Here’s an interesting theory that humans evolved for distance running:
Modern humans and their immediate ancestors such as Homo erectus sport several adaptations that make humans, instead of some ferocious, furry, or fleet creature, the animal world’s best distance runners.
Specifically, we developed long, springy tendons in our legs and feet that function like large elastics, storing energy and releasing it with each running stride, reducing the amount of energy it takes to take another step. There are also several adaptations to help keep our bodies stable as we run, such as the way we counterbalance each step with an arm swing, our large butt muscles that hold our upper bodies upright, and an elastic ligament in our neck to help keep our head steady.
Though those adaptations make humans and our immediate ancestors better runners, it is our ability to run in the heat that Lieberman said may have made the real difference in our ability to procure game.
Humans, he said, have several adaptations that help us dump the enormous amounts of heat generated by running. These adaptations include our hairlessness, our ability to sweat, and the fact that we breathe through our mouths when we run, which not only allows us to take bigger breaths, but also helps dump heat.
This ought to settle the long-standing distance running vs. sprinting debate I recall from high school track. We distance runners can just wait for a hot day and then persistence-hunt the sprinters into submission. However, as much as I like this theory, I have to question this statement from its proponent:
“Humans are terrible athletes in terms of power and speed, but we’re phenomenal at slow and steady. We’re the tortoises of the animal kingdom,” Lieberman said.
Um, surely the tortoises are the tortoises of the animal kingdom?
This morning’s Stinson Beach Trail Run would have been more aptly named the Mt. Tamalpais Trail Climb (Which Happens To Start At Stinson Beach). This was a course so steep that at one point it was necessary to climb a ladder to continue. The t-shirt depicts runners going up a gentle incline; this would be accurate if I wore it while lying on my side. It was a nice place to run, as it’s basically the same forest as Muir Woods. But next time I’m bringing a sherpa.
Here’s the part where I explain some of the more cryptic statements in Sunday’s posts.
The Window: We rented two minivans on Friday to shuttle the runners around. Friday evening we loaded them up with various supplies. Sometime during Friday night, someone broke into Van 2 by smashing the front passenger side window, and stole Gatorade, Red Bull, and bananas. Fortunately they left most of our other supplies, so the biggest annoyance was driving around without a window, especially after sunset once it started to get cold. So we got some saran wrap from the restaurant where we ate dinner, and rigged the above window using the duct tape that we (of course) had on hand. This picture is from after crossing the Golden Gate, hence the big patch in the lower left corner where we repaired a hull breach.
Roadkill Tally: I meant to get a picture of this as well. It’s apparently a meme among relayers to tally the number of teams passed on the side of the van as “roadkill”. We ended up with about fifty I think (although we didn’t place particularly high), of which I could claim a few by the end.
Leg 11: This was my first leg, which started out in residential Petaluma (very suburban), moved into commercial Petaluma, and then suddenly became cow pastures with all the associated aromas. This was the least interesting leg of the three I ran, and I didn’t see any other runners except one guy who was way ahead of me. [map]
Leg 23: This was the nighttime leg, along Skyline Blvd near the intersection of highway 92 and I-280. The sky was clear and the full moon really beautiful; there was a lake or reservoir along the route that reflected the moonlight. Even better, the course was relatively short (3.7 miles) and had a nice downhill slope the whole way that made running very easy. [map]
Leg 35: I was dreading the hill at the start of my final leg, which rose 300 feet in one mile. What I didn’t know was that I’d be running through a dry, dusty quarry under a hot sun. I took the baton (actually a wristband) simultaneously with another runner, who sprinted out ahead of me… for about 200 yards, until he hit the hill. At that point I passed him easily, then another guy, and the desire to maintain my lead kept me going up the slope. All that hill training in Berkeley paid off! After one mile the terrain changed into a really nice redwood forest, and after two it started sloping downhill into Santa Cruz. This was a really steep downhill, and at one point the distinction between running and falling was not terribly clear. I remained upright somehow and was rewarded with a great view of Santa Cruz and the ocean once I came out of the forest. [map]
UPDATE: I had the Leg 35 stuff here earlier but a typo in the HTML prevented it from showing up.
Finished! Our team took about thirty hours overall. My last leg was great, running through the redwood forest in the hills above Santa Cruz, and then opening up to a view of the ocean. It was a bit hot, but mostly downhill, so I was able to maintain a good pace.
Second leg was awesome. Descending into Silicon Valley next to a moonlit lake… Running at 4 am is not nearly as bad an idea as it might seem.
Getting ready for our van’s second leg. We have twenty-four kills tallied on the side of the van; sadly none are mine, but I’ll try to pick some up on my next run.
We’re headed to the midpoint of the race, at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, in a van with a window composed of saran wrap and duct tape. One hundred miles to go, once our runners catch up to this point…
I’ve joined a team for a relay race this coming weekend. This would not be especially noteworthy except that the race is 199 miles long, starting in Calistoga and finishing in Santa Cruz. So this will doubtless be quite the adventure and I’ll probably do some liveblogging from my phone.
Meanwhile, did I mention that I have a backlog of music to review? I went to the record store on Friday and came out with five albums, bringing the total to 13 I need to review. Here’s one of them, and maybe I’ll do the rest in batches of four or five.
Clor: Clor: This band has kind of a synth-heavy Brit rock sound. It’s another one of those albums that sounds good at the time but later I can’t remember what it sounded like. For a while every time one of the tracks came up on my iPod I’d be like, “What is this? Oh yeah, Clor.” Or maybe I’ve just picked up so much new music lately that I’m unable to keep track of it all. Anyway, “Love + Pain” is a nice track.