Archive for August, 2009
It’s a revolution… The Barefoot Revolution!
Via kottke: Reading Rainbow is going off the air today after 26 years, making it the third longest running show on PBS (after Sesame Street and Mister Rogers Neighborhood).
Republished from one of my older, now-defunct blogs (originally posted November 2007); was recently featured at TrailRunTimes.com, an athlete-generated website focused on endurance trail running and racing.
One of the difficult — and appealing — things about trail running versus road running is the near-impossibility of comparing various routes and races of equal distances.
In 2004, Scott Jurek set the course record in the Western States 100 ultramarathon with a time of 15 hours and 36 minutes. The course record for the Wasatch 100 was set in 2005 by Karl Meltzer with a time of 19 hours and 45 minutes which was broken in ‘07 by Kyle Skaggs with a time of 19:35. In 2008, Kyle Skaggs broke Scott Jurek’s course record at the Hardrock 100 by almost 3 hours with a time of 23 hours and 23 minutes. So in three different 100 mile races, the course records vary by almost 8 hours!
In contrast, the difference in the course records among the Boston and New York City marathon is 21 seconds; adding the London marathon to the mix, the difference in course records is less than two minutes.
Lest people think us crazy trail runners are simply looking to enjoy nature, let me disabuse you of this notion. We are a competitive type, too. We just mask our ambition under stained and tattered “Running Is Life” t-shirts.
Until now, though, there has not been a real good way to measure, rate, and compare trail runs. A winning trail marathon time could be sub-three hours, or closer to four. What to do? Thanks to Jim Vernon, lead coach of The Endurables, we now have a reliable trail rating system.
Simply create a ratio of accumulated ascent/descent divided by distance.
Easy to measure the not-so-easy. The need for this kind of system came from a trail run we recently did that can only be described as epic. It was a 28-mile route. The first 9 miles had 3,800 feet of climbing. After 15 miles, we had climbed 6,700 feet. At the end of the run — finally! — we had ascended and descended over 23,000 feet. Holy cow!
To say this 28-mile run was tiring is the understatement of the year. It was utterly exhausting, even demoralizing at some points. As a consolation prize, Coach Jim said it was certainly one of the most difficult runs we would ever run and one of the most difficult anyone in the world would ever run. Just how difficult? Drumroll, please…
Utilizing Coach Jim’s trail rating system, our 28-miler had a difficulty rating of 821. (!) No Few organized runs, even those that brand themselves as the hardest or most difficult in the world, comes close to matching its difficulty. (Additionally, Coach Jim looked at the cut off times for each race and converted them to a 28 mile distance. I ran this beast of a training run in 5 hours and 15 minutes.)
Hardrock 100 – Rating: 679 Cut Off: 13:25
Diablo 50 – Rating: 535 Cut Off: 8:58
Wasatch 100 – Rating: 523 Cut Off: 10:04
Western States 100 Rating: 400 Cut Off: 8:25
As for the Boston Marathon and the legendary Heartbreak Hill? It registers as a speedbump. It’s difficult rating is a pedestrian 98.
[Update: A number of readers have used Coach Jim's rating system to identify incredibly epic and difficult trail runs, including the Barkley, with a rating of 1,040, and MMD50km in New Hampshire, with a rating of 1,062. Keep the ratings coming, everyone! Post them in the comments so we can start to gather a list of the truly most difficult runs in the world.]
If interested in tackling this brutal, epic 28-mile run, contact Coach Jim at The Endurables for a map. Good luck. Pack a lunch. And a GPS cell phone. Write down some personal affirmations and reasons you love trail running. When your spirit is broken, break-out these items. Eat some food. Find some motivation to keep going. And if you can’t will yourself to push on and up, call a helicopter to get you home and into a La-Z-Boy.
Note: commentators at TrailRunTimes.com have suggested that the formula be tweaked to take into account weather and altitude. No doubt Coach Jim will come out with a “trail running rating guide, v. 2.0.”
Run With It!
A new emphasis on testing and test preparation — brought on by politicians, not early education experts — is hurting the youngest students.
“Food directors are quietly making real progress. Jean Ronnei uses a central kitchen to make from-scratch meals for the 40,000 students in the St. Paul, Minnesota, school system, and removed a-la carte junk food. Her program runs in the black, and her success was a large part of an analysis by economists at the University of Minnesota that came to a contrarian conclusion: ‘Healther school meals are possble without higher government spedning to fund nutrition education programs or increased reimbursement rates.’ Labor costs may go up, but only initially — and food costs go down.”
Peter W. Cookson Jr. (“What Would Socrates Say?”) may not think you can Twitter your way to enlightenment, but, he does think teachers can blend the best of traditional intellectual linear culture with the current digital culture to meet the cognitive and expressive demands of the 21st century.
Specifically, he lays out “four elements of the 21st century mind” as the basis for a Socratic-anchored sea change in education: critical reflection, empirical reasoning, collective intelligence, and metacognition.
Students need the tools to understand the world before they can change it. Cookson’s hybrid of Socratic inquiry shaped by immersive technologies dismantles the false dichotomy of learning environments and the “real world.”
How do you support 21st century minds in your classroom?
From Learning Matters: Testing Michelle Rhee.
It was a little over two years ago that we began following Michelle Rhee’s efforts to change what was one of the country’s worst public school systems. Over the course of nine episodes, we have captured her no-nonsense candor that has been a hallmark of her first two years. And now we finish two years of coverage with our 10th episode. In this report we ask the question, “Is education better in DC today?” The test scores say ‘yes,’ because almost half of elementary students are now on grade level, according to the city’s year-end DC-CAS test. That may not sound like much, but when Rhee took over, only 29% were on grade level in math. But some say that higher scores alone do not necessarily mean better schools. Watch as both sides present their case in this complex debate.
From The Daily Dish:
Students are starting to show signs of putting off school for now. Fewer students said they would rather borrow than not attend college this year, with 53 percent compared to 67 percent last year. It may also be that budget-conscious students have become more wary of debt and are economizing by choosing cheaper schools. Students who borrowed money spent 30 percent more on tuition than those who did not.
The report answers my earlier question: about one percent of college financing this last year came from home equity loans. Though the housing bust will impact those seeking higher education in a myriad of ways my earlier fears appear overblown.
A new study finds obese people have 8 percent less brain tissue than normal-weight individuals. Their brains look 16 years older than the brains of lean individuals, researchers said today.
Those classified as overweight have 4 percent less brain tissue and their brains appear to have aged prematurely by 8 years.
The results, based on brain scans of 94 people in their 70s, represent “severe brain degeneration,” said Paul Thompson, senior author of the study and a UCLA professor of neurology.
More than 300 million worldwide are now classified as obese, according to the World Health Organization. Another billion are overweight. The main cause, experts say: bad diet, including an increased reliance on highly processed foods.
Obese people had lost brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes, areas of the brain critical for planning and memory, and in the anterior cingulate gyrus (attention and executive functions), hippocampus (long-term memory) and basal ganglia (movement), the researchers said in a statement today. Overweight people showed brain loss in the basal ganglia, the corona radiata, white matter comprised of axons, and the parietal lobe (sensory lobe).
Kevin Cyr’s fully functional camper bike.
(via The Daily Dish)
Current teacher training has a large chorus of critics, including prominent professors in education schools themselves. For example, the director of teacher education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Katherine Merseth, told a conference in March that of the nation’s 1,300 graduate teacher training programs, only about 100 were doing a competent job and “the others could be shut down tomorrow.” And Obama administration officials support a shift away from using master’s degrees for pay raises, and a shift toward compensating teachers based on children’s performance.
Should the public schools reduce the weight they give to education school credentials in pay and promotion decisions? Is this happening already, and, if so, what is replacing the traditional system for compensating teachers?
We need context in order to live, and if the environment of electronic communication has stopped providing it, we shouldn’t search online for a solution but turn back to the real world and slow down. To do this, we need to uncouple our idea of progress from speed, separate the idea of speed from effi ciency, pause and step back enough to realize that efficiency may be good for business and governments but does not always lead to mindfulness and sustainable, rewarding relationships. We are here for a short time on this planet, and reacting to demands on our time by simply speeding up has canceled out many of the benefits of the Internet, which is one of the most fabulous technological inventions ever conceived. We are connected, yes, but we were before, only by gossamer threads that worked more slowly. Slow communication will preserve these threads and our ability to sensibly choose to use faster modes when necessary. It will also preserve our sanity, our families, our relationships and our ability to find happiness in a world where, in spite of the Internet, saying what we mean is as hard as it ever was. It starts with a simple instruction: Don’t send.
“An evolving appraoch to the science of pleasure suggests that each of us contains multiple selves — all with different desires, and all fighting for control. If this is right, the pursuit of happiness becomes even tricker. Can one self ‘bind’ another self if the two want different things? Are you always better off when a Good Self wins? And should outsiders, such as employers and policy makers, get into the fray?”
By Paul Bloom, from The Atlantic, November 2008: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200811/multiple-personalities
“iPods are as ubiquitous on today’s college campuses as pens and notebooks, and they may make better learning tools. Students who listened to a lecture podcast and took notes scored far better on exams than students who attended the class in person. A majority in the podcast groupalso listened to the lecture more than once while studying, gaining an edge on peers who may or may not have been napping in the lecture hall.”
—“iTunes University and the Classroom: Can Podcasts Replace Professors?,” Computers & Education
(via The Atlantic)