depends on the situation; late in the game versus early, lead versus being behind, etc.).

3. And no, the Swedish Nobel Prize isn’t awarded at the whim of Norwegian Royalty…

But hey, Mr. Scarborough really does represent the well intended but “sort-of” clueless out there.

Here is a sample of how well he understands things:

It is just that-there COMMON SENSE!!!!! 🙂

How many times do these people have to get things spectacularly wrong before they realize that their own simple minded assessments really carry no merit whatsoever?

January 29, 2013 Posted by | 2012 election, economy, evolution, nature, politics, politics/social, religion, science | , , | Leave a comment