Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Geneva Redux

Begin with the fact that Switzerland is barely a country, more a loose collection of three language and two religious groups in various permutations. Put the banking in the north and the international organizations in the south and the watch industry more or less all over. Geneva itself is right near the French border and barely an hour from the great ski resorts of the Alps, some French, some Swiss, some are both depending on what direction you ski from the summit. Now combine with a price structure roughly as follows: Starbucks chai tea latte $12, Big Mac $17, mediocre cheese pizza $26, mediocre cheese pizza, salad and a beer $45, ok Indian dinner 62, pretty good Japanese dinner with wine $120, ok mid-level business hotel near train station $340 a night including breakfast and transit card good for free trams and buses. You get the idea. No idea how international civil servants do anything other than go home and eat pbj every night. I am told that the rental apartments are controlled by the municipal government as to both price and availability. You apply for an apartment and someone allocates you one eventually based on size of family and ability to pay. It is apparently almost impossible for a single person to get more than a one bedroom and difficult for married couples to upgrade to larger spaces unless there are new additions to the family. One can avoid this by buying but prices are astronomical.

Lots of really smart hard working people in the various secretariats of the different IGOs and NGOs around town. Like Washington, many are career, others cycle back and from between public and private sector. UNCTAD seems a bit clumsy organizationally but still the only place which makes any effort to identify and cater to the special needs of the LDCs in the competition area. Once, that meant suspicion of the MNCs of the developed world, now it seems more like trying to get competition policy eight for newer jurisdiction, almost always with sever resource problems. Most of these countries aren't members of the OECD and feel like outsiders at the ICN. Some of the sessions were a little painful, long on diplomacy and scripted interventions by the different delegations. But many had real questions from the heads of smaller agencies about cooperation, technical assistance, the relationship between antidumping and antitrust that I don't think they would have been comfortable asking in another multilateral forum. I left a little weary from the scripting and the too many speakers with eight minutes for their presentations but ultimately impressed by the energy of the delegates and the market niche of UNCTAD in the world of competition policy for the dozens of newer and smaller jurisdictions with no other natural home for their concerns. Plus, as always the schmoozing in the halls may be more important then the formal presentations and resolutions in the room.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Faculty/Student Events

We had a thread way back at the beginning of the blog about the possibility of faculty/student coordination on a running club. My colleague Peter has been extremely energetic trying to get, and keep, ours going. He's doing a great job. Here's a picture showing the group after a 14-hour, 100-mile relay (The Red Eye Relay) last weekend in the hills of southern Indiana. The report is they won the open/mixed division.

I'm trying to get Peter to guest-blog about it. We'll see.

New Run Course in St. George

I was rather prolix this spring (here also) in describing the difficulty of the course at Ironman St. George. Word is that's changing. The ostensible reason is road construction; I believe it has more to do with the race's failure to fill up, a rarity for a branded event. The new run course will be flat and wind through town, apparently never more than 1.5 miles from the finish.

I say too bad. The run was a beast. When I rack the bike next Saturday I will have in my pocket the knowledge that I've run much harder than what I have in front of me. I wouldn't trade that for the world.

IM Lake Placid

I knew two people racing yesterday in Lake Placid. The live updates were less than fully functional, but I did get to cheer as each left the transitions with impressive times. Both M__ and J__ swam in the 1:05 range, which is quite good for an age grouper. Both averaged close to 20 mph on the bike, and Lake Placid is a famously hilly course -- so, again, it's quite something. J__ proceeded to run a 3:39 marathon, only about :30 slower than what I believe to be his personal best (for a pure marathon); M__ ran 4:17. With Vineman now five days away, quite inspiring.

Oh, and today right at noon I signed up for next year's running of Lake Placid.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Two Geneva Runs

Was in Geneva for UNCTAD meeting. Got in two different but equally pleasant runs, mostly because it was in the 60s with light drizzle most of the time. First run was morning after arrival to reset my body clock. Did about 65 minutes (assume 7 miles or so) from hotel down Lac Leman to the WTO headquarters. Would have kept going along the lake but blocked lots of construction that I couldn't figure out how to get around. Retraced my steps and headed Rue de Lausanne until Rue de la Paix which takes you up the hill to the UN which uses the old League of Nation Palace. Found both the delegate entrance and the visitor's entrance both of which I would need for the next three days (visitor's entrance to get my badge, delegates entrance after that which is much closer to the tram stop). Continued past the UN and the Arianna museum which has a cool collection of creamics and glass going across rather than further up the hill. Eventually found the route down back to the lake but apparently missed the quicker route. Returned along Rue de Lausanne past some fancy apartments, hotels, and the Wilson palace where the League of Nations was negotiated back to hotel and breakfast with Russ Damtoft of the FTC International Office. He was then kind of enough to take me to the tram stop after I cleaned up and off to the meeting we went.

After much listening and a little speaking, went running with Russ my final morning before heading to the airport. We did 5 plus the other direction along the lake, past the old town, the ferris wheel park, the marina and a bit further. Would have taken the ferry boat back straight across but I forgot my transit card (free at most hotels and the only bargain in Geneva). Really nice to catch up with someone I have known for years but never had a chance to know well.

More on Geneva in a future post but suffice it to say, it is pretty, kind of boring, and insanely expensive.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Full Circle

I'm amused at the degree to which our two cats have become equal members of our family. Here's an anecdote:

1. The cat bowls were dirty. While they were being cleaned, we served the cats using our own dishes.
2. The cat bowls became clean, but we never got around to switching them back. So the cat bowls went in the cupboard and our dishes stayed on the floor.
3. Dishes piled up in the sink for a day or two, as happens all too often in our home.
4. The other day I and P__ found ourselves eating edamame out of . . . one of the clean cat bowls.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Entering the Taper

My second A race for the year -- after Boston -- is the Vineman triathlon, to be held July 30 in Sonoma County, California. This is the second-oldest IDT (iron-distance triathlon), after the Hawaii Ironman. It's not a "branded" race, which is to say it has remained independent of World Triathlon Corp., the owner of the Ironman brand. It's supposed to be very pretty, very well run, and pleasantly smaller in size than an IM race.

Last weekend was my final hard weekend, with a long run Saturday and a long ride (plus a short run/walk to simulate the transition) Sunday. There's still time for some final tuning: I need a few day swimming this week, some track work in the shoes, and maybe an hour or a little longer at high pressure on the bike. Not too much in terms of distance and plenty of sleep.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Outside of My Comfort Zone

This week's schedule called for a 13 mile long run. This weekend's weather report called for hot humid conditions called for heat index well above 100. So I switched my long run from Saturday to Friday which raised a host of other issues. First, I took my daughter and friend of hers to the midnight showing of the final Harry Potter movie. Awesome movie but didn't get to bed until about 3 in the morning and had a weird leg cramp throughout the long wait until the screening actually began. Up before 8 to walk the dog and get out before the temperature climbed in the 80s (only a relatively cooler day).

Picking the route is tricky. There is a north lakefront route that is good for under 10 and over 15 but has too many ugly streets and too much traffic for anything in between. Plus I did that last week and need to save for the longer runs yet to come. South route along the lake is beautiful but have been using that a bit too often and don't want to get bored with my favorite when the 20 miler comes around.

So that left streets going either northwest or southwest. I picked southwest to circle a large park called Humboldt Park a few miles straight west of downtown. It happens to be the neighborhood where my dad was raised and is the setting for Saul Bellow's Adventures of Augie March. Lot of history. In order to get the mileage right I had to go a little further south and west of the park and then turn around and head home.

Two sides of the park are gentrifying and the park has a beautiful lagoon with a cool boat house. (See below.) I had never been on foot on the other sides of the park and now realize why. Very quickly, people's dogs go from cute to scary. Plus its been a while since I have seen people smoking crack in public before 10 in the morning. I assumed I could out run them if necessary but was not put to the test.

Way home was way hot. I drank close to 40 ounces of water and downed about 300 calories of various gels and stuff and still didn't pee. Definitely suffered from the mid-range heat and humidity, had a lousy time, and was wasted for most of the rest of the day. Only now getting down to working on annual book update and upcoming presentation for UNCTAD following two hour nap.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I'm researching antitrust challenges to bankruptcy asset sales. You would not believe how many times somebody has mistakenly typed 363(b)(2) (the Hart-Scott-Rodino amendment to the bankruptcy code) when he or she meant to type (e.g.) 363(b)(1) (the general rule regarding sales outside of the ordinary course of business in bankruptcy), 363(c)(2) (the rule regarding the use of cash collateral in bankruptcy), 362(b)(2) (the exception to the automatic stay for child support and paternity actions), and so on. Amazing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


This is the 135-mile running race from the base of Death Valley to the flanks of Mt. Whitney. 2011 results here.

While I'm reporting results, let me add the now-dated results from the grand-daddy of ultramarathons, Western States. I note that Geoff Roes started, but did not finish, this race, apparently dropping after 55 miles (where he was in 22nd place). Roes won last year and currently holds the record. I believe this is the first 100-miler he has started that he has not won. (Not that he's off form, however; my ultra-running magazine shows big wins at both the 50 and 100-mile distance this spring.)

One thing that's amazing about Western States: this is reported to be a monumentally hard race, with huge climbing and difficult weather conditions. Nonetheless, there are many finishers -- 35 last year, 39 this year -- below 20 hours, which might be considered the mark of a fast 100 mile. At a normal race you might see 5 finishers in that range. I suppose a race like this is comparable to grand-slam tennis -- everybody there has talent.

Chocolate Race

Spencer blogged about this race last year. Now it's apparently going to be held in DC, as well! I can hardly wait.

The Catch

When coaching rowing I spent much time watching the athletes' oars interface with the water. The "catch" is the point where the blade enters the water, ending the "recovery" and beginning the "drive." The catch is a difficult and important part of the stroke. Catching too early sends water backward (backsplash), slowing the boat imperceptibly and annoying your crew-mate. At the extreme an early catch can translate the force of a moving shell into the oar, possibly going as far as ejecting the rower from the boat. Catching too late -- driving the legs before the oar enters the water -- pushes the boat backward while the oar flails in the air. When the oar does enter the water, the rower will have missed the crucial first two feet of the stroke -- crucial because the legs are the strongest part of your body. The surest sign of a fast crew is the ability to time the catch, avoiding backsplash while not missing any water on the drive.

I've since found analogs for the lessons from rowing in obvious places -- kayaking and swimming are two. What about running?

After seeing this video taken of me on the track, I've been adjusting my running stride. The "catch" is when my foot hits the ground. The video shows a heel strike, whereby I'm landing in a way that requires me to roll over the foot before getting any propulsion from it. If McDougall's Born to Run is right, that means I'm braking briefly before accelerating -- a little like the backsplash from an early catch in rowing.

My fix, for which I don't have a video, has been deliberately to land on the ball of my foot. It does a few things to me: I am more forward in my running, rather than upright or arched backward. My calves are getting more of a workout than they have before. And I feel like I'm constantly accelerating! I have to move the legs quickly to keep up with the pace of the foot encountering and leaving the ground. This change has caused more than a few blisters as I rub different parts of the foot against the shoe. There's also a danger of missing ground, which I suppose happens if I move too far forward on the foot. It's too early to say whether speed comes with less effort, but I sure hope so.

A few reports

In late June I repeated two events from last year: the DC Triathlon and the Garrett County Gran Fondo. In the triathlon my sole goal was to ride the bike fast. And, vis-a-vis last year, the sole part of the race in which I did not improve was the bike. Overall an improvement year over year and competitive enough to be invited to the 5150 series "age group championship" race in Des Moines. I'm not going.

The following week was the Gran Fondo. Kyle Jost is a mid-Atlantic region hard-man who puts on a series of events yearly in the Deep Creek Lake region of Western Maryland. For this biking event he finds the hardest possible hills in the area and traces routes of 25 miles, 100 km, 100 miles and 200 km over them. The roads are in good shape; cars are few; and volunteer support is tremendous. Last year I failed to finish the long ride, and this year I finished. Lessons: slow start, steady calorie intake, and hold off on the stimulants (caffeine) until the second half.

And now just back from Seattle. I joined my brother S__ for a planned three-day ride from Bremerton, WA to Klamath Falls, OR, mostly following the coast highway and then turning inland at Reedsport. We didn't make it. We got behind schedule on day one, not making it to our reserved hotel, and slept a few hours outside of Tillamook wrapped in space blankets (more or less the things they hand out after a marathon) shivering until the sun started coming up. The latter half of the ride planned for day two was over the mountains, and being behind we faced possibly repeating our camp-out at altitude. And curse of curses, S__'s home was a relatively comfortable 60-mile jaunt inland from Tillamook. We chose that option instead. Below is a photo from the ride, crossing the Columbia River from Washington to Astoria, Oregon, on Highway 101.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hard Time

Mileage is starting to mount even under the relatively lenient Hal Higdon novice marathoner training schedule. Did 12 slow painful miles on Saturday. Body not healed from bike crash plus hotter more humid morning then originally forecast. Biggest problem is jammed left toe which is bruised, sore, and swollen. Each step brought it bumping again in the front of the shoe. All 12 miles felt like the last 5 of a marathon. Marathon grade pain for the full 2 hours it took me to lumber past about a mile past the main campus on Loyola and home again.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bike Crash

Decided to get serious about cross-training and now regret it a bit. Got the road bike our for 9 mile and 18 mile rides over the weekend. On the long ride, I dodged a pot hole but wheel slid off path onto gravel shoulder of the path and lost it. Amazing how many places can get scraped raw. Plus jammed a toe (and I was just getting used to having all my toenails) and messed up my wrist. On the good side, did not hit my head and only grazed my shoulder. Bike was merely scratched which was fortunate since I had to ride home close to 9 miles. Seeing foot and wrist doctor to check out aftermath. Shouldn't set me back on marathon training more than a day or two but its really hard to type with my left hand which may have a bigger impact on writing projects which are already painfully behind. Mostly just embarrassing to have one bike accident which was entirely my fault and first bike fall since I was a kid.