Saturday, June 30, 2012

Random thoughts before going on holiday

Going to Fire Island for a long weekend.  We have been going there nearly every summer since we moved to NYC in 1990.  We spent the summer there when our daughter was an infant.  I finished my first academic book there that summer.  Its a wonderful place where there is nothing to do but sit on the beach, read on the beach, and run on the beach.  Then you nap some and repeat. 

Some stray thoughts before I leave.

1) I am reconsidering the ASIC DS trainers.  My feet have been sore and they aren't bad in terms of good  cushioning but still light weight.  They still aren't that stable and feel mushy but I can at least deal with the stability with taping my feet for the long runs.  For the short stuff they are fine. 

2) Very disappointed in the new Woody Allen movie.  Its trite and no where near as charming or clever as Midnight in Paris.

3) Jealous Phil M. got to see Dracula's castle after a conference in Bucharest.

4) Getting better about saying no.  I am so under the gun that I said no to one conference and two writing projects all with late summer deadlines.  One of those projects felt bad saying no to because its a conference volume in honor of a close friend and mentor.  But they delayed almost 9 months and then wanted final drafts within 6 weeks which is not realistic given all my other deadlines.

5) Reviewing a draft contract to do a new edition of the treatise which I finished lo those many years ago on Fire Island.  The draft contract is less favorable to the author in every possible way than 16 years ago.  Now have to negotiate over advances, author copies, author discounts, interim deadlines that were all easy last time around.  Has industry changed, publishers getting greedy, or both?

6) Not enjoying the heat and humidity for either running or daily life.

7) Really glad my friends are slowly figuring out that law professors actually work over the summer.

8) very excited about going to see Vampire Weekend at the Pitchfork Festival, Dark Knight Rises on opening day, and skipping Lalapalooza.  (OK, we work differently then other folks, but at least my friends have learned to stop asking "So what's it like to have the summer off?").

9) Got stupidest editorial query ever.  Asked to verify spelling and order of name of author where highlighted.  Only place highlighted was MY NAME after title of article!

10) Been thinking of proliferation of for-profit policy journals in competition law field.  I can think of almost ten, few of which existed a decade ago.  Most are based or focused on developments outside the US, some are on-line only, some are print with on-line presence. Most fall somewhere in between a true law review and a magazine.  All cost a fortune.  At the same time, both the Antitrust Bulletin and Research Issues in Law and Economics have far less visibility then before.  Want to think more about these trends and post something more substantial when I get back.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Spencer argues for prolixity. Having recently said too much about a ride I did in 2009, I'll now say too much about a ride I did last weekend. Same ride, different year, different conditions.

A Pocket Adventure: The 2012 Alaska Randonneurs Solstice 600

My brother Sam and I returned this summer to join the Alaska Randonneurs for another ride. I needed to erase the memory of my failed attempt at the 2011 Big Wild Ride Grand Randonnee. (Sam also abandoned that ride, in his case to get me to a hospital. Blood is thicker than Perpetuum.) I’m a casual randonneur, but I have been at it long enough to have ridden with several different clubs. There is no randonneur I don’t like, and there is no randonneur I like better than those I’ve come to know in Alaska. Kevin, Tom, and Joy put on the friendliest imaginable ride. Roger and Ted were tremendous riding companions. I reported on the Alaska Randonneurs 600K in 2009. After last weekend’s ride, this report updates – and corrects – that one.

We met for breakfast and introductions at 5:30 Saturday at the Gakona Lodge. This shows the huge work Kevin has put in upgrading these rides – in 2009, Kevin’s first 600K as RBA, we gathered in a dirt pull-out at the junction between Highways 1 and 4. Don’t get me wrong – that had tremendous charm. I’ve since enjoyed reciting the tale of meeting some random group at a highway pull-out and spending the next 36 hours riding with them. But a breakfast buffet at the lodge, away from the bugs, is a very civilized way to start an adventure.

One thing about the Solstice 600: this route is elegant. If you picked up a map and looked for a natural route, your eyes would gravitate toward this triangle of roads in central Alaska that makes a perfect 600K. But it is a psychological challenge. I like to break my rides up into segments – rather than planning to ride 200 kilometers, I plan to ride 15 miles to the next major highway crossing. 138 miles – the distance between the first and second turns – is a large number to swallow. Kevin, Tom, and Joy made that much easier. First, there are intermediate controls – Gakona Lodge, Dot Lake, and Chistochina – that are not technically necessary for routing purposes. One doesn’t cut corners in central Alaska. But the controls gave us manageable intermediate goals. Second, Kevin correctly emphasizes that brevets are self-supported, but he still keeps a close watch. Just when Sam and I worried that in the heat our three bottles would be insufficient to make the 61 miles from Delta Junction to Dot Lake, Kevin appeared road-side with a jug. Apparently that issue has arisen before.

The heat! In 2009 we were thrilled to get any sun at all. I heard last year was quite different. And indeed, on Saturday temperatures reached the low 80s. We were slow-roasted from 8 am to 8 pm, minus a brief hail-storm. Long daylight means a longer period of intense sun; low spruce forests and extreme road cuts (which protect drivers from moose, and vice versa) means no shade.

Sam’s troublesome right knee went far south half-way through and he reluctantly abandoned. Roger was well ahead and Ted was sticking to his well-planned itinerary, leaving me alone about 20 miles short of Dot Lake. I hurried to the control, had a nice chat with Tom, Joy, and a group parked next to them who were having much more, er, fun than was I. I left Dot Lake at 9:11 with 47 miles to Tok plus one more to Young’s Motel, hoping to beat the darkness (the sun finally set at 11:49). 200 miles and 15 hours – that’s about when my body and brain usually say “uncle.” But fortunately they make things for that problem, and you can buy them at any gas station counter. (Does anybody else wonder why TdF pros so frequently get caught doping? Don’t they know WADA hasn’t yet banned 5 Hour Energy?) I embarked on a caffeine and folic acid-fueled rampage east into the twilight.

The hills! I reported in 2009 something about “trivial” and “climbing.” The terrain on the Solstice 600 is not hard. But there is nothing trivial about the foothills on the north side of the Alaska Range, coming after the Black Rapids Lodge, with several long climbs in the 5-6% range. The rollers between Dot Lake and Tok might be called trivial if they didn’t appear 15 hours or more into the day. The hills south of Mentasta on the Tok Cut-off were much more than I recalled. And that one steep climb with 20 miles to go – but by that point I was numb. Hard, no. But there’s nothing trivial about riding this far in a state with these kinds of mountains.

Kevin, Tom and Joy had arranged pizza at Young’s Motel in Tok. Roger had arrived and Sam was there; we ate, chatted, and generally unwound. Sam had found us a room just down the road. My one flat came on that short commute! I hit the sack at 12:45 and snapped awake three hours later, just after the 3:30 sunrise.

I hope I never forget the three hours from 5 to 8 Sunday morning on the Tok Cut-off, riding southwest toward the Wrangell Mountains. The temperature had cooled to the low 50s. The sun rose high behind me. The highway stretched ahead bordered by fireweed and white spruce. Mountains rose in front of me. And nobody disturbed me. I recall one massive raptor of an unknown variety low in the trees to my right. The terrain there is rolling hills and the road surface is the best of the ride. My mind landed on a Dwight Yoakam song: “I’m a thousand miles from nowhere. Time doesn’t matter to me. I’m a thousand miles from nowhere, and there’s no place I’d rather be.” Close, but Yoakam’s lyrics evoke something stark – a desert, high plains, even the black spruce forest I would encounter 75 miles further south. I was a thousand miles from nowhere, but unlike Dwight I was surrounded by incomparable majesty.

Let me make one last correction to the 2009 report. I wrote that “no one place has a monopoly on beauty.” I take it back, and with apologies; Alaska may indeed have that market cornered. Sam tells me the Icefields Parkway on the Rocky Mountain 1200 is on par, but until I ride it I won’t believe it. And I’ve seen a lot else, much of it nice, some of it incredible, but nothing to compete with the scenery on this ride when the sky is clear.

Alaska wasn’t done with us yet. The wind! It would be unfair not to mention the tailwind through Fort Greeley early Saturday afternoon, but we paid for it. We first got socked about 20 miles after Delta Junction, a 30-minute-or-so blast that brought with it a brief hailstorm. Things quieted down until that night on the flats leading into Tok when we felt the tail end of a distant storm that had provided a great light-show. And on Sunday I learned a randonneuring lesson to remember: ride when the riding is good. I started early enough to enjoy six or so hours of beautiful cool sunshine before spending the last three and a half hours feeling like I was playing offensive line. Roger and Ted left Tok later than I and encountered the wind at the same time – i.e., with more miles ahead of them. Had any of us started earlier – perhaps not sleeping at all – the second day might have gone much better.

I learned a few other things. I spent some time talking to Kevin, who is a former mountaineering guide and knows Alaskan geography better than most. He has become an expert in this part of Alaska, and his rides introduce us to what he knows. Gakona Lodge is wonderful, historic and quaint, set on the shores of the Copper River. Paxson Lodge, at the Denali Highway junction, is the real Alaska. Black Rapids Lodge is a marvelous timber-frame building sheathed in slate shingles, situated in an idyllic location looking across the Delta River to the Alaska Range. The service at the lunch counter in Delta Junction is tremendous. Mentasta Lodge has friendly service and makes the best breakfast I’ve had north of Gakona.

This ride is a pocket adventure. Kevin puts this on for $60. Not wanting pay the airline trolls for safe bike passage, I rented a nicely equipped Trek from Chain Reaction Cycles for $50 per day; the shop even swapped the stem to help me hit my desired measurements. It takes 48 hours from leaving Anchorage to returning; add another 24 to get to and from your door if you (like Roger, Sam, and I did) are flying in from out of state. But I challenge you to name a ride, even a grand randonnee, that is this kind of big. Maybe there’s no t-shirt (though do yourself a favor and check out the whimsically perfect “Moose of Flanders” Alaska Randonneurs jersey), but for a busy randonneur’s summer epic it would be hard to beat.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Importance of Being Prolific

Interesting article in The Chicago Tribune Arts section today on the importance of being prolific.  It begins with the film maker Steven Soderburgh who has made 16 movies in 12 years (prolific) and the novelist Jonathan Franzen who has written 2 novels in 12 years (not).  Both are however consistently excellent.  Full article is available at,0,2113276.column.  Worthy of contemplation given what we do for a living.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Two SSRN posts and some biking

My review of Danny Sokol's and Ioannis Lianos' new collection is up, as is a draft of a piece co-written with Danny Heidtke attempting to fit my theory of behavioral exploitation antitrust into a scheme for regulating the consumer subprime mortgage market. Comments -- in particular on the latter, which has yet to be submitted -- would be most welcome.

The hard part of the summer's work is nowhere near over, but I'm still going to celebrate. Off today to Alaska for the Solstice 600K. Here's a (lengthy) recap of this same ride from 2009, an edited version of which came out in the American Randonneur magazine that year. Apologies for taking all of your screen space with this one.

The Alaska 600K

My brother got me into this esoteric sport called “randonneuring.” It’s European, which is no surprise, because the sport lacks any traditional indicia of something an American would enjoy. There is no glory, there is no media coverage, there are no winners and no finisher medals. And, even if done fast, it takes a really, really long time, which is to say, it’s hard to squeeze in between your morning latte and the afternoon matinee. This is the story of the Alaska 600 kilometer “brevet” (French for “brief ride”) which I rode June 27-28, 2009, with my brother S and a small cadre of others too crazy to stay home.

S and I grew up in Alaska. We went there to visit home, to cycle through the long daylight hours, and to travel roads through the interior of the state that we had ignored when we were younger. Alaska never disappoints. People commonly say to me, “Alaska must be beautiful.” Well, so too are all the places I have lived and ridden. No geographic locale has a monopoly on beauty. But Alaska is truly unique in one way. Alaskan scenery is grand. The mountains, lakes, icefields – everything there is outsized.

I was not highly confident. Since I first rode a brevet in 2007, longer distances have presented me a substantial hurdle. I rationalized that even if I quit at the second turn, it would be my strongest ever ride. (S had not either finished a 600 kilometer brevet before, despite, in the past three years, finishing several longer rides with extremely fast times. I suggested an approach certain to guarantee his success: he should plan to ride twice around the loop for 1200 kilometers total, which we knew he could do, and I would throw a rock at him half-way.)

The route was uncomplicated. It used to be said that Alaska, with more acreage than California, Texas and Montana combined, has fewer miles of paved road than does Rhode Island. A cue sheet – which is handed out to riders so they know where to turn, not unlike a scavenger hunt without the riddles – might reasonably say simply, “start going north and stay on the pavement.” Cue sheets for rides in the east commonly require two pages for 200 kilometers. This sheet had six cues in total. That makes the route sound more complicated than it was. In fact, there are two turns on the Alaska 600. You ride Highway 4 north, you take a right on Highway 2, and you take a second right on Highway 1. It was this characteristic that gave me most of my meager confidence. I knew I could finish the first leg to Delta Junction. After some solid food, I thought the second, mostly flat, stretch to Tok was possible. At that latitude I could be assured of sufficient light. Because of the remoteness, quitting short of Tok was not a realistic option. I would decide then whether to make the second turn to the final leg, or not.

The Richardson Highway runs from Valdez to Fairbanks, and the ride picks it up around Mile 130 at Gakona Junction. For much of the 138 miles to Delta Junction, where it meets the Alaska Highway, the Richardson parallels the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The first half of that leg follows the Gulkana River, winding through forests of climate-stunted black spruce; perma-frost bogs where moose stand on long legs to feed without fear of predators; countless lakes and streams; and meadows of lupine. Though we were riding toward the most impressive mountain range in North America, many of the views were obscured by the low clouds and cold drizzle. We saw 4 cars between starting and our first stop at 56 miles in at the Paxson Lake “control” (where you check in to prove you are actually riding).

After 75 miles the Richardson encounters the Alaska Range, where the mighty heft of the Wrangell Mountains pours westward toward Denali Park, Mt. McKinley, and ultimately on to the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian archipeligo. Highway 4 crosses the range through Isabel Pass. Although the Alaska Range dwarfs competitors in Utah, Colorado and California, the mountains rise from close to sea level. Our highest point on the ride was about 3200 feet, total elevation gain a trivial 13,000 feet, and no climb involved more than about 500 feet of elevation gain. Through Isabel Pass the road follows the east side of Summit Lake, then joins the Delta River heading north. We met a cold wind blowing off of the Black Rapids and Gulkana Glaciers. All around the mountains – including such famous mountaineering challenges as Deborah and Hayes – rise with their magnificent white mantle of snow and the burdens of countless unnamed icefields draped over their shoulders or across their laps. At about this time, for a wonderful 20-mile stretch, the clouds lifted and the road surface dried.

On the descent from Isabel Pass, the wind stirred up by the mountains hit us with its full force. We struggled to make 12 miles per hour pedaling hard down a 2 percent grade. We were riding with Buzz, a cyclist from Anchorage, who rode strongly into that headwind and soon was out of sight. (We did have another cyclist sharing the road. At about Mile 80 we encountered a child, maybe 14 years old, riding alone on a poorly tuned mountain bike into that staunch wind. He said he had left Glenallen early that morning. If true, he had traveled 16 miles further than had we, and he was heading to Delta Junction. He appeared to carry no water and no supplies, and he had no concern that he would complete his planned 155-mile Odyssey safely.)

The wind let up and we enjoyed some warmer and dryer weather over some short climbs. During this stretch Andy, a recumbent cyclist also doing the ride, passed us on a long straight-away through Fort Greely, an Army Base-cum-missile site. We arrived in Delta Junction at about 4:30 and checked in with Kevin, the RBA -- “Regional Brevet Administrator.” One rider’s partner was also there offering hot chicken broth. We joined Buzz for lentils and fries at a Greek restaurant, and I was also happy to get a strong signal on the cell phone to call P. We finally departed Delta Junction to the southeast following the sign reading “Tok” and “Canada.”

For the first 30 miles, the Alaska Highway between Delta Junction and Tok is perfectly, unceasingly, straight. It crosses minor rolling hills, but never gives way to the right or to the left. We rode with Buzz in a drizzle, settling into the quiet as the late afternoon turned to evening and the light traffic evaporated. For miles on end I recall no thoughts but counting pedal-strokes and remembering to take scoops of crushed Fritos from my bento-box. Buzz flatted once here, one of only two flats for the group on the entire ride. After 61 miles we reached the Dot Lake control, where Kevin and a few others waited. One supporter once again had just what the doctor ordered – freshly brewed coffee. Andy was gone by the time we arrived. The evening chill was setting in, and I was soaked through. But Tok was only 47 miles distant and somebody had told us it was mostly downhill.

Moose come out at night. We saw three full grown cows, one with a calf, on the next stretch of road. The sun emerged and pink sky appeared to the north. (Recall that in late June at that latitude sunset comes sometime around midnight.) We saw next to no cars. By the time we hit Tanacross, 12 miles short of Tok, all three of us were sleepy. When Buzz flatted the second time, Sam napped by the road-side. I counted down the mile markers in my head. Thankfully Buzz had planned to stay the night and had a room in Tok he was willing to share.

We woke at 6:30. With a fast finishing time long out of the question, S and I took our time packing the bikes. A full sit-down breakfast was a real treat. Kevin stopped in to check on us before heading to the second-to-last control at Chistochina. S and I followed Buzz out of town. Andy, who had stayed in Tok as well, was already gone. Buzz set a monster pace for the first 15 miles. Before long, S and I independently decided 18 miles-per-hour plus was a little stiff for that early in our final 200K. We saw Andy and Buzz again at Mentasta Lodge, around mile 50 for the day, where I insisted on sitting for a cup of coffee.

Since Isabel Pass the day before, and until Mentasta Pass, where we re-crossed the Alaska Range, we had ridden in the Tanana River drainage. Water there flows to the north into the Tanana River, passing Fairbanks and emptying many miles distant at Fort Yukon into the mighty Yukon River, and ultimately into the Bering Sea at Bethel. South from Mentasta Pass, we followed the course of the Copper River, a famous salmon fishery that gathers water from the Wrangells to the east and the south side of the Alaska Range and carries it to Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska.
The last 200 kilometers on the Tok Cut-Off from Tok to Gakona Junction was the hilliest part of the loop. It was also the most dramatic scenery, perhaps partly because the clouds had finally lifted and we could view the Wrangell mountains in all of their glory. The views over the Copper River into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park were breathtaking.

After Mentasta we flew through Nebesna (which comes at the bottom of the ride’s fastest descent) at about mile 310. I was by now riding mostly out of the saddle due to sores, blisters formed by perching that long atop a small wedge of metal covered in leather that become all the worse in the rain. We shed wet outer clothes and dried off in the sun, temperatures finally reaching into the 60s. We caught up to Buzz and Andy in the hills south of Nebesna, and met them again, with Kevin, at Chistochina. We waved and hollered to the proprietors as we passed the Chistochina Bed and Breakfast, a beautiful log home where S and I had slept the night prior to the ride. Chistochina is a precious roadside town at the confluence of the Chistochina and Copper Rivers, at Mile 33 of the Tok Cut-Off (which means with 33 miles remaining to the car). Posty’s Store, where Kevin situated the control, was in a well-maintained cabin with picnic tables. I was by now constantly hungry, and I ate ice cream and a microwave pizza to prepare for the final 33 miles.

That last stretch is mostly a blur. We climbed the steepest hills of the ride, which were mercifully short, followed a low plateau through thin spruce forests, then took a quick descent in a hailstorm to the town of Gakona, situated at the confluence of the Gakona and Copper rivers. The ride’s hardest climb was over the last two miles. It was a two-stage 300-foot climb from the banks of the Copper River to the top of bluff it had carved through soft Alaskan soil. We found the car at 5:30, 35 ½ hours after leaving it, an average pace of about 11 mph. Our pedaling average was a modest 15.

The group gathered at the bar at Gakona Lodge for a beer (Alaskan Pale Ale, of course) before splitting up. The others beat us there by a few minutes, but we arrived in time for a group photo and to swap some reminiscences. Funny thing about long events. When they are done, I always swear, “never again.” But after a couple of weeks goes by . . . .


In the vein of "holy endurance athletics, Batman": here's the latest report on the solo division in the Race Across AMerica. The two lead riders, one of whom is last year's winner Christoph Strasser, are holding a record pace (or so I'm told). It's a rare year with a tight race this late in the event.

Unfortunately for them, they are slated to roll into the mid-Atlantic in the next 36 hours or so. And it's going to be hot.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Race

Past results at the Father's Day 8K in Georgetown led me to believe that if I could flirt with a PR I could finish in the top 10. This year 17 people finished under 30 minutes; local hard-man Michael Wardian was 3d*, and British Olympic marathoner Claire Hallisey was 9th. So my personal fourth-best time was good enough to finish in the top 30. Nice race on a beautiful evening.

*Wardian has run this every year and has never won. Why? Not sure what he was doing this year, though I did overhear him saying he's running 100 next weekend. Last year he ran a ~2:17 marathon in Minnesota on Saturday, then came home to run this one the next day. Take that guy Dean Karnazes, make him fast, and you have Wardian.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


The most exciting thing to happen to long-course (think Ironman) triathlon since Chrissy Wellington has been Lance Armstrong's comeback. He ran triathlon successfully in the early 1990s, but quit to concentrate on bike racing. Having been famously dominant there, the question was whether he could be a competitor again as a triathlete. Because a top pro cyclist wears out in his mid-30s and a top Ironman triathlete has until his late 30s or even early 40s, it seemed possible.

Sure enough, Lance has competed in several 1/2 Ironman races this year, with a podium finish in (I think) all but one of them. He has won two outright, including most recently over such competition as Greg Bennett, who is generally understood to be one of the top 10 triathletes of all time at the shorter (and much more competitive) international/Olympic distance. Lance was heading to Ironman France this month in an attempt to qualify for the full-Ironman world championships in Kona. Apart from a handful of naysayers, it was generally understood he would qualify; that would have meant the newcomer (Lance) against dominating three-time winner Craig Alexander, among other top contenders. If such a race didn't take eight hours it would be a nail-biter.

Armstrong is enjoined from competing as the quasi-governmental U.S. Anti-Doping Agency pursues charges against him based on supposed conduct during his seven TDF wins.

I'm no fan of Lance, who seems like a jerk. But he's a Tiger Woods kind of jerk -- you just watch him (in the latter case, used to watch him) wondering how high a guy can possibly soar. (Thanks to S__ for the analogy.) I'd rather not know that there's a limit. And here, with Lance at 40 years old a serious contender to be Ironman world champ, the limit was pretty high -- if it existed at all. We may not know, because he's not being permitted to find it. Because even Lance can't be the best forever. People don't win races long after age 40. It's pretty much this year or never.

I'm all for drug testing race winners, and even random testing before, during, and after races, seeking to eradicate unfair advantage in sport. Floyd Landis should have had his TDF victory stripped. When I try to articulate the difference, I think I settle on a laches argument. Nobody could catch Lance when he was winning, or if they could, they found it to their advantage to look the other way, thus having unclean hands. Lance hasn't raced a bike seriously in years and he hasn't won the TDF since 2005. I haven't heard that there's suspicion surrounding his triathlon successes, and I know WTC (the Ironman people) test the victors. His TDF victories will forever bear an asterisk for those of us who follow that kind of thing. Maybe its time to let him race for a while -- watching to see that he's clean, of course -- to see what he can do?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Slow Jam the Run

Its good enough for Jimmy Fallon, Brian Williams, and even President Obama.  So its good enough for me.  Instead of my usual motley mix of metal and electronica, I slow jammed the run.  Slow, melodic, heartfelt tunes to accompany my 5 miler through the streets of Chicago.  Waterfall by 10CC, Crystal by Fleetwood Mac, Wonderful Tonight by Clapton etc. The few rockers all started slow and built (see e.g. Free Bird)   Surprisingly, I ran faster than usual.  Oh yeah...