Archive for December, 2008

Here’s hoping…

December 30, 2008

I don’t get injured…

I’ve registered for a 50 mile race to celebrate my 50th birthday. The White River race, in the Cascades in Washington St. on the 25th of July (my birthday is the 12th of June, but this is close enough).

Would you like to join me?

(I hope I don’t get injured. I hope I don’t get injured. I hope I don’t get injured. I hope I don’t get injured. I hope I don’t get injured. I hope I don’t get injured. I hope I don’t get injured. I hope I don’t get injured. I hope I don’t get injured. I hope I don’t get injured. I hope I don’t get injured. I hope I don’t get injured again.)


A day out of time

December 25, 2008

It feels as though today does not count. Normal life is in abeyance as people vacation from normality.

A perfect day for a long run.

Oh, of course I called my family to check in. My sister (just in from New York) was rushing about the house picking up my parent’s “mess”. My father was hastening after my sister rescuing important papers that my sister called “mess”. My mother was in the kitchen bemoaning the fact that no one was selling geese yesterday and she’d had to settle for two ducks instead. My brother-in-law appeared to be hiding. Wise man.

It sounded too much like Tove Jansen’s Moomin Christmas. The MoominTrolls normally hibernate, but this year they awaken just before Christmas. They see all their neighbors scurrying about on last minute errands. No one has time to explain what’s happening, everyone is flustered and worried. The poor Moomins become concerned. They gather that a fearsome monster, The Christmas, is coming. This monster needs to be propitiated with presents (they search the house for things to give The Christmas). Then they discover it expects a feast too (all they’ve got in the house is pine needles, which they eat before hibernating). And then it needs a tree (why a tree?) and the tree must be decorated and lit. The poor Moomins are terrified, they make what preparations they can, and then they hide, hoping to avoid the monster when it comes.

Sometimes Christmas seems like that.

A long run seemed like a good way to avoid the worries of the season.

Actually it was Rusty’s idea. First he suggested that I run out to Ellwood before last Saturday’s workout, and then run back afterward. Then he thought a little longer and suggested that I NOT do that:-)

I decided I’d run out and back on Christmas instead — and as there is no workout on a thursday, I wouldn’t be expected to do one, and Rusty wouldn’t be worried.

It was spitting drizzle as I left the house, and quite windy. The wind was reversed (blowing from the East, while it normally blows from the West), which means a storm is on its way. Yesterday the wind was even more violent, also blowing from the East.

Black clouds to the East suggested more rain on the way.

As I passed Hendry’s beach a flock of pelicans floated through the air. They seemed to be enjoying the wind. I had the wind at my back as I climbed up into Hope Ranch — I tried not to think of the return journey when the wind (and rain) would be in my face.

About a mile from Hendry’s there is an outlook over the sea, and the ocean was two colored — brown close to shore (where the outflow from Arroyo Burro creek was discoloring it) and grey further out. The shore faded into rainy mist as I looked up the coast.

I was actually warm when I reached the top of the first hill — hadn’t expected that — so I removed my jacket. It seemed to have stopped raining too.

A little further on a small squall blew in, and I put the jacket back on, then took it off again as the squall blew over.

The weather seemed unable to make up its mind about raining.

There was no traffic. Usually, between 7 and 8 there is a continual bustle of cars and pickups on this road, but today there was no one. Very peaceful.

Then I turned and ran up the hill to More Mesa. I love this hill. It doesn’t last long, but it is sooo steep.

I thought that as long as I had the wind at my back, I’d run by the ocean (where the wind is stronger), on the way home I’d run inland.

Out to the bluffs overlooking the water. I can see (and hear!) the waves crashing below me. Hmm high tide, the water is right at the foot of the bluffs. And the moon is almost new. Really high tide.

Another squall blows in, and I struggle into my jacket. As I do so I think “This is stupid — I’m running on the edge of a 100 foot drop and I’ve got my eyes covered by jacket — I could just run off the edge. Luckily I did not, and I felt much warmer with the jacket on.

Just in front of me the cliff face turned inland, and rounding this bend, coasting just above the cliff, came a line of pelicans. I find the pelican a magnificent bird — especially when it is 10 feet away or so. It just hangs in the air right beside me, face into the wind.

This happened several times along the Mesa, I think the pelicans really were enjoying the weather as much as I was.

Down Orchid Dr (no traffic here) and left on the bike path as I head out to UCSB. Well, there my not have been any car traffic on the roads, but here are a pair of joggers running in the drizzle. And here’s another. And there’s someone walking with an umbrella. Somehow this is comforting. A day when people are doing something real, under their own power, something they’d like to do, not driving cars to something they must do.

At the 1 mile mark (a mark on the bike path, I’ve probably run about 7 by now) I hear the ducks in the Goleta Slough. They seem to be happy about the weather too. They are talking animatedly to each other about something. Well, perhaps they are glad they aren’t in my mother’s oven.

It still is very dim, and my glasses keep fogging up with the rain, but I don’t see any waterfowl save the ducks. Hmm. Where are the others? This is usually a good place for birds. Tide is high (tide is very high, a couple of times I worry that the next low spot in the bike path will be under water), the sand bar the cormorants like is under water, perhaps the herons find it too deep for them too.

As I trot into Goleta Beach I see another line of Pelicans float through the air. And then another. And another. Today is Pelican day, I guess. I consulted An Exaltation of Larks for the proper term for a group, flock, gaggle of Pelicans, but Mr. Lipton is silent on this subject. Ah, that means I get to make up mine own term.

Well, when I see a group of pelicans floating serenely in the water no other term but “Flotilla” can apply. Compared to other birds they look like battleships out there. Massive things ready to do battle with anything silly enough to annoy them. Yesterday I saw a very odd sight, the wind was even worse than today’s and the Pelicans were, well, huddled, all together; standing in about 1 inch of water, beaks into the wind:

A Huddle of Pelicans

A Huddle of Pelicans

But what term can I use for them in flight? A “line” is descriptive but it lacks the sense of grandeur — ah, perhaps a “Majesty of Pelicans”.

The waves are really enjoying themselves today, crashing up against the rocks as I trot up the slope to UCSB. There is something truly satisfying in watching waves break and recede and break again. Especially when the wind is vigorous and the waves are boisterous and fumph! up go plumes of froth.

But those rocks are passed now. Campus is empty today. Not a soul.

I trot through the Marine Science buildings and then down to the UCSB lagune. Ah, this is where all the herons and egrets have gone. They are all in the lee side of the bluff here. I suppose their wings are more delicate than those of the pelicans.

Up this first little mesa, and across and down to the lagune again. Yup, more herons on the lee side of this inlet. Up the next mesa, and then following along the edge of the lagune inland.

There is a divebomb of terns (Mr. Lipton cannot help me with a group of terns either) going on here. I don’t know, can’t imagine, what would attract such attention to this inland water, but here they are, having a feeding frenzy out in the middle of the lagune.

Which reminds me, I should probably eat something too. I’ve been running for 9 or 10 miles now. So I pull out a gel pack and consume it. This is a good place too, as there is a trash can coming up as soon as I get into IV.

I dip down toward the lagune and take one final look — interesting, the beach here is just covered with Pelicans.

Christmas seems to have tamed Isla Vista (the student ghetto) as nothing else can. The streets are clean, few cars, no people. OK, one jogger. Every now and then I pass a sidewalk leading down to the beach and I can hear the waves crashing. I wonder if this is a good day for surfing? No one is out, but that might be because it’s Christmas, or these might be the wrong sort of waves.

I hear the UCSB bell tower strike 9 am. “I heard the bells on Christmas day/Their old familiar carols play”. My father didn’t approve of bells playing carols or tunes of any sort. He felt that bells should ring changes instead. So I grew up to the sound of change-ringing on Christmas morn, and not carols.

On to the bluffs and Coal Oil Point. I censused whales from this vantage a couple of years ago. Too early for the whale migration (or rather, at this time of year the whales are generally heading south, outside the channel islands, but in a few months time they will head north, coming along the coast here where we can see them). I go out to the point and look around. Violent waves. No whales.

Now I head around the Devroux slough. I am hoping I’ll see the swan again, but the light is poor and my slight experience of swans suggests they don’t like stormy weather.


I’ve been stung by a bee!

What idiot hymenoptera has decided to attack me in the middle of winter? They should mostly be dead at this time of year. And what’s it doing out in a rainstorm? Stupid bee. Grrr. Hurts. Nothing to do but run on.

Here’s the lagune (there are an awful lot of lagunes on this short section of coast). I can’t see well, foggy glasses again. A cormorant with its wings out to dry. Um. Seems a poor choice on this rainy day. Ducks (Mallards mostly). Coots. White Heron. A small grebe dives. Two night herons perch on a snag. More ducks. More rain. A cormorant stutters its way across the water as it tries to take off. No swan. Buffleheads. Smallish bird with white belly I can’t identify.

Here’s a trail I’m not familiar with, today would be a good day to experiment. Ah, it joins a trail I am familiar with almost instantly. Now I’m following the other side of the lagune. Still no sign of the swan. Ah well.

In the mud of the trail I see one set of well defined footprints. I feel like Robinson Crusoe. Someone else is alive in this quiet world of mine?

Through the Eucalyptus patch. I turn right so as not to disturb the Plover sanctuary. And finally out onto Ellwood Mesa.

It feels odd to be out here alone. No sign of Drea or Travis, no one to run behind. No sign of Chystee, no one to run beside. What freedom! I shall run in the opposite direction from the usual one! (OK, it’s only a small freedom).

The solitary footprints continue. No sign of the owner. S/he’s going for a long walk, I’ve been following these prints for several miles now. No sign of them stopping either.

A white heron floats down out of the sky into the meadow on my right. It is soon joined by two other herons. They fluff their feathers, but don’t seem to be doing anything. Just standing in the middle of a big field while the rain drizzles down. I watch them as long as I can. Nothing.

A huge wave crashes off to my left and sends a plume of spray fountaining into the air.

I round a bend, and there, perched on a fence post is: What? Some kind of hawk? A big, dark bird. It spreads its wings as I approach and takes off. Ah, Turkey Vulture. Don’t think I’ve ever been this close to one before, certainly not at ground level.

And now, finally I’m at the golf course, the end of the run, and it’s time to turn round. It has taken me 2:21 minutes to get here? Good heavens. I’ve been thinking it would be about 10 miles to this point. Um. Ok, that was stupid of me. It’s 12 miles on a bike, and I’ve followed the coast, and followed the sides of the lagunes, and done everything possible to go out of my way. I bet I’ve gone a lot further than 12 miles.

Um. I brought 300 Calories of food. That would be fine for a 3 hour, 20 mile run. I’ll probably be quite hungry when I get home. 🙂 Oh well, now, the only way back is to continue on.

I run inland now, on the way back. Wind isn’t too bad at the moment. Down into the ditch and up the other side.

I check out the monarch butterflies. Can’t see them at first — they tend to blend in with the leaves to my color blind eyes — but I realize the clumps of dead leaves are clumps of sleeping monarchs. Why do they live in this Eucalyptus grove? What did they do before humans brought Eucalypts to California?

I don’t know.

As I come out of the grove I notice the wind has picked up and it is raining harder. Well, that’s what running into the wind will do to you.

yuccaI see there is a blooming yucca nestled into the erosion gully here. I’ve run past it many times in the last few weeks, but never noticed it before. Ah. You can’t really see it running from the other direction.

It’s really raining harder now.

I look for the herons in the meadow here, but I can’t see them. Did they fly off? or has the misty rain hidden them?

It’s raining so hard now I decide to take the road rather than the trails beside the Plovers. I can’t see the mountains at all. I zip up the jacket as high as it will go. Wet hair. I can’t see much of anything. It’s bucketing down. Back to the lagune now. Ah! I realize the strange bird with the white belly is a stilt! (How I can notice that in this rain, I can’t imagine). I’m watching hard to make sure I can find the trail when it turns from the road, something I’ve never worried about before — and yet, I can identify a bird I can barely see. Silly mind.

Here’s the trail.

The rain is letting up.

The rain is gone.

I can see the mountains now, and, good heavens, there is some blue sky above them.

I see a great blue heron has joined the white heron. The silly comorant is still trying to dry its wings — I wonder if it had them open during the downpour?

No swan today.

I’m approaching a zone of trash cans, I can eat a gel pack.

Sun! Wow. Didn’t expect that. The wind seems to have died too. Perhaps the storm is over. More people wandering around (still no cars). Ah, someone is going to give surfing a try.

Back to the UCSB lagune. The terns seem to have moved on. The lagune is quite calm. Lots of birds at the edges but they don’t seem active now. Down and up. And down. Ah, the terns have moved here. They are divebombing the lagune in a different spot, and here’s a flotilla of pelicans, and a — what? — a submersion of comorants, about 30 birds, bodies entirely under water with just the necks and heads poking up. Whatever is under the water must be good!

As I head down to Goleta beach the mountains are stunning. Nicely lit by the sun there is a layer of clouds right above them (that’s common) and another layer down in the foothills at maybe 1000 ft. There are pillars of cloud connecting the two layers leaving windows open between them through which the mountains are visible.

Almost home, only 8~9 miles to go. I eat my last food, drink some water, use the bathroom at the beach. Bee sting is still there too.

Hard to get started again, but I manage it. Home stretch in the sun.

It’s almost sickeningly appropriate to have the storm pass and the sun come out at this time of rebirth.

There are some ducks paddling under the bridge. Cormorants. Buffleheads at the next bridge. A small falcon is perched on a telephone wire. A White Heron flies up with a Great Blue behind it. I don’t often see the two together, but it’s happened twice on this run.

My friend Jay is out running too. It’s a beautiful day now.

I was thinking to take the inland bike path back, but the wind seems to have dropped and despite my worries about food I feel fine, and the sun is shining — I think I’ll take the long route on the Mesa beside the coast.

Sadly, there aren’t any more Pelicans now. They liked the storm I guess. I miss them.

The wind seems to be picking up again — oh — it’s behind me. The wind has switched direction, the storm must be ending now. We’ve just passed through the eye of the storm, and sure enough I see dark clouds off behind me where there was sunshine 10 minutes ago.

Down the hill and up the next into Hope Ranch. Oof. I’m hungry. Hadn’t noticed it until I started up the hill. I just don’t have the oomph I had when I started four hours ago. I know I’ve slowed my pace.

I’ve got another hill to go after this, but it’s less than 4 miles now. Along Via Bendito as it twists and turns, and then down into the penultimate canyon. I take the horse trail that goes beside the creek here. Plenty of water in the creek, sunlight streaks through the trees, the air is fresh and clear. Perfect day for a run:-)

Up the last hill. Only 2.5 miles to go now. I’m still feeling fine, oh a little off, but I think I can just keep going forever. Well, I don’t have to stop. I could run past my house and on into downtown Santa Barbara, and then back. I mull this over. It really seems like a good idea.

Now I’m at Hendry’s beach again, and then at the end of the parking lot. I’m hungry. I’m tired. Suddenly, home and food seem like a great idea. I don’t really make a decision not to continue, I simply turn onto my street.


Oh, and all the little forest creatures came out to look at the Moomintrolls’ tree. And they ate the food, and opened the presents, and the horrible Christmas never came. And the Moomins went back to bed and slept safely until the Spring.

It was a wonderful run.

Solstice Eve Hike

December 21, 2008

Last night was the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. I always try to get in a hike around now, up into the mountains to watch the sun set over the city. In the past I have hiked around the calendar’s new year, and I don’t find many other people who want to join me. This year I thought to try the solstice — but people seem to be as uninterested in hiking the saturday before christmas as they are uninterested on new year’s eve.

My friend Marty showed up, with some friends of his, but they were only willing to hike in the light, and turned back before reaching the top. They didn’t want to wait for sunset and the dark.

As sunsets go, this one was not terribly impressive. The sky was clear of clouds which tends to mean the sky is clear of color.

Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands

I found that I was able to get most of the way down the mountain without wanting a flashlight. The glow from the sky lasted for about an hour.sbnight-20dec08

I ran…

December 16, 2008

I’ve started running with the group. I’m still leery of running fast. If I go fast my shin splints let me know the next day. But at least I’m out there running with my friends again.

Today is track workout day. Always dreaded, more so today. Everyone else was doing continuous half-mile repeats, on, off, on, off (that is to say hard, slightly easier, hard again, slightly easier, …) with no break between. That sounded too fast to me. Rusty kept skipping over me as he told others what to run. I don’t think he knew what to do with me. So I asked if I could do a tempo run at 6:30. He seemed to think that a good idea.

That was a relief to me.

I ran with Chrystee and Drea for their first (and easy) half mile. They actually ran a little slower than they should have, which was about right for me. At the half mile mark Rusty complained that I was running too fast — I don’t think I was, I think he was just surprised to see me still with the other two (they should have been 5 seconds ahead.

But they pulled away immediately after that. I finished the first mile in 6:28. Close enough.

Then 6:24. But now every one else was taking a break. They’d done 2 miles of alternate halves and got 5 minutes off. It felt much harder to run without the others around. 6:27.

Then they started up again, they were running quarters, fast, with a rest about as long as the quarter. I found I was going faster too. I ran just behind a slower group, going about the same pace, and finishing another quarter as they rested. This mile was much too fast: 6:13, so I forced myself to slow down. I’d only suggested running four miles, but I felt good, and everyone else had another 2 quarters to do, so I ran another mile, and this one was on pace 6:29.

It felt so good to be out there running. Oh, I know 6:30s aren’t a real tempo run, but it’s getting close. It felt like I’d really done something — and — so far — my shins aren’t hurting.

There’s something exhilarating about coming off an injury. It feels so good to move again. Everything feels easy, because, well, it is easy. No one expects me to run really fast. I can putter along around marathon pace and feel really pleased.

The dismay at not running CIM is fading, now that I am running. With luck I’ll be able to do a 50 miler in 7 months…

A rainbow without the rain

December 13, 2008
A rainbow at Ellwood Mesa

A rainbow at Ellwood Mesa

Practice this morning was at Ellwood Mesa, the open space at the far end of Goleta that overlooks the sea. For once I took a camera, I’ve been wanting to get some sunrise pictures from there, and this is the best time of year for sunrises.

But the sunrise was disappointing.


Still there was some color on the mountains, in the other direction


After the warmup we gathered around Rusty as he explained the workout, and as he did so, a rainbow formed around the moon (which was setting). There was no rain.


The rainbow grew out of the sea


Briefly and faintly, on the left edge of the rainbow we could just discern the beginnings of a second rainbow.


On the way home I passed through the Goleta slough as the very high tide was pouring inland even more. The blue herons seemed to have forsaken their normal haunts and were all together near the oil pipeline


On the whole, a satisfying morning.


December 7, 2008

I am hundreds of miles from Sacramento. I am not running CIM.

I’m not pleased about this; in fact I’m almost ashamed. I haven’t wanted to see my running friends for months. They can run and I can’t.

I didn’t want to volunteer for the SB half-marathon. But Wally asked me, so I showed up. Everyone else was running and I couldn’t. When the race started it was actually fun, and I chid myself for sulking. I got to bike along with Annie and watch her race — impressive. But when the race was over, it hurt to see everyone else finishing, and me incapable. I slunk off and hid.


In the last 5 years I have signed up for 7 marathons. Injuries kept me from running 4 of them. Of the remaining three, I ran 2 knowing that I had not been able to train properly because of more injuries.

One race out of seven isn’t very good.