DEL NORTE TRAIL SHOWCASE
Scientists, by our nature, are always on the quest to discover something, not always for money and fame, or to support an ego, but to better humankind, or like me, for fun! By running with a number of elite runners at the Del Norte Trail Showcase I believe I have theoretically discovered a new human gene, not yet mapped by the Human Genome Project.
Ever wonder how humans that are fast on mountain bikes or in their running shoes get fast? Short of pharmaceutical enhancement, as most cheaters are now getting caught, what makes some athletes faster than the rest of us? Continue for my incredible theory, sure to put me in the scientific annals of 2016 and revered by history! But first, a few easy science notes in physics, math and biology.
Newton's law of universal gravitation states that - a particle attracts every other particle in the universe using a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses but also inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Think of it this way - part of what helps us get out of bed in the morning is the gravitational pull of Pluto from 3.6 billion miles farther beyond the Earth from the Sun. Comforting thought.
There is a part of the physics. Now, for a bit of math. The planet Neptune was mathematically predicted before it was directly observed. Considered one of the most remarkable moments of 19th century science, Urbain Le Verrier was a French mathematician who specialized in celestial mechanics and predicted the existence and position of Neptune using only mathematics. Part of the math he used was a result of astronomical perturbations, defined as the complex motion of a moving object, a mass, which could be a star, a planet, a moon (or a runner or biker), subject to forces other than the gravitational attraction of another single moving object, another mass in outer space yet to be discovered. In other words, for these fast runners and bikers, - some other force might be pulling on them that gives them an edge. But what?
Something else in the solar system was perturbing the planet Uranus, pulling on it, making it wobble in its orbit around the sun, which turned out to be Neptune! In September of 1846, Le Verrier, after months of math calculations, sent his predictions to a German astronomer, who received Le Verrier's letter, and discovered Neptune the same night within one degree of where Le Verrier said it would be! How is that for scientific fun facts? How does that apply to trail running you may ask?
As for the biology of elite aerobic athletes, sure, these runners have amazing cardio- pulmonary systems which equals the combo of heart and lungs for acquiring oxygen and moving blood around the body to running muscles. Elite runners spend a lot of time on training runs, are driven by their internal competitive nature to run fast, break their own records, striving to be the best, and having fun at the same time. Hmmm... I put in the same miles, I do all those things, throw age out the window unless it gives me a discount, and have as much fun running trails as anyone! So what is their edge? Something for my twisted science mind to ponder while we ran...
MIDDLE FRISCO TRAIL No. 801 - Tuesday afternoon - May 24, 2016
My theory began developing while we were running the Middle Frisco Trail, crossing streams, negotiating roots and rocks, winding our way through aspens as yet without their leaves, dark groves of pines, catching glimpses of towering rocks and snowcapped peaks, all the while, listening to San Francisco Creek on our left, as it tumbled and rumbled its way downstream to add its water to the Rio Grande. Wind whistled through the branches above, while the dead leaves from the previous autumn, now released from their snowy winter blanke and having dried out, were blowing around in gusty swirls. Occasionally, deep snow piles on the trail, remnants of a long winter, had to be crossed, stumbled over, and post holed through to carry onward.
The plan was to do an out and back. Shortly past 2.5 miles, the front runners would turn around, gather the stragglers (me) and we would reverse course and return. All went well until, one of the lurking trail dangers, in the form of a rock, stealthily hidden in a late afternoon shadow, found Sean's foot. It's easy to get caught up in the beauty of a trail, but trail destiny can take a hand with an unseen rock or root that can reach out and slam a runner to the ground. Attempt to avoid such! Sean was running hard, having a great time when he went down in front of me. He heard a crunch or a crack. Not good. We were a mile and a half from the trailhead. Between carrying him part way, and him hopping on one foot for part of the trip to the parking lot, the process was slow. He was all smiles for the picture, and he dealt with his injury philosophically. He will heal, and he and Erin will continue their recently acquired passion for trails.
We returned to the Windsor, the host hotel. The mountain biking contingent of the event, who had been out scouting their own trails, showed up at the same time. A rumor of free beer and a live band in the hotel courtyard proved to be true! Trail running and mountain biking are thirsty sports. Plenty of good eats on the Windsor courtyard menu also. We all had a good time meeting fellow runners and our trail counter parts, the mountain bikers. Megan Kimmel, jet lagged from placing 2nd in the Zegama-Aizkorri Trail Marathon race in Spain, enjoyed a couple of beers and dinner despite these being her next day's breakfast... Wow, that girl can run!
RIFLE RANGE/QUARRY TRAIL - Wednesday May 25, 2016
Mountain mornings are pleasantly cool. Makes for excellent running conditions. The trail running group carpooled out to the local rifle range where trails go off in all directions. We chose an established trail that would go to the old rock quarry, intersect with a brand new mountain bike trail, and wander through the wilderness to petroglyphs. I 'hung tough' for two miles but realized I was over extending my aerobic ability to keep up. I backed off to my own trail pace and watched the 7 runners in front of me 'float' poetically and artistically away. Had the trail been muddy, I still would have been left in their dust. Bummed at first that I could not keep up, a chill of destiny ran up my spine. I had just made a scientific discovery. The theory of their running talents became clear! It came to me in 3 words. LUNAR GRAVITY GENE! ("But why will you say that I am mad?" (crazy) - quote from Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Tell-Tale Heart' - They all have it! Normally, these magnificent seven are regular humans, but when they begin to run, the universal law of gravitation is warped somewhat and the moon's gravitational influence increases upon their bodily particles, and they experience, unknown to them, the same thing that astronauts experienced while walking on the moon. Though their mass remains the same, they weigh only one-sixth of what they do on Earth when they run! Hence, their ability to run trails fast as a result of being influenced by an outside force, the moon's gravitational pull. As for me, I, remain glued to the Earth's gravity. Dang. When the cards were dealt, I did not receive the 'lunar gravity gene.'
In all seriousness, I had so much fun running with this group at the second annual Trail Showcase that I want to help promote the three day event next year. Come one, come all! If you have the gene - run with the fast dogs! No? Hang with me! I would enjoy the company.
These runners can be found on a web search by their names, linked to key words like 'trail running,' or other words below.
Laura Haefeli - local trail guide and La Sportiva runner. Peter Maksimow - American Trail Running Association ATRA. Brandy Erholtz - Pikes Peak Ascent and running mom and coach. Megan Kimmel - 2016 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon - irunfar.com - she is a trail runner extraordinaire, Chuck Smead - track and trails talent since - well, a while back. Humboldt State University. Alan Versaw - co.milesplit.com. Greg Hartman - ultra running (if you need a running tattoo - the ink pusher in Aamosa)
As for me, I cannot be found anywhere when it comes to trail running except as a Leadville One Hundred finisher from 1988 from which, I finally recovered, about six months ago. However, I will soon will be up there on web searches with Newton, Einstein, Le Verrier, et. al. Renowned amongst other great science minds. Maybe...
Good coffee from the Windsor Hotel and good beer from Three Barrel Brewing contributed to this report.
windsorhoteldelnorte.com - hosting guests since 1874 - remodeled since then! threebarrelbrew.com - serving beer, salads and pizza for travelers and locals! haefelihoney.com - super fuel for bees, bears, and people in the San Luis Valley since 1907!