Race Report: Surf the Murph 25K – 2017

This was my third year at Surf the Murph. Two years ago it was the site of my first 50K and my induction into the ultramarathon distance. Last year I tried for a repeat, but after a big year with my first 50 mile race I just wasn’t up for two loops of the course, and DNF’d after 25K. Since I knew my running this year wasn’t up to snuff I only signed up for the 25K, and was very happy I did so.

The weather all week had been calling for rain on Saturday, and wow did it deliver. To make sure we got a decent parking place we arrived 90 minutes early for our start. We grabbed our bibs and then went back to the car to relax. I leaned back the seat and started to doze off just as the heavens opened up in a torrential downpour. I felt very sorry for all the 50 milers and 50K runners who were stuck out on course in the storm. I don’t know how long I slept, but when I awoke things had calmed down quite a bit. When we headed to the start the rain had slowed to a slight drizzle, and throughout the day it wouldn’t amount to much more than a steady spring rain.

IMG_1723.jpgWe launched at 8am, which is an hour later than I’ve ever done at Surf, and it meant that I didn’t need a headlamp. That was a nice welcome change as I usually have to stow it within a few miles once the sky lightens up. It was one less thing to carry which was fine with me. I had already overdressed and had to stuff my extra shirt into my pack within a mile from the start. I was thankful for my Outdoor Research hat as it is waterproof, and the brim kept the rain from dripping into my eyes.

The first part of the course is very hilly, and so I made the decision to go out nice and slow (a change from previous years as well). I ended up averaging around 14 minute miles for the whole race, but starting slow meant that I could pick up steam later in the race. I had some of my fastest miles at 11 and 12. I was feeling good at that point and decided to burn some excess energy. I wasn’t able to keep it up long, but it felt good to get a little faster for a bit.

IMG_1725.jpgHowever, the big story of the day was the mud. In the past, this course always has some level of mud, but due to the recent rain the entire course was completely covered. This is one of the muddiest runs I’ve ever done, even beating the 2015 Spring Superior 25K where I came back covered up to my knees. Surf added in a ton more puddles of standing water, which kept your legs a tiny big cleaner, but meant that you were plodding through water for hours. By the time I had hit mile 13 my quads were burning from all the prancing I had to do, leading with my toes to avoid getting my shoe stuck.

This year the beaver dam was once again bigger and more flooded than ever. The race organizers put down some boards to help with crossing along the top of the dam, which helped a little bit. Unfortunately, every step was not solid, and at one point I sank in up to my knee. I really feel like the park needs to do something about this section. It’s a part of a regular marked trail but it’s simply never going to be passable ever again (apart from the dead of winter) without destruction of the dam and massive ground mitigations. They need to either put up a real bridge or move the trail to a different location.

One of the the unique things about Surf is that all of the distances (apart from the 50) are very long. In order to make 3 loops equal 50 miles, each loop is actually 26.7K. That amounts to over a full mile beyond 25K, which after a long muddy day, feels like forever. Even though I know the loop distance, and have run it multiple times, I always get grumpy when mile 16 hits. I want the loop to be done, even though I know exactly how long it is. I need to figure out something in the future to stop myself from getting so pissed about something that I know right from the start line.

photo credit: Lisa

I came across the line in 4:07:43 (Strava time), which isn’t my fastest ever time, but it was better than last year by about 7 minutes. I found some friends and said hi and then went to watch for Lisa to cross. She was only about 15 minutes behind me and I got to cheer her across the line. In fact when she saw me it made her realize that the finish was just around the corner I was standing on and that she could still make her goal.

Once we got our medallions of wood we headed to the fountain to get cleaned up and then to the car to get changed. Even walking around the start/finish area you could tell that the conditions were getting worse and worse. I know many people were dropping early due to the intense mud fest. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a nice mud run, but this was extreme, and I couldn’t imagine going out for even one more loop, let alone 2. Huge props to those who were able to get it done.

Once we wrapped up it was time for our traditional burger at Five Guys and then home to get cleaned and showered. Thankfully, I’ve run this race in years where it’s been beautiful, with lots of dry running. If this was the first year I had ever been to this course I would be leery about coming back. However, I know that next year it could be a totally different scenario, so hopefully I’ll be up for at least one loop around Murphy-Hanrehan.


There goes the neighborhood

I’ve been listening to a lot of urban planning and community development podcasts lately, and another new one I’ve found that I really like is a series out of WNYC called There Goes the Neighborhood. It’s another public radio show that is well produced, with good talent and insight into the issues facing changing neighborhoods.

The first season focused on Brooklyn, NYC, and the second season has moved across the country to Los Angeles. In both these cases, they look at how issues like gentrification affect long established neighborhoods, both for good or for ill. The most recent episode deals with the arts district in Los Angeles, and how it’s changed. As people want to move closer to the center of things, and be closer to where “cool” things are happening, neighborhoods start changing. A lot of good things can happen when this occurs, like new stores, better access to transit, and lower crime.

However, it also means that property values will start to move up as developers realize that they can charge higher and higher prices for houses and apartments. This is a tough issue for arts districts since many artists don’t make a lot of money, and find themselves priced out of the neighborhood that they helped build by being an artist in the area. In some sense they are the cause of people wanting to be there, yet they have a hard time with the changes that increase how much it costs to live there.

It makes me think of Lowertown in Downtown Saint Paul. There is a thriving arts community in the area with an awesome art crawl festival every year. However, many of the newly renovated apartment buildings and condos in the neighborhood have skyrocketing rent and purchase prices. Many of these artists could never afford to live in these new buildings.

Thankfully, Saint Paul has done a good job at encouraging artist based housing in the area with multiple buildings designated as artist/affordable housing. These buildings have income limitations as to who can live in the building, and each resident must show that they make some type of contribution to the work of art. Hopefully, efforts like this can help a neighborhood keep the character that made it “cool” while at the same time letting the market bring in new and exciting amenities that attract people who like being around art.

Needless to say, this podcast series is a great listen, and I’d encourage folks to give it a try and learn about how places are changing. Maybe even the place you call home right now.

RAW on a phone

Something that I’ve been meaning to try is shooting RAW on my phone. The Lightroom app allows you to shoot raw and then edit the photos in Lightroom CC. it was a beautiful evening outside with a wonderful setting sun hitting some dead seeds of a tree in our front yard. I decided to use my phone for this shot to see how RAW performed in something other than a full camera.

Lightroom CC

Today Adobe announced their new Lightroom CC line, which is the next generation of Lightroom products. I’ve been a Lightroom user for many years, and it’s my go-to product for photography needs. I’ve managed to do amazing edits with it, and salvage some photos that haven’t come out great. It’s a workhorse of a tool and a staple of photographers everywhere.

The new version is a web integrated version that stores you entire library in the cloud, up to 1TB at the entry level. This storage includes all edits to the photo as well, meaning you can start editing on one platform, and then pick up your phone and continue editing right where you left off. Because it’s only syncing the deltas in text format, Adobe claims it’s a tiny amount of data that you’re moving back and forth.

The new desktop client is a more robust version of the mobile apps, with a lot of the traditional features, although it’s missing a few key items from what they are now calling the “classic” version. Namely, import presets and export plug-ins are missing from this lighter version. Hopefully, those will find their way in sooner rather than later. Otherwise, all of the typical editing tools are present, and you can do all the edits you’re used to on any platform.

The beauty of this is the ability to move from platform to platform seamlessly. This includes enhancements to an already robust web version. This means that no matter what platform I’m on, phone, tablet, Chromebook, or full desktop version, and everything is the same, complete with all the power I need. It’s an amazing time to be a photographer, and the digital imaging revolution continues full steam ahead.


Am I an Apple guy anymore?

Recently, I’ve been starting to question how much of an Apple guy I am. Those who know me, know that I’ve been an Apple fan boy since the late 1990s when I was running OS 7.x on a clone Power Computing machine. The evolution of Macs to OS X was a tremendously welcome change for me, especially since I am an old Unix geek at heart. The ability to have a full CLI shell for power work, and still have a nice GUI for daily putzing was a dream come true. I even converted my friend Wes from Linux to Apple over a decade ago.

When the iPhone came out I waited for a while, mainly because it wasn’t on a carrier I wanted to work with. Eventually though I joined the ranks of happy iPhone 4 users on Verizon and have been an iPhone user ever since. Before this I had spent a bit of time on Android and webOS (Palm), and although they were good platforms, iOS had them beat hands down. Perhaps the biggest advantage that Apple had was it’s ecosystem. At the time, iTunes and the Apple store were fresh and innovative, and no one had anything that came close. The Google Play store was mediocre, and even Google Docs was still mostly rudimentary.

Fast forward to 2017 and when I look at the tools I use, everything is Google. Ever since Google Play Music came out with an unlimited family subscription plan, I haven’t loaded up iTunes. I use Google Docs for just about everything productivity wise, and on my iPhone my primary clients are Gmail and Chrome. So, am I really even using the Apple ecosystem anymore at all?

I know a part of this has to do with the fact that I live in a mixed household where some people use Android and others have iPhones. This means that collaboration moves over to the most supported tools on both platforms, which means Google. But when I really look at the ecosystems, I have to admit that Google really has Apple beat when it comes to many of the things I use it for. The email client is smoother, the productivity apps are fully web enabled and robust, and the media ecosystem is at least on par with what others offer.

When you toss in the fact that for many years my laptop was a simple Chromebook, which I still use regularly, and I have to wonder if I really have anything keeping me with Apple. Most likely my desktop will always be Apple, since I can’t get the photo tools that I need elsewhere (and no, I’m not going Windows), but perhaps it’s time to delve into the Pixel realm for my phone, and look at upgrading my Chromebook to something a bit newer and more powerful. Maybe it’s time to just admit that I really don’t use Apple for all the things that I used to. Maybe it’s time to make the leap…