Well, we did it: a 34.6 mile hike, from sun rise to sunset on a single day, across the entirety of the "brutal" Rachel Carson Trail. (results here—it took us about 14 hours, but it's not a race!) I put the word brutal in quotes because that is how the Rachel Carson Trail challenge web-site describes it, I guess to make it seem like more of a double-dog dare. You can see the route zoomed out above (or google earth it yourself) across the north side of the Allegheny river, with an embedded elevation profile. Here's a representative image:
So you can see it goes up and down, and in this particular case the people are all clumped up because of a series of very trecherous muddy descents and ascents that really amounted to short rock climbs with mud instead of rocks.
I wasn't having a rough time at all until about the 26th mile, when my feet and ankles were hurting really bad, just from the repeated stepping. (26 miles is something like 60,000 steps for each foot!) An ace bandage got me through it, but by the end my feet had never hurt so bad in my life. Fortunately I have recovered quickly (tomorrow I'm aiming to start running again) and even used that crippled time to put in a bunch of good work on the programming contest, which is coming up in three weeks! (!)
Somewhere out there someone has pictures of our group at every checkpoint, so you can do a 5-frame time laps photo to see us become more and more weary and enmuddened. Here's a picture of Cortney and I at the very end, though I think we were deliberately trying to look beleaguered the sentiment is not far off:
Today I got a new gadget (you can blame jaked) to aid my quest to run all over Pittsburgh. It's a Garmin "Forerunner" which is a GPS device, specialized for running, in an oversized pimp watch form factor. Seriously, I feel way bling'd out. But it doesn't get in the way and it gives me instantaneous pace and distance information and I can even put it in "ghost racer" mode where I run against an invisible otherworldly partner (perhaps derived from a previous performance, or perhaps extracted from the platonic dimension of perfectly steady incorporeal pace rabbits) like when trying to qualify for the Special Cup on Rainbow Road. Go go, ghost racer!
I'm still figuring out the best way to use the data I get from it. There is a shitty GTK app that comes with it, which would have been pretty sweet on Windows 95b, and which thinks that walking 1.0 miles home burns 287 calories. Right. Then there is a web-based app called "MotionBased" which I suppose fancies itself a sort of Flickr of running and biking. I think this could be pretty good, but a lot of stuff isn't implemented yet. I hereby share this run with you. My favorite way to visualize currently is to use the Google Earth export. I used it to generate the image above; you can click this W3C-approved semantic XML document (lol that it is just a list of lat/lon pairs inside a tag) for your own 3D world runner*: qdoba.kml.
* I was a little astounded that the first link I found for this classic uses my font "Action Jackson" in its self-promo!
So this run was 12.88 miles. At some point I was trying to make it a full half-marathon (only .22 miles short, actually) but I spotted a new Qdoba in my neighborhood and was hit with an insurmountable craving for guacamole and hot sauce. Much earlier than that I ran through Frick Park, which I would recommend except for the very uphill and sinuous path to the park itself from pretty much anywhere. I popped out of the woods in like Swissvale on the wrong side of I-376, but the GPS compass helped me get back without having to retrace my steps. Yay!
I think this will be helpful for the Rachel Carson trail challenge in two weeks. We hiked a small segment of it on Sunday as a practice (it's allegedly the hardest part: the "roller coaster" of steep uphills and downhills along the pipeline). It wasn't really that bad, but finding and following the trail can be rough at times, and we will have enough to worry about on the actual day than to look at 30-year old hand drawn topo maps to try to figure out where to go.
In other news, I was suddenly struck with the urge to work on Escape this weekend. Development has stalled for a while because most of the changes I want to make involve ripping out a bunch of more-or-less working code I've already written. So, I needed to like put some emotional distance between me and that before I start chopping, and time heals all wounds except for maybe necrotizing fasciitis.
Here I am continuing my space-filling curve in my attempt to visit as much of Pittsburgh on foot as possible. Today I ran for about 1h25m through East Liberty, Lawrenceville, Squirrel Hill, and Shadyside. The "destination" of the trip was the Allegheny Cemetery, a huge (300 acre—four times larger than the Pittsburgh Zoo) and beautiful place with lots of dead rich people in it. Unfortunately on my way out I got my directions reversed so I ended up going the "wrong" way and seeing some places I've already visited many times. Oh, well.
Plans for the remainder of the week: The Three Rivers Arts Festival is going on, so we're going to bike down to the point tomorrow to watch Andrew Bird do his avian thing. And, this weekend, some kinda long hike to help train for the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge in two and a half weeks.
I know yinz are like "Where is Tom? Did he die?" The answer is, no, my friends, I am sitting right at my computer and I did not kick the bucket or purchase any farms! True, though, that I have not posted an update in some time. So, what's been going on?
Well, up above is a picture of me finishing the Cleveland Half-Marathon, which I posted about in the previous entry. This was my first visit to Cleveland and my first time running that kind of distance, and all-in-all I declare it a success! Cleveland is a nice city (despite warnings I've heard to the contrary), though it is a bit too driving-oriented for my tastes. Also, during our visit there was a bloom of what I think were mayflies. They were everywhere, like when we were walking around we'd inhale them and they crawled all over the Automatic ATM Machine and the walls and my car and themselves and that was pretty sick. We got dinner at the Great Lakes brewpub, which I love because I love brewpubs. It isn't my favorite brewery, but they had a lovely pale ale special to the pub, and a delicious veggie burger. OK, right, so we had to get up at 5:00am for the run itself and it was pretty cold and raining for almost the whole race. It wasn't really that bad though, and that's mainly because the course is quite flat and I'll trade hills for rain any day! Cortney and Alvin biked around town to cheer for us at various points of the race, which was really nice and motivating. I finished in 1h46m (pace of 8:09) and ran the whole time except for a bathroom break at the 10K mark. I feel like I should have done better, but I had only run a total of sixteen minutes in the two weeks prior, so I wasn't really trained for it. Now I want to run a real marathon sometime in the next year. If I don't do it, yinz all should chastize me for being a lame slacker!
Song of the month for May is Jonathan Coulton's Mandelbrot Set, which I learned about from Joshuah via Moira. It's totally cheesy and has a very TMBG-like educational subject matter, but I love it for its Van Halen porta synth and lyrics that incorporate phrases like "disdain for pure mathematics and unique geometrical insights." I lollerskated for real.
What's been keeping me away from the internet and everything for the last week is a workshop deadline for which I submitted two papers; one an updated version of my old draft about Grid/ML, and one a new paper about Separate Compilation for Standard ML. The latter was an extremely painful process that took up day and night for the whole weekend. I am glad to be done with that. As far as I know, I'll only be working on the programming contest for the next month or so.