Archive for May, 2012

Stalking the purple salsify

May 26, 2012

For years I have seen huge dandelion clocks in grassy waste areas. These seed heads are about 4 inches in diameter, much larger than any normal dandelion.

Oddly, I’ve not tried to identify them in the past — not even stopping the bike to get a better look.

There is something called Agoseris grandiflora, which sounds promising; I briefly wondered if these plants might be of that genus… But its seed heads are only about 2 inches in diameter. Not so great-flowered when compared to these.

So on Tuesday morning (~6:30am) I was running on More Mesa and I ran past one of these huge puffballs. Well — I stopped and looked at it. I’d assumed the plant was in the dandelion (chicory) tribe, but it didn’t really look like any chicory I’d seen before. Its leaves looked like blades of grass, and the stems branched in a way I didn’t expect for a chickory… Well, other tribes in the composite family have seed heads like that… I mean it must be a composite? Mustn’t it? With a seed like that? Surely.

Well, it can’t be a grass…

and the stem pattern doesn’t look like something a monocot would do…

I didn’t see any flowers though. No flowers, but lots of buds and a few seedheads. Hmph. I’ve never seen flowers on it. — Well dandelions close up their blooms at night, maybe this guy does too, and it’s still so early in the morning it hasn’t opened up.

So I went back at about 2pm in hopes the flowers would have come out by then, but without luck.

I did bring a little bit of broken ruler with me and measured one of the buds. It was 6cm long, that’s 2⅓ inches, and the seed head should be about twice that. I noticed that I could see inside the bud and what I saw didn’t look a bit like the bunch of ray flowers that I’d expect inside a chicory composite. It looked as though a bunch of seeds were forming inside what I’d taken to be a flower bud. Later I found a bud which was half gnawed through and the seeds were clearly visible inside (even later I found a bud where all the seeds had been eaten, leaving just the husk. I think something must like the seeds)

Unfortunately it was a windy day and all the seed heads from the morning had mostly blown away, but found one that was half left…

For a while I became enamored of the patterns made by the seeds (or the pappi hairs to be precise) and took lots of pictures.

But no luck on finding a flower. Maybe in the evening? I had pottery class that night and could not come back that evening (More Mesa is about 5 miles from my house, not really a long bike ride, I ride that twice (out and back), and the entire trip, plus checking all the plants I’d found takes about an hour and a half — anyway a visit entails a significant amount of time).

The next day, Wednesday, I returned about 6:30pm. Again, I found no flowers. So I tried invading the privacy of some of the buds to see if I were right and that some were flower buds and some were seed buds. The bracts (or whatever they are) pulled back easily (though they exuded a few drops of latexy sap — which is the kind of sap dandelions are supposed to have). And this bud did look more like something that might produce a flower someday with purple folded things at the end which might be petals rather than bits of white fluff which might be a pappus.

The day was even windier than the day before and at first I didn’t see any seed heads. But eventually I found one that was half open. This led me to speculate that perhaps the seed heads opened in the evening and then slowly got blown way over the course of the night and the next morning?

I was starting to have the grim feeling that I’d never find a flower. Did the thing bloom in the night? Maybe if I came back early in the morning I’d find the remnants of a flower. I began to fear that I might have to key it out. Without a flower that would probably be impossible. I can make mistakes keying out a genus with only 10 species… the thought of having to use a key that applied to all the members of the composite family in California did not appeal. (Jepson’s keys are not broken down by tribe, so I couldn’t just check the chickories).

Early the next morning I set out once again, and this time I did find a flower. One single flower. Whew, no wonder I’ve never seen a flower in the 20 years I’ve been in SB; it’s like pulling teeth trying to find one.

I went home happy. I asked CalFlora (as politely as I could) to show me all the flowers in the composite family that bloomed in Santa Barbara, and I dutifully looked at all 400+ of them.

Not one of them looked like the flower I had found.

Grrrrr. and damnit.

OK.

Maybe it opens up more later in the day. I went back about 2pm. I found my flower. It was tightly closed up.

Grump.

But… there were lots of seed heads open. One plant had four open at once.

I went back the next morning, again about 6:30am and found that flower from the day before was still closed up, but that two more had opened. But they looked no different from what I’d already seen.

OK. Maybe if I show up about 9am I’ll see something?

Most days I’m busy about 9, but the next day was Saturday and I figured that on the way back from running practice I might be able to surprise a bloom.

I sort of gave up on trying to identify it myself, and posted a set of pictures on FaceBook asking people if anyone else could. One friend suggested that it looked like a salsifry (but the ones she knew were yellow, not purple). But there was a purple salsify. The flower didn’t look much like what I’d seen, but hey…

So Saturday dawned and I biked out beyond UCSB. I’m still supposed to be recovering, so I didn’t get do a tempo run with everyone else. Instead I went off in solitary meditation, fancy free. And on the Pond Trail of Coal Oil Point reserve I found some more of the whatever-it-was.

And one was blooming. It looked just like the flower of purple salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius).


I went to More Mesa on Monday and tromped around between 11:30 and 12:00 (or so) and found no open blooms though I examined ~40 plants. There were two buds which looked as if they had recently closed, and there were places where new side shoots were forming into new buds so I assume it will continue to bloom for a while yet…

Awake to Run

May 19, 2012

I never sleep well before a race. This time I woke up about once an hour. Finally at 2:45 I gave up and got out of bed. My ride wasn’t till 4 though, so I baked bread.

After Leona I talked to Coach Mike about what went wrong. I wondered if he thought I’d be ready to run the White River 50M at the end of July. He thought I would. And then, to my surprise, he suggested I run Born to Run 50K as a way of fixing some the mistakes I made with fueling. I was surprised because B2R was only 3 weeks after Leona and I didn’t think I’d be recovered by then. Mike told me I wouldn’t and that I’d have to keep my heart rate even lower than I usually do in an ultra — and if I didn’t feel up for it I shouldn’t do it.

Well, I felt pretty good after about a week and a half, and Luis posted that B2R was almost full and encouraged people to sign up. So I did. And then I felt really tired again.

Of course.

Anyway, this was to be a test of eating and drinking, not of racing. I hoped it wouldn’t matter much. Mike wanted me to drink a quart (a liter) an hour. He wanted me to eat more salt (so I decided to double my intake from Leona, which was about 4 times what I’d done previously — on those rare occasions when I’d taken any salt previously). And he wanted me to try to eat real food rather than just gels, so I brought along some fig bars, and some trail mix.

I’m to keep my heart rate below 75%. Considerably below on the downhills. Normally I race ultras at about 80%. I’m not sure what this will mean.

Andreas and Heidi offered to come pick me up at 4am (true friends!). Andreas was also doing the 50K and like me he had done Leona three weeks before (but he did the 50K); Heidi was recovering from an injury and was only doing the 10mile race.

It was cool and pleasant outside in SB. The sky was clear and the stars were shining. I’d hoped for fog. Didn’t want to run in the valley’s heat (though Mike considered that something else I needed to work on; I felt I should seek out cool races instead).

Luis’s race, Born to Run, is, of course, named after the book, Luis being a friend of the protagonist. His race is not set in Mexico but on the East Creek Ranch, an 8000 acre cattle ranch outside of Los Olivos.

Once we got to the top of the coastal mountains we plunged into fog, and it stayed with us all the way to the Ranch. Yay! We got there at about 5am and showed three other cars how to open the ranch gate and where the race start was. Then we checked in and picked up our bibs.

At 5:45 Luis described the course: Two ~10 mile loops each returning to the start. One is marked with pink tags and one with yellow. Blue tags are on routes you should not choose. (Gleep. Colorblind me often finds pink and blue indistinguishable. “Tough” says Luis. Succinct.

At 6 Mr. Chamberlin (the owner of the ranch) fires his shotgun, and we are off.

I start out well back and (I think) fairly slowly, but after a bit I look down at my watch. I’m running at 76% already. So I slow way down.

After another 5 minutes I look down again. 65%. Ah. Frequently when I start running my heart rate jumps and then drops back. I guess it takes it a while to get used to working harder or something. OK. I can run a little faster.

I’m running behind a gentleman wearing a shirt from the Avalon 50; I am also wearing an avalon shirt so this pleases me. As we go up a hill I pass him, but then he pulls back ahead of me on the downhill. I’m trying to run 75% on the uphills, and I seem to be doing ~69% on the down. I’m not really thinking about it that just seems to be what comes out of me.

After about half an hour we reach the first aid station. It doesn’t appear to be functioning and anyway no one needs anything. We just continue.

I’ve been consciously trying to drink more than I usually do. Unfortunately I don’t really know how much I’ve drunk. I’ve got a 2 liter bladder on my back. It’s impossible to guess if I’ve drunk a pint in the last half hour or not.

We are now coming to an edge of the property and we can look across a fence into the neighbor’s vineyard. I ran this loop back in February when Luis held a training run on it; back then the vineyard looked like a bunch of sticks stuck in the ground, now there’s a green fuzz as the sticks turn into grape vines. (this picture was taken later in the day on a second pass through this loop, earlier it was too dim with fog for the green to show in a photo).

We’re now climbing a hill, and once again I pass the other guy with a avalon shirt. We have some chat on the way up, talking about our respective avalons. Of course on the way down he overtakes me again, but I don’t let him get far ahead and reel him in. And then I never see him again.

Back in February this area was full of common fiddlenecks (a type of wildflower, not a fern) but I’m disappointed to see that all of them appear finished and uncurled. No more flowers.

We’re now close to the paved road. I’m not paying to much attention. Suddenly I see people in front of me running toward me. They tell me they went the wrong way. Then I notice that right beside me there’s a obscure trail, and, yes, it is marked. I would have missed it too. So now at least 4 people who were ahead of me are behind me. I keep expecting them to pass me.

I hear turkeys gobbling across the paved road, but I can’t see them.

As we run beside the road we get a good view up the valley, and can see the hills across the way where the fog is lifting. We’re still in shadow, but there’s sunlight ahead.

And now we come to the second aid station; it’s a little after 7 and my friend Nancy is offering me a cup of water. I don’t need any additional water (but it does remind me to drink from my own supply), so I pass on through.

I realize I’ve gone about 6 miles in about an hour. In spite of the fact that I’m keeping my HR down to 75%. That’s faster than most ultras I’ve run. This must be an easy course.

There’s a fairly steep uphill grade here and I drop back to a walk as my HR climbs. But it drops again fairly quickly, so I’m doing a sort of jog/walk/jog/walk alternation up the hill. During this process I pass and repass a woman who turns out to be the 50K female winner (I don’t know that yet, of course), but when we get to a long downhill stretch she takes off ahead and I don’t see her again until the finish line (where she finishes behind me. I still don’t know how that happened).

There are some nice beds of Clarkias here. Some elegant clarkias are open and obvious, but the others are still tightly curled up in buds. I’ll have to wait until later in the day to identify them. There also appear to be some slender tarweeds (or are they miniature? I need to look closely at the flowers to distinguish).

And now we’re coming back to the start/finish area. They need to check me off a list when I arrive (they tell me I’m done, at first, thinking I’m only running 10M), and then I go over to the aid station to get some water. No one notices me. I’ve gotten spoiled 🙂 I’m used to volunteers filling my backpack for me, clearly that isn’t happening here. Silly George. I’m perfectly capable of doing that myself — only where’s the water I should be using? I ask and no one answers. Odd. Eventually I grab a bottle and pour it into my camelback. Ump. It looks as though I’ve drunk a little more than a pint in the last hour and a half. Not good. I must do better. Of course, it has been cold and foggy so I haven’t needed to drink much.

It still is cool, but I have a feeling that’s not going to last. Time to remove my long sleeve shirt. Good-bye Avalon. I drop it on top of Andreas & Heidi’s car as I leave the area. And as I do so I see Andreas, Karen and Brett coming into the area. I’m not as far ahead of them as I thought (of course I did take an unconscionably long time in the aid station).

Now I’m following the loop marked with yellow flags. I’ve never done this one before. There’s still some fog visible off in the distance, but it’s pretty sunny here.

Hmm. That fuzzy leaf looks like a milkweed plant.

We come to the second aid station first on this loop. Again I plow right through. We leave the station by a different route that on the first loop.

Suddenly we turn a corner and we are being stared at by a bunch of cattle. They don’t look happy to see us, but they aren’t doing anything about it, just staring to express their disapproval as we run by, 20 feet away.

We are running under oak trees now and it’s shady and nice. The pack has thinned out. No one is very close to me.

After a bit we run up another hill and come out onto a bit of trail that was on the other loop, so we get to see (and pass) some of the slower runners. We cheer each other on.

And then we turn away from them onto a stretch of single track trail. This is a little different from most trails. I don’t think there’s a year round trail here, it looks as though someone has come through with a long mower and shaved the grass and left it at that.

There’s nothing wrong with this; it isn’t hard to run or anything; it just looks a little odd. The views are nice though…. There’s still a bit of fog off toward the coast…

There’s someone not far behind me on this section, and about half-way though I pass someone who seems to have slowed down. But then he and the guy behind me start chatting together and start gaining on me. We talk a little. They bemoan the fact that the fog is off toward the sea and not over us.

I find I’m pushing things a little harder (or am I more tired?). My HR on the downhill sections has climbed to 72%.

The single track ends in a steep drop down to a road that leads to the first aid station. We take a different route out of it from any we used on the first loop. Hmm. the course is rather cleverly designed that way.

About half a mile beyond the aid station there is a strange dark lump in the road ahead. As I get closer I see a turkey vulture alight and I realize there is a dead cow in the road. This is a huge shock. Closer still and I see the eye is oozing blood — I wondered if someone had shot it, but realized the vultures have been after that.

(Other people say there was a dead calf too, and the cow died giving birth. I guess I didn’t look closely enough).

The first loop was only 9½ miles rather than 10, so I’m sort of assuming this one is also short and start figuring that I’m only two miles from its end. This is a cheering thought. But the loop just goes on and on. It turns out to be 10¼ miles instead.

Finally I get to the start/finish, get checked in as having finished the second loop, and refill my water. This time I use more than a quart (but I’m not sure how much more), so I came closer to or maybe even hit the amount I should have drunk.

And I’m out again. A repeat of loop 1.

The loop looks completely different in the sunshine. It’s starting to feel hot though.

I also notice that it’s getting harder to control my heart rate. I’m walking more than I was 3½ hours ago, and I have to spend more time looking at my watch to make sure I’m not pushing too hard. Even on the downhills I’m starting to approach 75%.

There aren’t many people around. I can’t see anyone ahead, and the guys behind are quite some distance back.

Then I turn a corner and suddenly people are scrambling down the steep slope where loop 2 approaches the first aid station. I think I recognize some of them from my previous view of slower runners — but I’m not sure.

The aid station is crowded. I can’t see any pink tags leading out of it. I chaif as I wait for one of the attendants (there are only two) to have time to answer which road I take out of there. But I’m finally off.

I’m feeling very slow now. Before a pace from a 75% HR felt reasonable, but it doesn’t any more. This may be because I’m tired, and so 75% HR does give me a slower pace. But it just feels wrong. It’s way too slow. I want to go faster. I know I can go faster (but maybe I’d get injured if I do). I don’t push it. I just complain to myself.

Somewhere along here is the place where people missed a turn. I keep looking for it, but can’t find it. There are large unflagged sections if Luis deemed that there were no alternate routes… but there are alternate routes. I don’t see any flagging on them either. Am I going the right way? I look down, and in the roadbed are the prints of many feet. I’m probably in the right place.

No one ahead. No one behind. Is that trouble?

Then finally I do find it. Much further along than I had thought. And now I’m running beside the paved road again. There’s no sign of fog now.

And now I’m coming into the second aid station, and there’s Nancy. They’ve put up signs in the road “You are NOT almost done.” Mmm. Thank you. I’m assuming my race ends after 3 laps which means I’ve less than 3 miles to go. That’s sort of “almost done”. Isn’t it?

I mostly walk up the uphills out of there. I still get a little running in, but not nearly as much as I did the first time round.

I’m trying to figure out how much 8000 acres (size of the ranch) is in square miles. I don’t know an acre to mile² conversion. But there are a bit more than 2 acres to the hectare, and a hectare is 100m to the side which means an acre is about 100yards/√2 to a side, so about (17*√2)² acres in a square mile = ~550 so a bit less than 16 square miles, or a square where each side is 4 miles long. (Now that I’m home I see that 8000 acres is actually 12.5 square miles, so a rectangle 3 miles by 4 miles. It’s still big).

And then finally the downhill. It’s pretty much all downhill from here to the finish line. A mile and a half or so. There’s still no one around me.

As I come down the hill I pass a few slow runners. I assume they are people who are a lap behind rather than people I’m catching up with, so they don’t count.

About a 100yds ahead a mule deer comes down the canyon on my right, crosses the road and disappears off to the left. When I get to the place s/he crossed I look left and wish I could bound up a slope that steep.

I realize I’m going to finish in under 5 hours. That’s kind of neat. My heart rate is now at 75% and above even on the downhill but I don’t have far to go.

I see the cars. I see the finish.

About 10 feet from the finish they announce the fourth place finisher. But it isn’t me. Hunh? Maybe they misread my bib. Anyway I cross the line. And turn off my watch. They check me off the list, and then want to send me out for another loop (they think I’m doing 100k or something.) I say I’m done. They tell me I’m not. Apparently I have to run another half mile to an old stump with a skellington hanging from it, and then back. Um. OK. I set off again.

Was that announced at the beginning? I certainly didn’t hear it. I’m a bit annoyed. I know I’ll be above 5 hours. Oh well. I pass some slow people, but I don’t see anyone else ahead of me. I pay no attention to my HR monitor. After a bit I recollect that I turned off my watch when I crossed the non-finish line. Damn. I turn it back on again. But now I shan’t know when half a mile is. I’ll just have to watch for the skeleton. And there it is. And I turn and run back.

As I cross the finish line again I hear them announce me as the sixth place finisher in 5:03. But… you announced the fourth place guy when I was here last and there wasn’t anyone between… I look at the results. I am in sixth place, and the guy who was announced earlier was fifth. Did I mis-remember? Did Luis mis-announce? I guess it doesn’t matter.

Oops. I see someone has prepared the finish area for Chrystee. Only she’s not running today. Maybe someone else…

I’m feeling in pretty good shape. I’m not nauseous. I pissed during the race. I’m even hungry! I eat a spam and cheese sandwich. The first one tastes wonderful, the second… not so much.

Now… did I feel better because of the nutritional changes I made… or because I only ran for 5 hours and most of the morning was pretty cool so there really wasn’t much of a problem anyway?

I chat with Heidi, (who ran ~20 miles instead of just the 10). And then Andreas and Karen come through. They know to go off to the skeleton. Then the first place woman finishes (how did she get behind me?), and then Karen and Andreas. Luis is so excited that Karen has finished second that he doesn’t even notice (or mention) Andreas.

Then Brett comes in.

I’m feeling pretty good. I realize I haven’t run my age yet this year. I decide to head back out and take a closer look at some of the wildflowers, and in addition run another 2K to get in 52K (actually, a bit more like 3K. My watch thinks I’ve only done about 49K).

Oops.


Flowers on the trail


Papaveraceae (Poppy family)
Eschscholzia californica
California poppy

DecOct

2012
2011
2008

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)
Ranunculus californicus
California Buttercup

JanMay

2012
2011

Caryophyllaceae (Pinks family)
Silene gallica
Windmill Pink

JanJuly

2012
2011
2010

Polygonaceae (Buckwheat family)
Eriogonum sp.

Apiaceae (Parsley family)
Torilis arvensis-purpurea
Hedge parsley

MarJuly

2012
2011
2010

Asteraceae (Asters, sunflowers family)
Achillea millefolium
Common yarrow

FebOct

2012
2011
2010
Erigeron foliosus
leafy fleabane

AprJan

2012
2011
2010
Hypochaeris glabra
Smooth Cat’s ear

JanJune

2012
2011
Carduus tenuiflorus
Slender thistle

FebJune

2012
2011
2010
Silybum marianum
milk thistle

All year

2012
2011
2010
Eriophyllum confertiflorum
golden yarrow

All year

2012
2011
2010
Madia gracilis
slender tarweed

AprJuly

2012
2011
2010
Pseudognaphalium californicum
California pearly everlasting

JanNov

2012
2011
2010

Boraginaceae (Borage family)
Amsinckia tessellata
bristly fiddleneck

May

2012

Hydrophyllaceae (waterleaf family)
Phacelia ramosissima
Rambling Phacelia

AprMay

2012

Adoxaceae (Elder family)
Sambucus nigra-caerulea
Blue Elderberry

All year

2012
2011
2010

Apocynaceae (Dogbane family)
Asclepias eriocarpa
Broad-leaved Milkweed

MayAug

2012
2011
2010

Lamiaceae (Mint family)
Marrubium vulgare
Horehound

MarOct

2012
2011
2010
Salvia leucophylla
purple sage

FebJuly

2012
2011
2010
2008
Salvia spathacea
hummingbirdsage

DecJuly

2012
2011
2010
2009

Orobanchaceae (Broomrape family)
Castilleja brevistyla
Shortstyle Indian paintbrush

AprMay

2012
2010

Phrymaceae (Lopseed family)
Mimulus aurantiacus
sticky monkeyflower

JanSep

2012
2011
2010

Plantaginaceae (Plantain family)
Collinsia heterophylla
Chinese Houses

FebJuly

2012
2011
2010

Verbenaceae (Verbena family)
Verbena lasiostachys
Western verbena

MarSep

2012
2011
2010

Convolvulaceae (Morning glory family)
Calystegia purpurata-purpurata
Pacific false bindweed

JanAug

2012
2011

Brassicaceae (Mustard family)
Brassica nigra
black mustard

All year

2012
2011
2010
Sisymbrium officinale
Hedge Mustard

AprMay

2012

Fabaceae (Legume family)
Acmispon glaber
Deerweed

All year

2012
2011
2010
Lotus corniculatus
Birdsfoot Trefoil

DecJune

2012
2011
Lupinus nanus
sky lupine

FebJune

2012
2011
2010

Geraniaceae (Geraniums family)
Erodium cicutarium
Red-stemmed storksbill

DecJuly

2012
2011
2010

Onagraceae (Evening Primrose family)
Clarkia bottae
Punchbowl godetia

MarAug

2012
2011
2010
Clarkia purpurea-purpurea
Winecup

MayJuly

2012
2011
2010
Clarkia purpurea-quadrivulnera
Four-spot

MayAug

2012
2011
2010
Clarkia unguiculata
Elegant Clarkia

MarSep

2012
2011
2010

Recovery

May 4, 2012

It always surprises me how much easier it is to recover from a trail ultra than from a road marathon. While it’s true I don’t run as hard, and I am running on a softer surface still I’m out there for three times as long…

True, after the race on Saturday I hobbled down to my car, and getting in and out was difficult. But Sunday I didn’t really hurt except for going down stairs; I did an easy 10 mile bike ride and went for a beach walk. By Monday I was running across streets and going downstairs with no problem.

Wednesday I went for a three hour (but very easy) hike, and Thursday I did a little run.

I still feel more tired than I should, but nothing hurts any more.

After a race I tend to get depressed. If I’ve run well then there’s a moment when I realize that nobody cares that I did well, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I just did something utterly pointless that was really hard. If I haven’t run well, then I’ve done something utterly pointless and didn’t even succeed at that.

So when I went on my hike on Wednesday and found a little patch of stream orchids, I was greatly cheered

I guess orchids are pointless too. But they are pretty.