The Schroth Trail

This morning I ran with a group of Buffalo Warriors, a C-U area trail running group affiliated with Second Wind Running Club. We ran at Schroth Trail on the south side of the Sangamon river in Allerton Park. We traversed the 5.9 mile loop twice in 5˚ weather. In the photo you can see how much ice accumulated on my beard and hair.

The last time I ran this trail was almost exactly 4 years ago, a month or so before I injured my left knee. As was the case today, that run was also 1 week before the world renowned Riddle Run, my first and only (thus far) ultramarathon.

This trail is also special to me in that I ran there frequently my freshman year at UIUC with the cross country team. One September Sunday morning we did a 16 mile long run on this trail in 1:40:00 (6:15 miles), which is faster than I ran 11.8 miles today, and probably remains one of my best long runs ever.

Unfortunately, my little GPS didn’t do a very good job in the dense forest. The two paths should be identical :(

The NUMB3RS

I made that software. That’s what I said to Melissa as I was watching NUMB3RS tonight. Several people at Wolfram Research work as math consultants for the CBS show and they frequently make use of Mathematica related props on the show. In the past they have shown copies of the Mathematica book, A New Kind of Science, and various posters created with Mathematica.

Tonight one of the main characters Charlie was using Mathematica (on Mac OS X even). Okay, so some of the footage may or may not have been special effects, but Mathematica was there. My software was there.

The Expo

Today is the final day of the 2008 Macworld Expo in San Francisco. I did not attend Macworld this year, but I always find the expo exciting nonetheless.

In January 2001 I began working full time for Wolfram Research, where I was charged with porting Mathematica to the soon-to-be-released Mac OS X operating system. My 3rd week of work I was sent to attend a workshop at Apple‘s headquarters in Cupertino, where they were to provide me with assistance in this process.

The workshop took place the week following the 2001 Macworld Expo and it worked out that I was able travel to California a few days early to catch the tail end of it. This was my first trip to Apple/Cupertino/Macworld/San Francisco/California so it was a big deal to me at the time.

I toured the hundreds of vendor booths at the expo and saw lots of great technology demonstrations. I purchased a laptop bag which I still use to this day. I also purchased my first and shortest-lived digital camera. It was a real piece of crap, but I got what I paid for…

After the expo I did some sight seeing in San Francisco before taking the train down to Cupertino. I still remember walking downtown, taking my first trolley ride, running through Chinatown, seeing Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time.

I have been back to San Francisco on a number of occasions since then and every time I go there I discover something new. San Francisco has become one of my favorite places to explore, and the Macworld Expo is what brought me there.

The South Farms

I took an inadvertent stroll down memory lane this evening… dirty, smelly, memory lane. I speak of course of the South Farms, a tract of University of Illinois property just south of campus where the college of agriculture does its research.

I did a 12 mile run after we returned from Rockford. Ever since my knee surgery 3 years ago I have only a limited tolerance for running on pavement, so I try to stick to running on grass and dirt as much as possible. Fortunately, we live only a block away from the arboretum, which has a nice 1.5 mile cross country loop. Knowing that I wanted to do a longer run I chose to expand this evening’s route to include the nearby south farms and Meadowbrook park. I was able to stay entirely on grass except when crossing 3 streets.

Incidentally, this was also the farthest run I’ve done in the last 3 years. I may yet return to my former half, full, and ultra-marathoning glory.

As for the south farms, I haven’t run there in 11 years. In the fall of 1996 I was on the UIUC (men’s) cross country team, and we practiced at the south farms at least 4 times per week. There is a 3000 meter loop around some of the corn & bean fields where we did both easy and hard training runs, both short and long distances. Most frequently we did it as part of an easy (and by “easy” I mean 6:40 miles) 4 mile wake-up run at 6:30 am on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Yes, this was in addition to the afternoon practices.

In order to get to this loop from campus we needed to pass near the pig sty and endure just about the worst smell imaginable for 100 meters or so. Fortunately, in the past few years the pigs have been moved further off campus and this particular area of the south farms is more tolerable to the senses.

I remembered stretching next to the metal fence that separates the fields from a little gravel road. I remembered a particular 14 mile Sunday run early in the fall, which at the time was the farthest I had run in my 17 years. I remember a 5k practice race runners 10-14 (I was 12) did some Saturday while runners 1-9 were away at a race. I believe this was the fastest 5k I ever ran but I don’t even remember the exact time. It was just a tad over 16 minutes.

Tonight’s 28 degree temperature and gusting wind did little to distract me from reliving some of my glory days. I doubt it will be another 11 years before I make it back to the south farms.