April 22, 2011

Music on the Mind

I'm often reminded how much music influences my mood, thoughts, even my perspective.  I remember when I was in college and I changed my major because of music.  I won't go into detail for fear of reprisal by big brother but I owe it to the Clash, more specifically Joe Strummer, who often sang about a world of injustices, cataclysmic idealism and even  misfit youths.  

Now, thanks to the Music Genome Project, I can stream music into my brain like DNA from my saliva, or electrodes from my synapse. I love music, yet I’m not sure about the technology that now controls it.  Don't get me wrong.  I stream Pandora with the best of 'em, especially on long runs over several hours when I'm going it alone.  I should be rejoicing in the made-for-me-random rhythms it throws down on my plate.  Hell, I lap it up like a pig at a trough. 

But there is a subtle, albeit sinister, doubt lodged somewhere deep in my stubborn cortex.  Is music made to be streamed at the touch of the finger to an "I" this or an "I" that?  Is there any magic lost when you can hear any tune, anywhere, anytime, with anybody doing anything for any reason? Listening to music used be like playing Russian Roulette with adrenalin.  You never knew where or when you would hear a song that would send a surge through your limbic system.  Now music is like picking up a prescription from Rite Aid.  Need a surge of aggression?  Dial Rhapsody for The Chrystal Method. Melancholy?  Type in System of a Down.

Call it Orwellian paranoia, but sometimes I miss my RCA turntable that used to play Sandinista only so loud before the speakers nearly burst from Paul Simonon's heavy base beat.  I know I'm aging myself kids, but that memory is only blurred by the Schlitz Malt Liquor talls that accompanied it.

Excuse the rant folks, it's just a Rebel's Waltz.

April 17, 2011

When A Tick Was Sucking My Blood

Have you ever run through tall grass only to have a blood feeding parasite attach itself to your skin?  You don’t realize it because it inserts its chelicerae (cutting mandibles) and hypostome (feeding tube) into the skin with little notice. The feeding tube is covered with recurved teeth so the bastard puts a vice grip on your flesh.

I had the pleasure of this experience today!  I only found the tick while I was taking a very rare post-run shower.  I was scrubbing my legs (again a rare occurance) and there it was on my hand!  I flung the mandible laden creature to the shower floor.  I watched it scurry aimlessly in a pool of shower borne suds.  Then I quickly captured it in a plastic container I normally use for Succeed tabs.

I’ve been warned about ticks for years. Stay out of the grass or else! Well today Rob M and Bino joined me for a run through some pretty tall grass. Nearly 30 miles of it.  At one point when we were descending Rattlesnake Ridge in El Moro the trail was not even visible for over a mile.  As we ran through this narrow, rock ridden single track, unable to see the ground beneath our soles, we were like banshees descending into the depths of an arachnid hell.  Then Bino moaned.  After two ankle rolls under this grass covered minefield he’d had enough. But we continued down, into the breach.

The biggest fear of a tick isn’t the blood it sucks from your veins.  Or the teeth it lodges into your flesh. The biggest fear of a tick is the disease it injects into your body.  Ten human infections are known to come from ticks. Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Babesiosis.  Tularemia.  Lymes disease.  Like the menu?  You better, ‘cause it’s made to order for exploring runners.

If there is any silver in this lining it isn’t the thread of disease these critters spread, and it isn’t the misery they sling at us outdoorsmen.  It’s that the disease can be detected and treated.  My biggest fear of ticks is Lymes disease. This debilitating, life altering disease is the most common tick borne disease in the northern hemesphere.

According to Wiki, early symptoms “may include fever, headache, fatigue, depression and a characteristic circular skin rash called erythema migrans. If untreated, later symptoms may involve the joints, heart, and central nervous system. In most cases, the infection and its symptoms are eliminated by antibiotics, especially if the illness is treated early.  Delayed or inadequate treatment can lead to the more serious symptoms, which can be disabling and difficult to treat”.

Turns out that Lymes disease is very rare in California and extremely rare in Southern California. The current rate of Lymes disease in Southern California is .02%, or one in 5000.  But like the politicians say, there are lies, damn lies and statistics.  So what does this all mean?  I’m testing that damn tick!

Clogen Laboratories offers DNA testing of ticks to determine if you have a Lymes disease tainted blood sucker, or just a blood sucker.  Even though my odds are good I’ve got “just a blood sucker”, I’ve decided to send the parasite in for a DNA analysis.

Stay tuned....

April 10, 2011

Santiago Truck Trail - A Favorite

Santiago Trail - Cleveland National Forest
As training runs go, today's served up some good climbing (and descending) and a good mix of terrain.  Starting on Serrano Creek trail I made my way into Whiting Rance under clear skies.  Its amazing how empty the trials are at 7 am.  I ran for a couple of hours before I saw anyone out there.  Then the mountain bike parade began.

Some runners get down on mountain bikers, and I have said a few critical words about them, but overall I'm happy to share the mountain with them.  This stems from an incident that happened to me several years ago when I was out on Santiago Trail with another runner who ran out of water.   After she drank all of my water, she started to suffer from heat exhaustion, became dizzy and nearly collapsed.  I quickly flagged down the next mountain biker who was happy to share his water.  Ever since then I gladly share trails with mountain bikers.  

I made my way up Dreaded Hill, down to Santiago Canyon Road and then up to Santiago Trail and on to Old Camp.  Modjeska Creek was the highest I've ever seen it, no doubt from the snow pack that is quickly melting on Saddleback Mountain.   I didn't have my Garmin with me so I'm guessing the total climbing for the day was in the range of 4,500', which isn't bad for an estimated 26 mile outing.  Getting time on my feet in terrain that simulates my upcoming races is the best training I can do.  

My climbing legs are nearly back after running the Old Goat 50 miler two weeks ago.  Next on the docket: Leona Divide 50 miler on April 30, my last 50 mile race for the So Cal Ultra Series.  After that come the big boys: Bishop High Sierra 100k, San Diego 100 mile and then Angeles Crest 100 mile.  All of these races are between now and July!

Deep breaths now....