Posted by: brandon309 | October 28, 2010

Trampoline Town

Saturday morning began very early to drive East and do a 10k trail run.  I was joined by Ben (first organized race ever) and Denise (not first race ever) and a crowd of Tarantula enthusiasts.  Apparently October is mating season for tarantulas in Los Vaqueros CA so that was the theme of the race.  The yellow scrub brush on the surrounding hills made the trail feel like an alien landscape, and I suppose giant mating spiders would have completed that experience.  I didn’t actually see any tarantulas in the open, but we did get to hold one after the race was over.

Race start was an oasis in the yellow sea

After the 10k we headed to Sky High Sports, a trampoline gym in Concord CA.  This is actually one of many trampoline gyms in the Bay Area, which shows that people around here have there priorities straight.  I figure that jumping around on trampolines for an hour (which was WAY more exhausting than a 10k) gets me one step closer to my goal of living life like Jamie Mantzel.  Anyway, I will leave you with some pictures of us bouncing around.  My advice to anyone reading this is go act like a little kid for a day!  Trust me, its way more fun than being an adult.

(Also, I wish you could post 2 separate slideshow galleries but I haven’t found a way to split them into multiple shows.  If you know how, please tell!)

Posted by: brandon309 | October 6, 2010

Home Improvements

I must first apologize for the lack of posting, especially in the form of comics.  My Photoshop is currently broken, so I just have ideas building up inside me.  Eventually they will come bursting forth in an explosion of MS Paint renderings.

Anywho, I moved into a new place 3 weeks ago with Benjamin Jones.  I left the trails of Marin behind for the Lake Merritt area of Oakland.  This unfortunately means that I can no longer commute to work by bike, but the outdoor spaces in our apartment are worth the trade off.  We have a patio and garden space in the back which we have begun to transform into a botanical wonderland – beans, squash, tomatoes, parsley, peppers, cilantro, basil, lettuce, and cucumbers are all taking root in our backyard.  Our main planter is an abandoned 85 gallon fish tank that is currently hosting squash and bean seedlings.  The other herbs and vegetables are living in a plant starter kit, but will eventually be placed in individual pots around our space.  We have also planted some bamboo, started a compost bin, and harvested our first round of mung bean sprouts (grown inside in 4-5 days with almost zero effort.  Just rinse daily)  Also, if anyone knows how to file for farm subsidies on your taxes, we are very interested in hearing from you!


Squash and beans



The cucumbers win "most impressive seedling" award



The Patio



The original mung bean seeds were probably 1/20th of the volume. We'll have alfalfa sprouts once we can find the seeds!


The inside of the apartment also needed furnishing, because we are the first tenants living here since it was remodeled.  The Jones found an excellent leather couch being kicked to the curb because one of its flimsy metal legs had broken.  We adopted the wayward couch, and stained some wooden legs and then spent several hours securing them to the base.  Note:  This type of operation would have been much easier with a drill, but we don’t currently have any power tools here.  That’s alright because driving screws into hard wood by hand builds character. And callouses.


Original couch legs



Minwax on, Minwax off



Standing on all four legs!


Also of note, when hanging our new TV we discovered how many holes it takes for two engineers to find a stud in their wall:  14.  The least successful method turned out to be sticking a thin nail repeatedly into the drywall until it hit something hard (hence the majority of the holes).  Eventually we discovered that you can improvise a stud finder if you have a strong magnet handy, and luckily I always do.  The magnet will be attracted to the nails in a stud, so you can slide it around the wall and eventually you should feel some resistance.  In fact, the attraction was strong enough to let the magnet stick to the wall, finally proving that our house is not 100% sheet rock.  On the bright side, our TV is firmly attached, and we now have an opportunity to practice our drywall patching skills.


Magnets sticking to a stud

This post was brought to you by the Home Depot.  It’s time to turn our doing-dials up a notch.


Posted by: brandon309 | September 20, 2010

Redwood Park 50k

50k Trail Run – Redwood Regional Park

On Saturday I completed my first trail race and first ultrmarathon – all I can say is I am humbled.  I’m proud of my own race since my goal was simply to finish the thing, but its scary that the winner went almost twice as fast as me.  And though I have grand dreams of doing a 100 miler someday, my legs were having very different dreams during the final 10k of this run.  It was a fairly grueling experience, though its an enjoyable kind of struggle.  I know many people don’t understand that mindset, but endurance athletes by nature are somewhat masochistic.  So why do we do it?  What drives us to spend our days and weekends punishing ourselves when it is so easy to stay home and sit on the couch?  It’s a very hard question to answer, but for now I will let Walter Bonatti do the talking:  “Mountains are the means, the man is the end.  The goal is not to reach the tops of mountains, but to improve the man.”

My thoughts are lacking coherence right now, so I’m just going to post some pictures I took during the race (shows my focus on finishing quickly, eh?) and leave the rest of the details in the race wrap up tomorrow.

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Posted by: brandon309 | September 9, 2010

Comic #5 – Footlong Paradox

Also of note:  sales tax is very high here!
Posted by: brandon309 | September 6, 2010

Run Through Muir Woods

15.5 mile trail run: County View-Miwok-Muir Woods-Mil Valley/Miller Ave

I decided this morning that I am officially going to sign of for the 50k Redwood Park trail run, which is part of the Pacific Coast Trail Runs series that I mentioned in an earlier post.  A 50k will be more than 1.5 times longer than my current longest run, but I’ll be aiming just to finish and making sure to take care of myself throughout.  In “Born to Run”, the author Chris McDougal mentions that ultra races are really just eating and drinking competitions with some running thrown in.  I’ve never been particularly great at the long distance running thing, but I do think I am exceptional at eating and drinking – so maybe I’ll be able to excel in these longer races after all!

I set out to run ~20 miles today, to the shoulders of Mt Tam and back.  I ended up getting slightly lost after 7 miles (all directions taken from a handscribbled map, as per usual) and had to bush whack for nearly an hour before reconnecting exactly where I had left the road.  Now I do love exploring the woods, and I was going over some gnarly terrain so this portion was not exactly restful.  It did, however, cut into my time, and since I only gave myself about 1 spare hour of sunlight I decided to cut back for home a little early.  In the end the run was 15.6 miles, but it was much more continuous running than my previous long run/hike combos.

The following is mostly for my own record keeping of long efforts, since they are now becoming real training and not just recreation.  If you aren’t involved in such endeavors yourself, the following info may not be very useful/interesting, but you are welcome to continue reading!

Nutrition: Fair.  I packed 4 tortillas slathered in peanut butter (my own recent discovery of how to avoid smushed bread in PB sandwiches) and I planned on eating 1 every 4 miles.  This turned out to be more than sufficient, as I was never hungry.  Only downside is they were a little difficult to muscle down while running, as you might expect with any peanut butter concoction.  Just the same, they were very portable and palatable even at the 12 mile mark.  Only ate 3, so 1 per 4 miles seems about right.  Will add some honey to the mix next time!

Hydration: Fair.  I packed 3 total liters and ended up drinking a little less than 2.  For a long effort on a hot day I try to take in at least 1 liter per hour, so I was worried about not having enough.  I suppose I over-conserved in the end, though I was good about drinking small amounts consistently – at least in the first half.  Finished the day dehydrated, but not terribly.  Luckily in the 50k there is an aid station ever 10k, so I won’t need to haul more than a liter around.

Pacing: Excellent.  I planned on averaging 12 min/mile, a reasonable pace assuming I will walk the long uphills, and stop at aid stations and to stretch.  The first 4 miles passed in exactly 48 minutes, and neglecting the off-trail segment I averaged just under 12 by the end.  In the second half I was often running 10 min/mile for a while, then walking for about a minute – mainly due to joint pain.

Biomechanics: Subpar.  I started out feeling really great, but at about 6 miles I was having some knee pain that persisted the rest of the workout.  My pacing in the first half is noticeably more consistent than the second half where I began walking occasionally to reduce the pounding.  Need to focus on landing lightly and taking even shorter higher frequency steps (though I do feel like I’ve been doing a good job of this).  Focus on form on the downhills, flats seem okay.  A lighter pack at the race will hopefully reduce these problems a bit.  Also, I intend to get some Vibram FiveFingers – won’t do much for altering my form by race day, but I’m once again a big supporter of minimalism (running as close to barefoot as possible) which will hopefully serve me well in the end.

Endurance: Excellent.  The pace was easy to maintain from a cardiovascular perspective.  Average HR = 128 bpm (probably 132 bpm excluding the bush whacking) and it was consistently 140-150 bpm while running steadily.  There should be no problem at all maintaining that pace for twice as long, the issues will arise from biomechanics and hydration issues if not kept in check.

Scenery: Outstanding, as is always the case around here.

Posted by: brandon309 | August 30, 2010

Comic #4 – Keys

Posted by: brandon309 | August 25, 2010

Trail Work and Sunshine

17 mile run and hike + trail work: Alta-Bobcat-Coastal-Rodeo Cove-Bonita Lighthouse-Conzelman-Coastal-Alta

Last weekend I decided to join some volunteers from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy to work on a section of the Coastal Trail near Rodeo Cove.  This group does trail work every 3rd Saturday of the month so it seemed like a good way to give back to the trails I have enjoyed so much.  I left the house at 8AM and ran down to Rodeo Cove, which is apparently a favorite spot for early morning surfers.  The Parks Conservancy was joined by 30+ students from University of Pacific who are required to volunteer (ironic) before beginning their freshman year.  I spent the first 1.5 hours pick axing a small side trail along the cliff.  This was not a park owned trail, and it was dangerous and causing erosion problems.  By breaking up the soil we allow plants to take root and return the path to its more natural state.  Once my hands were fully blistered and the job complete, I hiked to the top of the hill for my next assignment.   I joined a bunch of students repairing a relatively new sand ladder (basically wooden rungs on cables that are built into the hill side to serve as steps) on the trail.  A sudden landslide had destroyed the original section of Coastal Trail here, so the sand ladders form the side path around the drop off.  We spent our time leveling the steps, and eventually formed a bucket brigade to haul stone up the ladder and fill in the steps that we made.  Overall, it was a very productive morning with so many helping hands, and I was glad to help improve this section of trail.

Aerial view of landslide

After sleeping on the beach for about 2 hours (the sun just barely peeking out, and still managing to burn a sharp tan line around my collar) I resumed my journey home.  I found the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, which is brimming with tacky but entertaining displays.  For example, you walk up to a display about the Portuguese dairy farmers who once settled in Marin, and hidden speakers start playing the sounds of cows mooing and milk bottles tinkling.  For people who enjoy events like “Wildflower Weekend”, this center is a must-see.  I also attempted to visit the Bonita Lighthouse, but apparently the sign that reads “Trail Open” was mistaken.  There is an awesome bridge and tunnel just before reaching the lighthouse itself, and I was one of many potential visitors disappointed to find a locked door at the tunnel entrance.  I’ll have to return on a day when the lighthouse is open for tours!

There were many other interesting sights on the long hike home, the most notable of which might be SF-88L:  the last remaining Nike missile site.  The Headlands have been used as bunkers and batteries for many decades, and during the cold war these hills were armed with anti-aircraft Nike missiles (as were many parts of the country).  SF-88L has been restored to its cold war condition, complete with inert missiles on display, and signs about vicious guard dogs that prevented me from exploring further.  Just the same, it is interesting to see this piece of history and to think about how times have changed since the 1960s!

As I mentioned, the sun really started coming out on Saturday – and when the sun comes out in California it comes full blast.  The fog burned off completely on Saturday afternoon for the hike home, and the clear skies lasted until tonight.  Monday morning was honestly the first time I saw the sun rise over the bay (thinking, “The sun may rise in the East at least it settles in a final location”) and the last 3 days have been absolutely gorgeous biking into work each morning.  The sunny days have also led to much higher temperatures – yesterday was 92 in the city, a big change from the 68 it has been nearly every other day.  It seems that summer is finally starting to arrive here, which I guess makes sense since October is the warmest month of the year in SF.  In any case, the sunshine is welcome to stay!

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Posted by: brandon309 | August 21, 2010

Comic #3 – Biggest Regrets

Posted by: brandon309 | August 17, 2010

Dr. BikeLove

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fight against Traffic

This post goes out to all the brash cyclists I’ve met over the years – the people who aren’t afraid to chase down a driver with road rage after he forced you off the road – the people who hang onto the rear of a truck who cut you off, just to “sketch it out” – the people who pass traffic on descents or busy city streets because you’re tired of waiting for slow, inefficient cars.

Yesterday there was a huge traffic jam on my way home from work – there must have been an accident North on 101, because cars were backed up for at least 8 miles, including 4 lanes of people sitting on the Golden Gate and every route headed toward the bridge.  Which means I had 8 miles to heckle all the drivers stuck in their tin cages with no way to get home.

Fortunately there is a 3 lane bike path (in addition to a bike lane on the road) along most of the water front where I first saw the lines of cars, so I had no problem getting home fast.  I regularly race and beat cars along this stretch because the bike lane is free of stop signs and traffic lights –  with a heavy delay on all roads going North, the race home just wasn’t fair.  So I shouted  “Yeah buddy!” and “Ain’t nothing but a peanut!” as I tend to do when going faster than cars.  I threw in the occasional “Hey United!” or “GSE!” of course, and some more sensible statements like “Boy am I glad I’m moving forward!” or “Time to get a bike and be freeeee!”  Sure this isn’t the nicest or most reasonable way to conduct yourself on a bike, but people who know me probably wouldn’t list ‘too passive’ as one of my faults.

So yesterday I took revenge on all the cabbies who cut into the bike lanes without even looking.  I got even with all the cars who honk at a cyclist who is on the side of the road and doing nothing wrong.  I beat all the traffic home by at least an hour, based on the 6:40 arrival of the 5:30 bus.  It was honestly the most fun I can remember having on a bike.

Posted by: brandon309 | August 11, 2010

Comic #2 – Pavement Markings


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