Archive for January, 2011

First Workout

January 30, 2011

Saturday I showed up at practice for my first tempo run since my race. A little concerned that my legs would prove too tired and prepared to drop back a group to go at a slower pace.

But Rusty announced it would be four miles at marathon pace rather than a real tempo run, so I decided I didn’t need to drop back.

Then, just before we set off, Rusty told us that he meant 6:40s. I’d been assuming 6:50s. But … OK. It’s still not fast, I can probably manage that.

And then we set off. It felt fast, but, well, I knew I was tired.

Kary was asking what people’s watches read. I didn’t bring my GPS watch since I wasn’t taking the workout too seriously. Eric said 6:42, so I guessed I was just tired.

When we got to the mile mark, my traditional stopwatch said 6:28, and I complained, but no one paid attention. So I dropped back from everyone else and let them zoom off into the distance. I assumed I had slowed down. It felt like it. Actually the route had turned downhill slightly, everyone else had sped up, and I had continued at the same pace. 6:34 for the next mile.

And the next mile, which is an uphill mile, was about the same.

And the last mile was 6:21.

So the damn thing was a tempo run after all.

I got left behind by everyone, so I was still tired, but I wasn’t as tired as I feared, so I came out of it feeling cheered.

(Rusty had given us a long lecture beforehand on the need to relax, and that some days we shouldn’t push things. None of us seemed to have paid him any attention.)


Trails less traveled.

January 28, 2011

I’m not running much at the moment, so I decided to hike instead. And what better trails to hike than those too steep and too technical to run on? The trails I haven’t visited in far too long.

I haven’t been on any of them since the fire.

So I wonder what state they are in?

It also gives me an excuse to finish off the trail map I’ve been working on. I’ve got almost all the trails … except for those I can’t run (I guess that’s not too surprising).

And finally I’ve been behind in looking at wildflowers this month. First I was tapering for my race (so I didn’t run trails very much) and then I was recovering from it (so I didn’t run trails very much). But January is an exciting time in the wildflower department, and I’d missed it last year. So many flowers start to bloom this month…

Rattlesnake Loop

I don’t really have a good name for the obscure trails involved in this loop (there are two of them). One leads from Rattlesnake to Powerline, and the other goes from Powerline across a ridge and ends on Tunnel. I haven’t heard any names given to either of these…

But whatever it gets called, this route starts at Rattlesnake trailhead, and follows Rattlesnake trail for about a mile.

As I was walking the dirt road, before I even reached the stream crossing I notice a shiny yellow flower, not one I’m familiar with. A little research (back home) revealed that it was a California Buttercup. Rather a pretty little thing.

Of course as I walked along I’d also seen purple and white nightshade, canyon sunflowers, milk-maids, hummingbird sage, and black sage but I was expecting those.

Then the road dipped down into the stream, and inside the stream bed was a hillside gooseberry. I’d been watching for these for weeks. They’d bloomed at the Wilcox property in early December, but I hadn’t seen any on the trails until now.

Then across the creek and up the other side. There was a little 5 petaled yellow flower. I assumed it was a rock-rose and walked past. But I turned back. The rest of the plant didn’t look like a rock rose and it was in an odd place for one. It had leaves like a clover, but it wasn’t a clover, which meant it was probably an Oxalis. But not the common sourgrass, something else. Probably yellow sorrel.

Beside it is a strange little flower that’s probably in the mustard family. But I haven’t been able to identify it yet…

A little further on I saw the blue dicks had started blooming this year. (Last year I did not start collecting wildflower pictures until March, so I’m not sure when the early bloomers started. I’m learning that now). And here is some spotted hideseed.

Rattlesnake climbs in switchbacks, and at almost exactly one mile from the start the trail turns around a rise. Here there is a discrete trail that leaves Rattlesnake to the left and climbs steeply up until it eventually hits Powerline Rd.

This trail used to hide under the cover of chaparral, but that has all burned off. Now it’s in full sun and there are sun-loving flowers on it. Lots of little clumps of rock-roses for example, and here’s some tauschia (now that’s a surprise, I didn’t expect it to bloom this early). Goldenrod is still blooming, and the deerweed has a new lease on life.

The trail is in surprisingly good shape (surprising to me, anyway). It’s pretty clear most of the time, and even if it trifurcates the branches rejoin. And then I reach the top of the hill, and I see Powerline off to my right. The trail winds along the ridge for a bit and then dumps me on to Powerline right at the turn below the final steep hill.

I climb the hill until short side roads appear on the right leading to pylons. The fourth side-road is magic, and when you get to the end of it (it’s not very long) you find there’s a trail leading roughly north (and a little west).

This new trail climbs steeply. Again it used to dive through chaparral, and again it is now burnt down to ground level and open to the sun. But, again, the trail remains clear.

There are a number of rocks with fossilized seashells embedded in them. Those don’t burn up.

It climbs steeply for a quarter of a mile, and then runs along a knife-edge ridge line. The is an almost sheer drop to both the right and the left and a very narrow ridge, garnished with boulders, over which I clamber.

I realize again (as I realize every time I come up here) that this is the same ridge line that leads to Arlington Peak (though Mission Creek has worn a hole through the middle of it).

After another quarter mile or so the trail starts to descend (again, steeply) down toward Tunnel trail. It hits Tunnel about 1/5 mile before the Rattlesnake connector where Tunnel itself turns sharply.

The return is simple, Tunnel to the connector, connector to the meadow, and Rattlesnake proper back to the start.

On the way down I see white phacelia, fiesta flower and California poppies starting to bloom.

Rocky Pine Ridge or Sandcastles

Rocky Pine Ridge
from afar

Actually, I don’t head down quite yet. Now that I’m up here I decide to take another hidden trail, the one up to Rocky Pine Ridge. This trail starts about 10 yards from the junction of Tunnel and the Rattlesnake connector. Simply follow the connector for 10 yards toward Rattlesnake and look to your left. There is a sort of tunnel in the undergrowth that turns into a trail.

The start of this trail may be reached either by climbing Tunnel, or Rattlesnake (or the odd route which I have taken).

At first the trail is clear, and in good condition, and there’s still some vegetation around. The Ceanothus here is even blooming. But as I climb further the fire seems to have burned hotter and there is less and less chaparral.

The manroot, however, is doing splendidly. It climbs all over the burnt stumps as it reaches for the sun.

Looking back the trail meanders through a forest of burned trunks.

Ahead, the trail seems to peter out. I can’t find it. That’s not uncommon for me on this route, the trail has always been hard to find, usually if I just press on I’ll find it again (I can’t really get lost here, if I just head up, I’ll get to the summit). The trail seems more obscure than usual now, but that’s not too surprising given the fire.

Anyway, I keep going.

Looking up the way is blocked by a wall of boulders. I wander around below through knee high shrubbery looking for a way through. I hear the unmistakable sound of a rattler and instinctively leap back. But as I can’t see anything under the shrubs I worry I might have leaped toward it. The rattler is calm now, so I give that area a wide berth, and continue my search.

Eventually I find a way up and through the boulders and a little further along I find the real trail again. I’m almost at the top now. And the trail doesn’t try to hide again.

At the top are some really huge boulders scattered about. Much easier to climb than the ones below. There are also pine trees. It’s a pleasant place to wander around. Climbing the boulders leads to nice views.

The way down proved much easier than the way up. I didn’t get lost; I had no run in with rattlesnakes, and I managed to see my first monkeyflower of the year.

Cathedral Peak

Two days later I went for another hike, up Cathedral Peak. There used to be two trails up to Arlington Peak (which is on the way), but the one from Inspiration has become impassable since the fire. So the only route now takes off from the Seven Falls Trail.

Starting at Tunnel, walk up the paved road and when the road turns to dirt continue walking ahead, past the turn-off for Powerline, past the turn-off for Tunnel Trail, down to and across Mission Creek. (If you look at the elevation profile above you will see a little dip after about a mile, this marks the stream crossing.) On the far side of the creek, turn right and walk up the creek-bed, climbing over a large rock until you again see a trail in front of you. This is Seven Falls trail. It continues up the creek bed for a bit, and then turns left and climbs up to the bluff above the creek (quite a steep climb).

The trail levels off and starts to head slightly down, and when it does so the trail to Cathedral comes plummeting down the hillside on your left. So turn left and climb up. This climb used to be a bit easier because you could hang on to the stems of the chaparral vegetation; now you must rely on your feet.

A little before 1.5 miles the really steep section comes to a end and you stand on a ridge line (with nice views of the city behind, and views of the waterfalls ahead). The route climbs over some rocks here, and on the far side, to the right, is a degraded trail which drops back down to Seven Falls trail (don’t take it).

The main route continues to the left, running along the ridge line. Here, on the ridge the landscape is not as denuded as it was, there are still burnt trunks standing, and these can make handy things to grip, even burnt and dead they are still very strong.

The route ahead continues through a forest of dead trunks along the ridge up to a knoll ahead (where the ridge makes a bend).

A few years ago these dead trunks were living manzanita bushes, and at this time of year they should be in full bloom with humming birds zooming among them.

This trip I get to see my first view of prickly phlox for the year, which is not quite the same.

So far the route has been fairly obvious. Oh, sometimes the trail vanishes for a bit, or bifurcates, but the bifurcations join up, and the trail reappears. If you just keep going everything will work out.

Right around 2 miles from the start I manage to get lost and end up climbing high into an impassable tumble of boulders. Other people have gotten lost before me, and I can see footprints as I go, which gives me a false sense that I’m going the right way. I keep backtracking, and finding a new false trail, and backtracking…

Without living vegetation it is much harder to see where the trail goes…

Eventually I remember that the trail swings round to the left and climbs up from the side, so I backtrack a good long way until I find such a route and follow it.

Below me I can see the cliffside dropping away to the city below and beyond to the Channel Islands.

After that undesired excursion the trail again because well behaved. I still make the occasional wrong turn, but quickly realize it when the route I’m following leads nowhere.

from Arlington toward
Cathedral (on left) and of
the ridgeline between them

Eventually I reach Arlington Peak. This is the end of the really steep section. I climb the boulders and look back at the city, and then on towards Cathedral.

Often people will stop here, as the interesting climb is now done.

From Arlington the trail is almost gentle. The ridgeline is almost flat now, and the trail itself is packed dirt rather that random boulders. There’s even a blooming Ceanothus.

There are some nice views of Cathedral Peak itself, a long jut of rock that sticks out of the surroundings.

Between Arlington and Cathedral there is one other bump of rock and the trail drops down on the left of it to avoid it.

Just below Cathedral itself is a trail in very poor shape which leads down to the cave. The cave is bigger than you expect from the outside.

From the top of Cathedral Peak you can see the city in one direction, and La Cumbra Peak in the other. There used to be (perhaps there still is) a trail from Cathedral to La Cumbra, but I don’t see it this trip.

This is the program that George wrote

January 25, 2011

This is the program that George wrote.

This is the bug,
That hid in the program that George wrote.

These are the docs,
That masked the bug,
That hid in the program that George wrote.

This is the interface,
Described by the docs,
That masked the bug,
That hid in the program that George wrote.

This is the mouse with the twisted cord,
Controlling the interface,
Described by the docs,
That masked the bug,
That hid in the program that George wrote.

This is the user, all forlorn,
Who clicked the mouse with the twisted cord,
Controlling the interface,
Described by the docs,
That masked the bug,
That hid in the program that George wrote.

This is the core dump, all tattered and torn.
015e080: 0a70c281 458b0000 489848fc 0560c069
015e090: 8d480000 89480204 8b48e845 458bf055
015e0a0: 0c4289fc f0458b48 ff0840c7 83ffffff
015e0b0: 7500fc7d 3d8d4812 000e44c9 0c6e8fe8

Conversations about the run

January 18, 2011

Many people have asked me about my race, and of course this is flattering.

But I find I don’t really know what to tell them.

Some have read my blog article about it, others have not. I can’t repeat the article in a conversation, it’s the wrong format. (It’s so much easier for me to lecture than to talk…)

What is there to say? Well, the two highlights that stick in my mind were the sunrise and the encounter with the buffalo. Oh, and a few people might be interested in how barren I found the landscape, how much drier it was than SB, how few wildflowers, and how there was a strange plum (or some member of the rose family) in bloom which doesn’t bloom here.

But somehow this all seems to miss the point. I’m not sure what I should say.

Why do I run? Perhaps that’s what I need to say. Or why do I race?

Why is it important to me?

Partly because I enjoy running, enjoy the scenery. But that’s not all of it. True enough for the first six hours or so, but after six and a half hours I wasn’t enjoying running, I wasn’t looking at the scenery, I stopped taking pictures. I was just trudging onwards. My legs hurt.

And yet, I realized just now, it never once occurred to me that I could just stop. I could have gone to the next (or back to the last) aid station and given up. I did stop running, but I kept walking. I never stopped moving.

Was I being competitive? Not in the conventional sense. When I got passed (it only happened twice) I was not moved to try harder. Nor was I competing against the clock, I’d given up on my hope of breaking 8 hours.

After listening to the other people at my table in the after race dinner I was struck that they did not seem to be pushing themselves. The woman next to me said she ran because it was a beautiful course, but she didn’t train for it. They can’t be racing.

I try to do the best I can. After 7 hours, I couldn’t do much, but I did what I could.

And why have I chosen to do “the best I can” at running? Why not swimming? (because my best isn’t very good in the water?) or anything useful?

I guess because running is something I do fairly well (even at 50), so my best is somewhat meaningful, whereas in so many other areas I don’t do very well…


January 17, 2011

After I crossed the line I started to have really bad coughing fits. Doubled up and coughing.

I wanted to vomit too. I wondered off in search of something to vomit into.

The finishing area seems strangely bereft of proper receptacle. I stand by a wastepaper bin for a while, but the need passes.

My quads hurt too, of course, but that seems a minor irritant.

I head off to my hotel (2 blocks) to dump my camelback and email people. Then I figured I should walk into the ocean. That’s the traditional ending for the Catalina Marathon, and my quads are in far greater pain today.

No one else is in the water. Of course not many people have finished. I take my shoes off (this isn’t easy) and leave them at the top of the beach. I walk down to the water. I realize I still have my hotel keys in my pocket. I walk back up to the shoes and deposit them. I walk down to the water. I walk into the water.

It is cold.

There aren’t any real waves here, just sort of small lappings such as you might find in a lake. I guess Avalon faces away from the Pacific and is protected by a rather large island. But it means I can’t stand still and have the water splash up my legs. I move a little deeper.

It really is cold.

I get in until it is halfway up my calves and then I just stand there. It’s cold. Too cold to go in deeper. I turn round and slosh out. Grab my shoes. Now, I’ll let myself take a warm shower.

I get back to the finish line just as Brian crosses the line (8:56 or so if I recall correctly). So I congratulate him. We chat a bit and his wife comes up. He tells her about the buffalo and says that I “saved” him. 🙂 She doesn’t believe him at first, but when he asks her to make a note of my email address so I can send them the picture of him and the buffalo she comes around.

Suddenly I feel really ill. I excuse myself. I am wracked by a coughing fit which turns into a gag and another almost vomit.

Again it passes uneventfully.

Why do I do these? I should probably give up on the 50 milers. I don’t think I want to come back to do the Catalina Marathon later this year. Ug.

I take a hot shower. Then I curl up for a nap.

After an hour’s doze I no longer feel nauseous. I sit on the edge of the bed and stare at my hands for a bit.

I rouse myself. Feeling daring I grab an apple. Feeling more daring I take a bite as I head back to the finish line in hopes that they will have posted my time.

They have. I see I was 15th, rather than 14th.

I do some more coughing. I know! I’ll get some cough syrup! (I brought some with me, but it ran out this morning).

I go back to my room. The awards banquet isn’t until 6. I don’t feel like doing much. I read for a bit, but that palls. I load my pictures (and watch) onto the computer.

Eventually 6 happens. I see the timers are still at the line. It’s an hour past the cut-off time (and has been dark for an hour too), but they are still recording finishers. 209 have finished, whoops, 210 now. And 250 people started.

I wait outside the restaurant in the vague hope of finding someone I know. But I don’t see anyone. So eventually I go in by myself. There is a projection screen up on the wall showing race photos (already!) and as I enter I see a picture of me with the sunrise behind me. I want a copy!

I find an uncrowded table and ask if I can join it. They let me. I flop in the chair. I don’t have much energy, and don’t make a good conversationalist. Anyway they asked me to sit some distance away so their friends (who haven’t yet arrived) could sit beside them. Eventually the table fills, with their friends and more strangers (like me).

The woman who ends up beside me is very friendly and draws me out of my torpor and into conversation. She’s done the race 12 times before, she was going to do it this year, but found out she was pregnant, and so worked as a volunteer instead (she was one of the timers at the finish line).

I found her attitude toward preparing for the race very odd. When asked how she trained she said she didn’t really train any more she just relied on “muscle-memory” to get her through. They guy on the other side of my said his brother signed up for the race on New Year’s eve (two weeks before).

How can anyone take a race so lightly? A 50 mile race anyway. I can pop off a 10K without worrying about training, but not a 50 miler. I guess my attitude is just wrong. I don’t want to finish the race, I want to have done the best I can at it. These two obviously care about other things.

Maybe if I didn’t run so hard, I wouldn’t hurt so much? My mother told me that last year.

Avalon 50 miler

January 15, 2011

The race started at 5am. I had grumbled about that — I didn’t really want to run in the dark for an hour and a half — but given the heat of the day I later changed my mind.

The race started at 5. I couldn’t sleep well (or at all) and at 3 I gave up, got out of bed, stretched, had breakfast, got ready, and waited. At 4:40 I went down to the race start, checked in, and milled around. I noticed one woman had her headlight strapped around her midriff. It seemed much better than putting it on the head. Eventually we lined up. Someone said “Go”, but no one moved. Then there was some argument, and eventually a whole group of voices cried “Go”, and we went.

I was lined up in the second row at the start and there were about a dozen people in front of me, including one woman. That seemed about right. But soon another 10 people passed me, including another woman. Humpf.

Avalon crowds around the ocean at the mouth of a canyon, and we ran up this canyon. On city streets for the first mile or so, and then into the Wriggly Botanical reserve and onto dirt. It was pitch black and nothing was visible except the lights in front of me. Someone had placed glow sticks in the road to mark each turn (there weren’t many turns).

The road steepened and started to switchback. And now it was possible to look behind. There was a river of lights from runners behind down in the valley below. We climbed further. I passed the second woman. After a bit we got a view of Los Angeles. Lights across the water stretching from one horizon to the other. And down below, the tiny lights of Avalon.

It had already warmed up. It was chilly at the start, so I put on an extra layer. Now I take it off, and stuff it into my camelback.

We climbed out onto a ridge running parallel to the ocean, with LA across the water, ahead, the road turns inland and up and I can see a few lights sprinkled far ahead of me. Many lights behind.

A little after 3 miles I took my first gel pack. This is complicated by the fact that I have a flashlight in one hand and gloves on both. Luckily the flashlight has a wrist strap, so I just let it dangle for a bit. The process actually went fairly smoothly.

The road now turns downhill and I hear footsteps behind me, and Ray joins me. We run together for the next 2~3 miles, chatting (which is how I learned his name). Ray has done the race before.

Ray turns out to run faster downhill than I (at least in the dark he does) while I go slightly faster uphill, so we join and separate and rejoin depending on the terrain.

The road is actually in great shape, but I still am a little leery of plunging downhill in the dark (and some of the downhills are steep).

Around mile 5 we pass another guy (never got his name) and we all three run together now. There is a road sign up saying that the road will narrow, and we should slow down. We joke about that. The road is called “Fox Canyon Rd.” (or something like that) and we begin to see signs warning us of “fox-crossings” with cute little fox pictures on them. (The picture at right was taken much later in the day, of course, and at a different place, but the sign is the same).

The channel island fox is a species in its own right, smaller than the mainland variety, and only found on Catalina and the Channel Islands off SB.

I don’t see any.

The guy whose name I don’t know wonders where the first aid station is. Ray says it’s about mile 4 or 5. We are now at 5.75.

A car comes driving down the road at us. We were running three abreast, taking up the entire road, but we squinch down. Kind of intimidating meeting a car in the dark. They are so much bigger than we…

And there’s the aid station. I don’t need to stop, so I run through. Ray and the other guy do stop. Running by myself for a while. I click my watch at the station. It’s probably time for a gel, I look at the watch and realize I turned it off, rather than recording a lap. Twit. Turn it back on. Press the real lap button. And, yes, it is time for a gel.

The first time I ran on Catalina it was very foggy and I couldn’t see anything. Now it is dark, and I can’t see anything.

I pass a couple of women walking. Where did they come from? They don’t look as though they could have gotten here before me? I guess there was an early start for walkers.

A little beyond them is a clump of three runners I gain on them and then pass. One of them asks if I “took a late start?” To me it seems perfectly normal that I might run faster on the flat while they run faster uphill (or that they went out too fast and have slowed) but it seems to surprise them.

I experiment with turning off my flashlight. Yeah… I can see, but I still feel more comfortable with it on. If the road were perfectly smooth it would be a different matter. This road is smooth for a dirt fire track, but it has the occasional gully. The flashlight goes back on.

I glance behind me. The sun is starting to come up. It’s still very dark, and the camera’s exposure is so slow that the image is blurred (I don’t stop running, of course). Ten minutes later there is a bit more light, and the camera does a better job.

I round a bend and climb a slope, there, at the top, is the race photographer. I realize he is positioned perfectly to get a shot of us running against the sunrise. He takes one of me, and as I go past I yell “I want a copy of that.” “All right.”

I have a copy of it (by Roger Meadows of Avalon):

I take my camera out again at another open stretch for a sunrise view, but a truck is pulling up from behind. I don’t want to take a picture with the truck beside me (lest I stumble). But the truck doesn’t pass me, it stays beside me. I glance over at it. There’s a video camera and operator on the back of the truck and they are filming me. Finally they pull away, but the sunrise view has gone.

I see my first bird. A crow I think, but then realize it is probably a raven. Too big for a crow.

I start to see the countryside and am surprised by how dry everything looks. There are large stands of Opuntia. I was expecting countryside like that around SB, but this is much starker. No chaparral. Just dry grass and cactus. And then I pass a little rain pond where the cactus is right at the water’s edge. I don’t often think of cactus in a littoral situation. (It’s still dim, so the picture is very blurred).

The road has turned inland now, away from the coast, and the sun is rising behind the mountains instead of over the ocean. And then the sun actually rises. I glance at my watch and see it is a little before seven. This is a little perplexing as the sun isn’t supposed to rise until ~7:05. But I guess I’m at elevation so it will rise earlier…

I can see the terminal building for the airport. It’s a cute little thing. But round the corner is the next aid station. I fill up with water. The video crew are here and they film me filling up.

I’m running up toward the airport, and there are some walkers ahead. The video truck drives past again, but this time they don’t film me, they catch up with the walkers and film them, and then as I catch up they film me pass them.

The airport is on top of a hill, and from here there is a nice view of the route ahead, or would be if it were not still dark.

Every now and then I pass some walkers. I say “Good morning” as I go by. It’s odd to think that I’ve been running 2~2:30 hours now and it is barely after sunrise…

Now I’m running downhill, heading westish across the island. I’m going at a pretty good clip, sub-8 minute miles. There’s a ranch or something here, with a sign on the road: “Speed limit: 5 Mph.” I decide to break the law. It’s not often I can break a speed limit running, but I’m going about 7.5~8Mph.

I come upon a meadow holding two buffaloes. First buffaloes I’ve seen on Catalina. I try to take their picture, but the camera does not cooperate all I is a blurred image of a fence with some brown lumps behind it.

I’ve run pretty much NE-SW across the island, which is only about 6 miles here and now I’m looking west by south. It’s not so dry over here. A little bit later I start to see wildflowers. Coast sunflowers, manroot, locoweed of some nature, some little white flowers (probably Ceanothus), and a flowering plum which doesn’t make it up to SB.

I guess it makes sense. The storms come from the west off the Pacific, so the east side of the Island will be dry, while the west is wetter.

Then I turn north along the coast and head down into Little Harbor. This isn’t a village, just a harbor for boats and a place to picnic. Just to show how wet it is here, we have our first of two stream crossings. As far as most trail runs are concerned, this is nothing.

On the far side of Little Harbor is the next aid station. Again I fill up on water.

Generally it is a pretty hopeless idea to try to take a picture of a wildflower on a run, but coast sunflowers are pretty big, and the light is starting to be good, and I like them…

It isn’t hot yet. When I checked at 3 this morning, the forecast was for 77° in Avalon, and these exposed western canyons will probably be considerably hotter. Best to get as far as I can in the cool of the morning.

We’re in sun now as we climb out of Little Harbor and I can see people ahead of me. Some are walkers, and they don’t count, but some are runners (who occasionally walk, to make things confusing). I’m still running as I go uphill. I can keep my HR to about 80% by running slowly, so I’m doing that. But the runner ahead has started walking. I pass him. There’s another guy beyond him, with a hat with cloth round it. I’m slowly catching up to him on the uphill, but we head down again and he goes faster down than I.

I see that he is stopped in the road in front of me. At first I don’t see why. And then I round the bend.

Brian & the Buffalo

There’s a buffalo blocking the road. I stop and take his picture, before approaching to try and deal with the problem. It’s my road too. Do we get to deduct time spent waiting for buffaloes?

We try going off the road and circling behind him, but he turns and makes nasty noises at us. Then we try to go off road on the other side (on the left). He still watches us, and doesn’t seem completely happy about it, but we get past him. We look back. He’s watching us. Buffaloes can run faster than we can so we continue walking for a while. I suppose herbivores are unlikely to pursue running prey… but it seems more prudent not to test that. In Yellowstone they said “Stay back 50 yards.” We didn’t. But we did get lucky and survive.

Now we run together. He turns out to be named “Brian”. He runs faster than I downhill, but not so much faster that I can’t keep up. He’s a little disappointed in his performance, he was hoping to go faster. I don’t think he really understood what the hills were like. I’m actually pretty happy with my performance. I’m going about the right pace for an 8 hour time (which was sort of a goal), but it is early yet.

Down below is/are Two Harbors, so called because the island becomes very narrow here, less that a quarter mile across and there is a harbor on each side. We are on the east side of the island and approaching from the south. Two Harbors has a few dwellings, it’s a bit more of a settlement than Little Harbor.

Our route continues into Two Harbors and the beyond. If you click on the picture you’ll see the road on the far side of the bay as it follows the headlands. The turnaround is at the end of the second promontory.

I’ve been wondering when I’d see returning runners. If I’m running at an 8 hour pace and the winners will probably be somewhere under 7 (possible under 6 if they are really fast, but probably close to 7) that means they should be half an hour or so ahead… We see a guy heading back but he looks like a walker (I’m perplexed by this, because I think of there being a single separate start for walkers, but I learn later that was not the case, people started when they wanted. One man started at 11pm the day before).

After him comes a runner, who is first (just to make sure, we ask him). I make a rough note of where we are, and it takes me ~35 minutes to go from there to the turnaround and back. So that’s roughly where I thought the lead would be. A second guy follows him.

Brian and I wonder what place we are. Brian thinks probably the top 20. That sounds about right, judging by how many seemed ahead at the start and how many I’ve passed since (of course the walkers confuse things, I can’t always distinguish).

Brian tells me that we need to check off our bibs when we get to the turn-around. Apparently they announced that at the race overview last night (a gathering of which I was unaware).

We get down to Two Harbors. There’s an aid station here, which I don’t feel the need to stop at (but Brian does, so we separate for a bit). This is very close to 25 miles, about half-way.

Two Harbors actually has some streets, and the route is marked on them in flour. As I approach one flour arrow I notice a raven appears to be eating it. At the next arrow I have my camera out, and it really does look as though the ravens are eating the mark. I sometimes worry about arrows being scuffed out by runners, I’ve never thought they might be eaten up!

I’m now climbing out of Two Harbors, keeping track of the returning runners. There are two more coming down, and then the next one is a woman. Whee, she’s doing well (She finished even better, second place overall, and setting the woman’s record).

I round the first promontory, and beyond is another bay sprinkled with boats and buoys. I notice that my heart rate has gotten up to 83%, but I’m kind of excited by the turnaround so I don’t actually slow down as I should…

Back into this cove, and then up the other side. And then I see the guy ahead turn around. There does not appear to be anywhere to cross off our bib numbers. Good. Less to worry about. (It turns out there was a pen somewhere that we were to use to make a cross on our bib, but I didn’t notice it, and it didn’t matter.) The guy ahead looks tired, I bet I’ll pass him soon. Then I’m at the turnaround. I think I’m number 13. Brian isn’t far behind me.

I don’t care about the other people who are behind me.

I got to the turnaround (which was about 26.6) in under 4 hours, so I’m a bit ahead of the game for an 8 hour race, but doing a rather slow marathon.

Now it’s back to Two Harbors. I do pass the guy ahead. 12th. The Brian catches me and we run together again. We both stop at the aid station, but I get out of it faster than he.

And then I climb back out of the harbors, back the way I came. I’m getting tired now, so I start doing some walking on the uphills. The buffalo has gone (thank goodness). Someone passes me. Drat.

Lots of people are going the other way now. I try to guestimate their finishing times based on how far we are from the turnaround (of course this assumes none of us will slow, a ludicrous idea). I pass Michelle and we greet. I’m guessing she’ll finish in a bit more than 10 hours. Up, and up. The number of runners/walkers going the other way fades to a trickle, and then vaguely around the point where I start estimating 12 hour finishing times (the cutoff) it comes to a stop. (pretty much).

I’m going downhill now, and fairly fast again. Then someone comes zooming past me. This is obviously someone who has held back for the first part of the race and is now going for it. I don’t think I could do that (not the holding back part, but speeding up after running for 5 hours). Anyway, I’m 14th again. But ahead of me I can watch the guy who just passed me overtaking someone else, and I expect I’ll catch him too…

I happen to glance at my watch, mile 31.4 in 4:48. That’s a 50K PR!

A little further and I reach 33.4, in 5 hours. That’s 2/3rds. And is 20 minutes faster than 2/3rds of 8 hours. Hmm. Of course, I know I’ll slow, but I do have some cushion…

Then back down to Little Harbor and its aid station. I zip in to fill up with water, and I grab a slice of orange and a bit of banana too. I think the guy I’m expecting to pass is still in the station as I go out the other side. So 13th.

I climb out of Little Harbor again, across the stream again, but the course takes a different route when I get to the top of the hill. I follow the coast a little longer, and then plunge into the interior.

And now it is getting hot. And unpleasant. The canyon walls have closed in and reflect the heat back at me. And, of course, I’m getting tired.

I go deeper into the backcountry. There’s no one else around. No one to chat with, no one to pass, no one to pass me.

A little before the next aid station I come to the 3/4 mark. And I’m at 5:45. So I’m still on the good side of making 8 hours… but I’m now only 15 minutes ahead. I’m going more slowly than an 8 hour pace now.

And then the next aid station. Just water.

I see someone ahead of me. Walking. Running. Walking. He’s got his hand on his back as if his hip pained him. I ask if he’s OK. Says he’s got stomach issues because of the heat. (not what I would have guessed). “Yeah”, I agree, “the heat is nasty.” Actually I’m having stomach issues too. Each gel pack gets harder to swallow and I feel closer to nausea. But I can still run. So I push on.

Another stream crossing. At this one I have to get one foot wet.

I walk across the stream, and it’s hard to start running again on the far side. My quads are shot. I guess I’m not used to running this fast downhill. Oh I ran down Romero, and that was similar terrain, but there has been a lot more downhill than once down Romero.

It’s hot. I’m coughing too. I’ve had a bad cough for most of the last two weeks. Yesterday it was clearing up, but today I’ve been subjected to occasional coughing fits. Now one doubles me up.

As Shakespeare says “Take comfort, and endure.”

I’m walking again. It’s not really steep, but I’m walking. The guy with stomach issues (I learned later his name was Jimmy-Dean) passes me. He seems in great shape now. I wish I were doing as well. I look at my watch. Then I start watching my watch, I’m close to, now I’m at 43.75. That’s 7/8ths of the course and the time is… 6:59:40. That means I’m still ahead of the 8 hour average pace. By a whole 20 seconds. Or more usefully, it took me 1:14:00 to do the last 1/8th, and I’m not going to speed up on the next 1/8. There’s a really tough hill yet to come. Time to accept that I’m not going to break 8.

Oh well.

The guy ahead stops, turns and asks me: “How far have we gone?”. He could not have asked at a better time. I tell him 43.7, in just under 7 hours and that if he keeps to that pace he’ll break 8. Just. At least he looks like he has a chance, I don’t. He thanks me, and is gone.

I’m doing very little running.

The next aid station is coming up. It’s at the bottom of a really steep hill. I remember this hill from the marathon. I had thought it would be earlier on the route, but that’s because the marathon takes a longer course into town from the top (It finishes the way we started). I really pushed to get up this hill before, and that proved a mistake. I can’t push now.

More water. I linger a little in the aid station, in hopes of miracles, but none comes. So up the hill, at a walk.

At least no one is behind me.

It just keeps going.

Eventually it looks as though I am reaching the top. But I remember this from before. This is a snare and a delusion designed to make me hopeful and then dash those hopes. It goes up again just round the bend. But right here we have some good views. Unfortunately they are too hazy to see in the thumbnail, but if you click on the image the snow covered mountains above LA are visible on the horizon. Roger Meadows got a better image than I.

At least there is a breeze up here, it has cooled down a bit because of that.

A little bit of downhill before it goes up again. I trot down and walk up. Again and again.

It’s time for my last gel pack. I take it out and look at it. My gorge rises. I put it back. I’m going so slowly now, I may not need it. I hope I don’t, because I’m not eating it.

Now real downhill. And here’s the last aid station. My watch says mile 46, so four more to go. I take some gatorade here, there’s no point in filling my camelback now. It’s still got water in it and I don’t need more weight. The first person to talk to me tells me I’ve only got 4 miles to go. Which is what I thought. The next person tells me I’ve got 2~3, and the last person says 5~6. Um hum. It would be nice if they had their story straight. (it turned out to be ~4 as I expected). They tell me it’s all downhill from here. (It ain’t) As I leave someone yells to me that I’m in 12th place. Well that’s nice. I thought I was in 13th. I might have miscounted at the turnaround, or I might have missed someone in an aid station. Kind of neat.

I shamble off.

The road goes up again. Damn, damn, damn. I walk. Footsteps behind. He’s running. He passes me. I trot behind for a little, but can’t keep going. He asks me if I believe what the volunteers said about it being 6 miles to the finish? I tell him they told me every number between 2 and 6. He laughs. I think it’s 4 miles.

And he’s gone. So 13th again.

Round the bend and I can see Avalon. And now it really is all downhill. But oh, I’m going slowly. My watch says 47 miles and 7:48. Nope. Even at my best I can’t run 3 miles in 12 minutes. Even downhill miles. I hope I can manage 10 minute miles.

My legs hurt. I’m not really running, more sort of… I don’t know what.

There is traffic on this road. By normal standards there is very little traffic. But I’m not in a normal frame of mind. There’s too much. 4 cars every 10 minutes is unconscionable. I keep looking at my watch. Neither time nor distance is passing very rapidly.

After about 10 minutes I hit 48 miles. The road would be quite nice, tree-lined with views of the ocean and occasionally Avalon (and the two little odd bits of suburbia that seem to have grown up in the coves adjacent to Avalon). It would be nice if I were in a better frame of mind.

At least I’m sticking to my 10 minute miles. I feel that I’m hobbling along. I might go faster on the flat? Will anyone else pass me?

I round a bend — and I’m in Avalon. It’s 49.3 miles so I’ve got a ways to go yet, but here is the village. I’m not lost.

I hear a bell ringing and cheers, and I know that someone has just finished.

I come down the road, and come to an unmarked intersection (no race markings I mean). Well I’ll go downhill rather than up. And then that road hits the waterfront. Again, no race markings. So I turn toward where I know the finish line is.

Flat. I’m now running through tourists, who don’t care about the race. I manage to go a little faster as I avoid the tourists.

I thought…

I thought the finish line was at the start. But it’s not. Have I gotten lost somehow? Where should I be? I keep running.

And then I hear a shout “Runner coming!” and the bell rings and there they are! Only a block beyond the start. They stretch a tape across for me to run through (a nice touch, I don’t think I’ve ever run through a tape before). And I’m done!

My watch says 4:17:48, but I know it’s short because I turned it off for a little bit by mistake. So probably 4:18:??

I wonder if I’m in 14th place or not. I’m pretty sure I’ll win my age group because last year the winner finished in 8:49, so I’m about half an hour ahead of that.

Jimmy-Dean comes up to congratulate me and to thank me. I gave him just the encouragement he needed, and he finished under 8. :-)!

It’s odd to think that it’s not yet 1:30. Most of the afternoon is still to come, but it feels as though it should be the end of the day to me.

They seem to post results roughly every hour. At the moment only the people who finished under 8 hours are up. I’ll come back in a bit. When I do come back I find my time was 4:18:34. I was in 15th place (so nothing from the volunteers at the last aid station was correct). And I’m second in my age group. The winner was an hour ahead of me. (Wow. Good for him!)

So. 8 hours was a goal to shoot for. I didn’t really expect to break it, but I got my hopes up as the race progressed. I’m glad I tried. And I came close enough that I’m pleased!

(Hmm. I didn’t break 8 hours, but I did break 500 minutes. That’s an even nicer number).

Age-group placers get terra-cota tiles

The disadvantages of good health.

January 8, 2011

Kary said it was her psoas. Though the hamstring seemed to be involved too, and maybe the piriformis.

For Eric, it was the hamstring all alone. It had struck him down in the middle of the third lap, and he hobbled after that.

Kent thought it was his hamstring too, but he then went on to describe how incredibly painful it was to have his IT band stretched. And how his calf tightened up too.

Dave was afraid Rusty would snap his leg off when he worked on the calves sometimes.

Ricky has finally started running again but he still feels a twinge around the stress fracture.

Brooke was explaining to Mike what was wrong with her foot.

Michelle, who finished the tempo run before anyone else, said she was out of shape (Michelle fancies she is ill; but there’s never anything really the matter with her, you know.).

For once, there was nothing wrong with me. I felt left out.

Harris said he felt such extraordinary fits of giddiness come over him at times, that he hardly knew what he was doing; and then George said that he had fits of giddiness too, and hardly knew what he was doing. With me, it was my liver that was out of order. I knew it was my liver that was out of order, because I had just been reading a patent liver-pill circular…

Three Men in a Boat (To say nothing of the dog) — Jerome K. Jerome

Uncivilized discourse

January 7, 2011

I “unfriended” someone today.

For the first time.

It feels as though I failed.

He continually placed his political views as comments on my posts. Nor would he listen to reason when I pointed out how wrong he was.

Or… was I wrong? I would not listen to his “reasons” either.

When I was arguing about climate change, I realized that I am in no position to duplicate the findings of any of the scientists. I don’t have temperature data for the world from 30 years ago to compare against current data. I don’t have pictures of glaciers 20 years ago to document their retreat. I didn’t go to the north pole 40 years ago, I can’t compare the depth of the ice cap then and now. How can I convince someone that the general consensus is correct if I cannot verify those data myself?

I can argue likelyhoods. Who gains in a conspiracy to claim global warming exists when it does not? Very few, and those few very poor. Who gains in a conspiracy to claim global warming does not exist when it does? Very many, and those many rich. Which conspiracy is more likely? Could the poor actually fund a hoax which for 30 years has lead to a global near consensus?

On the other hand, when arguing about the economy I feel on firmer ground. The prisoner’s dilemma is a pretty clear example of why pure capitalism will fail. Public goods will not be handled properly in a purely capitalistic situation. The mathematics is inescapable.

So eventually I stopped trying to convince and simply unfriended.

A failure on my part, but how could I change his mind?


January 2, 2011

I was disappointed with my time in the race yesterday. I had thought that if I were feeling good I’d be about half a minute faster or so. And I did feel pretty good yesterday.

Then I looked at the age graded percentage: 79.4%. Since I’ve met Rusty I’ve been running my 10Ks between 78-80%. This is smack in the middle. It isn’t a bad time at all. I’m just older.

I didn’t run any 10Ks last year, so this comes as bit of a shock. I’ve lost almost 2 minutes on my 10K in the last 4 years.

Sigh. I’m getting old.

14 days to Avalon

January 1, 2011

I asked Mike if I could do the Resolution 10K as a tempo run, but he told me to race it. I wasn’t sure if that were good news or not.

Christmas week was my big week before the 50miler. Because the early part of the week didn’t go well, I tried to do more in the later part to make up for it. Not smart. I ended up running 75+ miles that week (probably the most I’ve ever done in a week). I was supposed to run 15 minutes with high HR in the middle of a 3 hour run on Tuesday — and I just couldn’t get my heart rate up. I was too tired. This worried me. Three years ago I got badly overtrained, and I am terrified lest that happen again.

So I tried to rest. I only did half my aquajogging workout the next day. I still felt exhausted. Thursday I did my workout at a very easy pace. Friday I just sat home most of the day. Then today dawned.

It wasn’t raining. First bit of good news. I didn’t think my legs were quite so bad as I cycled over to the race start, but that might have been wishful thinking.

What was funny?
Photo by Dennis

I got to the start just before the 5K set out. Which was fine, I wasn’t racing the 5K. Locked up the bike, got my bib, chatted with Ricky (who says he can start running next week!), and set out on my warm up. Starting out 6 minutes behind everyone else is kind of fun. There’s no pressure to keep up with the fast guys, and you spend the whole run passing people. My legs felt heavy, and slow at first — but that’s what a warmup is all about and things got better soon. I got to cheer people on as they returned on the out and back course. I ran the 5K in 23 minutes (and 2 seconds) which seemed surprisingly fast (that’s not gun time, of course). I guess the excitement of the race did get to me after all, even at the back.

The sun had come out from behind the clouds and it was now a lot warmer. I went back to the bike and divested myself of all extra layers. The temperature was quite pleasant.

A little more chatting, and then Wally called us over to the start. I line up behind Todd Booth. There are some young guys whom I don’t know chatting and one says he plans to run at a 6 minute pace. I’m relieved, someone to pace myself against (not that I’m planning on a 6 minute pace, but if I hang back from him at the start, I should be good). The young guys do strides, and I realize I should too.

So I do.

We’re off.

Almost instantly I’m really hungry. I don’t know why, but suddenly I feel almost debilitating hunger.

Luckily that fades as I settle into the race.

A young woman passes me. Good for her! Lead woman. The guy who said he was going to do 6 minute pace is way out in front. No way he’s doing sixes (he ended up running 5:50s, but was much faster the first mile). At the half mile mark I glance down at my watch which reads 5:42. I did not run a half mile in 5 minutes. Oh, it’s in pace mode. Too focused to change it now. A 5:45 pace is far too fast for me, I need to slow (the watch generally tells me I’m running 3~4 seconds faster per mile than I really am). I fall back further from the woman.

At the mile mark there is someone chanting times. That’s nice, we don’t usually have that. 5:49, 5:50 as I go past. Ump. I didn’t slow enough. Way too fast. That’s going to cost me. On the other hand — it does say that I’m not overtrained and exhausted. Which is far more important than running a good race today.

Lot of friends on crossing guard duty, thank you.

As I approach the turn-around I see Todd is in third place, preceded by young guys. I don’t bother to count where I am (eighth maybe?). The turn around is a tight turn around a cone. Hate that. I take it wide and end up on the grass beside the bike path for a bit. Barry isn’t far behind me.

At 2 miles I see I’ve slowed a lot. 6:19. Gleep! I don’t want to go that slow. I could feel a cold coming on yesterday, and today my mouth is a bit phlemy, I occasionally choke on mucus as I breath. Grump.

One joy of going over the same route four times (out and back, out and back) is there are lots of markers to distract me. Here’s the one mile mark. That means only 1 mile to the halfway point. Now the 4 mile mark, that means .9 miles to the half-way point.

It’s getting hard to keep going. I know I went out too fast. Legs, you don’t need to remind me.

Six mile mark, only .2 miles to half-way. Three mile mark, only .1… 6:18 (Ug. slow)

Here are some walkers left over from the 5K. They’ve been out for more than an hour and they still haven’t finished it. Yet they seem cheerful and happy. I’d be really ashamed if I were they. Another group of walkers just as I come into the turn-around. One of them starts out into the middle of the course. And then stops. Right in front of me. If she just kept going all would be well, but she has realized she’s walking into the middle of the race and has paused to think about it. I can’t get out of her way, so I reach out my hand to push her out of mine. The impact is pretty hard, and although I was annoyed with her up till I hit her, I’m now sorry for it.

On and around, and I’m heading out again.

There is no one around me. The woman has faded far into the distance. I don’t know how far back Barry is (at this turn-around I don’t see behind me). It’s hard to race when there is no one to race with.

The sun is behind clouds and I’m getting chilly again. At least there’s no rain.

I want to stop.

I don’t stop.

I think I should be racing 6:10s, not 6:18s. Oh well, given the way I felt on Tuesday, this is really good.

Four mile mark, 6:20. Ug.

Todd is still in third place. As I watch people stream back, I realize I’m probably the second fastest person from SBAA (of course everybody else raced the 5K, but still, it’s kind of consoling).

Another wide loop around the wretched cone. Barry’s still back there. Kind of interesting, no one has passed me since the woman at the start. I’ve not passed anyone since the start. Even though I went out too fast, I guess everyone else did. I haven’t done any speed work in forever, I just didn’t think I was in any danger of going that fast.

Five mile mark, 6:28. Oh that’s sad. Still, Barry hasn’t passed me.

There’s the 1 mile mark again, only a mile left. Then the 4 mark, only .9…

I’d really like to stop now. Please?

Finally the six mile mark. Less than a quarter mile to go. The 3 mile mark (.1 miles). I’m watching the big clock, 38:29… Hmm. Maybe I’ll break 39. Maybe this won’t be too embarrassing. 38:48. It’s going to be close though. I try to speed up. As I cross the line I glance over 38:58! I can try to be proud of that.