Antelope Island 50K

The top of the Hill on 1st (1st and Aish) in SLC

The top of the Hill on 1st (1st and Aish) in SLC

Ok, now that I’m back in Madison and have slept some (a lot), let me see if I can talk about the Antelope Island 50K in a brief yet entertaining manner.antelope island

First things first: Where is Antelope Island? It’s the largest island in the Great Salt Lake of Utah, so specifically it is about 46 miles from my brother and sister-in-law’s apartment in Salt Lake City. When B and I decided to go out to Utah for a fall visit, I noticed that this race happened to be right around the time we were going out and arranged our travel schedule to coincide. So I didn’t OFFICIALLY travel out there for the race, I just happened to be in the area and the race was happening. (I have a personal rule that I don’t travel more than an hour from home for a race unless it’s a super awesome race.)

We flew in Tuesday afternoon. I had originally planned to run Tuesday and Thursday this past week as the last bit of my taper, but then I was up in the night Monday night/Tuesday morning with. . . something. Was it food poisoning? A norovirus? Only her intestines know for sure. At any rate, things sure weren’t 100 percent when I got up Tuesday morning and I didn’t go for a run, and I even told B that if I still felt super crappy come Saturday I was going to cancel the race. My conditioned waxed and waned throughout the day (including a long stopover at O’Hare), and by the time we arrived I had a pretty intense migraine (complete with nausea, light sensitivity, and blurry vision). Bodes ill. But Wednesday morning when I got up I was fine. In fact I felt so much better than I had in twenty-four hours that I was positively jubilant. Daniel and I went for a run around SLC’s Liberty Park in the afternoon, and I felt pretty good. My foot gave me some trouble on the last part of the run, especially going up the hill from State to A on 1st Street, but the view is so rewarding I couldn’t complain. Then I had two full days of rest, which I knew would make both my foot and my PT happy.

Pre-Race Selfie

Pre-Race Selfie

Saturday morning, I woke up at 5:50, a full forty minutes before Daniel and Claire were coming to pick me up, so that I could eat and also reconsider my life choices. I was suddenly very nervous, in a way that I seldom am before races anymore. I felt a little crappy (too much wine the night before? Too little water?), I was nervous about the course and elevation, and I just kept thinking I should call Daniel and tell him not to come and crawl back into bed with B. I could go for a run later, maybe even go up to Sugar House Park and do twenty miles, and. . . but I didn’t follow through on any of this. I kissed B goodbye and went down and got in the car.

By the time we got to Antelope Island I was feeling better, physically anyway. When I got out of the car to check in, I heard gunshots in the distance. The women working assured me that it was just hunting and “not on the island, we hope.” They also said, “Don’t bother the buffalo and they won’t bother you.” Ok, good to know.[1]

Sunrise

Sunrise

My Lovely Hosts, Daniel and Claire

My Lovely Hosts, Daniel and Claire

Daniel and Claire dropped me off at the starting line just as the sun was beginning to climb over the mountains and paint the sky pink. It was beautiful—and cold. I told them to come back in not less than five and a half hours and thanked them again for their tolerance of my weird hobby. Then I had to take off my sweatshirt and go wait around for the race to get started. The RD announced a last-minute course change owing to mud that took the course from 31 miles down to about 30. I stood in line to use the port-o-potty behind a guy who had his arm in a really complicated sling owing to some sort of surgery (he was still running, which made me feel possibly a bit better). Then a few minutes later, we were off.

The First Climb

The First Climb

Starting Line to the First Aid Station (Mile 5.8)

The race started with about half a mile or so of flat on a gravel access road of some sort. We went along a fence until we came to a break and turned onto a dirt trail that took us in slow switchbacks up the foothills of the mountain (I think the main mountain is Frary Peak, but I’m not totally sure that was the one we were running around, so you’ll have to just guess at the geography). We were at times running east, into the sunrise, which was very pretty but made it hard to see the trail. Luckily, the trail here wasn’t very technical, with only occasional rocks to dodge. There were a lot of false summits—I would look up the trail, thinking that just beyond the coming ridge things must flatten or even descend—only to find when I arrived that the trail continued up. Luckily the hill was quite gentle, so the continuous trekking didn’t bother me and I kept up a pretty steady pace between 10:30-12:00 min/mi. After mile three, the trail turned downward (and west) and suddenly I was skimming along, taking in all these breathtaking vistas I hadn’t had a chance to look at before. Oh, wait, the breathtaking part—that was the altitude. And sure enough, after two miles of lovely downhill, the path turned sharply upward and we hiked it in to the first aid station. I arrived right around the one hour mark.

I wasn’t too concerned about calories so early in the race, but I knew I couldn’t fall behind, especially with the comparatively long distances between aid stations (most were five to six miles apart). I think I had a Fig Newton and a couple of potato chips. Then I was off again. I actually made it through a bit faster than several women, some of whom I would leapfrog with for much of the rest of the race.

Mountains at the Beginning of the Course

Mountains at the Beginning of the Course

Mile 5.8 to the Second Aid Station (Mile 14)

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Elevation Profile. Click to Embiggen.

As I left the first aid station, the staff said that there was a nice bit of downhill ahead, “About a mile of downhill.” And it was very nice, good enough to hit a 9:40 split. I started thinking about how fast I was going to finish—maybe I would hit a 5:15:xx and be lounging around when everyone came to get me. Then suddenly, in one of those weird moments you seem to encounter in the mountains where the ground tells you something your eyes/inner ear don’t necessarily get, I went around a corner and the trail turned sharply upward. The rest of this section was largely not nice; it included steep climbs (about 1,700 feet over seven miles, with over 600 feet of that in the last mile alone); downhills too rocky to run; sections of trail ankle-deep in sand or shifting, golf ball-sized gravel; sections covered with rocks the size of bricks I was not nimble enough to bound between; and of course absolutely no shade. I began to run low on water and at times felt a bit dizzy, but there was really nothing to do but keep going to get to the next aid station. Luckily, I was able to sort of tuck into my brain (I thought about a lot of rather silly things, like the book I have been editing) and keep going. Each time my watch buzzed, I felt a bit surprised that another mile had passed. My splits during this section ranged from 9:21 (the downhill) to 22:42 (the last 600 feet of climb and a stop at the aid station to pull a rock out of my shoe).

It was very nice to get to the aid station and eat some potato chips and potato dipped in salt and refill my water. I also got to blow my nose, which was nice. My nose always runs when I’m out, er, running, and I’d neglected to bring any tissues.

Mile 14 to the Third Aid Station (Mile 20ish)

At the mile 14 aid station, I heard one of the guys say that the next aid station was five miles away. I was excited to leave—both because I had told B I would try to text him around mile 15,[2] and because mile 19 seemed very achievable and also very close to the finish (at the time I thought it was only ten miles out). Also, at this point the trail turned downward again, and we got to give back all that vertical gain. I ran for a while with a woman from Layton, UT, who mentioned that she had never done a 50K before and had trained only to sixteen miles as a long run! She left me behind when I once again couldn’t navigate the rocky descents fast enough. I also found that whenever I tried to accelerate a lot, I developed a stitch in my ribs (the altitude? Pushing too hard?) and I just couldn’t keep up. I had been gunning to finish strong, maybe even top three in my age group, but I realized at this point that I was going to have to just run my own race and finish when I finished.

That is the dao of the trail, I guess.

Mountains, near the End of the Course

Mountains, near the End of the Course

During this section, I came down around a bend and looked up to see two buffalo standing in a field. They were maybe a hundred and fifty feet from me, without any sort of protective fence between us. Wow. So I stopped and took a picture. They were unimpressed.

No Fence

No Fence

After the buffalo, the trail eventually narrowed and went into this area along the western side of the island where there were a lot of plants very close to the trail that were dry and kind of spikey, perfect for scraping the fuck out of my legs. Seriously, plants, what did I ever do to you? I was bleeding in half a dozen places by the end of the race, not fun. The best cut was right on my right ankle, perfect for accidentally kicking with my left foot (I am not graceful), and then good for a quarter mile of pain.

Eventually I reached the aid station and dumped some water over my head, which made me feel better. But I was tired after all the up and down of the first twenty miles, and pretty much ready to be done.

The Two Close-Together Aid Stations (Mile 20 to Mile 24ish)

This was the section where the bargaining began. I was feeling pretty woobly from the heat, so although the course was pretty flat, I started to walk. For a while, my right hip flexor was cramping up. But I knew I was so far from the finish line that I couldn’t just walk until I felt totally better, because I would never feel better until I could stop running and I would never get to the finish line walking. So I started to make deals with myself—run for half a mile, then you can walk for .05 miles. Repeat. Although my times were a pretty steady 11:30 min/mi during this section, and I felt really pretty terrible, I kept passing people, so either I wasn’t the only one having a bad time of it or I managed to out-strategize a lot of people.

The fourth aid station was over a ridge near mile 24. I had been planning to walk, but I crested the ridge and saw it, so I kept running. Yay, more water dumped over my head. (Sadly, none of the aid stations had ice.) Yay, more potato chips.

Mile 24 to the Finish

Leaving the mile 24 aid station, I was relatively sure I had five miles to go. The aid station personnel thought the distance was more like six to seven. They also thought that there was a water-only aid station between them and the finish, though this turned out not to be true. I continued my run/walk strategy for a while here, crossing the 26.2 mark in 5:21:43 (a personal not best) and picking off several more people. Despite my slow speed, I was making progress. The course at this point was very boring—lots of scrubland, the salt lake kind of in the distance, no real change in altitude from mile to mile, nothing to focus on but the passing of a few trees and rocks and the odd pile of ossified buffalo droppings.

Right around mile 27, and just before I was about to allow myself another walking break, I came up behind that woman from Layton again.

Remember her?

As I came up behind her, debating about whether to try to pass or to walk and let her get a lead again, she turned around and said the most magical words I could have heard: “I think I see it.” I was actually kind of unsure at this point what “it” was—the drink station? The finish line? Maitreya Buddha? But I actually did not care. She took off and I took off after her.

I was looking, but I could not for the longest time see whatever she had been referring to. Finally I saw a glint of light at the top of a hill—maybe light off a car’s windshield, but it could have been our destination. Layton and I had some discussion about how far we thought the race actually was. As she said she wasn’t sure if we were going twenty-nine or thirty miles, another woman came up behind us and remarked that she was still telling her friends she did a 50K. I said, “Of course!” We chatted for a brief bit, and then when the trail widened I sped up and passed both of them. For a while I thought we would stick together and finish the race, but they were slowing down, and I could smell the barn.

"SAY CHEESE"

“SAY CHEESE”

I reached the fence we’d run along at the very beginning and crossed though an open spot, only to face another climb. My watch suggests it was about 224 feet of elevation gain in a mile or so, I think about a 5.8 percent grade. I was kind of annoyed, but stumbled up it using a hike/run strategy. At the top, just by the turnoff for the half marathon course, was a herd of buffalo (on the other side of the fence this time). Wow! They seemed unimpressed to see yet another runner stumble past.

The road turned down for one final descent. There was a guy ahead of me in a yellow t-shirt, and I suddenly wanted to pick him off and add one last catch to my list, so I sped up as much as my incredibly tight quads would allow. Better yet, as I came within range of the finish, B, Daniel, and Claire were all standing there cheering me on! I crossed the finish line within a few seconds of the guy in yellow (I was so close to catching him!) and was awarded a coffee cup. I think I said something really intelligent to B, like, “They gave me a coffee cup!” Then I sat down for a while before I could fall over.

Final Tally

Some of My Cuts (and an Amazing Amount of Dirt)

Some of My Cuts (and an Amazing Amount of Dirt)

I finished 29.88 miles (according to my watch) in 6:04:24, a 12:12 min/mi pace. According to my watch, the course had just over 3,100 feet of elevation gain. The results at UltraSignUp.com are still somewhat preliminary as of this writing, but I am listed as 6th woman, 4th in my age group, and 22nd overall finisher. I learned that I should be careful of climate differences (WI had a cold snap, so it had been quite a long time since I’d run in warm weather), bring something to shade my head/neck from the sun (no trees), and give the elevation its due. I did a good job at staying on top of salt and calories all day, and I think my run/walk strategy was pretty successful, considering how many people I passed in the last ten miles.

My foot was actually totally fine though the race, giving me no more than passing discomfort. At some point my hip slipped out (my SI joint got stuck) and I finished with knee pain and lower back pain because of it, and I also totally blew up my quads, and my calves are hurting if I sit for too long, but other than that I feel remarkably good. My PT will be happy. The race was well-organized and enjoyable, the course a real challenge. I had a hell of a time.

A special thank you to Bryan, Daniel, and Claire, for not just making this madness possible but for supporting me through to the end. Having you guys there to cheer me on in the last moments was really amazing. Also special special thanks for helping me get a new Garmin last minute. It worked out really well and was super useful during the race.

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My Finish (Photo by Daniel)

Also I’m going to stick to half marathons for a while. Holy cow.


[1] When I was a kid, my parents used to stick me in the car and drive me out to Fermi Lab (the supercollider) to look at the buffalo (really, this was a method of making me fall asleep). The sign at Fermi Lab said, “Don’t try to cross this pasture unless you can do it in nine seconds, because the bull takes ten.” I have no recollection of how big the pasture was (though I do think I wanted to feed the buffalo Cheerios, as though they were ducks), but in my mind this means that buffalo are both fast and mean.

[2] Does that sound lame? It was an important psychological goal—during the last few miles of climb leading up to the mile 14 aid station, I was counting down—“Only three more miles before I get to text B.” The idea was to tell him my time at the halfway point to help better gauge the SLC crew’s departure to Antelope Island. Unfortunately I realized after the race that my text hadn’t gone through. Whomp whomp, sad tromboon.

Amazing Post-Race Liege Waffle at Bruges (SLC-Area Waffle Stand)

Amazing Post-Race Liege Waffle at Bruges (SLC-Area Waffle Stand)

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North Face Endurance Challenge — Marathon in Eagle, WI

nfec results This has been the weirdest “b” race ever, guys. Not only was the training weird, but I tapered for the race, which I never do, and it was a weird taper.

For one thing, it was the only taper in my life that I spent in Europe eating Belgian waffles and French pastries. It was also the only taper (of recent memory) done without a pool available.

Swimming is typically my go-to cross-training because it gives me sexy shoulder muscles, can be done inside (an important consideration this time of year in Wisconsin), and is non-impact. But for this taper at first I was in Belgium and France for two weeks, and while I could have gone over to one of the local pools and gotten a day pass, I was under some obligation to spend time with my family. Anyway, I was walking a ton (it’s Europe), so it didn’t really seem necessary to “work out” outside of my every-other day schedule of running. To keep up my cardio fitness, I ran 8–10 miles at a go every other day, and occasionally did body-weight exercises with B.[1] The day we got back from Europe was the day our gym started its annual cleaning of the lap pool; it reopened the Monday after the race. So I was been totally on my own for the last week.

When a pool is unavailable, there’s always biking. I enjoy biking, sort of. I’m not good at it. So last Sunday after
my run I biked 10 miles to my Chinese class and back (5 miles in each direction to the Social Sciences building—and I got to watch the IM marathon when I was heading home). Monday I biked around some of the rural area outside of Middleton, about 25 miles total. Then Wednesday. . . it was both 45 degrees and raining, so I went to spin class. Friday it was also 45 degrees and raining, so I did more spin. You would not believe (or maybe you would) how energetic one feels when one is in marathon shape, and how difficult it is to get what feels like a good (tiring) workout when you are totally primed to run for four hours without stopping. I guess that means that I had a successful taper because I felt strong and a little crazy.

But still: What is it about spin bikes that no matter how hard I think I’m pedaling, the little odometer always tells me I went 25 miles in an hour? And why can I do only half of that on the mean streets? And why do I sweat so damn much while spinning? And how can I make it stop irritating my bad foot when I stand on the pedals?

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My foot, taped by both the PT and myself

Such questions. I apologize about this blog, by the way. I’ve missed you guys. But here I am almost five hundred words in and I haven’t gotten to the race yet. Also I apologize that I’ve yet to make up my mind about whether I think a colon should be followed by a capital letter (whether or not it introduces a full sentence). I changed the “w” above.
I signed up for this race as a way to gauge my fitness/training before the Antelope Island 50k next month. It also served as my last and longest training run. In a world where I was paying attention to things like having a training plan, my long runs would have gone something like this: (various stuff working up to) 15, 18, 15, 18, 20, 26.2 (and then some taper before the 50k). Instead I have done, starting the first week of July, 17, 13, [10k—tri day], 20, 13, 18, 20, 15, 10, 10. The 15 was the day before I left for Europe, the second 10 was the day after I got back. On the one hand, I actually missed or shortened three of the planned FIVE twenty-milers the plan my friends were following had scheduled. On the other hand, I am not someone who can run over twenty miles a lot and remain uninjured. I am backed up by historical data on this. I need to write myself some reminder post-it notes that say: Don’t do track speed work; don’t wear minimalist shoes; don’t run more than twenty miles once per marathon training cycle (or potentially: don’t run marathons); don’t do two-a-days.

I have done every single one of those fucking things during this marathon training cycle (er, except for the “don’t run marathons” part—though I guess I just did that?), and not surprisingly my right foot is a little angry about it. But not angry enough that I needed to miss the marathon. Just angry enough that I am running on “step down” (which means every other day rather than my normal five days per week schedule), and I had my PT tape my foot on Friday. I’m hopeful I’ll be back in full fighting shape by October, but for now I didn’t have high expectations going into the NFEC. My goals were like this:

  • A goal: Sub-4 hours. I was in shape for this, with the exception of my foot that won’t get with the program. If it were a road marathon I would probably expect to clock in right around four hours, even with the issues. However it was a trail race, which means probably not.
  • B goal: 4:30:xx. This would be a solid time for a technical trail marathon, and per last years’ finishing times would still put me in the top five women. So it was probably a pipe dream.
  • C goal: Sub-5 hours. This was probably a reasonable time given foot and terrain. It would probably be a pretty solid time for this course. (This assumption based on my experiences running elsewhere in the Kettles.)
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Early morning pre-race selfie

Writing this introductory portion of the race report the night before, I should note that my week has looked like this:

  • Sunday: Run 10, bike 10
  • Monday: Bike 25
  • Tuesday: Run 10
  • Wednesday: Spin class (“25”), aikido
  • Thursday: Run 10
  • Friday: Spin class (“30”, because I started early)

B looked at this and said, “Have you heard of a taper?” So taper is as taper does, apparently. (Help me out, what does that actually mean?)

The Race

The race had a late start (9:00am) so I was able to sleep in until 6:25 before getting up to begin my pre-race rituals (eat a raspberry Pop Tart while reading The New Yorker). At 7:15 I stuck my stuff in the car. Then I panicked and ran back upstairs for an emergency piece of tape for my foot (in addition to the tape that the PT put on yesterday). I rolled out around 7:20.

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I-94 to Eagle, WI

The drive over was fine. I felt relaxed. Then after a while I felt tense. I arrived about 20 minutes early and jogged over to the park bathroom (which, by the way, had actual flush toilets and soap!). And. . . my foot didn’t hurt at all. I jogged back to the car. It was still fine. Incredible. I decided to add one more piece of tape to a spot that was sort of bugging me (see picture above). I put on the t-shirt with my number pinned to it while cramming a protein bar in my mouth, grabbed my hydration pack, and set off for the starting line.

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“It’s 45 degrees outside”

One thing I have to say is that I was impressed by how much parking was available and how close to the starting line I got to park. Another thing that was impressive was how cold it was (about 45 at the start, I’d guess). The race officials had little heat lamps and fire pits for us to warm our hands over.

The race started. I had decided on the following strategy: Run a conservative first half, then pick it up. Walk hills if necessary, and be prepared to hike it in if the foot gives out. So I went out at a pace that felt pretty slow. We ran along the side of a road (Cty Highway ZZ I think) for a while, then turned onto a grassy/muddy path going up a rather mild incline. Later I found out I made it through the 1.8 mi aid station in about 16 min—a 9:16 pace, not exactly relaxed.

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Starting line

It took me about twenty minutes to get bored. While ultra runners are typically a chatty bunch, road marathoners are often quite serious—they have times to hit, Boston to qualify for, that sort of thing. Well, nuts to that. In what is a giant leap out of my shell, as soon as I came up next to someone who was going my pace, I started chatting with him. He was from Sandwich, IL, a 21-year old guy named Shane who worked as a restorer of houses and was interested in becoming a pastor. We talked for about twenty minutes, then he left me behind and I started talking to a professor of entrepreneurship from Marquette University. He was an interesting guy, had studied classical Chinese back in the day and had a son who was totally fluent in Mandarin.[2] The professor thought he was on track to win his AG (men 64+), so was running a pretty conservative race. I hung with him for about forty-five minutes (through the seven-ish mile aid station and beyond) before he stopped to stretch a calf and I rolled on ahead.

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The prairie area

After a few switchbacks we emerged onto the prairie. I met up with two other marathoners, Nicole and Matt, and we chatted through the 11.7-mile aid station. I was still feeling really good at this point—my foot was doing really well on the soft ground (the rain from the last few days proved useful I guess) and I felt strong and happy. I ate a gel at about 1:50:xx and then grabbed some potato chips and a piece of boiled potato dipped in salt going through the aid station; although it wasn’t really a hit-the-salt-hard day, I have been struggling with stomach cramps all summer caused by salt issues, so I decided I wasn’t going to forego it completely.

I lost my companions after the aid station and went on for a while alone. My foot was beginning to bother me, but in truth the pain from the tape rubbing on my skin was worse than anything else. The terrain was very runnable, the weather still comfortably cool. Around (what I think was) mile 17, I passed a guy who made a remark about how he was going to follow me, since I had a good pace going. I laughed and we chatted for most of the next nine miles. His name was Wes; we talked about running, our jobs, his kids, and lots of various sundry things. We also met the single largest climb in the race—it was right around mile 19, and nowhere near as scary as Shane (remember Shane?) had suggested to me that it was. Certainly it was quite steep, and I hiked it rather than try to run it, but it wasn’t super arduous, and I probably could have run it if I’d had a gun on me.

By mile 20, my foot was starting to hurt. And my other foot hurt. And so did my ribs and my abs and. Well, you get the picture. But I knew something was going to hurt. You don’t come unscathed out of a marathon. So onward I went. The terrain had settled down after the big hill and was really pretty easy to run despite my discomfort. As we neared the end (I think close to the two miles to go mark), Wes dropped back to take a gel and I decided to try for some kind of finishing kick.

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More typical Ice Age trail (aka the hill where my quads died)

I passed a couple of people (50k-ers and marathon relay people) and started up a really long, low grade hill. This was the point that I tried to speed up and realized how trashed my quads were. I was being passed at this point by a seemingly endless stream of marathon relayers going in the opposite direction and a few coming back. Eventually I crested the hill and tried to push it a bit back to the finish, including passing a lady (50k, sadly, not marathon) in the last fifty feet before the finish. When I turned around, Wes was right behind me—apparently he’d been trying to catch me but couldn’t. We fist-bumped and I wished him well.

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Post-race selfies

I’d finished in 4:30:47 (watch time); I assumed, based on the good (cool) weather and course conditions, that I wouldn’t have placed. But I decided to wander over and get my results anyway before I left. Surprisingly, I was the 11th woman overall, and the 3rd in my age group (of 7). So I hit my B time and still managed to place. Nice. I got a little baggie of prizes, including sleeves, which I am excited to try out sometime this week.

Post-Race

I stumbled back to my car and stopped at a gas station on my way back to Madison for coffee and chocolate milk. I was already sore as I shambled around the store, and things only got worse by the time I got home. But despite my feeling (at the end of the race) that my left big toe was probably bleeding and that my right little toe might have fallen totally off, here is the sum total of the damage:

  • Bruise on back from hydration pack
  • Sore quads
  • Some chafing of various soft tissues
  • A blister the size of my thumb under the tape on my right foot
  • Everything from the knees down a bit muddy

So that’s not too bad at all. As I write this (following icing and ibuprofen), my foot feels really good (except for the blister). Score one for the PT.

I think that’s all I have to report. For those thinking of doing it, the NFEC is a great course, very runnable but not unchallenging, in a beautiful park, and the race is really well organized. I’m impressed on all counts.


[1] At our last hotel in Brussels, we actually had access to a universal machine in the gym, which was nice but a little confusing—rather than labeling any of the weights as pounds or kilograms, it just said “10, 20, 30” and so on. 20 what?

[2] If you want to be famous, the Chinese seem endlessly amused by Westerners who can speak Chinese fluently. I have never myself been that fluent. Actually, I don’t really understand the draw—as I’ve told some various relatives, there are about 960 million native speakers (as of 2010), making it far and away the most commonly spoken language on the planet. This means that when you learn Chinese, you are doing nothing that has not already been done by LITERALLY a billion people. But the Chinese seem to find it so entertaining! Compare that to Americans, who tend to think that learning English is basically THE LEAST you can do.

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My medals from summer racing — Viroqua tri, Couples duathlon, and NFEC

Em oi! #398: Happy Birthday, Your Majesty

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Pretend I got this up on Saturday for my birthday and not four days late. Thank you.

The idea that you shouldn’t care about your age is about as deeply ingrained in our culture as the idea that you should–check out the phrase “age ain’t nothin’ but a number” next to Nicole Kidman getting botox. I think it was my mother’s particular defiance of age-related stereotypes that rubbed off on me most of all. When she turned 50, someone sent her some black balloons, and she called up the flower shop that delivered them and gave them a stern talking to.

I can’t claim the idea of the princess/queen dichotomy in American womanhood is entirely something I came up with–I believe it was in one of the books I read before I got married, like One Perfect Day, where the author remarked that it is a very particular fantasy to want to be a princess (a childish position of little responsibility) rather than the queen (an adult position with lots of associated power). Of course, I never wanted to be a princess…but I’ll be queen, sure.

Anyway, here’s a picture of me cross thing the finish line at a 20km race on Saturday. I don’t have a picture of myself at 21 doing the same because at 21 my idea of a big day was one where I walked to the library a mile away. Whew. (I’m exaggerating a little, but I wasn’t a runner at the time.) I’ve come a long way since then.
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I’ll file the comic under PA3015.B48 L86 2014, for Classical literature–Literary history–Knowledge, treatment, and conception of special subjects, A-Z–Birthdays.

Em oi! #396: Airplane Hell

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This was on a flight from Salt Lake City to Denver. Let me just say that I am super paranoid about my headphones–not only do I worry about disturbing others, I worry about damaging my hearing, so I keep music/podcasts turned down REALLY low. Evidently this guy didn’t give a fuck if everyone could hear his music or not. He’ll probably go deaf, serves him right I guess. Or that’s about what I was thinking. But at the end, when we got up to get our luggage, I started to lean over the seat to vent spleen on the guy. As I did so, I saw some of the stuff he was texting to a friend on his phone (well, we were on the ground, I guess). Essentially he was in his 30s or 40s, on his way to visit a woman his family disapproved of (they believed he was a sinner because he was going to see her, and she had posted some “mildly sexy” photos of herself on the internet), his family also disapproved of his lack of religiosity… I just lost steam. Poor guy was old enough that he should have a life for himself, but he was so totally caught up in his family’s feelings.

It would have been easier if he was just the stupid teenager I’d assumed he was. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a terrible person. But I didn’t yell at him; his life seemed rough enough already.

Anyway. We’ll file this under BJ2139.L86 2014, for Social usages. Etiquette–Etiquette of travel–Special topics–Airplane travel.

I went out to Black Earth to run the Black Earth 10 Mile Race today. It was quite entertaining–I knew about a third of the field, it felt like, or they were friends of friends. It was especially funny to hear people say “Here come the fast people” as I approached with my friend R. Not sure how long I’ve counted as a fast person. We kept a pretty steady 8:00-8:30 pace for the first 9 miles–it was an out and back course, very flat, so it was relatively easy to keep pace, and I knew when we hit the turnaround that I was in 9th place, so it was easy to drive just a little bit harder on the second half to move up a few spots to 7th. Just shy of the 9 mile marker, two people we’d passed earlier (a man and a woman) came up behind us looking to make a move. I dropped the hammer and took off. For a while, I was running about a 6:40. It was amazing, I was flying.

My hands started to tingle. I realized that I could only hold that pace for a limited amount of time, and the clock was running down. I was very shortly going to have make a choice between passing out and slowing down.

I finished, I believe, in 8th place. I didn’t win the free shoes gift certificate. But I learned something new about how fast I can really push myself to–maybe if I start doing intervals once a week (my PT suggested this), I will actually be able to hold a 6:40 pace for a little while longer.

That’s enough of that. Here are some pictures of dogs and other animals I took.

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IMG_1844

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Macalester, or Mac for short.

Macalester, or Mac for short.

Edgar is happy when Bear is around.

Edgar is happy when Bear is around.

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Bear, who stayed with us for a week while his person traveled.

Bear, who stayed with us for a week while his person traveled.

Kali and Bear go on adventures.

Kali and Bear go on adventures.

Kali.

Kali.

 

 

Bear, lying down.

Bear, lying down.

 

 

 

 

 

Smile nice for the camera, guys.

Smile nice for the camera, guys.

Smile, I said.

Smile, I said.

Guys, come on.

Guys, come on.

Anyway I think my SAD is over so I will try to post more frequently now. I still have a couple of reviews in queue and a few more to write, plus I’ve recently fallen down a post-colonial studies rabbit hole and I’m excited to talk about that (everyone in real life is tired of listening to me talk about it, actually).

Em oi! #387: Bad Dog

Bad Dog

Proof:
Dog!

Oof. Remember when I used to have time to blog? Me neither.

Ironically, I finished this drawing almost a month ago, when we were visiting Baltimore. But I didn’t get it posted the week we came back because we were packing for the move, and then we were moving. After the move, first I couldn’t find the sketchbook. Then I found the sketchbook but I didn’t know where my eraser (the one surviving eraser at this point), so I couldn’t finish the sketch. Last night I decided to get my act together.

I’ll file this under: SF429.S63 L86 2013, which stands for:
Animal culture–Pets–Dogs–By breed, A-Z–Shiba dogs.

More comics about the dog here and here.

I ran the Baltimore Running Festival half marathon on the 12th of October. It was fun. I was going to write a race report, but let’s face it: The chances of that happening are kind of slim at this point. I get up every morning at 5:30 to start work on my thesis, then I work out and do actual work, and after all that I have no energy left. So enjoy a few photos from the run:

go pass

My MTA ticket. I ❤ public transit.

pre race

Looking skeptical before the race.

starting line

There was a goodly walk from where we lined up to the starting line, the last bit was uphill. It was a bit confusing. I bet people who actually read their race packet knew about this though.

socks

It’s the Natty Boh man. We’re in B’more, hon.

lake building

I’d been reading _From Hell_, and this building looked strangely like some freemason business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

empty rowhouses

Running past empty rowhouses.

done

Post-race. I finished in 2:00:07.

Em oi! #383: Ask a Librarian

More Information than Required

I should note that when this happened, I was just walking around Memorial to return a book. The lady who stopped me probably didn’t realize who she was asking when she stopped me. During the same trip I also helped a former coworker figure out how to use a scanner, so I was all over helping people. Yesss!

I was thinking the other day how nice it would be to wear a hijab sometimes.

So when I was in about 8th grade, I got this truly awful haircut.* She just basically cut my hair straight across and I think chopped some layers in, which made it sort of triangular. She also didn’t give me any advice about products I could use to make it behave. As a result, I was teased pretty regularly about this for the rest of the year, or at least that’s what it felt like. Between that and a hundred other bad haircuts I have had the fucks beaten out of me when it comes to my appearance. I give basically no fucks what people think of how I look now. Sometimes I get to the gym before I actually look at my face in the mirror and notice that my hair (owing to the amazing humidity) is going to eleven.

The one exception to my zero fucks policy comes from work. I want to look at least a little bit professional for work. And with the humidity as high as it has been lately, that has been a challenge. But women who wear hijabs don’t have to worry about that. They just look super together all the time.

It might also be handy if I were the type of person who got shouted at on the street. But I’m not.** I don’t exactly know why–I’ve always considered that I’m not that attractive, and now I’m kind of out of the age range for being shouted at, but also I tend to walk like I’m going to stab anyone who talks to me (my friends politely say I’m a bit intimidating to approach). So maybe that’s it.

Anyway, it turns out that if you ask a librarian an open-ended question like “Where are the books?” you may get more of a reply than you anticipated.

We’ll file this one under PN56.L48 L86 2013 for Literature (general)–Theory. Philosophy. Esthetics–Relation to and treatment of special elements, problems, and subjects–Other special–Topics, A-Z–Libraries.


If you missed my last comic about Hamlet and existentialism (it came out the same day DOMA came down, so no one saw it), it’s here. Since I wrote it, I got a sort of remote talking to about modern dress Shakespeare, and also B and I went to see Joss Whedon’s lovely new version of Much Ado about Nothing. So I will try to write a bit more of my thoughts about that. I will say my opinion has been softened somewhat. I’m not totally convinced, but I’m willing to be convinced.

I have a marathon coming up at the end of the week. Bread consumption is up. Circus consumption remains the same. The weird aches and pains that come with tapering are coming and going. Other than that I’m tired and don’t have much to say, so here are some pictures of Mom’s kittens. Click to embiggen if desired.

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kittens 003

kittens 008

* It turns out that many hairdressers don’t really know how to cut curly hair. I believe this is a remnant of racism in hairdresser training, because consider who typically has naturally curly hair: the Irish, Jews, and African Americans. Of course, the woman who cut my hair would never admit that she had no idea what she was doing. I got my first really good haircut about a year and a half ago. (That excludes the times my friends helped me out by buzzing it.)

** I’m actually a bit puzzled by this phenomenon, because I’ve read a lot of accounts from women who are. The best story I can muster is that when I was in Italy in 2003 someone shouted “bella!” at me. (Probably ironically?) Oh, the other day I was out running and a guy driving a truck shouted “woo.” I was at mile 9 of 10 and kind of dying, and also he was about a block down the street, so he could have been shouting at someone else.

Em learns to ski

A few weeks ago we were in Lake Tahoe. Last time we went on a ski trip, I tried to learn to snowboard. It was not a huge success, involving as it did a lot of falling down, crying, shouting, bruises, and eventually a migraine. This time I decided to learn to cross-country ski, something I’d not done in easily 20 years.

Like a graceful blue bird, Em descends the mountain.

Like a graceful blue bird, Em descends the mountain.

At one point, I asked the guy who was renting out skis to give me a brief overview of the trails. He was kind enough to point out good routes. One of them he said, “This one is very flat.”

It turns out “flat” is a relative term on a mountain.

I picked out a route, about 12 km round-trip, that was uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back. This let me tackle the problems of how to ski uphill and downhill one at a time, and I eventually got the hang of it. I went on to ski almost 20 km that day and gave myself a wicked blister. Anyway, I’m in love with skiing. I made a friend of mine go skiing with me at Elver Park here in Madison yesterday, and it was awesome.

I like ski trips because I get to do stuff like eat fancy food, drink fancy drinks, look at poorly proofed artwork, and think about how terrible the airport in Reno, NV is.
precious artwork

precious artwork2

Bryan was so impressed by the scare quotes on this sign he made me take a photo. I like a man who can get excited about inappropriate punctuation. That’s one of the reasons I married him.

drinks

menu

Reno, NV, you are a terrifyin

Reno, NV, you are a terrifying place.

Then we come home and I get to see dog again and feel more attached to reality instead of a jet-setting lifestyle.

For her part, dog is not overly attached to the ground.

For her part, dog is not overly attached to the ground.

My thesis proposal is done and handed in, so until I get some comments on it I’m in a bit of a lull. (Well, a lull that requires me to continue working all the time on various things.) I’m hoping to get caught up on some other projects–writing/drawing comics, blogging…My ankle and I have reached a détente, so I’m back to training. I managed eight miles on Friday, eleven on Saturday (plus skiing), then seven this morning, and I feel good. Tomorrow it’s back to the pool for a day off.

After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to take myself off Facebook for the nonce. Not totally–I’ll stick around to monitor the comments on comics and that sort of thing. But for a lot of reasons, I need to put some distance between me and FB for a while. Feel free to email me (ehlupton(AT)gmail(DOT)com) if you want to chat, or leave a comment here. I’d love to hear from you.

Em oi! #374: Winning

Chai Yo!

This conversation actually happened while we were in Thailand, and I should have uploaded it earlier but I didn’t. For reasons (primarily, I am engaged in a standoff [ha]with my right ankle and have been busy sulking). But the good news is that it is up now. The guy in the pictures is Andy, you can see him in the background of this picture. The woman is named Wanni–she was our cooking instructor, and she was amazing. Clicking on this link will take you to their website.

In the last panel, the banner says “Chaiyo!” which means “Hurrah.” But I figured you could guess that from context. At the time, I’d spent a lot of the trip feeling like I was struggling to make myself understood…and then conversation with Wanni had been so easy, I was just thrilled. And evidently so was she!

We’ll file this under GN367 .L86 2013, for Anthropology—Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology—Culture and cultural processes—Acculturation. Culture contact—Assimilation. The Chinese have a term for this too–they call it “Zhong guo hua [中国化]” or “Sinicization”–I believe it specifically refers to an outsider adopting Chinese cultural norms. The Thai…I was going to say they don’t have a word for becoming Thai, but they do– “Siwali” or “Civilized.”

So that’s interesting, I think.

Things have been quiet around here. In order to avoid a feeling of isolation while working on my thesis (easy to have, since I no longer have any courses), I’ve rejoined a local martial arts dojo. It is so much fun. And I am, despite being on a rather large dose of ibuprofen, very sore. Yesterday the animals had their teeth cleaned. Maya had to have a tooth extracted (she’d cracked it, maybe chewing on a rock or a bone) and Kali was a bit loopy from the anesthetic, so things are pretty calm (see photograph).

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Oh, the excitement.

Here are some other photos from the trip. This is still a tiny fraction of the total pictures I took, so I’ll try to find some more for next week. If you’re interested in more background information, some of these were taken at Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Doi Suthep in the area surrounding Chiang Mai City. Click to embiggen.
pink flowers

espresso con panna

espresso con panna

enhance your appetite

“Enhance your appetite.” I love this one. Also, I think the sugar packets hold more sugar than the ones here.

emily at wat chedi

Me at Wat Chedi Luang

bryan wanni emily maew

Left to right, B, Wanni, Em, and Wanni’s husband Maew.

altar wat chedi

Altar at Wat Chedi Luang

wat chedi

The chedi at Wat Chedi Luang.

Nagas at Wat Chedi Luang

Nagas at Wat Chedi Luang

maybe an orchid

many flowers

girl and naga

Girl and Naga, Wat Doi Suthep

flower

Em oi! #373: What We Talk About on Long Drives

Conversation omitted: "Quick, grab a baggie before the dog drops a vom!"

This was drawn from a conversation we had on our drive back to Madison on Xmas Day. I had the comic 80% done before we left for Thailand, but I didn’t manage to get the last two panels colored and the whole thing scanned until just now. I should add that I know Berkeley was really refuting Locke more than Descartes, but I understand the objections to Descartes much better, so I drew him.

This is hardly the first time I’ve touched on Berkeley’s philosophy in the comic. He has long been an obsession of mine, given that immaterialism (also called idealism) is so damn weird.

The Rumble in the Library

The gentleman with the wig there is Samuel Johnson. According to legend (and Boswell), Johnson had this to say about Berkeley:

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, ‘I refute it THUS.’1

Of course, Berkeley would not have accepted this as a refutation, because both the stone and Johnson’s foot exist in Johnson’s mind.
I belieeeeve...in the Czech Republic's existence...

Finally a comic dating from Ly’s tenure in the Czech Republic. If you happen to be an atheist or agnostic, Berkeley’s philosophy becomes very strange, because whose intellect is watching the entire world? It’s troubling. Having just come from Thailand, I suppose I’m pretty sure that it still exists, or at least I’ve got friends there who might tell me if it ceased to exist. But I can’t be sure.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll file these under B1348 .L86 2013B1348 .L86 2007, and B1348 .L86 2007b, for Philosophy (General)—Modern (1450/1600-)—By region or country—England. Ireland. Scotland. Wales—18th century—Individual philosophers—Berkeley, George, 1685-1753—Criticism and interpretation.


Yesterday we came back from Thailand. Yesterday was Friday, but we actually got on a plane in Chiang Mai at 17:30 on Thursday to fly to Bangkok. From Bangkok, at 23:30 we got on another plane and flew to Incheon airport in South Korea (a very nice but intensely baffling place). We’d all been up since about 7:00 on Thursday (although we dozed on the plane, it was that weird fugue sleep you slip into on an airplane), so when that plane landed we were a bit loopy.

We got breakfast. I took some photos:

B's strawberry cream cheese waffle

B’s strawberry cream cheese waffle

Sara's blueberry bagel. I think the other available flavors were "garlic" and "plane."

Sara’s blueberry bagel. I think the other available flavors were “garlic” and “plane.” When I saw the flavor list is when I began to suspect that something about Korea is a giant joke being played (on me, I guess?).

This was called "stick pie." It was crispy.

This was called “stick pie.” It was crispy.

Those are the only photos I took in the airport. I took lots of photos in Thailand, though (about 300 I guess). Here are a few:

Various Thai Fruits!

Various Thai Fruits!

ผัดพักบุงไฟแดง, or stir-fried morning glory. In Vietnamese, the plant is called "rau mung." (Please excuse my lack of diacritics.)

ผัดพักบุงไฟแดง, or stir-fried morning glory. In Vietnamese, the plant is called “rau mung.” (Please excuse my lack of diacritics.)

Sara makes a friend at the place we studied cooking.

Sara makes a friend at the place we studied cooking.

Cooking the morning glory with Maew's instruction.

Cooking the morning glory with Maew’s instruction.

I also took photos of wats, monks, that sort of thing. I’ll upload those later.

Anyway, I started training for my upcoming 50 km races this morning after I got up. The first is April 30th and it’s about 14 weeks away, which also means I have about 14 weeks until my birthday and until my THESIS has to be done and and and. So the 50k is really what I am focused on, since it is a lot less frightening. I thought running was going to be terrible because it is cold out (about 46 degrees colder than Chiang Mai was). But in fact I had a great run. I hit my planned tempo for the majority of the miles, had a runner’s high all day, and felt very strong. I stopped at 14.4 miles, but I could have gone much farther, I think. The only way it could have been better is if I’d remembered to bring water. Whoops.

Well this entry is already treatise-length, so I’ll leave off here. Hope you are all having a good winter/January!


1 Boswell, James. Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson. Abridged and edited, with an introduction by Charles Grosvenor Osgood. Project Gutenberg, 2006. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1564/1564-h/1564-h.htm. 12 January 2013.

Flowers from Mormon Central

I took this picture at the Mormon Holy See in SLC a few weeks ago. Tonight my brother Daniel helped walk me through the process of making it “less red” (per B’s request). I think it looks pretty good now.

Say what you will about the Mormons (and I’m sure you will), they certainly have some nice gardens in Temple Square.