Archive for September, 2014

Just follow the arrow.

September 27, 2014

Up and down, and in and out,
Here and there, and round about;
Ev’ry corner of the place,
Ev’ry twist is in the race,
Ev’ry outlet, ev’ry drain,
Have we run, and run again.

Yoemen of the Guard, W. S. Gilbert

I wasn’t expecting to run the Westmonster XC 5K, but when Rusty (or Mike) posted the workout yesterday it was part of it. A three mile marathon pace run on Mountain Dr. followed by the race on Westmont Campus.

My group agreed we’d go for a 6:50 pace on the MP run. But… well, Mike and Dan were running 6:30s, so the rest of us did too. 6:30 isn’t hard for 3 miles, but it is no longer a pace I could imagine holding for a marathon. Then I had about half an hour to trot down the mile between where we finished on Mountain Dr. and the race start on campus.

I was going to do the race with tired legs, which was what my coaches wanted, though my legs would be a bit more tired than they should be…

The course looked like crochet work when drawn on the campus map. Up here, down there, backwards, forwards, looping and recrossing… But on the ground it was well marked, with white chalk lines on the grass and little green arrows stuck to the pavement when we went on roads. And, even more usefully, lots and lots of students at every intersection to point us the way. And for me… there was always the back of the guy in front.

As we lined up I noticed that Cindy was behind me. Now Cindy is a (much) faster 5K runner than I, on roads at least, and I assumed she would be on a cross-country course too, so I encouraged her to move up. But she claimed injury and a race tomorrow and stayed where she was. I was in the second row, behind a guy who looked fast. Craig was beside me.

We were warned not to run into the photographer on a ladder about 100yds ahead.

We set off. There were a fair number of little kids in front. Some deserve to be there, but most have no idea what they are doing and are going to fade in a quarter mile which turns the race into an obstacle course for a while. Oh well. We start downhill and fast, and then uphill even more steeply, and then a quick right turn and down to the playing fields. And I have to dodge around a little kid who has slowed down. Ahead of me is Craig, and right behind me is Bob Tmur. Mmm. I would like to think I’m still faster than Bob. I hope I’ll pull away…

Oh, we go further down below the playing fields, and then up on the other side of them. I’m not sure who is behind me now. I don’t think it is Bob, but there is someone right there.

My legs do feel tired.

We keep going up. As we cross an open patch I see shadows. The person behind me has a pony tail, so I’m guessing it is Cindy. Hunh. Maybe, injured and with a race tomorrow, she runs at my pace?

Westmonster 2014 Cindy and Me
Taken by Brad Elliott, © Westmont

Now back down to the start line, and a second (but different) loop through the campus. Cindy is still behind, Craig still ahead (though both he and I, and presumably Cindy have passed a couple of other people). We come up to an intersection we went through not long ago, there are still runners from the first loop here, and the students directing us have to guess which loop each runner is on to direct us in our different directions. They seem to do a good job — at least for me.

As I run across a flagstone patio area I notice there is a white arrow on the ground. I don’t pay much attention to it, until suddenly it is stuck to my foot. I guess one of the green arrows somehow turned over and I just ran over the sticky part of it and it’s now mine for the rest of the race…

I wonder if there is any easy way to get it off my foot (without letting Cindy pass me, of course) and I can’t think of anything. So I keep running with a sticky paper arrow flapping around. It’s annoying but not really a problem.

We climb the monster hill now. I think I pull away from Cindy a little on the hill. Hmm. I might be a better climber than she, that would make sense given the kind of running I normally do.

At the top of the hill Mike and Ricky are spectating and cheer me on. Then they notice my arrow and laugh. As Cindy crests the top they cheer her too, and tell her “just follow the arrow”. I think this is about mile 2, and if I recall correctly it’s mostly downhill from now on.

Craig, who this morning was complaining of a hamstring injury is getting further and further ahead of me until I can no longer rely on seeing him to tell me where to turn.

Cindy now catches up with me and then pulls ahead too. Ah well.

The arrow continues to flap around my foot.

Back down around the playing fields, and then up to the road again. Somewhere my arrow disappears. Someone else can run with it now.

Then a little dip and on to the track. It seems to take forever to get around the track with Cindy about 50yds ahead and Craig out of sight.

20:47. Pretty slow for a road 5K (which this was not, of course). That’s a bit better than a 6:40 pace.

Cindy’s husband berates me: “You had a good lead at the top of the hill, how did you lose to her?”


A tale told by an idiot.

September 24, 2014

Ban Ki-moon (UN Secretary General) said that yesterday’s climate change summit was a success.
Obama said that the US (under his presidency) has done more than any other country about climate change.

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

Hamlet III.3

Out on thee! ſeeming! I will write againſt it:

Much Ado IV.1

On Monday ~300,000 people marched in New York (and tens of thousands in other cities) protesting climate change. On Tuesday the UN held a day-long summit. This was billed as the “Last Chance” to prepare for the Paris COP 21 conference in December 2015 which is the “Last Chance” for the UN process to do any good. (I’m not sure why we are ignoring COP 20 in Lima this year).

Of course, there have been plenty of “Last Chance”s in the past, and presumably there will be plenty more in the future. No one is willing or able to commit to the needed changes.

The hope was that world leaders would come to Tuesday’s conference and make all sorts promises about reducing emissions and giving money to the poor countries who will (probably) suffer the most from climate change (like being entirely drowned as the sea level rises) but have been the least responsible.

Nothing of the sort happened. No one made any new emissions pledges. The US refused to give any money to the poor, and only a few European countries and Mexico actually did so. Nothing that was desired was achieved.

The Green Climate Fund was conceived at Copenhagen as a way of transferring money from the rich to the poor. It is supposed to have $100bn/year after 2020. Currently it has ~$2.3bn total. That’s not per year, that’s ever. It is laughable.

On the other hand they did come up with a new policy on reforestation. Um. I thought they did that at Copenhagen 5 years ago? And this new policy was established without consulting Brazil — the country with the biggest chunk of rainforest?

Maybe they need a new forest policy because REDD (the last one) didn’t work? Is there any reason to believe that this one will be any better?

One of the other few “major” commitments of the summit was to put a price on carbon. Of course the US did not agree. Nor did one of the countries soon to be underwater.

In spite of this Obama had the gall to make a speech claiming the US under his presidency had done more than any other nation on climate change, and then he volunteered to “lead the international community”. This from the man partly responsible for the disaster at Copenhagen, who has done practically nothing at home about climate change, and who made no commitments yesterday.

He led his regiment from behind
(He found it less exciting).

The Gondoliers, W.S. Gilbert

Personally I think there is a high chance that any policies Obama has promulgated will be rolled back in two years if the Republicans win the presidency. And really what has he done? All I can think of is that after 5+ years he has got the EPA to make proposals for limiting emissions from power plants. Important, yes, but only one small aspect of the problem is addressed. The US has decreased its CO2 emissions in recent years, but that has only been because natural gas has become cheap. But peak natural gas will probably happen next year. I expect the decline will slow and turn to an increase again soon…*

This is the graph which matters more than any words we heard yesterday:

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere continues to increase, and the rate of increase is accelerating. Nothing we have tried in the last 20+ years has changed that basic fact. Nothing said yesterday will change that.

We continue to betray ourselves.

Pogo: We have met the enemy and he is us.

* Well, I did not expect my prediction to be borne out so soon, but a month after I wrote this the EIA announced that US emissions rose in 2013 at the steepest rate ever recorded. So even with cheap natural gas we aren’t doing well.

A Mid-Autumn¹ Night’s Dream

September 21, 2014

I go, I go; look how I go,
Swifter than arrow from the Tartar’s bow.

Dream III.2.1135

Luis organized a training run for the Red Rock race at 7am going from Red Rock (day use area) to Camino Cielo and back.

But a week ago the temperature on the coast was about 100°F (and the trails were worse) and I didn’t want to do a 20+ mile run in that sort of heat. So I decided to start at 4am, thinking I’d be back about 9 before the day’s heat really kicked in. And I thought it would be fun to go for a long run in the dark… And that would get me to the top of Camino Cielo about the right time to watch the sunrise.

Yesterday I drove up to Camino Cielo with the intent of placing some water at the turn around point — only to be stopped about a mile from it. There was a skateboard race going on, and I had to wait for the current heat to finish. About 5 minutes. So I waited. Then they let me though. The finish line was where I had intended to stop and it was full of vehicles, so I drove on another quarter mile to the next pull out. Then walked back, hid my water on the trail, returned to the car, and had to wait once more for the next heat.

I didn’t even know we had skateboard races…

I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get to the end of Paradise Rd. but I figured if I left home at 3am that would get me there in good time. As it happened I got off a little early.

When I got to Lower Oso I found that there was a gate across the road there with no passage (for cars) allowed beyond. Damn it. There was a sign near the gate claiming “Gate closed Sunset to Sunrise” — clearly I’d never bothered to read it before. I grumbled quietly to myself as I parked the car. Let’s see… it’s about 5 miles from Lower Oso to Red Rock so… Mmph. That’s almost an extra hour or so each way. I don’t have enough food with me for that. I’m going to have to turn around before Camino Cielo, which means I won’t get to my water. Grrrr. I’ll miss the sunrise over the ocean too.

There were certain sections of trail that I really wanted to run on (sections I rarely do because they take so long to reach if I start from the front country). Turning back at the Grotto sounds about right. It’s probably ~3 miles from there to Camino Cielo, so it’s still going to be a bit longer than I intended but not by much.

All the bathrooms at Lower Oso appeared to be locked or out of order.

Nothing seemed to be going right.

But then I started out and everything was all right again. The stars were very bright. When I ran Nine Trails last month I was mostly running within the reach of city lights — even if the cities were small cities — and there was a (nearly) full moon, so the stars were dimmed. Tonight there was no moon, the night was clear and all cities were hidden by mountains. It was dark. The stars were bright. Orion’s Belt was dead ahead.

I trotted on into the darkness with the insects singing all around me.

After about 2 miles the road fords a channel of the Santa Ynez river. Or rather it would ford the river if there were any water in it. As it is there is just a dip that is covered with concrete (rather than asphalt) and then a rise on the other side. There are several of these crossings. All are dry.

After about 45 minutes I reach the end of the paved road. Red Rock trailhead. A dirt road takes off to the left (behind yet another gate) and that is my route.

Almost immediately I scare up a nightjar. There’s a great whirring of wings as the bird rises from the trail in front of me. — I think it’s a nightjar (or nighthawk, or whatever they call them here), it’s a little hard to be sure in the dark.

After a quarter of a mile or so a bit of single track takes off on the right. That’s the race route, but… I’m kind of interested in seeing were the road goes. I know the trail is just a short cut (also I’m not familiar with it and am a tiny bit worried about following unfamiliar single track in the dark — I’ve only run it once, and there was a steep drop off beside it). Anyway I take the road.

The road goes into darkness. But I do see a goldenbush beside it.

And then I pass the places where you can get good views of the dam (for Gibraltar Reservoir) but I have views of nothing but night at the moment.

And then down into the canyon below the dam, and up the other side.

I get a little lost here. There’s a junction, and one road is the main road, and the other is the driveway to the where the caretakers of the dam live. I end up running around their houses by mistake and waking up a rooster, and then a dog, and then a voice comes out of the darkness asking me where I’m going.

(Anyway that was the gist of the question)

Oops. I apologize. Find the real road again and continue.

It’s not far now to the turn-off for the Mercury Mine. And now we are getting into a section that is actually familiar and becomes more so as I go further toward the Grotto.

After about a mile I see some Matchweed, a plant I have previously only seen growing on the edge Cottam Meadow (of course it is pitch black still, but I recheck it on the way back — in the light — and that is what it is).

I, um, get a little lost at the Mercury Mine too, and I end up running down the road to mine itself, rather than taking the high road that skirts it. But when the road dead ends my mistake becomes apparent, and I run back up the hill a little way and find the junction which I missed before.

It has taken me two hours (and some seconds) to get here and I’ve gone almost 11 miles. It’s about 5:30 and it’s still pitch black.

Moon and DarknessA little before 6 I see a crescent moon rising over the hills ahead of me. My eye can see the hills underneath, and a bright crescent against a dimly lit (earth-light lit) rest of the moon. The camera has different ideas…

I’m currently running high above the riverbed/floodplain of the Santa Ynez river, so I have a good view of the moonrise and the coming dawn.

Moon CrescentTen minutes later I try again. This time with better effect. The hills are visible (as is my flashlight) and the moon is a crescent.

MoonCrescent2 MoonCrescent3

Now I head down into the canyon of the nameless stream the flows out of the Grotto, and the moon is lost to sight. I turn up Cold Spring trail and run the quarter mile to the Grotto. Last time I was here there were still a few Indian Paintbrush blooming at the waterfall, the last few of Castilleja minor for this year. Two are still here, and I peer at them in the dim light of pre-dawn. Yes, there’s a tiny bit of color left, and the top is still in bloom.

Time to turn around.

Brickellia-nevinii-plantBut a little further down Cold Spring there’s a Bricklebush that I’ve only recently identified. Not our common Bricklebush, but Nevin’s Bricklebush. I only know of three plants, so whenever I get close to one I like to check it’s status. So I go a tenth of a mile out of my way (this time down the canyon), and there it is. Still blooming.

It is now light enough that I can see the trail, and I turn off my flashlight.

Then back to the trail to the mine, and out of the canyon.

While I’ve been down there a fog has come out of nowhere and is covering up the dawn. In the next hour or two the fog will become more pronounced, and lower, until I’m running through it by the time I’m back at the mine.

ThreadleafRagwortI can now see all the blooms I missed on the way out. I’m seeing a fair number of flacid senecios (rather an unfortunate name, I feel). I was down this way about two weeks ago and didn’t notice any, but today they seem fairly common.

I trot along past the various landslides and wonder how on earth I got past these in the dark? More to the point there are some bike tracks here on the trail. How did they do it?

CalSeedsA bit further on I spy some Calochortus seeds. I’ve actually gone looking for these lilies on this trail a couple of times over the summer and never seen them. But I’ve always turned back to the Grotto before I got this far and so have been disappointed. I’m guessing these are C. fimgriatus (though there are a couple other species with this seedpod shape, still the plant size and habitat are right for C. f.). That’s good to see. There are only about 7 plants here now. I’ll have to return here next July (I hope it’s cool then…)

CalClavSeedsFive minutes later I find a very large patch of C. clavatus seedpods. This is a much bigger surprise; I really hadn’t expected to find that species anywhere near here. I’ll have to come back in May… And 10 minutes after that I find another (but smaller) patch of them. I guess they are more common than I had imagined.

I start calculating how long it will take before I see Luis’s party. Somewhere around the dam I guess… They started at 7, but didn’t have to run from Lower Oso (at least I hope they didn’t).

There’s a outlook point here, right above the Mercury Mine, and whenever I pass it I stop and look at Gibraltar Reservoir — the upper reaches anyway. It’s shrouded in mist, but even so it is clear that no water is visible at all. The lake floor is covered with shrubs. It’s been dry a long time here.

Ten minutes down the road I finally do see some water.

Then I hear voices, and turning a corner find Karen, Heidi and Andreas. But no Luis. Ah. They started at 6 (and the gate was open for them, lucky people). I tell them where I stashed my water (in case they go there). I realize that I seem to have plenty of water still. It’s a cool day, and now it’s misty. Less need for liquid. I’ve completely forgotten to worry about it.

We say our good-byes and go our separate ways.

I slowly climb out of the reservoir basin, and then back down toward the dam. I hear voices again, but I can’t see anyone. Oh well.

About 5 minutes later, down in the canyon below the dam I meet the first of Luis’s party, and then Luis himself. He wants to know if anyone else started early, so I tell him about the others.

GibDamA large group is running with Luis, but there are some stragglers. I pass Simone and some others (my glasses are fogged up and it’s hard to recognize people). I turn back to chat, and as I do I see the dam. I couldn’t see it in the darkness on the way down. It’s impressive. When I reach the top of the saddle there is an even better view, looking down from above you can see there is water behind the dam. Still. Some.

Now I need to find the turn-off for the trail (now that it is light, I’d like to run down it). I didn’t notice this end of it on the way out… Anyway as long as I can see the tracks of Luis’s party I know that I haven’t passed it. And here there are footprints spread all across the road. New prints too, the sand is speckled with mizzle and the footprints have disturbed it.

Eventually I find the trail, and plunge downhill to Red Rock and Paradise Rd.

Lots of cars here now, but not mine. I’ve got another 4.5 miles to run.

On I go.

After about two miles I can see a bit of blue sky. I’m still under clouds, but the mountains across the way are in sun. It’s nice to see the sky, but I fear that means it will heat up soon…

A couple of trails hit the road along here. I knew about the Mattias Connector, but now I also see where the Camuesa Connector comes in. A bit later, at the final stream crossing, a trail takes off to the left and heads down through the river bed. Lucky it’s dry. I’m pretty sure this is more of the Camuesa Connector and that it will take me back to Lower Oso. So I head out into the unknown. There are only two more miles or so…

The sun is out now, and it is getting hot.

The trail is a bit difficult to run on. It is alternately sandy and rocky. But it’s kind of fun to see what is growing inside the riverbed.

The great grey-green, greasy Santa Ynez River, all set about with sycamore-trees.

The great grey-green, greasy Santa Ynez River, all set about with sycamore-trees.

There isn’t just one trail here, as I had thought, there seems to be a maze of twisty little trails all alike. Still I guess that if I keep picking one going downstream I’ll be OK.

I cross Arroyo Burro Rd. now. Only about 3/4 mile to go now. Google Maps gets this trail wrong. They claim it stops here (among other problems). But it doesn’t stop it keeps going.

I pass a family out horseback riding.

Mmm. Maybe the maze of twisty little trails isn’t quite as easy to get out of as I hoped. I’m on the wrong side (south side) of the river now and climbing the bank away from it. Oh dear. As I recall the hint was “Don’t go west”, and I’m going west.

So I head north at the next intersection. And north again. And eventually I cross the river, and climb up the north bank, and am 50 feet from my car.

¹If mid-summer’s day is on the summer solstice, then surely mid-autumn’s day is on the autumnal equinox.