Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Falling down a mountain

My family loves to go hiking. My brother John has a tendency to get ahead of the group by magic. The group appears to be ahead of him, but then he shows up at the bottom of the mountain with first beer and covered in poison oak.

There is a term for my brother's hiking technique - glissade. This term "glissade" is the act of descending a steep slope by a controlled slide, either sitting or on foot. In other words, skipping the switchback and just sliding straight down the mountain through the poison oak!

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East Bay Hashers pt 1

My sister suggested that I look into running with a local Hasher club. I had never heard of Hashing, even though I run and drink beer. She told me that Hashers are people who run from pub to pub. Sounds like a great idea, but that's all she told me. I had no idea I was walking into a historic, worldwide social club...

I started by a google search on hashing, and this lead me to a group in the East Bay called the East Bay Hash House Harriers. The web presence was minimal, a site that contained a running schedule and a few facts. To find out more I had to just dive right in a join a run.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I showed up at a trailhead 30 minutes before a posted run. I was obviously early, doing recon. A grey bearded guy in a 3 tiger tee-shirt, (in the spirit of the 3 wolves), dirty shorts, and a hiking hat was sitting at a picnic table. He came over to me and introduced himself as E=MCFucked and asked if I wanted a warm beer. Sure! So I asked him some easy questions about the running club. He was happy to fill me in on a chaotic history of hashing, while keeping his eye open to say hello to other runners who were gradually showing up.

In the next 30 minutes about 25 runners showed up, all ages, sexes, and running abilities. There were 2 runners who looked pretty elite, and more than a few that looked more like myself: middle-aged, a little overweight, and casual. All were seasoned Hashers; I was the only virgin hasher. Many had hashing tee-shirts from other clubs, including one from a Singapore 4th of July Anniversary hash run.

An unmarked delivery truck pulled up; this was the keg for the post hash run. Another hasher had a clipboard and took roll call of the runners and collected beer money. As a virgin, I did not have to chip in for the beer, just leave a name and e-mail address. And roll call was all handles - no one used their real names - all had acquired a hash name somewhere in their running history. (I never learned anyone's real name).

Mostly for my sake, before the run we got a prep talk. E=MCFucked had constructed 7 symbols on the ground with flour, and explained that he had laid out a trail a day ahead of time using these symbols. There may be false trails to trick us, so part of the run is to be observant of the symbols. People have gotten lost in the woods on these runs, I was told. My sister did not warn me that this was a scavenger hunt; this is going to be even better than I expected. (apparently E=MCFucked is what is called a "Hare", someone who lays out the trail, either live right before the run, or earlier. With this difficult trail run it had to be a day ahead of time, to make sure no one goes off a cliff.)

And then we started running... The beginning was easy, just follow the flour dots. I was a middle of the pack runner. I made small talk with other middle pack runners, but then we were going up a mountain, and I had to walk. It was getting hot, the California Central Valley sun bearing down on the dusty trail. At my running/walking pace a seasoned runner in a red baseball cap fell in next to me and started pointing out all the poison oak along the trail.

Then the run got weird... We had been running an obvious fire trail, but now the flour blobs pointed us to go off the path and take a deer run. Red Hat confirms that this is correct, and the pack ahead of us took the deer tracks. The track is not made for running, it is narrow and steep, and one could tumble down the wooded hill. But very obvious man-made flour blobs are dusted on tree roots, and down a steep gully. I run down the steep gully, my thigh all scratched up, and a bruise forming on my right leg.

At the base of the gully Red Hat informs me that I slid down a patch of poison oak. Red Hat is very chatty and points out all the other flora and fauna around and respectfully paces us into a two-man group. Not too slow, not too fast. He is from Conneticut originally and knows much on plants. He has been a Hasher since the 1980's, and has run with the East Bay Hashers for over 12 years.

to be continued...

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Location:Martinez, CA

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Backyard beer brewing

Have you ever spent a whole afternoon watching water boil? For Science?!? If you are testing out a home brewers rig, you have.

This is Carl. This are his 3 brew kettles, out for their first functioning test, using just hot water. It has taken Carl 2 years to create this particular rig, from buying the kettles, wielding the connections, constructing the plate heat exchanger, and rewiring, per California code, the whole garage. This rig is electrical, not your typical propane rig, which has its own set of issues, such as electricity in a very wet environment.

The first tank is a Hot Liquid Tank. It boils water. The hot water in this tank is used to regulate the water temperature in the second, middle tank. The yellow electrical cable connects to a large heating coil in the first tank. The water enters and returns to and from tank 1 to tank 2 via tubing connected to the copper coils poking out of the top. Carl is futsing with the pump.

The second tank is the Mash Tun.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of Hot Water!!!

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Location:Albany, CA

Friday, October 14, 2011


I have gotten into the habit of having hot soup for breakfast. In China we had congee for breakfast everyday, and this makes a lot of sense. It does not upset the stomach, and it hydrates you after 8 hours of sleep. Soup is super healthy, and the warmth acts like tea or coffee - a pleasant way to start the day. It is a very pro-running breakfast.

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Location:Albany, California

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pay to Play

So last night I went out for pizza and beer. It's the baseball playoffs, so it had to be done, Tigers v. Rangers. I totally carbed up on deep dish feta, spinach, onion and mushroom pizza. oh and garlic bread. So this morning I went out for a 10 mile run. I did my regular long route along the Berkeley waterfront, starting in Richmond CA, Then passing through Albany, Berkeley and doing a turnaround in Emeryville. On mile 7 I hit the wall, and walked a mile. I ran all of mile 8, and walk/run the last 2 miles. You got to pay to play, when your talking pizza.

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Location:Albany, California

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rain Dogs

Fall has come to NorCal; the winter rains have arrived. Which means wet feet - rain dogs. And like any dog, they get stinky when wet.

Today I got in a nice, fast, 3 mile run in on a path along the Berkeley marina. I have always loved a good rain run. The smell of ozone, the mix of sweat with the rain, puddles, the recognition by other rain runners. It is a club you join if you are out on the trails.

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Location:Berkeley, California