Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Badwater ultra marathon

It's getting to be that time of year again where I scare myself with stories of races like the Western States 100 and the Badwater race across Death Valley, both in California.

I saw the article below posted to runningmania.com and that got the cycle going again for me this year. My measly miles don't feel so bad when I consider what others do for training. I'm out the door on a coolish cracking clear day for my run.


A long, hot run
...Guelph man earns spot in ultramarathon

June 30, 2009
Tony Saxon
Record news services


Geoff Linton went looking for the next challenge and found it on a 135-mile stretch of sun-baked Nevada nowhere.

In two weeks, the 47-year-old Guelph resident will take part in the Badwater Ultramarathon -- a 217-kilometre race that proudly boasts it "starts in hell" and, quite frankly, doesn't get much better. A two-day run on a stretch of highway that starts 85 metres below sea level, goes through barren desert where daytime temperatures hover in the 51 Celsius range, and ends with a 15-km climb up the side of a mountain.

"They tell you to run on the white lines of the road so that your shoes don't melt," Linton said.

One question: Is he crazy?

"I get that a lot," Linton says with a chuckle. "But this is it. This race is the Mecca for ultra-marathoners. I've done 22 ultras (100-mile races) and I was looking for the next challenge. It's really about seeing the boundaries of what your body and what your mind can do.

"It's almost a spiritual experience."

Hamilton's John Rennison ran the race in 2007, finishing in 37 1/2 hours.

"The hardest part is that coming from Canada, you just don't deal with that kind of heat. It's difficult to prepare," Rennison said.

Part of Rennison's training involved wrapping himself in fleece and a tuque on hot days, as well as jacking up the car heat every time he drove.

Linton has gone a step further, installing a sauna in his garage and pulling in a stationary bike where he goes for hour-long rides several times a week.

Linton, a married father who runs Inbox Marketer, an email marketing company, is a lifelong runner. He ran his first 100-mile race in 2000 and "was hooked."

"The crazier the run, the better the race for me," Linton said.

Just getting into the Badwater Ultramarathon, which was listed by National Geographic magazine as the world's toughest race, is almost as hard as running it.

Runners from around the world apply and must prove they are worthy. Having worked as a crew member for another runner at Badwater in the past helps your cause. This year there are 78 runners -- 17 of them women -- ranging in age from 19 to 67 and representing 17 countries. Linton will be one of 38 first-timers.

Linton has worked as a crew member for other runners, including Rennison, the past two years. His own crew this year includes fellow Guelph ultra-marathoner Luke Hohenadel, who will occasionally run beside Linton to help with pacing, as well as supplying support from a car.

The race begins July 13 in Badwater, Death Valley, Nev. It ends between 22 and 60 hours later, depending on your speed, at Mt. Whitney Portal, Nev.

There is no prize money, just the "Badwater belt buckle" for those finishing in less than 48 hours.

"It's such an extreme environment," said Linton, who once lived in Africa. "I've lived in heat before, but it was nothing like this."

Saturday, June 27, 2009


The Hang drum is new to me and it is relatively new to the drumming world from what I gather. It's a Swiss contribution to the development of the Jamaican steel drum. I hadn't been aware of it until this morning, but am now captivated.

This is some of the sweetest drumming I've ever heard.

I've been exercising my curiosity about rhythm with a dejembe drum graciously left behind for our enjoyment by Naomi, a friend of Mighty's when they were out for the father's day weekend. Suffice it to say that I'm still a very white guy and need work on my rhythm, but that's what youtube is for, maybe.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rural life and the small foot print

It's no wonder more people don't revel in a bush bound life. We have two neighbours and they live a 2.5km apart. We live with resident black bears and when the summer heat comes we see a lot of bugs.

In the early spring it often looks like we will be carried away by mosquitoes when the heat comes, but fortunately for everyone here that rarely happens. We live on very sandy soil with large gravel deposits strewn around the area for good measure. Drainage is usually fairly good so the mozzies don't have the best kick at getting too carried away. This spring was scary, with thick mats of larva in all the standing water, but a little heat and wind and the larva and late tadpoles just ran out of places to become more themselves.

A little dry land never stops the hatch though. As sure as the swallows will dance past my nose as I come in and out of the barn, they will have something to eat here if it's hot.

The fire flies began to hatch about ten days ago and tonight they fill the night air with their magic. We are surrounded by forest, but the yard is open to the east and south for about 300 meters and about 75 meters out to the barn. That leaves a lot of area to observe the little lights of summer flashing on and off randomly. It's a bit like watching a fire for me in that I take a long time to tire of the entertainment. I look forward to the fire flies every year and gratefully put up with the other less attractive hatchlings.

Yesterday there were a few longish beatles that had quite a robotic stuttering walk as they made their way around the computer. Today I tossed a classic looking pitch black 2cm beatle out of the bottom of the laundry basket. As I sit here there are several bugs the kids always called "crunch beatles" roaming the ceiling. A hatch of very small "no seeum" type things are congregating like live dust above the lamp. The outside window pane is a wash in variety with moths and other winged insects.

It's sometimes less than pleasant to live where humans don't dominate, but for me it beats the smell of the city every time.

People often comment to me that they believe it's quiet where they live. I always want to tell them that if it doesn't roar back in your ears like a conch shell will if you listen, it's not as quiet as it can be.

The coyotes were dancing behind the barn the other night and Tommy dog took them on. When he first came, he was very timid. Now he's the bravest dog we've had. I like what my current dogs are mirroring back to me. I listened to him chase them to the river and wondered whether he knew how vulnerable he was against a pack like that, but maybe it's me that's ignorant of the facts. He looks so beaten up now with one cloudy eye, but he's sure gotten his fire back in spades if he's chasing packs of coyotes. I'm very happy to still have him around. Heck. I'm happy I'm still around.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bonnie checks in

Finally some images from Grasslands National Park. Some of the pictures (linked in the title) made me miss this girl very suddenly. I feel a road trip coming on.


Prairie Day

Looking to get out of the city and into a day of rural fun and education? I've been involved in a couple of these and they are great. I got this information in an email last week. Even if you can't make it for Prairie Day, the trails give access to some really cool prairie habitat. If you book a group of ten or so they'll provide a guide. On Prairie Day you won't want for resources. Watch for Laura, she is my favourite biologist. Doesn't everyone have one? Laura also holds outstandingly good wild edible workshops, but everyone should come to the Prairie Day anyway.

Here's a link to Laura's wilderness workshops. I can't find the wild edibles link. It must be time to sleep soon. Here's a link to the archive for one of my experiences with Laura's wild edibles workshop. Here's her facebook group page.

It's just good fun with a lot of interesting talks on various aspects of the flora and fauna no matter what you sign up for.

I got the poster for Prairie Day as a pdf file. If anyone wants it, please say so and I can email it to you.


Hi there,
We hope you can help us spread the word about Prairie Day, taking place on
Saturday, August 8th! This is also the 20th Anniversary of the
establishment of the Preserve and there will be a few evening activities as
well as a supper at the Gardenton Park!

Please tack up a copy our the Prairie Day poster (see attachment) in your
coffee room, neighbourhood grocery store, etc. Or forward it to family,
friends and co-workers who might be interested in attending.

Hope to see you on August 8th,
Christie, Laura and Erin
Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve
Gardenton, MB
Ph. 1-204-425-3229
E-mail. tgpphq@mts.net

Saturday, June 20, 2009

2.4kg of fine wool fibre

Late Edit - It's not wool. So sad. Blanket material at best. Bah.


Yum. Wool! I've dipped my toe in the knitters basket and found counting a challenge. To honour this bountiful gift I will do what I can.

Thank-you Pam, for leading the purge and thank-you Karen and Steve for following suit. Thank-you Mum for telling stories of Scottish maidens pulling their cardigans through wedding rings and then scaring me with cardigans. Thanks to aunt Rita for embedding the clatter of knitting needles into my soul.

The grey is very fine and my imagination is spinning with ideas.

The burgundy is brilliant for sweater material.

The pink will no doubt suit Boo just fine. Oh my, my.

The basket contents

Close up of the burgundy

Saturday morning

What a neighbourhood. Catching jack fish ten minutes from home as egrets pass over head and loons call to assure me of our rural status. Tannin rich water, azure sky and the youthful company of Snoot all made for a great way to begin the day. That kid could fish every day all day without complaint.

Came home and went for a run and had only two cars pass me, but it was midday and that's the busy season. Mighty was washing the floors for Mum and Snoot jumped on the mower to knock back the evergreen grass lawn. Mighty's friend N. provides humour and smiles with popcorn clouds over head.

The night before the marathon means a feast of carbohydrates with the Running Mania crew! Someday I'll join them on Fathers day for 26.2 .

With the wood out of the way I've been enjoying getting back on the road and logging my miles again. I have a plan. First up will be to crack the one hour 10km distance on a race day.

The girls are off to St. Malo beach which is ten minutes from home. What a neighbourhood.
Keep on the sunny side...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Student carnival day at PDC

I participated in a carnival at an arena filled with 20 some odd stations for about 250 francophone kids to celebrate life, love and community yesterday where PU teaches. What a display of good will and spirit it was. It was a lot of fun to be surrounded by such positive kids and crew.

I took a broad cross section of critters for big kids and small to handle and enjoy. It was a big hit. Many of the kids remembered my presentation to the high school last year and welcomed us warmly. PU helped me out as Snoot had exams. Another excuse to spend some recreational time with PU never hurts, especially in June when we seem to see very little of each other.

I had a male tarantula that put on a very good show walking constantly along, around and up my hands and arms for a lot of the afternoon. Usually they aren't nearly so active.

We were swamped with kids for much of our time there. It was a bit of a gong show trying to keep tabs on all the animals to ensure they didn't go off with some of the kids for a show and tell around the carnival, but we managed. Great fun it was.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

running neti pot

I used the neti pot to pour through another liter of isotonic solution through my head and it leaves me feeling very good. This time I did it just before I ran today and whoa what a wonderful feeling it is to run with a clear head.

Once I'm clear of the drainage, it feels mildly menthol inside my head or something like that. I really like that feeling now. On the way into the city yesterday I did deep breathing for the entire long drive in. I can't get enough of the sensation that I'm clear. Lovely.

J.P. Hoe's Prom night at the Park Theatre

We had a ball at this thing. J.P. has so much positive energy that it was impossible to sulk. We had a great time with our costumes and my jacket fit like a glove.

The music was good and the company was great. It's was Brenda's birthday so about 20 or so joined in together to join the fun at this show. Lots of cheap high school jokes. I figured that I wasn't reverend of the process the first time so I just went with what felt good instead of wearing a powder blue poly suit of death. I had way more fun with it than I expected.


Socks, sandals and then hair

It's little wonder that I have come to love Linux. With this funny entry on socks and sandals and with Linus Torvalds at the helm how can I go wrong? I used to be far more vocal on many points of fashion, but I'm more of a peasant now and likely always was at heart. All is right with my socks and... hair. Hair is another popular taboo and I'm a beast with more than my fair share.

"I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes."
Henry David Thoreau

Snoot has boys in her class waxing their entire bodies at sixteen years old. We are a fat culture if these issues are what consume us. Scary.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The tadpoles better hurry or the water will be gone before they've got their legs under them. Snoot cut the grass this morning and made inroads into more of the swampy area south of the shop.

The area is mostly covered in slimy pond scum with a little open water still on showing. The open water puddles were teaming with activity today. The tadpoles are beginning to require a breath of air much more frequently now and there were many poking their noses up above the waters surface while we watched. I can't imagine what a factory for frogs our yard must be. The area is squirming with life everywhere you care to look.

I saw a very fat plains garter snake today that was obviously enjoying plenty of easy meals of frogs and almost frogs.

I couldn't get to a camera to get a shot of the one I saw today. I picked the snake up and it defecated with great enthusiasm, swinging it's tail all over trying to spray it around as much as possible. I managed to stay clear of the mess, but the dogs were onto it in no time so I let it slip back under the board walk across the trench and back to safety instead of taking the photo opp.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nasal irrigation day two

Nasal irrigation has captured my curiosity. Today I began on my left side just because I had done my right side first yesterday. I wonder what long time practitioners prefer in their technique?

Do they flood one side at a time or do they alternate? What subtle variations in head position do to the process? It's the middle of the first over load of spring pollen and my head is more clear now than it usually would be in the off season. Both sides of my head are open and clear. It feels foreign, but I hope to make it the norm.

I can imagine that a daily personal hygiene routine that included nasal irrigation would make it very difficult for virus and bacteria to become established with any vigour up there in the lost caves in my head. I'm curious about how it's going to feel to run now. I might have to do that today in the heat. Singing was certainly better today. I had a hold of some low notes that have been illusive until now.

Time to trap some pocket gophers.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Neti Pot

The temperature is up to seasonal values and the bugs are rattling off the screens tonight. The low tonight is supposed to be 17C which seems like such a luxury this year.

I uncovered the mower the other day and there were places where pollen had collected like little sand wave ripples. Temperatures in the summer range and a stunted spring bloom has the forest belching forth with propogationary (liberties are mine to take damn it!) dances of all kinds. My sinuses are beginning, finally, to show the signs of spring.

I've been singing a lot and trying like crazy to learn something about that. With limited range and even less talent, there hasn't been a shortage of dials to fiddle with. I've been listening intently to the resonance in my own body and in others, as I try to weasel a little more range and tone out of my own larynx.

One of the wonderful benefits of running has been to not have trouble with sinus infections and the frustrations of ineffective antibiotic treatments. My doctor once told me that because of the lack of blood flow, it's often frustrating to treat sinusitis with antibiotics. By running and the resulting heating up of my head, lets things drain much more naturally, even when the allergy season puts a lot of stress on that area, but it can always be better.

I was given a neti pot this winter and used it for fun through the holiday with others giggling and laughing at the odd sensations the process brought with it. One of the things I really didn't like about it at the time, was the quality of the salt that came with the pot.

I don't know what I was thinking, but I surely wasn't thinking very clearly when I agreed to put that crap in my head. Thank-you China and your shite for quality control. I suppose the blame should be placed on our leaner governmental controls. The salt looked more like ground potash in hind sight, but that link didn't come to me until the after effects were settling in. The whole thing put me off and it's taken a while to venture back to a more controlled trial.

This morning I read a useful Wikipedia entry on nasal irrigation that listed a home recipe for an isotonic solution suitable for use with a neti pot. The article was quite positive about the benefits of the process. My Grampa Nicholson used to use this technique although I'm not certain of the details of how and why, but thus, it's not entirely foreign to me.

I put a liter of isotonic solution through my head today. I bet it helps my snoring. My left side is still clear. I love the new recipe for the solution. It's 5ml of pickling salt and 5ml of baking soda dissolved in 500ml of warm sterile water. It's fantastic once all the pouring, dripping, spraying, blowing, sneezing, and blowing and sneezing and blowing and sneezing are over with. It only took me a couple of hours to clear up from the procedure.

If I had not read the Wiki entry I may well have never taken the time to observe and learn how to best do this irrigation of the head cavities. How strange it seems at first. It feels like what I imagine someone new to brushing ones teeth must feel about their newly cleaned mouth at first try. Maybe some don't use mouth wash or a face cloth or whatever, but this feels just like something entirely desirable to add to the personal hygiene habits today. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

My head rings a little better now when I sing. Cool beans.

I'm all warmed up and it's just like summer. Be still my beating heart. Hopefully I'll feel even more confidence later and get all warmed up and it really will be summer! My faith has been shaken this spring.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sense about Science

Please think:

I don't think it's just my rich inner life indicating that history is repeating itself. Self censorship is in full swing. What would life be like lived with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blinders">blinders? Fascists can't be far behind. I suppose if you only watch TV News and listen to talk radio one might never even notice. Long live free thinking speech and programs like The Current on CBC Radio, http://www.chomsky.info/ ">Noam Chomsky and the internet.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_v468ptuXw">Sunshine, lolly pops and rainbows everywhere...

"For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can't readily accept the God formula, the big answers don't remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us. "
Charles Bukowski

I suppose more sleep is the best remedy. I'll get onto that. Now I want to make soft pretzels tomorrow and not bother with work. I'm such a simple soul.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tender latissimus dorsi splits wood again

The level of physical demand I endure to complete the splitting of the firewood has necessitated a broad neglect of my running adventures. If I play my cards right I can be done splitting with one easy day. More rain is in the forecast, but gratefully, for my needs, the temperature remains cool.

I think I've cut more than I did last year, but I won't know until it's all stacked. I love the look of that grand pile, but I'm seriously choked that I was so dim as to pile the stove lengths in a low spot. I wasn't thinking. When the snow melted the support for the three, twenty foot stacks went away and they all toppled over into the spring run off. Since then it's been raining with another ten to twenty centimeters predicted for tomorrow.

Since the melt I've had to wear rubber boots back where I was cutting and today I was splitting while standing in mud up to my ankles. I had to walk through water half way up my industrial grade rubber boots to get to the stove lengths. It's disheartening to have put so much energy into cutting it all up before the sap began to run, only to have it drink up even more water than the sap would have provided while it stews in the pond.

It's not really a pond. My frustration is showing. It's actually the track from the bulldozer that we had in to fight a fire several years ago.

Everything is sodden and cold. The garden is now planted, but we'll need some heat to get things to germinate. The truck was parked in it's normal place by the shop and it sunk into the lawn so far I had to have a friend help me pull it out with a four wheel drive. The basement is still running like a babbling brook as any drain tile protection is redundant at this point. The water table is very higher than the basement floor.

In drought years of course we are grateful not to be as dry here as some others close to us are, but just now it would be nice to give the sump pumps a rest for a while at least.

The road I've made to get into the firewood is swamp now. Or most of it is at least. Still no signs of significant mosquito infestation or ticks. Two days in the bush and two ticks. That's unheard of. I'm so grateful to only have the water to contend with and not the bugs. It's made the "hurry up" portion of the firewood project much more tolerable than it would be if I was eating mozzies while working out there. They'll come, but it'll all be done before that.

My body feels great. I haven't taken on so much strength work since I began my running as I'm doing now. The recovery times seem reasonable to me. Last weekend I was a little slow for a couple of days, but that effort made this weekend possible for back to back heavy days.

I hope my brain doesn't turn to mush like it did after last weekends work binge. I was down right dopey through the day after. I love endorphins. They are wickedly addictive. I suspect that all this heavy work with my heart pounding out of my chest is going to influence how I train for running when I get back to that. I've been focusing on endurance, but I think my endurance is proving to be quite well developed at this point. I'm tempted to push some of the strength elements when I focus on racing again. I still need to get a 10km time under an hour so I can begin hounding a two hour half marathon. I see a marathon in my future.

Oil filter paper test

I'm a big believer in changing oil often and regularly. I've run high mileage cars for the last twenty years and had opportunity to observe some characteristics about engine oil behaviour.

Unigrade is often specifided for heavy duty applications so something that might go into a cement truck might be straight 50 weight oil as opposed to a something like a 20w/50w blend. When a car starts to wear I'll move from a milti grade oil to a mono grade and that's worked well for me.
Another little irritant is that I can't seem to be convinced that filters need to come out every time the oil is changed.

I left a filter in for ages and challenged my mechanic to prove his point. Tonight I took it apart to help make my part and I learned one thing for sure. Using a great filter is a great idea. One that's completely supported the paper filter. Some do and some don't. Canadian Tire filters are lame. Fram filters are lame. Mopar filters rock the house. The dirt in the paper was gritty like sand. Scary, that.

I cut this filter open and found about what I had expected to find. One, that there was nothing even close to enough dirt to begin to restrict flow or even to provide resistance to the oil flow. The second thing I learnt was that what dirt was caught in the filter was nasty looking grit. Definitely something I want my filter to pick up.

Another evening chalked up to R&D.

The full set of images in this series:

Cropped example from the set linked above.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

32mm cabinet making 101

38 separate pieces of material not counting for the hardware, for this vanity. Sheesh. Now I just have to negotiate my way around some big sheets of melamine to see where I've made the mistakes. Waste will ensue I'm certain.

I phoned C.T.'s and asked the length and width of a 16mm sheet of melamine and they gave me some goofy measurements that don't jive with anything metric or imperial. I'll have to dance around the phone book or make a run to St. Malo with a tape in hand.

The learning curve is so much fun when one thinks one is on the other (downhill) side of it. All that remains is to make the mess.

The European style of construction is kind of cool, and wow is it tight on tolerances. Right down to the millimeter. I think I've found a home.

I'm sure there are errors in my layout, but it's the best I can do for a first attempt. I'm beyond trying to optimize the cutting schedule/layout so I'm sure I'll get into a second sheet before necessary, but that will be OK. It's not like there is a shortage of places to put cabinets here and that was the idea of learning this system anyway.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Futility Closet - rapid temperature changes

Futility Closet - Trivium

The fastest temperature drop in history occurred in Rapid City, S.D., when the mercury plunged 47°F (26°C) in 5 minutes on Jan. 10, 1911.

Interestingly, the fastest temperature rise in history occurred in … Rapid City, S.D, 32 years later, when it jumped 49°F (27°C) in 2 minutes on Jan. 22, 1943.


This was just too cool not to share. We aren't that far from Rapid City in the big ship of things and weather is a constant and potent force here. People that don't have to contend with it often shake their heads at prairie folk and their interest in the weather, but I'm one of those flatlanders that loves all things super natural. The weather here certainly qualifies in that catagory frequently.

River trip

The young are trying to kill me again. I'm helping guide a few people down the Roseau river in flood. Should be fun. The last time I ran this river I lost a wedding ring. The fun factor on the run was huge.

This image is taken from our place.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Steaming bulls

I was crying for want of a camera tonight. Ray phoned to say that he had a fancy schmancy new GPS from work that he wanted to play with. He guessed correctly in wondering whether I'd be interested in trying to mark a line through the bush to scout access to the closest wifi tower to the south east.

It was a brilliant evening to wander around outside. Clear and cool, but the crystal clean air made up for the coolness. It was a great temperature for a walk about even if it was only about 12C.

For a number of unimportant reasons I drove Ray home after we had our fun with the GPS. The light at that time was superb. Film makers and photographers light with lots of warm rich red tones as the sun slowly sank into the western horizon.

The trees are still leafing out so the colour of the forest isn't the dark green of a mature summer forest, but the sharp light green of new shiny leaves. The contrast of the colours and light play were remarkable.

When we turned to head east to the highway we passed a quarter section of pasture that is mostly brush with an open stretch of grass maybe 100 meters wide along that part of the road. Cattle had been recently released onto the new pasture and it all looked quite idyllic. Standing in the midst of a herd of about 50 widely spaced cattle were two bulls standing forehead to forehead, steam rising off them both like some kind of exotic fog machine. I could have found many different ways to consume the remaining light with a camera there. Will I never learn to always carry a camera? Likely not. Old dogs, new tricks...

There was wild life everywhere it seemed today. Raccoons, rabbits, marsh pumps, turkeys, roughed grouse and more were in attendance. What a neighbourhood. Too bad it doesn't come with easier access to broad band access, but then we would likely have cell coverage too if that happened and that would completely spoil the fun now wouldn't it?
No regrets...

Broken Archive Links

Pam pointed out to me that the links in the archive here are messed up after the transfer from Live journal. The titles are listed and reasonably useful for related content I think, but there is no apparent way to link back to most of them without loading that entire month of posts. So the links to most individual posts are linked to the latest post which is less then helpful if that's not what you're after.

The individual links work fine through April 2006, but the rest are mostly borked. Until I figure out how to fix it, please load groups of pages you may be interested in by month from the archive listings. Sorry for the bother. I knew it was too painless to make the move here and not have to pay with some blood somewhere along the line.

Thanks for your patience, and thanks very much for pointing this out Pam. I had checked the early posts, but not every listing. Dang!