Perceptions and where I’ve lived (of interest mainly to me)

This is an interesting post from the New York Times; it is called “Where are the Hardest Places to Live”:

Annie Lowrey writes in the Times Magazine this week about the troubles of Clay County, Ky., which by several measures is the hardest place in America to live.

The Upshot came to this conclusion by looking at six data points for each county in the United States: education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity. We then averaged each county’s relative rank in these categories to create an overall ranking.

(We tried to include other factors, including income mobility and measures of environmental quality, but we were not able to find data sets covering all counties in the United States.)

You can see the map:

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Click on the link to see the interactive map at the New York Times. There you can click on the individual counties.
I clicked on Peoria County and was shocked to see it rated 1284 out of 3135 (upper 41 percent). I was genuinely surprised to see it rate as well as it did. So I decided to look at the other counties I’ve lived in as an adult…and it became clear to me:

Anne Arundel 180 (Annapolis, MD)
Bexar: 1220 (San Antonio, TX)
Escambia 1726 (Pensacola, FL)
Orange: 930 (Orlando, FL)
Saratoga 129 (Balston Spa, NY)
New London: 304 (Groton, CT)
Travis: 146 (Austin, TX)
Peoria: 1284 (Peoria, IL)

I admit to being a bit surprised that Escambia rated as low as it did; I rather liked it there. But for the most part, I’ve lived in highly rated places prior to moving to Peoria.

Speaking of going places: what states have I visited, lived, finished a marathon or longer, or saw a college or professional football game?

Been to (though in Alaska’s case, it was just the airport)

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Lived in (6 months or longer)

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Finished a marathon or longer in:

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California: 2002 San Diego Marathon
Utah: 2003 Park City Marathon
Texas: various (1981 San Antonio, 2004, 2005, 2007 Ultra Centric 24, 2006 Houston Ultra 24)
Illinois (various: McNaughton 100 2005, 2009, Quad Cities Marathon several, Rockford, Peoria, Chicago 50K, marathon, etc.)
Iowa: 2000 Lake Okoboji Marathon, 2004 Cornbelt hour (101 miles), 2002, 2005 Fairfield Trail Runs 50K
Missouri: 2003 Quivering Quad 50K
Indiana: 2000 Indianapolis marathon
Maryland: 1980 Maryland Marathon
Connecticut: 1983 East Lyme Marathon
Oklahoma: 2005, 2007 Andy Payne Marathon
Alabama: 2002 Rocket City Marathon
Wisconsin: 2001 Lake Geneva Marathon, Ice Age 50K 2003, 2006
Minnesota: FANS 24 hour: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
South Dakota: 2005 Lean Horse 100

Note: I started the Little Rock Marathon in 2004 but swallowed a DNF at mile 23.

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Watched a college or pro football game in:

California: 1983 Rams vs. Falcons (also saw a 1962 Browns vs. 49’ers game though I was too young to remember any of it)

Colorado: 1980 Navy vs. Air Force

Texas: various; 9 seasons of University of Texas football, a couple of Texas State (then Southwest Texas) games, a Cowboys vs. 49’ers game, several Cotton Bowls and an Alamo Bowl

Alabama: 2012 Go Daddy Bowl (Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois)

Iowa: 1993 Iowa vs. Miami, Florida game

Michigan: 2002 Michigan vs. Penn State

Indiana: two Notre Dame vs. Purdue games (1991, 1995), Notre Dame vs. Navy in 1979.

Maryland: 4 seasons of Navy football, Baltimore Colts vs. Broncos in 1983 and saw a USFL game

Virginia: 1983 Navy vs. Virginia

Massachusetts: several Patriot games in 1983 and 1984

Missouri: several St. Louis Rams games

Florida: Tampa vs. Washington NFL in 1982 (saw a USFL game too)

New Jersey: Navy vs. Notre Dame in 1984, Texas vs. Penn State in 1984, Navy vs. Houston in 1980

Pennsylvania: Army vs. Navy in Philadelphia 1977-1980.

Ohio: Baldwin Wallace vs. Bluffton 2014

Illinois: various (4 seasons of Illinois, plus assorted single games, 2 seasons of Illinois State, a couple of Eureka games, and the Bears vs. Tampa Bay 1993)

November 18, 2014 Posted by | basketball, marathons, NFL, politics/social, running, ultra, walking | , , , | Leave a comment

Sore glutes

Workout notes easy 5K run on the treadmill in 32:25. It took about 11 minutes for the first mile; I didn’t feel great at first but felt better as it went on.
Toward the end I had to tell myself to stop.

Then 10 minutes on the bike (easy) and some weightless squats, McKenzie, etc.

My glutes are sore; evidently my butt wasn’t strong enough to handle all of those steep hills on Saturday. So, I think that I know what to do; sure I’ll have to run and walk some hills, but during the snowy months I’ll have to do some steep stuff (stair master? Jacob’s Ladder?) and lunges. I have to be intentional.

November 10, 2014 Posted by | bicycling, running, ultra | , | Leave a comment

A note about my whining and self critiques (in sports)

Workout notes I was stiff as a board this morning, but a weight workout plus back exercises loosened me up.

Pull ups: 5 sets of 10; I did hip hikes, Achilles, and weightless squats in between.
Bench: 135 x 10, 180 x 2, 170 x 4 (weak, did rotator cuff in between)
incline: 135 x 7, 135 x 10. rotator cuff, weightless squats
military (dumbbell), 7 x 45, 10 x 40, 10 x 40 (squats: 2 sets of 5 x 45, very low)
one arm rows: 3 sets of 10 x 65
pull downs: 3 sets of (7 x 160 traditional, 7 x 100 low)
Hammer rows: 2 sets of 10 x 200.

I felt a lot better afterward; sometimes, the thing to do is to just get moving.

Self critique and whining

Let me make this clear at the outset: I am very grateful that I have the health and the means to do sports. I can train, do races, afford the races and afford good running shoes; my trail shoes helped me immensely. I had a good grip while on the trail.

We have good people both to compete with and to hold the race.

So, I enjoy my hobby and would miss it if I couldn’t do it.

But I still critique my performances. One reason: it is still a support; it is still a race. I want to beat as many competitors as I can…though yesterday I was DEAD LAST.

I also like to think that I am doing the best that I can.

So, about yesterday: my lap times (2:52, 3:11, 3:51; 9:54 total) were horribly slow (even for a walk), though the last one was hampered by my having to use a headlight. In the past (2009) these were 2:38, 2:49, 3:27 (got sick) on the same course, albeit in the “usual” direction. In 2004, I did the first 30 in 7:03 (almost 3 hours faster!) en route to a 12:46 50 mile finish. But: well, in 2004 and again in 2009, I had 100 mile finishes and “fast” walking marathons. And, these were 5 and 10 years ago. Time takes its toll.

But I don’t want to settle for less than I am capable of. So, on one hand, it is foolish to think that I can average 2:20 again. On the other hand, is it unrealistic to think that I can work toward averaging sub 3 hour loops?

It is the Serenity Prayer isn’t it: acceptance of what I can’t change, courage to change what I can and THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

Where to go from here: I am getting ideas about working toward the 50 mile at McNaughton Park (Potawatomi Trail Runs); they give you a 34 hour time limit. My target time would be 18 hours, because…I thought that I was capable of doing at least one more 4 hour loop yesterday.

BUT: I have to increase my quad strength and practice doing at least a little bit of jogging.

Note: here is a list of my McNaughton Park races and some early race reports. I’ll add to that a couple of DNF reports (50 mile, 30 mile) and yesterday’s adventure).

The wildcard: mud. That can play havoc with my knees. My knees were fine yesterday, as the course was dry.

November 9, 2014 Posted by | ultra, walking, weight training | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dead F*****g Last, but…

Well, I started the McNaughtAgain 30 mile trail run; I walked the whole way. I finished….Dead Last Place. I was last from the get-go and stayed there.

1. I did finish; I was unable to do that last year. I did it 2 minutes “faster” in 2011 (but with the early start, did not finish in darkness) and 1 hour faster in 2009 (more marathons, a 100, etc.)

2. I didn’t get sick nor did I break at any point. Ok, much of that was due to my slow pace, which started slow and got slower:

2:52/3:12/3:50 = 9:54.

3. The social part was fun.

For one, race director Michael Siltman (an accomplished ultra runner) does a bang up job and recruits great volunteers. There are volunteers who know what you are going through and what you need.

Also they treat everyone with respect, from the fleet afoot (e. g. the dozen or so runners who lapped me) to….well…me. When I finished I said “you can go home now! And they yelled “The party is just starting”.

And the people there are just fun to be with. I got to talk to Julia Carrel (who unfortunately turned an ankle). Mardi Kleinschmidt and Crystal Kyle.

Mardi showed me her Marine Corps Marathon photos and emphasized the fundraising events for wounded veterans. It was very touching. While I was talking to Mardi, Crystal playfully grabbed my back and used me as a stretching post. I had to chuckle.

As far as my race: first of all, the course was as good as it gets; soft dirt but no mud. There were leaves that covered potential ankle twisting objects such as foots and rocks.

I started slowly and tried to take my ego out of it. That meant that by the time I got 3 miles into it, I was, well, solo as I’d remain the entire way, save the multiple times the sub 6 hour 30 mile runners lapped me. There was one that was kind of weird; I heard some LOUD female voices..laughing…and there was this older guy in a line of 4 runners; 3 female. I couldn’t tell whether they were just getting miles or if they were escorting a runner on the third lop; I do know at least 3 of them were WAY too perky to have gone 22-23 race miles.

But other wise, it was just me, and the very nice, patient aid station volunteers.

Psychologically: well, I kept the effort in check, but my lap 1 to lap 2 slow down depressed me. I was 1:22 half way (at the bridge) in lap 1, 1:30 in lap 2, and 1:51 at lap 3 (still daylight). My legs have no power on the hills, and I took the trails very gingerly; I didn’t want to twist something.

I took Succeed tablets every hour or so…and had boiled potatoes and corn chips at the home aid station; I also had a mini wrap and a banana the first time. Hence I never got sick. I got tired and my legs ached, but I didn’t get sick.

When I got back, I checked out the scores. Texas: pleasant surprise. Notre Dame: no so pleasant. Baylor: called that. Minnesota creaming Iowa: did NOT call that. WTF? I suppose Minnesota had some time to process the loss to Illinois and took it out on Iowa.
Currently: watching TCU vs. Kansas State. Frogs up 17-7 at the half.

November 9, 2014 Posted by | marathons, ultra, walking | , , | 2 Comments

Keys to finishing

1. Easy first lap. Expend as little energy as possible. Keep the ego in check; this isn’t 2003-2005. Don’t run too much (if at all) on lap 1.
2. Keep moving on lap two; that might be the most difficult.
3. Keep moving. Only drop out if there is orthopedic pain (knees).

Today: finishing is success. Period. Save the time goals for the shorter races.

November 8, 2014 Posted by | marathons, running, ultra, walking | | Leave a comment

On getting “Girled” or “Chicked”…..


The following Facebook meme made me chuckle. I’ve heard it called “getting girled”. Basically: this is what happens when a male track team member gets beaten by a female.

In sports like swimming and track and field (e. g. “athletics”, which includes running and race walking), this concept really only makes sense for the stronger male competitors.

There WAS a time in my life when, on rare occasion, I might finish ahead of the first female. This only happened at small, local races. It isn’t that much of a surprise; after all, if one looks at the results of high school track meets, sometimes, in a dual meet between small schools, the girl’s mile is won in a time over 5:30. That is a time I could run…a long time ago. So could many other in shape “workout bros”.

But now that I’ve gotten older, when one takes into account age and sex, I can compete on even terms with females in the 36-40 year old age group. Hence my natural advantage is gone and I don’t even think about trying to mix it up with the faster women; about the only time I notice them is when they are cooling down on the course and I am finishing up.

Frequently, even the older ladies beat me (example:)


Now sometimes, a woman will show up at a local race and beat everyone; this happened at the Galesburg Half Marathon in June 2012.

And in the longer events: ultra walker Sandra Brown has frequently beaten the entire field in a 24 hour walk; she did that in 2004 at the Wandelweekend in the Netherlands.
That was merely one of many “outright victories” for her.

In ultra swimming: Peggy Lee Dean and Lynn Cox both held the human record for the English Channel Crossing (at one time).

But in the vast majority of races where there are no outliers (e. g., an elite showing up at a non-elite race), the male winning time will be better than the female winning time.

And the concept of getting “girled” or “chicked” has never applied to me in running, walking or swimming. I simply am not good enough for it to have ever mattered.

Now in the weight room: When it comes to pull ups and, say, the bench press, there are women who can exceed what I do but they tend to be outliers (e. g. perhaps a shot putter at a Division I university would out bench me…and I mean “real” bench pressing, not that “bench shirt” stuff). And plenty of women can do more pull ups than I can (think: gymnasts) but they also tend to be moderate outliers; you tend to not see them at the places where I work out. You’d see them at gyms that cater to the more athletic crowd.

April 17, 2014 Posted by | running, ultra, walking, weight training | , | Leave a comment

Athletics: was 2013 a year of failure, or merely my current level

Workout notes: reduced weight workout:
bench: 10 x 135, 7 x 170, 6 x 170
rotator cuff
dumbbell military: 3 sets of 12 x 50 (seated, supported)
upright rows: 1 set of 10 with a 40 lb. barbell, 1 set of 10 with 25 pound dumbbells
bent over rows: 3 sets of 10 x 65 (single arm dumbbell)
4 sets of 10 pull ups, 2 sets of 5 (used to doing them first)

Then I ran on the treadmill (sloppy outside; not that cold)
6 miles in 1:00:50; 10K in 1:03:50 (walked the .21 cool down)
45 minutes of 1 minute at .5, 1, 2, 3, 4,4,3, 2, 1, .5 first at 5.6 mph, then at 6.0 mph
then speed up to get to 5.92 miles in 1 hour.

This was at the Riverplex. I saw some of the regulars (Rich, Bob) and was happy to hear that Larry was there earlier. He is so incredibly tough.

Now…what to do for 2014?

2013: I didn’t meet many goals. I only broke 25 minutes for the 5K once and that was by a few seconds (albeit on an certified course) and my best half marathon was 2:01 (done twice). Most of my half marathons were slower and my marathon (5:46) was an embarrassing bust (albeit in very hot weather). I DNF’ed my only ultra attempt (after 10 miles) and DNF’ed a trail marathon attempt (snowy).

Weights: best bench press was 205 (and that was tough) and I didn’t swim at all.

I did have a “lay off” period due to back pain…well, that was a “reduction period”.

So, was this a failure on my part (I couldn’t sustain the necessary mileage) or was this the best I could expect out of my body?

For 2014, I need to decide:

Ultra? (30 hour time limit for a loop 100 mile on a bike path, or a bike path 24 hour)
Half marathon run? (break 2 hours)
Marathon walk (break 5:30)
5K season (aiming for 24:30) with a participation marathon (say, 6 hour run/walk)

Whatever I decide, I need to make a decision and work toward it with THAT plan in mind, understanding that the days of multiple goals are probably over. I really haven’t been the same since the period from April 2004 to August 2005. (trail 50 mile walk in 12:46, 101 mile walk in 24 hours, 87 mile walk in 24 hours, 81 mile walk in 24 hours, trail 100 mile walk in 34:16, groomed trail 100 mile walk in 29:34 (elevation)).

My performances at all events from the 5K run (22:5x to 23:30) have dropped like a rock since then and haven’t rebounded much; the exception was a lone “decent” walking marathon (5:14) in May, 2009.


After the workout, I enjoyed Indian buffet with Barbara and then was roped into grocery shopping. It was crowded (didn’t like that) but I was reminded of popular attire for MILFs.

January 4, 2014 Posted by | big butts, running, spandex, ultra, walking, weight training | Leave a comment

Thoughts on dreams and aspirations

I am drinking coffee getting ready to put a few minutes in the hotel gym, prior to hitting the road.

I don’t know how many middle age people have dreams and aspirations that exceed their grasp. I do; in my case I dream up some professional project but…when it comes time to doing the actual research:

1. It is ALWAYS more difficult than anticipated.
2. Some unanticipated administrative duty comes my way.
3. Life throws another curve (even minor curves).

This is hardly unique to me; it happens to all of us and pushing through these things is all part of it and something that the successful people do. No one is granted “optimal conditions” (or very few anyway).

Then there are athletic dreams. One of mine is to finish another 100 mile event (or 100 in 24 hours) but…I have to remember how hard I trained when I last did it and what background I had PRIOR to doing the training. I never went over 50K in 2003 but I had a lot of these and plenty of 60 mile plus training weeks. THAT was the base I built on in 2004.

Right now, my mileage base is about half of what it was in 2003 (maybe a bit more than half) and my body balks at doing more.

Another 100 isn’t going to happen anytime soon…realistically probably never again.

I am finding that when I get older, I have to seek sports that are more in tune with what my body is better suited for; in running that probably means shorter events (try to do them faster). I might be able to walk a marathon (or, gasp 50K) if I have a few months of solid preparation (I didn’t have this for the McNot-Again failure).

Off to the gym; lifting keeps my shoulders and back feeling good. :-)

December 26, 2013 Posted by | ultra, walking | , | Leave a comment

Here we go again

Today was a bit weird; my only exercise was an easy 2 mile jog in the morning.

I caught part of the women’s basketball game over lunch (game started at 11 am; had class at 1) and I needed to eat lunch. They had a ton of elementary school kids at the game so eating there was impossible.

The women trailed Illinois 52-41 at half but came back to win 98-92.

Now I’ll catch a lecture tonight, make part of a men’s game and then …tomorrow.

I last did the 30 miles in 2010 (after surgery; hiked) and in 2009 (with a torn meniscus).

I don’t know how it will go. But it won’t be all bad. I hope. :-)

November 8, 2013 Posted by | hiking, running, ultra | , | Leave a comment

Science: human endurance, basic particles and mimicry

Human endurance: this New York Times story talks about an incredible endurance athlete. The whole story is good; here is one bit:

Born into a Catalan family, Jornet grew up in the Spanish Pyrenees at 6,500 feet, and his gifts are literally in his blood. “When you are born and bred at altitude, you tend to have a higher blood volume and red-cell count for oxygen-carrying capacity,” which translates to better endurance, says Stacy Sims, a researcher at Stanford who holds a doctorate in exercise physiology and nutrition science. Years of daily running and skiing up mountains have further bolstered this advantage. This helps explain why Jornet sweats so little. During exercise, the bodies of very fit people quickly act to disperse heat by, among other things, vasodilation — expanding blood vessels at the skin’s surface where the air can cool the body. A body that sweats less loses less precious liquid from its circulatory system, a major factor in fatigue. In moderate temperatures, Jornet says, he can run easily for eight hours without drinking water.

For me: running at a moderate pace, I usually don’t drink during runs 2 hours or less. Walking: it is about 3 hours. No, I am not that fit and I do need to drink more when I am going very hard.

Physics Mano Singham has an interesting piece on particle physics. It requires a bit of effort to read, but it isn’t technical (though you have to know that subatomic particles are made of quarks and realize that mass of these particles isn’t just the mass of the quarks that make up the particle; the energy adds to the mass.

Human evolution
When we try to date human genetic lineages, the mutation rates are important:

Recent measurements of the rate at which children show DNA changes not seen in their parents — the “mutation rate” — have challenged views about major dates in human evolution.


The researchers show that pre-ice age hunter-gatherers from Europe carry mtDNA that is related to that seen in post-ice age modern humans such as the Oberkassel fossils. This suggests that there was population continuity throughout the last major glaciation event in Europe around 20,000 years ago. Two of the Dolni Vestonice hunter-gatherers also carry identical mtDNAs, suggesting a close maternal relationship among these individuals who were buried together.
The researchers also used the radiocarbon age of the fossils to estimate human mutation rates over tens of thousands of year back in time. This was done by calculating the number of mutations in modern groups that are absent in the ancient groups, since they had not yet existed in the ancient population. The mutation rate was estimated by counting the number of mutations accumulated along descendent lineages since the radiocarbon dated fossils.
Using those novel mutation rates — capitalizing on information from ancient DNA — the authors cal-culate the last common ancestor for human mitochondrial lineages to around 160,000 years ago. In other words, all present-day humans have as one of their ancestors a single woman who lived around that time.

There is more there; right now there is a disparity between modern family mutation rates and the observed mutation rates of ancient humans (as derived from fossils.

Biological Mimicry
Both the hunters and the prey benefit from camouflage. There is a gecko that resembles a leaf; below is an insect that also resembles a leaf.



March 23, 2013 Posted by | evolution, nature, physics, science, ultra | , , , | Leave a comment


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