Archive for November, 2010


November 18, 2010

Fall in Santa Barbara is not the conventional fall that I grew up with on the east coast. Very few trees lose their leaves and even fewer change color.

Around our creeks and canyons we seem to have a semblance of fall. The big-leaved maples do change color (but not for very long! Less than a week). The sycamores lose their leaves, but to my eye, are not very colorful.

The real change is not in the trees. Fall brings the start of the rains. In early October we had our first real rain, and in late October a downpour. A few days after the downpour I was out on the trails and the chaparral currant had started to bloom. The currant is a spindly shrub with very few leaves (at least in early November), and its bloom is a joy to me. It’s the first new thing to bloom in months. All through the summer fewer and fewer things would bloom until there was very little color left on the trails. But now… there are blooms again!

A week later and California Manroot had started to bloom. A busy vine in the gourd family with little white flowers and (later in the year) a strange spiny fruit.

Not so welcome was the next week’s bloom. The cape ivy is an invasive plant that came over from South Africa and has a nasty habit of growing over and smoothering trees.

A few days after that I was on the trails again and saw honeysuckle blooming. Now honeysuckle blooms in the late spring. I know. I saw it blooming in June and July (ok, and early summer). I’m assuming it is Lonicera subspicata, Santa Barbara honeysuckle; it looks like it. It’s got berries on it, so, presumably, it did bloom this summer too. Perhaps this vine is just confused about the time of year? But a little further down Jesusita I find a whole hillside of honeysuckle blooms. Perhaps it blooms twice? I can’t find much about its blooming habits in my reference books…

The week before, when I’d been on Jesusita, the canyon sunflower were still blooming after the summer. But the blooms were sad things. Few and far between, contorted and shriveled. Today there’s a new supply of canyons. Happy round blooms again.

The white nightshade has also flowered all summer long, and it, too, has now started to bloom in greater profusion. The black berries from the summer blooms hang right beside the new flowers.

The purple nightshade almost stopped blooming in the late summer, but if I looked hard enough I could always find one plant, somewhere with a bloom on it. But now in the middle of November I’m seeing lots of buds, and the occasional bloom.

The trails are alive again!

Sleep is for people who don’t get excited.

November 6, 2010

I didn’t sleep well last night. It always feels as though I do not sleep at all, but I know that isn’t true. Still, I was awake when the alarm went off at 4, and out of bed like a shot.

I like to get up early before a race in order to have some food, and then allow it to digest a bit.

So I puttered about the house until 5:20 when I drove off to the start. Halfway there I realized I had left my chip sitting on the kitchen table. Horror! I need to go back. Will there be time? (yes, I’ve left plenty, but I worry anyway). It isn’t easy to turn around in Hope Ranch in the dark, I couldn’t see any driveways in which to turn. Eventually I found one, turned, and cursed myself all the way back home.

I had decided to park at Vieja Valley school. Close enough to the start that I could just jog in and call it a warm up, well away from all the traffic at the official parking area, and at a place where I could get at my car later if I needed it without crossing the marathon route. (I didn’t need it, but it was nice to know I could).

I had wanted to race this race (rather than just do a fast run), but I knew that might be a bad idea. Last year I raced the half just before the marathon and it injured me (OK, I injured me because of it) and I couldn’t run the marathon at all. This year my goal wasn’t a marathon but a 50miler, but the idea was the same. Also I know that it takes me a long time to recover from a raced half, and I really should be training not recovering. But I wanted to do the race. It’s just fun to run with my friends.

If I’m all bouncy and excited it is hard not to race, I just do so naturally. The only sure-fire way (at least I hope it’s sure-fire) is to enter the race with a hard week of training behind me. Then I’m too tired to race. So when Mike told me to run 14 miles on the trails on Tuesday I ran 18, when he said to do 6 of those miles at a 6:20 pace, I did a 6 at 6:10. I biked up Gibraltar on Wed at 80% HR. I did 11 miles on Thursday.

So this morning I had tired legs, and I hoped that was good.

Er. I apologize. When I can’t run my best I foolishly want to explain why so people don’t think this is my best. The sad thing is that in spite of all this verbiage, I am still worrying to myself “Perhaps it really is the best I can do and I’ll never run fast again.”

It was just after the new moon and was pitch black at the school at 5:45 (or whenever), so I jogged down the road with some trepidation. I could see traffic streaming past on Hollister. It looked like rush hour, except it was before 6 on a Saturday morning. I got to the official parking area and joined the throng of runners heading to the start.

They announced that people who ran faster than an 8 minute pace should stand near the front, so I stood about a yard back from the start. Everyone else seemed to be lining up well behind me, which confused me. Don Faith joined me, and we chatted a bit. Then they announced that the area I was standing in was for men expecting to run 5:30 pace (or better) and women who could do 6 minute pace. Don and I skipped back to where everyone else was.

But at the start of that area. More friends showed up. We pushed Drea and Tim into the box, even though Tim protested he’d only run 5:50s. Then some people friends planning to run 6:20s slipped in. Not me today. I was going to run 6 miles of 6:40s with Kary, and then see how I felt. Kary intended to pick up the pace after that. I wasn’t sure.

They took down the box and we moved forward a bit. But it wasn’t a crush, and when the gun went off there was plenty of room to stretch out our legs and run our paces. Kary and Brian and I all formed a line abreast. I guess that made it a little hard to pass, but we had the whole road here and there was room to go around.

It was still dark, but there were street lamps intermittently and I did not feel hindered by the darkness. Of course we started 20 minutes late. I wondered what it would have been like had we started on time.

Suddenly there was a flash beside me. Brian had brought his camera.

And was taking pictures when racing at what felt like a 6:40 pace. This watch doesn’t have a light so I couldn’t really tell. It felt harder to run than it should have, not impossible, just hard. I think that was probably because I wasn’t warmed up enough.

Anyway we went downhill through the streets of sleeping Goleta. A mass phalanx of 2300 sleek runners thudding down the road. At the first mile marker (which I didn’t notice) there was a reading of watches (not mine yet) and a 6:35 pace was announced. A little fast, but not bad.

Then we head up a short steep hill, but it’s early yet and this isn’t a problem. Down the other side (I’ve not often run in the middle of this street before, it kind of fun). Brian sees a friend of his and runs on ahead. Then left onto Patterson, up another hill, and down. Two miles. We pass our first person. Someone went out way too fast and is now barely moving.

And now Kary and I will pass people intermittently.

Twilight has crept up on us and there is an interesting light effect in the clouds over the ocean. Just as well really because shortly after this we reach the bike path, and it runs through a eucalyptus grove. It’s much darker here than on the open street. There’s a steep drop down into the bed of a little creek, and someone has kindly written “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” down the length of the slope. I say “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” as I zip down the hill.

We’ve joined the marathon course by now and I see my first marathon mile marker, but in the gloom I don’t see it well, all I see is a large “6” (instead of the “16” which I presume was there). I know we’re somewhere around 3 miles — perhaps we are further along than I thought and we’re now at 6km and they’ve given us km markers? I’m not thinking too clearly as well as not seeing clearly.

Down through the creek bed and the network of bike trails down here. It can be confusing at times which way is correct, but Kary and I have no worries, we know the route and there’s a river of runners in front to show us the way.

We pass Brian, he tells us we should catch up with his 7min/mile pacer and tell her to slow down and run with him. I don’t know who this person is, myself, maybe Kary does.

We turn left onto the main bike path, away from UCSB. We’re passing large clumps of runners. Sometimes I worry that we’ll have to run on the grass, but the clumps are fluid and disintegrate as we approach them so we can run through the scattered runners.

Whenever I looked at my watch it told me we were doing a 6:35 pace, or thereabouts, but apparently I looked at inopportune moments because when I looked at the watch data in the calmness of home it gave me 6:15 and 6:19 splits around now. No wonder we’re passing people.

As we come up to Turnpike (the end of mile 5) there is only one guy in sight ahead. And we pass him. Now there is no one. At least to my eyes, I’m wearing glasses to help me see my watch, not to see far in the distance.

There is a chip mat here with a clock beside it showing a confusing time of 35 minutes. We’ve been running longer than that. Perhaps this is time from start of the marathon? And perhaps they started even later than we did? Who knows. We were told they’d start on time.

At mile 6 Kary says she’s fulfilled her duty to Mike (to run at a 6:40 pace) and will now pick it up. I tell her I’m not going to speed up. I don’t realize it, but, in fact, I slow down to a 7:00min pace, partly because it is an uphill mile and partly because I’m tired. Kary is now ahead of me and is passing two guys.

The next mile I speed up again, and Kary gets no further ahead. I pass one of the guys she has passed and then someone else passes me (so there are still two between us).

Just before Los Positas I see a car make a U-turn, pull into the lane marked off for runners, and then stop smack in front of Kary. I can’t express my outrage.

Luckily the volunteers convince it to drive away before Kary has to stop.

The hill up to Los Positas is hard and the turn onto it is even worse. But in spite of that my watch says I’m running 6:25 pace. Unfortunately my watch is beeping out its miles about a minute before the marathon mile markers, which in turn are about 40 seconds (.1 mile) before the half marathon mile markers. It is telling me that I’m going faster than I really am. It’s off by about a quarter mile on total distance.

Down Los Positas at reasonably good clip (whatever it actually is), and then we reach the end and turn.

This is the start of the HILL. We’ve all been dreading the hill. What I do not expect is the head wind. I turn and there is a ferocious wind pushing me back. I don’t expect it because the prevailing wind is in the other direction. But not today. The wind just seems an unnecessary insult added to the hill.

We struggle up the hill. Usually I push harder, but today I have no push. I ease back and do what I can. But the threesome of runners ahead gets no further away so they are having the same issues. 7:26 says the watch for that mile, but who knows what it really was.

(On my way home, after my race was done, there was a band of drummers at the base of the hill pounding out a beat for the marathoners. I’m jealous. I’d have liked to have them. But I guess they were too noisy for the neighborhood and weren’t allowed to start until 8 or 9 or something).

And now the top and I pick up the pace a bit. And now, finally Kary starts to pull away from me. I’m not too worried though, because I pass someone. It’s been a long time since I passed anyone, so it feels good. (No one has passed me for a while either).

At the 11 mile mark I look at the total time (which had better be right) on the watch rather than the pace (which I no longer trust). Total time of 1:14, so that means finishing in about 1:28. Under an hour and a half. Good. It means I’m pretty close to my 6:40 goal. I had, of course, hoped to go faster, in spite of everything I did to insure I would not, but I am glad to see I’m not disgracefully slow.

Down Oliver and onto Elise. Now Elise which starts out downhill and then turns upwards at the end. A really nasty trick for a road to play, in my opinion. But once out of Elise and onto Shoreline it really is all downhill (or flat) from here.

Many friends on this last stretch. Hiedi, Hari, … too tired to do more than give them a thumbs up or a wave when they greet me.

The route levels out for a bit, and this feels hard after so much downhill. And then down again. And then the final level stretch. Almost there.

Someone passes me.


I assume we’ll feed straight into the track and finish. I assume wrong. We twist around in a long corridor with tight turns. Not good for running fast, and then come in on the far side of the track an have to run all the way round to finish. Turns out to be much further than I had expected. As I start running on the track I hear the announcer talking about how it looks like the two guys ahead of me will start sprinting and race each other to the finish.

I ain’t sprint’n. No way. It’s all I can do to hold this pace (whatever it may be).

And I come round the track and can see the finish. No one passes me at the last minute. I see 1:28:11 as I come up and there is whole carpet of chip mats. Six I think. I realize I’ve missed the first one so I make sure I hit the second and then…

And then I find I’m actually happy as I cross the others. I leap up as high as I can with my arms up. I’ve never done that before 🙂 What on earth got in to me?

Oops. Did I leap so high my chip didn’t register? Well maybe that’s why there are 6 mats.

Official time gun: 1:28:15, chip: 1:28:14.

I take off my chip. I greet my friends. Have something to eat. Pickup my sweatshirt. Jog home (we call it a cool down run) with Kary, stop half way to run a little (the other way) with Brittany whom I encouraged to do the race, then home. Breakfast. Farmer’s market. Chat with Siobhàn (who also raced for the first time today). When I get home Nichol calls me to congratulate me on being first in my age group. Hunh? Last year I ran 4 minutes faster and was second. This year was a bigger race on a faster course. How can I be first?

Maybe… maybe if I tried even less hard next time I might win the whole race?

We few, we happy few, we band of siblings;
For s/he to-day that shares my race with me
Shall be my sibling; be s/he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle their condition;

🙂 It’s almost the feast of Crispin Crispinian too!