Succumbed to a Cell-Phone

April 2, 2015

I have finally succumbed to the blandishments of the modern world and bought a cell-phone.

Not, I hasten to add, because I have any desire to talk to people, gracious no, this device has no service. Simply because I was tired of my point-and-shoot cameras dying after a year or two of use.

As I far as I can tell, the most common point of failure in my point-and-shoots has been the part where the servomotors extend the lens. Either when it is turned on, to focus, or to zoom. But a cell-phone’s camera has no external moving parts that rain or fog can corrode.

So I thought I’d try a cell-phone as a replacement. I did some research, no one seems to take cell-phone cameras very seriously, I couldn’t find any of the data I wanted (like quality of macro pictures). But the Samsung Galaxy S5 seemed to get vaguely good reviews, so I bought a used one — and that, a year after its release, was only slightly more than a good point and shoot.

It doesn’t take as good pictures.

I take pictures for two reasons, 1) to have a picture (this usually needs a good quality macro lens) and 2) to remind myself of what, when and where I saw something. I do a lot more of the second type than the first at the moment, and the cell-phone is adequate for that purpose.

But it is also a small portable computer. And I have ported my wildflower database program to the cell-phone now.

Phone Main View

The main display shows a list of all species I have seen, photographed and identified in SB county (with a little spill over into Ventura, Kern, LA, and SLO). Each species has a picture (which defaults to the flower but can be either plant, leaf or seed as well), a latin and common name, and a blooming period. Underneath the image are little calendars showing when I have seen it blooming in the past.

There are ways to restrict the species displayed. One could ask to see all yellow flowers that bloomed in April on Jesusita trail, for instance.

On the phone it’s rather squinchy, only about one species can be seen. It’s a bit better on a tablet, where there is some context around each species.

Seeing just a list of flowers becomes dull over time. The display is a bit more functional than that. First, and most important I can add a new sighting to the database

In fact I did that this morning in my run up Jesusita. I used my phone to add 93 sightings. It took about 2 hours to get to the top (which is very slow, so I need to speed up the workflow somehow), and crashed 4 times, but it didn’t lose any data. And that’s what is most important.

It can also show you where the plant can be found, either by drawing a map, or by giving you directions on how to get there.
Each of the little blue circles represents a location where the plant was seen. If you put your finger on one of them (or indeed anywhere on the map) you get the following display which will tell you how to get to that location from where you are now.

Once you start moving the big question mark will turn into an arrow showing you the direction you should be moving to get to the desired location.

Would anyone local be interested in having this installed on their android device? (doesn’t work on iPhones, and is still much under development, but it has some basic functionality now).

Nine Trails at last

March 29, 2015

Luis (the race director) moved Nine Trails from August to March because of the heat. And I figured a cool March race was one I could sign up for. So I did.

Forgetting that last year my March race was infernally hot.

Of course we had sundowners and a heat wave this week. Temperatures at my house were 92 two days before the race. I thought about doing another midnight run, but the weather people said the weekend would be cooler.

Not cool, but cooler.

The day before the race I volunteered to help mark trail. Luis gave me a 4.5 mile section to mark. Once I got there I realized that meant hiking 4.5 miles of mountainous trails to do the marking, and then 4.5 miles back to get out. Or a nine mile, strenuous hike the day before a 35 mile strenuous race. That didn’t seem wise, but it was too late to back out. I hiked slowly. As I got to the end I realized I could walk back on the road (rather than trail) which would be easier, and might be shorter. So I ended up only doing an 7.5 mile hike. It took about 3 hours, which meant that I had a late supper and wouldn’t get as much sleep as I wanted. Grump.

I left home around 5am and biked up to Cater to check in.

It was dark.

It seemed a small race. Only about 50 would finish.

Luis told us he was going to start early (and if anyone wasn’t here they could lump it) — this seemed a good idea to me, being frightened of the heat — but by the time he finished giving the course briefing, etc. we started about a minute late.

He also wanted to start at the wrong place, at the top of Cater, rather than the bottom. Oh well. The nine trails route has changed far more over the years due to trail washouts and reroutings, I guess 200ft doesn’t matter much…

When we did start, I glanced at my watch and found I had not reset it from my last effort. So I had to do that, before I started the watch. So my watch was about 10 seconds late.

There was a large pack of runners in front of me, more than I would have liked. Some were running without lights. Which seemed foolish to me. It was dark and would be for another half hour, the moon had long set, and Jesusita is in a tree shaded canyon. It really is dark there.

At one of the stream crossing there was a huge cottonwood down, and in the dark it was kind of hard to see how to get around it.

I bopped along behind some slower runners for a bit, and when the trail widened out I passed a few. And then a few more. And suddenly I realized I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me. Every now and then I’d see a flash of light up the trail, but mostly there was just me and the darkness.

I kind of like running alone in the dark.

Slowly I caught up with the light ahead, and then passed it.

A dim light crept over the world as I climbed up the switchbacks.

And as I popped out onto the fireroad I turned off my light. There is a guy ahead of me whom I don’t know, and then Kevin Cody.

We take the trail over to Inspiration, and then head down toward Tunnel trail. I leap around the guy ahead and zoom downhill. Kevin, however, zooms faster and I lose sight of him again.

I’ve been trying to drink frequently from my camelback, but even so I don’t need to refill with water at the Tunnel aid drop. Then up Tunnel. I see Kevin every now and then, but mostly it’s just me.

About half way up Tunnel I see sunlight shining on the top of some of the taller mountains, but I’m still in shadow.

Near the top of Tunnel someone catches up with me, and we run together for a while. But I know I’ll go slowly down Rattlesnake Connector so I tell him to go ahead, and he does. He’s far faster than I on that downhill.

Up the other side of Rattlesnake, and here I see Charity and Annie who are out doing a little run of their own. I say hi, and zip past. Not long afterward I hear someone else greeting them, so I know there is someone not far behind.

Then barreling down Gibraltar Rd. to the aid station. 1:46. Not bad. On track for a 7 hour run. Ha. I know I’ll slow down later on.

Gibraltar is, I think, the first time I’ve been in the sun.

As I pull out of the aid station the guy behind me pulls in.

I’ve been looking at poppies. On Tunnel trail at about 7am, in the shade the poppies were all furled into buds. But here at the top West Fork in full sun (getting hot) the poppies are in full bloom. Further down the canyon the poppies are only half open.

Poppies at the top of West Fork

Poppies at the top of West Fork

Down by the Cold Spring tunnel there is another downed tree. A large bay laurel. It doesn’t look too bad at first, but there are three separate trunks down (bay laurels do that) and it just gets worse and worse. I exclaim in disgust, but eventually I am through. Then I hear the guy behind me go through the same process.

He catches up and we run together. His name is Glenn, and he is from Atascadero. He ran the race last August, in the heat. Down at the bottom of the trail Nancy is ringing a bell to cheer us on, and then up the other side. Damn it. I shouldn’t be feeling this tired. But I am. I think yesterday’s 7.5 mile hike was a bad idea. As probably was the 10K last weekend which tightened up my calves… Glenn passes me.

Then down the Hot Spring connector and onto the fire road. I’m expecting this to be hot, but it really isn’t bad yet.

Then up the Wall. There are Globe Gilia blooming here. Never seen them here before.

On Buena Vista there is one area where there are about 3 albino figworts. Never seen them anywhere else, but they’ve been here pretty much every year since 2011 (at least, that’s as long as I’ve been checking. I missed them last year, but I think that was simply that I didn’t take Buena Vista trail at the right time)

I’m walking all the uphills now.

As I come up to the fireroad I wonder when I’ll start seeing returning runners. It’s only about 2~3 miles to the turn-around. The first guy is about a mile and a quarter out from the turn, and he is running up a steep uphill. Sigh. Brian isn’t far behind (hadn’t realized he was that fast) and is also running up. The next runner is a woman. I didn’t know there were any women in front of me, and impressed that she’s in third place.

I’m keeping track. I want to know what place I’m in. Once I get to Romero fireroad I’ve only seen 5 runners. Where is everyone? There are lots of people on the fireroad, but they aren’t racers, just obstacles. Most of them are kind obstacles and get out of the way. Finally I see a clump of racers, Kevin and Glenn and some others.

Once I get to the aid station I have counted 9 people ahead, so I’m 10th place. Lisa tries to talk to me, but I’m not coherent. 3:38. If only I could keep that up.

I try to eat up all their cut up oranges.

Then I’m out, and up Romero.

I see Stephanie about half a mile from the aid station. Which means she’s about 15 minutes behind me. (and the leaders were about 40 minutes ahead of me).

After another mile I see Jon and then Karen a bit later. There aren’t very many I know out today.

In this direction it is hot. I realize, this race is mostly in the morning (for me anyway). We start out running west to east, so that on the way out all the uphills are in the shade of the slope. Coming back all the uphills are in the sun. And that makes it hotter. I’m walking the uphills too, so I’m stuck there longer. These fireroads have no shade. And, of course, it is later in the day, so it is hotter.

There are two guys behind me. Chatting. How do they have the energy to chat? I don’t.

I’m continuing to be diligent on drinking water, and it may be helping. I haven’t had any bouts of nausea yet. I also haven’t wanted to use a toilet (and as there are no port-a-potties out, I suppose that is just as well). I guess I won’t see if that makes a difference in a race. However it is becoming more difficult to eat the food I brought. My mouth is getting dry, and that doesn’t help. Today I brought some home-made cookies, cliff bars and cliff shots. The cookies turned out to be too dry. I had one right at the beginning and it was just too difficult to get down. So I switched to cliff bars, now I’m switching to shots. Unfortunately I only brought enough shots for about two hours…

When I get to Buena Vista I see Luis, neat that he can run in his own race.

The two guys are still chatting behind me. Damn it, go away.

Out beyond San Ysidro I see Simone.

As I go along the fireroad I catch occasional glimpses of the guy ahead of me. He’s got a white cap and white shirt so I assume it is Kevin. The Hot Springs Connector brings some welcome shade. As I reach the top I see that the guy in front of me is right there (and isn’t Kevin). I pass him before we get back to the fireroad. So now I’m in ninth place.

It’s quite pleasant running down to the Cold Stream.

After I’ve been running down for a while I find running uphill really hard. Basically I can’t. I have to slow to a walk for a bit, and then after a bit I can start running again (if it isn’t too steep).

Drat. The guy behind me has almost caught up again. His name is Daniel. We are both exhausted. I explain to him why he should pass me, and he explains to me why I should stay in front. An odd kind of race.

Someone has cleared away most of the smaller branches from the fallen bay laurel and it is much easier to get past from this direction.

Then I pull away from him again. And now I start to see Kevin ahead.

When I pull into the Gibraltar aid station I find the lead woman is there (hunh? She was about half an hour ahead at the turn around, what’s she doing here?), Kevin is crashed out in a chair, and some other runner is also there. And Sean is here. Oh, but he’s part of the aid crew and fills up my water for me. They ask me what they can do for me. “Do you have any electrolytes?” “Yes” (pause) “Where are they?” “Oh, right here.”

5:56. Ok, I suppose there is some chance I could still break 8 hours, but I know I’m slowing and I really doubt it. Still we’ll see.

Daniel has come in to the aid station. The lead woman has left. And the runner I don’t recognize. And then I follow. By the time I’m out the lead woman has vanished, while the other runner is clearly visible. At first I assume I can catch him, because he’s walking, but I walk more slowly and he pulls away bit by bit. I never see the lead woman again.

Behind me Kevin and Daniel have also left and are walking up together. We must present a rather odd sight. A race, in which four people are slowly walking up a hill.

Kevin catches up and passes me.

Down Rattlesnake, and ahead of me Kevin pulls up. His adductors are spasming, he says. I almost catch up with him, but they aren’t spasming that badly and he takes off again. I catch up with him again, and he again takes off.

Up the connector. Hottest it has been, I think. Ahead of me I see Kevin stuck behind the nameless runner (who doesn’t seem to be letting him pass, which seems rude), while behind me Daniel is visible. I can’t even walk fast. I’m sure Daniel will catch me. But he doesn’t.

Finally I reach Tunnel (there’s a soapplant blooming here). Some shade and lots of tricky downhill.

I’ve run out of shot blocks, so I start on my dry cookies. I need something. They are hard to get down, so I only take small bites.

I figure that if I can get to the bottom of Tunnel by 7 hours then I have a chance to get to the finish in another hour (normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m tired).

I get to the bottom of Tunnel at 7:09.

There, at the aid station, I see Kevin again. I’m beginning to think this is some subtle form of torture on his part. He keeps letting me think I’m about to catch up… and then doesn’t let me.

Up to Inspiration. 7:29. OK, if I weren’t tired I could get back by 8:09, but 8:20 seems more likely.

I try to run quickly. But I’m really beat. The road goes ever on and on. Pursuing it with weary feet. As with Gloucester the even ground now seems “horrible steep.” It takes forever.

There are lots of obstacles here, but they are pretty good about getting out of the way. Still, when the obstacles are going in my direction I have to warn them, and simply shouting out “Good afternoon” leaves me very tired.

There are some steep little hills right at the end. I try to run up them but end up walking. Pride wants me to run up the last one where people will see me, but I walk up that too. People do see me. Lisa, Stuart. They all want to congratulate me. I just want to finish. Now I can run. 100ft down to the finish line.

8:12:44, 9th place. I never caught Kevin. But then Daniel never caught me.

I arrived at the finish line a happy, healthy man. I crawled away a decrepit wreck. I collapsed in a shady corner and didn’t move for another half hour. I started coughing (there was a lot of trail dust out there) and people got worried. I wasn’t worried. I just needed rest.

Daniel came in, and then Stephanie. But I didn’t move. Eventually, after sitting there for about 45 minutes I went over and congratulated Stephanie — but then I had to go and sit back down again.

Finally I felt recovered enough to roll down the hill to get a shower and some food.

It was faster than the run I did in the dark

Pros Cons
midnight Cool Can’t see well
Lost water bottle
today People to race
Good aid
Can’t get lost
fallen trees

Track work-outs

March 29, 2015

Rusty tells me that I’m not slowing down because I’m getting older, but because I no longer do track work-outs. I suppose not doing track work-outs probably has an effect, but I think aging is the bigger of the two myself.

Rusty thinks I could be a minute faster in the 10K if I just did some speed work, my own guess is more like 10 seconds.

I don’t do track workouts any more because I tend to get shin splints when I do them, but of course for a while I don’t.

Anyway two years ago I was doing workouts (I started around Christmas, as I recall), and I didn’t get injured until after Orchard to Ocean.

And two years ago I was about a minute faster.

But I was also two years younger.

Two years ago I ran at 80.8% and this year at 79.9%. Now at my current age 80.8% corresponds to a 39:35 10K. Or a difference of about 25 seconds. More than I thought. Less than Rusty did.

Getting Older…

March 22, 2015

I don’t seem interested in racing any more. Not the way I used to be. But every two years I do a 10K, so I forced myself to do Orchard to Ocean again.

I had looked at the age-graded tables and at 55 (almost 56) a 40 minute 10K is 80%. Now I’ve always thought that a 10K that took more than 40 minutes meant I wasn’t trying, and such a result just wasn’t respectable. Now I would be hard put to reach that limit. And might not.

No one I had talked to seemed to be running the race, and `that bothered me too. Perhaps I wouldn’t have anyone to run against, perhaps I wouldn’t even know anyone in the race.

But I went.

There were people I knew, Kim, Maggie, Stuart. And then a brace of Tims. But the Tims are too fast for me, and the others too slow.

I warmed up, jogging the 5K course and did some strides. I felt sluggish and stiff. But I always do…

Lief was there! We used to run together. But I never saw him after the start. He didn’t help me this day.

The course had an right-angled bend in it right at the start. Not what you want. But there were some massive road-blocks closing off the normal route. No idea why. Anyway I positioned myself so that the turn was less than it might have been. The Tims seemed to have come to the same conclusion and were beside me.

On the other side was Sue who tapped me on the shoulder and said “If I start beside you then I’ll be able to run as fast as you.” Poor Sue. I was not feeling fast.

A siren wailed and we were off. The turn wasn’t bad. I passed one of the Tims, that should have told me I was going too fast, but I didn’t pay attention. Down the road, across the tracks, and into the State Park. I’m running behind Scott, where’d he come from. That seems like a good place. After about 1/4 mile I glance down and see I’m running at a 6 minute pace. Once I could do that. Not now. I slow a bit.

A number of people pass me. Including two women.

At the one mile mark I see 6:17, which means I’m probably going at the right pace now, somewhere around 6:20~6:25.

As I run, someone yells “Go Shiggy!”. Shiggy is not ahead of me. No one would mistake me for Shiggy. So I presume he’s right behind me. Well, I won’t win my age-group this year.

Shiggy passes me. Oh, well, I knew he would.

There does seem to be a clump right here of people going about my pace there are 3 just in front (and who knows how many close behind). As we run up the hill to the bluffs I pass one guy. Now just Scott and Shiggy close ahead. I pass Shiggy. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.

But it doesn’t last and he passes me back in half a mile.

My watch didn’t register the 2 mile mark when I tried to click it. Well, this bit is probably slow, it’s an uphill mile.

The three mile mark says 13:37. So 6:49? I know these two miles are uphill, but that seems really slow. The four mile mark says 6:04. So the three mile was probably in the wrong place. But now I’m confused about my pace.

Now it’s all downhill to the finish. I pass another guy. Shiggy is far out in front, Scott is out of sight. No one to race with any more.

At the 5 mile mark I glance at my watch and I see that the minutes are right for coming in around 40 (somehow my eyes can’t capture the whole time when I’m tired). At the 6 mile mark I’m running within seconds of a 4min/km pace.

I turn the final corner.

I look up to the clock. 39:47.

Can I make it?

Run, run, as hard as I can.



I enter the shoot and the clock reads 39:59. I’ve almost certainly failed to break 40.

40:01. The end of an era.

My best 10Ks by year
Year Time AG %
2007 37:02 80.9%
2009 38:08 79.8%
2011 38:28 80.5%
2013 38:56 80.8%
2015 40:01 79.9%

Blown and buffeted by the wind

December 27, 2014

Now one autumn morning when the wind had blown all the leaves off the trees in the night, and was trying to blow the branches off, Pooh and Piglet were sitting in the Thoughtful Spot and wondering.

The House at Pooh Corner — A. A. Milne

Every Christmas I like to go out for a long run. There tend to be very few people out on Christmas morning. Little traffic to get in the way. It’s a soothing time to run.

In the past I have run along the coast, up to Ellwood and back, but this year I decided to do another of my 50 mile trail run experiments.

I had initially planned to run Red Rock again (for consistency) but there was a mudslide all over Paradise Rd. and, while I could probably run through it now, I couldn’t bike or drive through it to leave water. So I decided to do a variant of the Blue Canyon Loop. I found one that was 25+ miles (so I’d do it twice), and I could leave water at Romero+Camino Cielo, Cold Spring+CC and have some in my car at Romero trailhead.

The days before Christmas had been hot (84°F), which would not make for good running. On Christmas Eve the forecast was for the next day to have a high of 67° (whew) but “winds 30-40mph, gusting up to 65″. Now if you know your Beaufort Scale that means “Gale force winds gusting up to Hurricane”

So that was going to be interesting.

But they were supposed to die down by noon.

The forecast didn’t say what would happen after noon…

I started at 4am. It was dark. And windy. I climbed up Romero Rd. sometimes the wind was in front of me, blowing me back, sometimes behind helping me up. There didn’t seem to be any sense to it. I guess the canyons twisted it around so it could come from any direction. Sometimes I was in wind shadow.

There was no moon (it was waxing crescent and had long since set). City lights down below and out to sea the oil islands lit up like Christmas trees.

“If I get lost, or injured, or blown away, it’s my own damn fault.”

As I reached Romero Saddle the wind became ferocious. I thought of my water jug hidden under a manzanita bush — but it was so cold in that wind, and the wind was so strong and I couldn’t imagine how I’d be able to put water in my pack in the dark with the wind… so I left it there. I hadn’t drunk much anyway.

The wind was against them now, and Piglet’s ears streamed behind him like banners as he fought his way along, and it seemed hours before he got them into the shelter of the Hundred Acre Wood and they stood up straight again, to listen, a little nervously, to the roaring of the gale among the tree-tops.

“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”

“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.

Piglet was comforted by this, and in a little while…

One nice thing about running in the chaparral is that there are no trees to fall on you.

So I wasn’t worried myself.

The trees are only to be found around the creeks, and I didn’t reach a creek until I was well below the ridge and out of the worst of the gale.

At one point I tried to adjust my camelback, and I needed both hands, and the flashlight got tilted up. And suddenly I found I had run into the cliff face on the side of the road. It was dirt, and I laughed at myself as I bounced off. After that I kept the light pointing in front of me.

It was still pitch black. But I knew I just had to run down until I got to the bridge over Blue Creek and then the trail was maybe 100yds after that. It had been a while since I last used the trailhead, but there is no other bridge on the road…

Eventually I found the bridge and, after a short search, the trail.

I’m not as familiar with the upper part of Blue Canyon trail as I am with the lower, and the dark didn’t help. I made a couple of attempts to run up the walls of the canyon but was never taken in for long.

When I got to the segment of Blue Canyon between Romero and Cottam it was almost light enough to see. I reached Cottam a little before 7 and it was full light (but the sun had yet to rise over the mountains so it was still shaded). I sat down at the picnic table there and got out my book and read for 15 minutes. It was a bit chilly, but I was out of the worst of the wind and still had all my layers on. It was OK.

Cottam Meadow (back on an October morning)

Cottam Meadow (back on an October morning)

I had been a little worried that I might stiffen up, but that didn’t really happen. It took a minute or two to warm up again, but no worse than has happened to me many times when I pause after a tempo run to wait for other people before continuing.

Just on the edge of the meadow I found
a bear print. Just one. Several days old I think (the ground wasn’t soft enough to take my prints today, though other people’s prints were there beside the bear’s). Anyway not worrying.

Cottam is the lowest point in the back country. It’s where Forbush Creek runs into Blue Creek. I’m now climbing up Forbush Canyon and there is water in it, as there was in Blue. I’ll have to go look for the confluence when I return to Cottam.

I catch my first glimpse of the sun.

I pass a sycamore with a few leaves that haven’t fallen yet, so I grab them. I think I will need them when I reach the pit toilet at Forbush.

There are lots and lots of Calochortus basal leaves poking out of the ground here. And all up Cold Spring trail too, when I get to it.

But as I climb up the back side of Cold Spring and out of Forbush I begin to feel the wind again. And it increases the higher I get.

I drain my camelback, and just before the top I replenish it from the water stash there.

As I cross Camino Cielo my cap blows off. I run after it and finally trap it. Luckily it did not blow all the way down to Montecito.

Then down Cold Spring. There’s a current blooming up here, and a silk tassel bush, and a few long-stem buckwheat. But not much. not much.

At one point a gust of wind blows me so strongly that it stops me dead in my tracks. When you walk you always have a foot on the ground so it’s easier to fight the wind, but each running pace contains a jump into the air when the wind can catch you and blow you backward.

A large Greenbark has fallen across the trail here, I guess the wind did it in (I was last up here last Friday, after the rains, and it was fine then)

TheTreesTrees are so rare in the chaparral that the one place they grow here is just known as “The Trees” and everyone understands it. There are two Eucalyptus growing about half-way down the trail. Today the wind is whipping them about and the noise is astonishing.

They don’t fall on me, but for a long time I can still hear the wind in their branches.

Then down to the powerlines and I follow the road all the way back toward Romero.

The wind grabs my cap several more times, but I always manage to recover it. I wonder why I’m losing my cap in this direction when I didn’t in the dark (and thank goodness I didn’t in the dark). Eventually I end up carrying the cap.

The road is littered with snapped branches, some of them quite thick. That oak branch was about 2 inches in diameter, and the laurel sumac one is more than an inch. And how laurel sumac can snap is beyond me. They just bend when I try to snap their branches.

I pause at my car and read my book for another 15 minutes. This time I feel no stiffness at all when I start moving (it is warm in the car, I bet that makes a difference).

I consider what I’ll need for my next loop. How many layers? I ran all the first loop with four, but it is warmer now and the wind is supposed to drop soon. I take off one layer. Gloves? Nah, they can stay. Flashlight? I probably won’t need it, but, eh, might as well carry it, just in case disaster strikes.

I decide to run the next loop in reverse order. Kim had said she might run one loop starting at 6 — so she’s two hours behind me, if she’s there — but if I run backwards I might see her.

I don’t.

I do see other people. There seem to be more people around at 10:30AM than at 4. Odd that.

I think I’ll walk up the fireroad now. It’s steep.

PsammeadJust beyond San Ysidro I see that a strange creature has crawled out of its bed to bask in the sun. I think it must be a Psammead, so I don’t disturb it (they can be bad tempered).

The wind does seem to have dropped a bit. My cap is safe.

Back up Cold Spring to Camino Cielo. I run right past the water stash at first and have to go back. I pretty much drained my water too. That’s good.

MistletoeAs I approach Cottam I remember that I want to look for the confluence, so I go crashing off trail to do so. I discover that the wind has snapped mistletoe out of the sycamores here and I pass several scraps with berries. It’s Christmas. I pause and pick one up. I’ll take it to the contra-dance this evening. I’ve only another 14 miles to go.

ConfluenceI reach the place where the confluence should be, but it isn’t. I go up and down a bit. I’m clearly in the channel of Forbush creek and it is dry as a bone. A quarter mile back it was in full flow, and presumably, it is flowing underneath the sand I’m walking on. But that isn’t obvious up above. Still Blue Creek looks nice here.

Then back to the picnic table at Cottam and another 15 minute break. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to calm my stomach. Oh well.

Then another run up Blue Canyon. Some of the stream crossings in Upper Blue Canyon are quite nice looking.
Blue Creek

Once I’m out of the canyon and onto the road again the wind picks up. Sigh. It did drop around noon, but the forecast didn’t say what would happen after that.

I wish I had my gloves. My fingers are cold.

At Camino Cielo the wind is again ferocious. I take off my cap to keep it safe while I fill up my camelback. And then down the other side. The sun is nearing the horizon but hasn’t set yet. About two miles down the road I start noticing some nice color on the cliffs and I think soon I can take a nice sunset picture. And then it is gone. The sun has set behind me and I missed that chance.

I’m glad I did bring the flashlight.

Romero Sunset Panorama

Solstice at NIRA

December 27, 2014

‘Twas Advent’s Fourth Sunday, when all through the camp,
Not a creature was stirring not even a scamp.

Kevin wanted to camp at NIRA (something, something Recreation Area) and then run Upper Manzana trail out to the Sisquoc River and back (about 30 miles round trip).

Somehow that changed and we all drove out from SB early in the morning.

For the last decade or so I have tried to watch the sun rise and set on the day of the winter solstice (it’s pretty easy to be up and about for both at this time of year). This year we were driving through Happy Canyon when the sun arose.

It takes more than an hour to get to NIRA from SB. I’ve only been there once before myself (Cynthia took me this summer but we only hiked about 6 miles in). The road simply ends at a campsite shaded by Live and Valley Oaks.

Manzana CreekWe set off up the trail, which winds above Manzana Creek. There was water in it, more water than this summer but still not much.

It’s interesting that the trees which cluster around our creeks tend to be deciduous (Sycamores, Cottonwoods, Alders, Willows), but those a little further uphill (Bay Laurel, Coast Live Oak) keep their leaves.

I, of course, was interested in seeing if there was any difference to the vegetation this far out in the back country. In the summer I found a few things that I hadn’t seem before. At this time of year there’s not much to be seen. A few tall wire-lettuces still blooming after the summer, and lots of young forbs, too young for me to identify.

Manzana NarrowsI found a Juniper bush (tree?) near the Mazana Narrows. I think it was a Juniper, but maybe it’s a Cypress…

And Kevin pointed out a gooseberry in bloom. I have seen no gooseberries in bloom in the front country yet.

Then we started to climb out of the canyon up to the ridgeline above. Much drier here.

And definitely a Juniper bush. I know I haven’t seen these in the front country.

The ridgeline isn’t what I was expecting. I assumed there would be a knife-edge ridge the way there is at Camino Cielo, but there was a wide sort of flat area through which a little stream meandered.
Ridgeline Creek

Then we crossed over and down into the watershed of the Sisquoc.

Kevin pointed out a stick and asked me if I could identify it. He said he called it “Spiny Ceanothus”. Now the genus Ceanothus means spiny, so that’s not much help. In the front country there is Ceanothus spinosus which means the spiny, spiny thing. but this wasn’t that. It looked more like a chaparral pea to me than anything, but it wasn’t that either. I kept my eye open after that and found some sticks with leaves on them. After that I realized it was all over the place. But I’d never noticed it before. It doesn’t seem to grow in the front country. Proper name seems to be Ceanothus leucodermis, or chaparral whitethorn.

This side also had a calm meandering stream and we followed it down to the Sisquoc.

We found several sets of Coyote prints in muddy parts of the trail.

tarweedAnd something that looked like an unhappy clustered tarweed (but it is far too late for that to be blooming now, so maybe it’s a tarweed I’m not familiar with).

When the got to the Sisquoc it looked like a real stream from my childhood. Gently flowing, full of water.Sisquoc

There’s a forest service cabin on the other side of the stream, fully furnished, and apparently open to anyone who hikes that far. We had lunch there, and turned back.

We were coming down the 154 just in time to catch the last of the sunset over Goleta:

Indelicate essentials.

December 27, 2014

(An epiphany at Christmastide)

For years I have been bothered by the fact that I get nauseous and am unable to eat after exercising for a long time. The first time I noticed this was about 10 years ago when I did my first 200 mile bike ride. So it’s been a problem as long as I’ve tried to do long distance stuff.

Over the years I have tried various things to calm my stomach. Nothing has worked. No salt. More salt. More water. Different foods. Going slowly. Nothing worked.

Recently I’ve been trying to be systematic about testing. I’ve signed up for a 100 mile run and I won’t be able to complete it if I can’t eat after 6 hours. About a month ago I ran the Red Rock 50 course, but not in a race, just to see if going slowly would help. It didn’t.

But I did notice that after using the pit toilet at red rock trailhead I felt better for a while. Didn’t think much of it then. And when I returned to the toilet I didn’t feel the need to use it so I didn’t.

On Christmas day I was testing to see if taking a 15 minute break every three hours (roughly) would work. I didn’t really expect it would, but couldn’t think of anything else to try.

I had intended to do RR again, but Paradise Road (5N18 or whatever) got so much mud dumped on it and was closed off so early that I didn’t want to subject my road bike to it. And there was no other way to get water out there. So I did some big loops through blue canyon.

I took along an ebook reader and I stopped at Cottam Camp and read for 15 minutes. I stopped again at my car at Romero trailhead. By the time I got back to Cottam I could feel the nausea was building again, and a 15 minute pause didn’t help.

About two miles beyond Cottam is a pit toilet at Forbush and I found I needed to use it (I grabbed two sycamore leaves that hadn’t yet fallen), and after that I felt fine.

So I tend to think that I simply need more room in my innards, and the nausea is relieved if I shit.

Unfortunately a) I usually don’t feel any urge to do so when racing and b) the opportunity is generally not available in a trail race. The first, perhaps, could be solved by drinking more water. The second, well by picking a race with lots of port-a-potties? Born to Run has one every 10 miles, so it is probably a good race for me…

Interesting that even using low fiber foods like gels or blocks I still have this problem. I suppose there’s gunk in me from breakfast. I wonder about enemas. Living off GU for the day before a race? (Ug).

One thing that had concerned me was that after sitting for 15 (chilly) minutes in the middle of a run I’d be too stiff to continue. I did notice a little stiffness, but once I started moving it went away quickly and wasn’t an issue.

The test process worked, the test did not.

December 8, 2014

So what else should I try?

Well Saturday’s run said going slowly doesn’t help me. Next I’ll try pausing with a book at every aid station (and bring a bike when setting up to make sure I get water to the end of the road). Maybe go down Arroyo Burro Rd rather than entering private property.

Chris Orr says that endurance mtn. bikers tend to eat real food now rather than process stuff. He says it’s easier on the system. Hmm. Not sure why that would be, but OK, maybe. He suggested hard-boiled eggs. Um? Aren’t those primarily protein and a little fat? That doesn’t sound like a good choice. Besides I don’t like hard-boiled eggs (and if I don’t like them at the start, I’m really going to hate them after 12 hours…)

Early January? Christmas day?

Red Rock Wannabe

December 7, 2014
  1. I wanted to run Red Rock 50m (but the race was last week)
  2. I wanted to see what it was like to do a 50m run alone
  3. I wanted to test certain ideas I had that might make running 100m possible for me.

I have problems that show up after I’ve run a long time (where “long time” is dependent on effort level, temperature, altitude, water consumption). Unfortunately it is practically impossible to test solutions for this since the “long-time” tends to be much longer than I achieve on any training run.

I noticed last month that if I stashed extra water and ran the marathon at a slower pace then I didn’t have problems even given the extra heat. Well it’s hard to stash water for the Red Rock course, so I thought I’d just try running it at a slower pace. I had also noticed that eating cliff bars seemed better for me than eating GU.

OK. I wasn’t going to race, just try to average 4mph. I’d pause to take pictures of wildflowers to get little breaks (well, not many wildflowers now. Ferns!). I’d carry 12 cliff bars (that proved difficult, but I didn’t want to stash them outside overnight) and no GU.

I posted an event on FaceBook. Even though I wanted to run it alone, I was also a bit nervous of being out there for 12 hours alone. Almost immediately 2 people I’d never heard of said “Maybe” to the event. This disturbed me. You need to plan for a 50 miler, you can’t just show up on the day — at the very least you need to stash water. I tried to make it clear that this would be difficult and either they needed to tell me, or stash their own water. But the night before a third unknown person said “Maybe”. I’d already stashed my water, and there was no way they’d be able to. I was worried.

I stashed some water at Camino Cielo and Cold Spring (mile 6) — Heidi told me there was plenty of water there from last week, but I’ve had water disappear up there and didn’t trust that info (It was there). Then I thought to put a gallon near the end of Paradise Rd (or FS 5N18, or Gibraltar, or whatever it’s called there) at Red Rock (which is about mile 17) and another at the start of Mattias Connector (about mile 19).

Clearly that leaves a long gap between Camino Ciello and Paradise, but there are no other easily accessible points in between.

Unfortunately when I got to Lower Oso there was a large sign ROAD CLOSED.

I should have brought a bike.

There was no way I was going to walk the 6 or 7 miles out to Red Rock (and the same back). Even Mattias was 5 miles or so. I really didn’t want to do this the day before trying to 50 miles. But I could go up Arroyo Burro Rd. and stash some water at mile ~24. Not great. But better than nothing.

So now I had an 18 mile run without a water stop. Not good. I was going to have to carry handheld water bottles as well as my 2liter camelback. I hate handhelds. I never drink enough from them and they make it much harder to stop and take pictures. I wouldn’t need them until after Camino Cielo, so I could run up with them empty…

The next morning I got to San Ysidro trailhead a little early (I was running the race inside out, because San Ysidro is easier to get to than Rancho Oso. Cheaper too). And I decided I would not wait for any “Maybe”s. I didn’t want to encourage people to run 50miles with no preparation.

I set out. My camelback felt light. I realized I had forgotten to fill it with water at home. Great. Just great. I’ve never done that before.

Well it’s only 6 miles (albeit straight up) to Camino Cielo and there was lots of water there. I’d make it.

I started a little before 6 and it was pitch dark.

As I ran up beside San Ysidro creek it chattered noisily, but when the road actually forded it, the roadbed was dry. Our creeks are odd.

On the climb up to Girard trail the sky began to lighten
And the full moon set.

I got a little lost at the hot springs in the dark and ran up the wrong trail for a minute…

When I got to Cold Spring the sunrise was nice…

There are some great-berry manzanita blooming further up Cold Spring (first I’ve seen this year) and then another on Montecito Peak, and more all along the course.

I did climb up Montecito Peak, even though no one gave me a medal.

But what I wanted to see up there was a little patch of ferns I had noticed back in October. Back then they were all shriveled up from the summer’s heat or drought, or something. Now where I grew up the only ferns that shriveled and revived were call Resurrection Ferns and were Polypodys so I assumed these were too. But when the rains came I realized that California Polypody doesn’t do that, but Goldback Fern does, so I assumed these were that. But when I went and looked at them they weren’t a bit like either. They are some sort of Lipfern, probably Colville’s

As I trotted on up to Camino Cielo, I realized I hadn’t taken the oath. So I yelled it out to the uninterested sky: “If I get lost, or injured, or dead, it’s my own damn fault!” Perhaps more appropriate today than usual…

The threadleaf ragwort on Camino Cielo still has one bloom. I saw no others alive anywhere else.


Brrr. It is freezing!

I hadn’t realized how cold the water would be. I can barely force myself to drink, and when I fill my handheld bottles they numb my hands. There’s not much left of my gallon jug after I’ve taken three liters out of it so I decide I’ll carry it down to Forbush and stash it there. That way, on the return journey, it will be two miles closer and that may be important.

There’s a currant blooming on the trail down to Forbush, and the last hummingbird trumpet blooming just after Forbush. The Barberry down near the grotto has buds but isn’t blooming yet.

There is less water in Gibraltar Reservoir than there was in June.
Hmm. This is about a quarter of the race (or half way to Rancho Oso).

First glimpse of Red Rock, about 1/3 into the race

Even though there is no (car) access to Red Rock the pit toilet was unlocked. Which was nice.

Then there’s the run along Paradise Rd. with all the fords. After a bit I was convinced I’d missed the trail — but then I remembered the year before I had this same conversation with myself and the lead woman, and we hadn’t missed it. So I kept going.

It’s kind of nice to know there will be no vehicles on the road as you run down it.

Then Mattias Connector climbs straight up for a bit. I walked, and after a mile connects to Mattias Trail.
No matter how many times I run it (in this direction) I always have the same reaction to this trail. Each time I see a ridge in front of me I am convinced that will be the last ridge, once I get there I’ll find the road. Instead I find another dip and another ridge (which surely is the last ridge — but it isn’t either).

Eventually the last ridge takes me by surprise and I run down Arroyo Burro Rd. After a mile or two I finally reach my water bottle, artfully concealed behind a rock (no one cleaned it up! Yay!).

And then Arroyo Burro trail, and then the Rancho Oso trail. There is a no trespassing sign, but I ignore it. I want to do the full course. I doubt anyone will care. No one does. I don’t see anyone at all. I run down to the finish line, switch watches and head back.
Rancho Oso

There’s a nice little goldback fern fiddlehead just opening…

I get back to my aidstation, fill up again. There’s not much left in the water bottle so I decide to carry it with me, again. Oh, and I might as well take a salt tablet.

Suddenly I’m a lot thirstier and I drink a fair amount of water.

It is hot now. Most of the course has been in the shade, but now it is noon and the sun is high. When I get back home I check and see that the day’s temperature in SB is 9°F higher than it should be for this time of year. I wonder if I’ll ever see (what used to be) normal weather again?

I should be OK, I've been going about 4MPH.

I should be OK, I’ve been going about 4MPH.

When I get back to Red Rock I put all the cliff bar wrappers I’ve generated in the dumpster there. I also pick up about 5 GU packets that someone left outside the pit toilet.

I climb out of Red Rock up the trail and onto the road. I’ve been eating half a cliff bar every half hour, and when the time comes for the next bar I get the dry heaves. Damn. I was hoping that if I went slowly that wouldn’t happen. It took longer to happen (8 hours instead of 6), but it still happened and far too soon for a 100 miler. I was also hoping that cliff bars wouldn’t do that to me, but they do. So the test was a failure. I still don’t know how to run long.

I walk for a bit and am able to finish my half cliff bar.

Actually I walk for about 20 minutes (downhill) in hopes that will settle my stomach, but it doesn’t. So I start running again.

I’m alternately running walking now (and not eating) until I get to the Grotto. I’m still averaging 4 mph.

But from the Grotto up to Camino Cielo we have 3 miles of straight uphill and I’m dead beat. I hate not being able to eat and feeling nauseous. There is no way I can run. So I walk. Slowly.

I reach my stashed water bottle. I simple pour out its contents. I haven’t been drinking much either, and there’s more in 2 miles if I need it then.

CampfireAtForbushSomeone is camping at Forbush and has lit a fire. I smell it as I trudge past.

I have a few blocks. The thought of a cliff bar is revolting, but I try one of the blocks. It goes down easily, so 5 minutes later I try another, and a third.

I begin to feel better (but I keep walking, not running). And I wonder if maybe all I need to do is walk for two hours? (It hasn’t worked in the past, but I ignore that).

I can see the top of the ridge line with the pine trees on Camino Cielo
I was hoping I’d get there in time to see the sunset, but my body has rebelled.

Still there is a nice afterglow when I reach the top.

And as I turn the bend there is the whole city spread out below

I find I can run downhill again, and I feel much better than I did.

I’m glad I don’t need to climb Montecito Peak in the dark.

In the half-hour it takes me to get down to the trees, it has become much darker.

I eat a couple more blocks, but my stomach objects to any more. Sigh.

I get to the bottom. About 13 hours. Pleased to have done it, but I wish I knew how to run more than 8 hours… Somehow I need to drink more.

Running to North Carolina

November 29, 2014

Since most people are running Red Rock this weekend I wanted to do something fun too. So I decided to run to North Carolina on the Appalachian Trail.

Some years ago my father mentioned that he had hoped to hike all of the trail in Georgia. He was then 89 and missing one section, the bit near the start (or finish) at Springer Mountain. Unfortunately for him there is no easy way to even get to the start, and he has (regretfully) given up the idea.

But I decided it would be an interesting thing to try. When I’m up here I frequently run on bits of the trail, the bits that are closest to me, which turn out to be those near the middle of the trail. So I’ve been running the trail from the inside out.

Anyway I have reached the point where I had about an 8 mile run to get to the NC border. (And a 20 odd mile run to get to Springer Mtn.)

So this morning I got up at 6. The temperature on the front porch was 24°F. Brrr. This is disturbing because the AT is 2000+ft higher than we are here and is usually cooler. It’s been a long time since I ran when it was this cold. So I put on lots of layers.

I reach the trailhead and for once it feels warmer there than back home. Still cold of course. The parking lot is jammed. I consider this trailhead to be the backside of beyond. I didn’t expect to see anyone here. I can’t actually find a spot and must pull over on the side of the road. I’m here pretty early so I assume these people are camping. Brrrr.

The trail climbs steeply out of Dick’s Creek Gap for about a mile providing good views off to the right.
Footing is a bit tricky at first. I’m not sure if the leaves are naturally slippery or if they are coated in a thin layer of ice. There is certainly some ice, thin crystals of it push up the dirt.
Ice Crystals
It’s fairly bare. No leaves, no wildflowers. But there are some ferns. Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) is green all year long as is Creeping Cedar (Diphasiastrum digitatum).
Christmas Fern / Creeping Cedar

When I reach the top of the climb, I find I’m a bit warmer than I want, so I shed two layers and bundle them up and leave them by the side of the trail. I hope no one will take them…

The sun is shining down on this side now…

The trail goes beside a little bog here. There is no ice. Can it really be above freezing? And above freezing all night? After a bit the bog turns into a creek which runs beside the trail for a way. (View looking backwards, uphill)

Then we drop down into a stand of loblolly pines. This is a bit unusual as most of the trail (here anyway) goes through hardwoods. And at the bottom of the stand is Cowart Gap. What kind of name is “Cowart”? Cows don’t do art.

A little under 2 miles. Time for a bite to eat.

Mountain Pano3

And look here! Some snow! Perhaps left over from the midnight rain we had 3 days ago? Anyway Christmas Ferns don’t seem to care.
Christmas Fern Snow

I pop over to the back side of the mountain, out of the sun and here, finally is some real ice. A little stream comes trickling down and the rocks around it are coated with icicles.

And just beyond this is a rock covered with Common Polypody. I guess they are evergreen too.

I pass through Plum Orchard Gap (Really? There was a plum orchard here once? no sign of it now). And then on to Blue Ridge Gap. NantahalaThis gap has a forest service road and there’s a car parked here. The sign says it’s 3.1 miles to Bly Gap, which is just a little beyond the NC border. So I think I’ll go that far into NC.

Hmm. I’m entering the Nantahala wilderness. That’s a new one wilderness area for me.

As I approach the NC border I run through an area with more snow than I’ve seen so far. The whole slope is covered with a light dusting. And a marginal woodfern seems happy enough to be in the middle of snow.

And then the border… A small sign tacked up to a tree.

I continue on to Bly Gap where I meet my first hiker for the day. He’s a photographer who likes the gnarled tree that grows here. He’s taking pictures of it in every season and he encourages me to do so too.
The Tree At Bly Gap

When I get home I load my route into Garmin … and it shows that I didn’t quite reach the NC border. Um. I look it up. The NC/Ga border is at 35°N. And the mark on the tree is at 34.9931375°N — that’s about half a mile south of the border. Bly gap is only marginally better, it’s a third of a mile short. Now my watch uses GPS with a 5 meter expected error for each location. I could believe 10, even 20 meters. But not 800. The trail is mis-marked.

Damn it! I’m going to have to do the whole thing over again.


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