Friday, September 27, 2013

Post-Modern Java Man

You're looking into the deep past of a bygone industrial age of the 1920s. This is a Universal Grinder. They came in several sizes, and promised to make your life amazing and easy in so many ways.

The 1994 LA Earthquake came roaring out of the ground, the freight train from hell on January 17, 1994, at 04:31. Half the city lost gas and power. When I made it home from my girlfriend's just after dawn, my apartment was still standing. Gas, but no power. I was supposed to go to work, but that didn't happen. Jangled and suddenly very sleepy, I fell into a deep nap. 

Several hours later, I'm kind-of awake. Aftershocks are still rumbling through the city. I'd made a triple-espresso. Sitting at my kitchen table, half-awake, and watching my coffee cup dancing slowly around the table. I began to think—OK, I've got a camp-stove, Bialetti pots, water, coffee...what would happen if I didn't have any beans ground? Holy shit!

Being a swap-meet and flea-market devotee, I looked for hand-grinders. And in true swap-meet fashion, began seeing them. Then it was looking for complete blade sets. Eventually I found them— cutter blades what would grind from coarse to exceedingly fine. Score! Now I can grind espresso.

The grinders were dormant for a long time. Then a friend gave me a 2lb bag of roasted beans. So I clamped it to my Stanley folding work-bench, positioned the baking sheet under the outfeed, and set to work. Took about 10 minutes to grind about a pound. And it reminded me how much time I spend at a keyboard.

Twenty-Third Psalm For Hipsters

The Dude is a Hipster; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down at Coachella
He leadeth me beside the fixies,
He restoreth my white-boy soul
He loadeth me in the tats of righteousness for His name' sake, and shit

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of norm,
I will fear no evil: For thou DJs are with me;
Thy 'pod and 5-bars, they comfort me.
Thou preparest kombucha before me in the presence of whatever;
Thou anointest my head with kale; My sideburns runneth over.

Surely PBR and 420 shall follow me all the daze of my life,
and I'll hang out in the House of the Hip, whenever.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Once And Future Baldy Peaks 50k

Luis Escobar getting his sponsored-ass kicked on the first pass over Baldy, 2004. One more to go. In 2012 he repaid the debt by calling me "the worst SOB RD anywhere" when I crossed the BTR50k finish line. He learned well.

Relevant Race History: 1988-2004

"A mildly disturbing event with a cult-like atmosphere" —Craig Holloway
Originated by John Davis, with his sons Ken and Stan. With the artistry, precision and eye to maximal sensory overload that can only come from the mind of an aerospace engineer (John) and a classically-trained musician (Ken) the race was born. Stan provided SysOps support.

Joe Franko adds that "Actually, as I recall, the credit should go to John's son Ken, who laid out the course as part of a college project at Cal Poly, Pomona. We were students together then. He was an undergraduate in mathematics and I a graduate student." So who said that science, math and pain don't mix?

The Inaugural "Zero-eth" Baldy Peaks was run as a trial effort in December 1988. There was no snow that month on top of Baldy. When the day was ended they all came home and Phyllis Davis made the lads dinner. Phyllis was a key element of the race that ended only with her sudden and untimely death in December 2000. She was missed by all of us.
All of your joy and delight on race day is thanks to Davis pere et fils. Be not stingy in your praises and hosannas.

The first official Baldy Peaks 50k was run in September 1989. The race has had a peripatetic presentation date over the years, hovering between mid July and late October--dodging the various weather and ultra-event bullets.

John decided to retire the race after the 2000 presentation. At this point Andy and Larry, the current RDs took it over and RD'd it until 2004. Incidentally, running the race is a psychic prerequisite for being a Race Director.

Ken Davis has since left the state to pursue a life that does not include Mt Baldy. Stan is our Hero Aid Station Dude at the Notch. John is The Ham Radio God, Emeritus.

The Race has gone into hibernation; a combination of HP Lovecraft and surly, Pall-Mall smoking Big Horn Sheep taking bets on the mountain somewhere.

And so it goes.


32.14 Miles. Two unequal loops with one ear. 10,775 ft climb..10,775 ft of descent. Main course landmarks are Ice House Canyon, Baldy Village, Bear Canyon, West Baldy, Baldy, Baldy Notch, Manker Flats, Sierra Club Cabin, Baldy, Notch, Thunder Mountain, Notch, Manker, Ice House Canyon. Refer to the topo map for reference.


We saw the rising monetization of ultras early in 2001, and frankly, we thought it was bullshit. So we decided to give Big Cash Prizes. We promised lots of zeroes. With bitchin' little commas in between them.
100 Million dinars, buckaroo.

But we were fair. The winner of the 2004 Race, got a laminated Japanese-Occupied Phillipines $1 bill. He looked at us in complete disbelief. Another Indian gentleman, now deceased, got a fistful of elderly Indian rupee notes. He practically wept, because they reminded him of his childhood in Madras.


Some lucky winner is quaffing ale from these beauties.

Literary Achievement: The Baldy Haikus

Baldy Peaks 2004: Haiku Standouts

This was the inaugural year for the Baldy Peaks 50k Haiku Köntest. With the dedicated help of our volunteers, Austin Grissom being the standout, runners pushed themselves to new heights of Artistical Expression. Were they inspired by the Baldy Muse? Or was it the sheer delight of being holistically hammered in Gawd's Creation? 

Read for yourself.


Poetry Slam Winner

Aldy Baldy on my mind
Had to come hop her one more time
Her trails were tough
She’s hard
Lordy, Lordy I’m fucking ‘tard (tired)
I think next year I’ll have to pass
Good ol’ Baldy will have to
Kiss my ass.
Josh Miller

Best Traditional Haiku

My feet bloody stumps
But tape them blisters real good
And I can go on.
Jennifer Evans

Best Conemporary Haiku

Sixteen lizards
To the Notch
I peed on my leg.
Mary Campilongo

From an "anonymous” volunteer

Enchanting Mountains
Adventure pass melts on dash
Parabolic Mirr’rs

Red ribbons went by
Time moves in pine needles green
Feet fly, get up twice
Michael Massoud

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Finding Shit Out

Uplifting Social Media Meme
An essential part of learning is finding shit out. Seems pretty obvious, but WTF—its not quite like getting married or invading Iraq.

I did my first 50mi 90 days after my first 50k—and had my head handed to me on a plate. I finished, but holy hell. My advice on when and how to do a 50miler is given with this knowledge. Your mileage may vary. Just one of my control issues, but you'll figure your own shit out. Or not.

All this is a different order of business than charging people money to run 25 miles per week and drag a tire while telling them its gonna get them to the finish line in an ultra, especially a 100-mile. There are people who do that, and should be flogged.

Pinoy fun-hogs running the Hollywood Half with a surfboard and climbing rack, plus the Lunas.
Somebody's gotta do it.

I'd gotten marathons cold-wired well before I even considered a 50k. My then-training level gave me 3-4 marathons a year. But I was getting bored. I did my first 50k at the long-gone Baldy Peaks 50k, and I got un-bored. I also learned that running from Zuma Beach to County Line did not constitute altitude training, despite forays up into the Santa Monica Mts up the Zuma Motorway and so on.

The jump from 50k to 50mile

Think about your first 50-miler while executing the 50k properly. Rinse and repeat. Or, lose your mind and go off the rails entirely. It works in the movies!

When I transitioned from 50k to 50mi, I was already running 60mpw. I still got my ass kicked. Because I wasn't out there long enough on the long runs, that's why. But getting my ass kicked on my first 50 [Avalon Benefit 50, 10:30, thank you very much] proved to me that my training was sorely inadequate to the task ahead of me. And I got very serious about mountain time after that.

So when I read crack-smoking, lo-mileage, unicorn-poop cupcake-frosting running speculations from clearly ill-informed sources, I get a little edgy. And then I become the Brand Ambassador for Whoop-Ass. This goes back to my first marathon, where I trained out of a book that was all of the above. Here, read the review: 
"How to Run Your First Marathon" is a cruel hoax in a breezy, fun, gosh-its-gonna-be-fun style. I bought this book in 1985, when I was training for my first marathon, Los Angeles 1986. It promised a bunch of things, namely "don't worry too much about distance, run for time". That is perfect barney-bait.
By the time I was at 20 miles, I'd begun to hate the day I'd imagined that the author knew what he was talking about. OK, I finished--walked the last 2-1/2 miles to a 3:55. After I was able to think about marathons again, I found Joe Henderson's "Run Long" book. It had everything this breezy pamphlet did not. I trained out of Henderson's until 1992, then ran with Jim O'Brien's track club at Cal Tech.
Subsequently I went on to finish over 25 marathons, before getting into ultras [50k on up to 100-miles]. I cannot in all honesty or good conscience recommend this book to anyone, unless its for dilettante voyeurism. It is ornamental, and worthless.

back to ultralandia

If your longest training runs are less than 25mi, you are in Sore Delusion Land. Kid you not. Butt! Seriously [as Uncle Howie would say]—those of you who think I'm blowing smoke, give it your best shot on a dainty lo-mileage workout. Let us know what its like when you're pushing on your quads at 35mi while people you never met are charging on past you. Its an eye-opener for sure.

One size does not fit all. My point is that typical homeostasis will dictate a comfort level well below optimal training necessities.

Finally,  the soup we all swim in is apps, keystrokes, and re-sets if something goes off the rails. Ultras are not like this. They are intensely analog endeavors. You cannot fast-forward to the game-highlights here. There are a seemingly-diminishing number of people who will do their goddamned homework. There is no patience for the process. A cursory survey of visual slush on social media is all of the Uplifting Bullshit Meme

Miracles can happen, but its a wide curving ramp up to the killing floor. Now go and have some fun with that.