Monday, October 25, 2010

Last long run

Yesterday there was a pretty wild rainstorm here in the Mono Basin (snow higher up). Nestled against the Sierra, we caught whatever spilled over, which was still impressive, with gusts up to 60 mph and rain darting sideways most of the day. I had to place a cooler below the windowsill beside my desk, because so much water was sneaking through the pane. Towels were futile.

I'd hope to fit in my long run, but of course missed/ignored my only window of opportunity in the morning. So around 6 pm, as the light was fading, I finally worked up the nerve to don my Marmot rain jacket, dive outside, and it was like swimming. Running seven miles around Mono City (back and forth unfortunately has been the theme of the month), occasionally a gust would slow me to crawl, spreading my jacket across my chest like a sail. But starting late seemed to pay off in that the wind appeared to die down while I was out (though later, as I went to bed, it was howling again). Or maybe it's just that taking the plunge is always the most difficult step.

In the darkness, an anonymous SUV passed me in the driving rain. It slowed and suddenly I heard a voice say, "Bless you heart!" "Bless yours!" I replied, surprised and indeed, heartened, as the rain sluice through his taillights. "You take care now," the voice said. "You, too!" I shouted under my hood. We went our separate ways.

Today gives no indication of yesterday, except for a chill. Bright and clear, I drove to mile 10 and did yet more back and forth--17 miles worth. 3.5 out and back (to the east), 2.5 out and back (to the west), then 2 o+b (east), then .5 (west). It adds up, I hope. I was ready to be done, for all of that was run in a straight line (minus four u-turns). But the outing went well. After starting off at 7 minute pace, I ratcheted down the pace and did the last 10 miles at a steady 6 minutes per mile (at least, according to the markers--who knows how accurate those are). My right hip/knee started to complain a mile in, as usual, but I stopped before any shooting pain, gave it a firm stretch, and that was that.

17 mi, 106 minutes (45:25 for 7, then 1:00:35 for 10); Hwy 167 from mile 10

Sunday, 10/24: 7 mi, 52 min; rainstorm (Mono City)

Week total: 64 miles

Saturday, 10/23: 6 mi, 45 min; Hwy 167 close to home

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tiny, tepid tempo

Today I drove down, again, to my new running territory as of late around mile 10 on Hwy 167. The goal was to sneak in a tempo, by hook or by crook, since I've been without a real workout for too long now. Time to freshen up the legs. Sunny skies for a change:

My three mile warm up out and back toward Nevada was slightly concerning since, like much of this week, my knee started to bother me before long. But I paused and stretched several times, and afterward, when I put on my flats and did a few strides, I felt good enough to go. Unfortunately, I started out, I'm afraid, at too fast a clip. The first mile was in 5:02, which for me, at this elevation, I think is a bit quick. Made it to the 12 mile marker in a second mile of 5:15. There I turned around, and running into a breeze slowed me down further. I got back to mile 10 in miles of 5:28 and 5:31, for a total of 21:18, and decided to call it a day, considering everything. Not the tune up I was hoping for by any means, but at least I was breathing hard and it wasn't my knee that slowed me down. (I'm tempted to try a longer tempo at a steady, slower-to-start pace early next week to further encourage my legs ... but we'll see).

Tonight, my ITB is feeling the effort, but not much more so than usual. I chilled in Mill Creek for fifteen minutes.

3 mi, 21 min WU; 4 mi tempo in 21:18 (5:02, 5:15, 5:28, 5:31); 3 mi, 21 min CD; Hwy 167 from mile 10

Thursday, 10/21: 7 mi, 50 min; Hwy 167 close to home

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One last snake

Chilly today--raining at times, and no warmer than 50 on Aqueduct Rd--but I ran into my favorite, and likely last, "narrow fellow" of the year. A rubber boa, stretched across the road, moving slowly, blending in. I'd never seen one of these before but I knew instantly what it was.

When I reached down to pick it up, it wrapped into a ball around my fingers, sticking its orange burnished tail out, as if to mimic its head. I read later that this maneuver isn't likely to foil an intent predator--fat chance an eagle, fox, or raccoon would be deterred from gobbling up this little guy. But it does allow the boa to fend off a mother mouse while it eats her entire, pinkie litter. (As result, rubber boa tails are extra hard, and often quite scarred.) I also learned that these snakes are more tolerant of cold weather than almost any other.

An aerial view, after I set it down:

To my college teammates, who, in Oregon, years ago, claimed I couldn't catch a snake--ha!

I'll admit, I finished my run, then drove back to the snake with my camera. The jog went okay, but my leg did bother me 10 minutes in. The same thing happened Monday on Hwy 167, when I tried to run down a slight hill. Both times I stopped and stretched, and was able to go on with my run. I'm hoping its healing, even as symptoms persist. Yesterday, however, I was able to run without incident: 14 on 167 from mile 10 at about 6:30 pace. Go figure.

10 mi, 70 min; Aqueduct Rd on Williams Butte

Tuesday, 10/19: 14 mi, 130 min; Hwy 167 from mile 10

Monday, 10/18: 10 mi, 70 min; Hwy 167, close to home (back and forth)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Back and forth

Three days without discomfort = reason to be optimistic. I credit ibuprofen, a second, more rigorous and productive massage in Mammoth (I took it as a really good sign that my therapist was working on Meb later in the day--"your competitor," she said--we laughed), and ice bathing in the local creeks. Sitting in the waters (I've tried Mill Creek now, too), I start to imagine myself a boulder or root wad. Creek bubbles bounce around my legs, and catch in my quivering hairs. Yellow cottonwood leaves wrap around and stick to my thighs. If only I could stay in longer than 15 minutes (without fear of hypothermia), I could be all gold in a few weeks.

I have to admit I was pretty surprised/overjoyed Friday when I was able to jog 60 minutes without any symptoms. I started with a mile or so of walking in Mono City, then, to attempt a run, I drove a short ways to the relatively flat stretch of Hwy 167 between 395 and Wilson Creek. Most unfortunately, this stretch is less than a mile long, so I felt a bit like a rotisserie chicken turning under the cold fall sun, as I jogged back and forth. I was also holding my breath, as it were: trying to stay focused on my form, keep from speeding up, and stay alert for any sign of ITB unrest. The ice age tufa that stand in a row across the road, like hulking linebackers, proved worthy distraction--they have for months now. They're such interesting shapes--a natural Japanese rock garden. (Zen football players?) I called it a day after 60 minutes, about 4.5 revolutions, and headed down to Mammoth for a session of "bodywork."

Yesterday, I did the same, but 5.5 revolutions worth. Today, for adventure, I drove to mile ten on Hwy 167, where there's a relatively flat 5-mile stretch. It rained off and on much of the day, so by heading east I also may have avoided a few more droplets. After parking, walking, and starting up, I ran at just under 7 min pace to the "MONO 167 12.5" mile sign, u-turned to the 8.5 mark, etc, etc. Though I haven't been running fast, perhaps psychologically this straight and narrow pavement running has helped prepare me for the long blocks of NYC. And it was stormily gorgeous out there, however chilly. The Sierra was draped with raincloud, but the sun seared through, briefly, in scattered rays and, as I drove away, rainbows.

I think I'll always remember Hwy 167 as my injury runway. When I had a pain near my achilles in late June-early July, I ran out and back on it ad nauseam. Then, I was after the pavement--to avoid sand. I suppose I still am, but I'm more concerned with flat terrain--no rocks, and little grade--and there's not much around the Basin beyond 167, other than 395. Tomorrow, however, I might try a hill or two, and maybe stray off asphalt. I hope to try a workout of some sort mid-week.

10 mi, 70 min; Hwy 167 from the 10 mile marker

Week Total: 37 mi/4 days

Saturday, 10/16: 10 mi, 75 min; Hwy 167, close to home

Friday, 10/15: 8 mi, 60 min; Hwy 167, close to home

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Well ...

My former coach, John G, used to prescribe three days off, no cross training, when ever we were confronted with an injury. So when the problem cropped up again on Monday ten minutes into my run, I walked back to the house and told myself I would heed his advice from years ago. Yesterday, I went down to Mammoth for a brief check in with a chiropractor and a massage. When I told my massage therapist I was interested in environmental writing and journalism, she casually revealed she was a climate change skeptic, and proceeded to try to prod me into a debate, which made me wonder if I was really in good hands. But, surely the massage helped; it hurt, at times--in a good way--at least.

The chiropractor, of course, gave me the once over and said all kinds of things were awry, which I absolutely believe, sort of knew, and in some cases could see: one quad muscle 20 percent bigger than the other, my left hip rotated forward, my right leg an inch or two shorter. He told me to see how it goes the next few days and come back Friday, or next week, if I decided I wanted further help. Nice guy.

Today, I tried running on the flat section of Aqueduct Rd that traverses William's Butte. I stretched, walked for a spell to get the blood cycling, and started up. But ten minutes in the symptoms returned, then grew mildly painful. It seems that I have IT band syndrome, or a form of "runner's knee." My IT band is inflamed, and so rubbing against my knee bone--side to side action seems to aggravate it. Likely, of course, it stems from problems at the hip, including my glute muscles; after all, the IT attaches up there. It's all one system.

I stopped, stretched some more, felt despondent, and began to walk back to the car. But I decided to attempt jogging again, to be sure I could describe the situation correctly (still can't). But surprisingly, I was able to keep it up for another hour, at a slow pace--maybe 8 min miles--with out any real pain. I felt the occasional twinge, but nothing as alarming as I had during the first ten minutes. So, I know that the injury warms up, rather than getting worse--perhaps I need a more rigorous warm up routine if I'm going to work with this thing. In any case, a slow jog is a thousand times better, to my mind, than resorting to a pool in June Lake.

Afterward, I drove to Lee Vining Creek, and jumped in right beside 395 for 12 minutes, sitting on a granite stone so that I was covered to the waist. Totally frigid, but healing, I hope, like the legendary icy waters of the McKenzie up in Oregon, which are known to vanquish shin splits after a single soak. I wore two fleeces and a towel with pink, yellow, and orange flowers over my head, and felt the blood rushing back into my expanding veins as I drove home.

So, we'll see. Going to try again tomorrow. Hoping for the best.

~ 9 mi, 70 min (with break after the first 10 minutes); Aqueduct Road on William's Butte

Tuesday, Wednesday, 10/12-13: Off

Monday, 10/11: Off -- 1 mi, 10 min, and then a walk home

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Four weeks to go

On Friday, I jogged down to Cemetery Rd for another bout of intervals, trying to simulate ~1000m repeats with 3 minute efforts. The temperature was just right, and aside for a car with a male driver that passed me going way too fast (even after I tried waving to get the jerk to slow), throwing up a cloud of dust, it was pretty smooth. The roads by no means flat, so going out I felt faster than coming back. Yet the luxury of running on time, not laps or miles, is that its effort that counts. My track:

Today, I put in a good 20-mile long run--not super long, but at a relatively brisk pace. I'd intended to go another mile, actually, but was feeling rather dizzy/drained by the time I got back to the house--perhaps I started out too fast--so I called it a day. Also, early in the run (from about 1 mile in to mile 5), I was feeling an occasional twisting/pain on the side and back of my knee (sciatica?), especially on the downhills, which is worrisome. I thought about aborting the run, and perhaps should have, but decided I could always hitch back along Hwy 167 if it stayed with me through 10 miles. It disappeared, for now--I'll have to monitor it closely. Possibly it stems from my hips being slightly out of alignment after the hard half-marathon effort/Friday's workout. We'll see ...

20 mi, 135 min; Cottonwood Canyon loop

Week total: 97 miles -- this will prove to be my highest weekly total for the year

Saturday, 10/9: 10 mi, 70 min; reverse Conway Ranch loop

Friday, 10/8: 4 mi, 28 min WU; 5 x 3 min hard, w/ 2 min rest (~ 4 mi); 4 mi, 30 min CD; Cemetery Rd (12 mi total)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A return to winter

Monday, my calves extremely sore/tight from the race, I got into the car and began the drive back to Mono (I'll spend 3 more weeks here before heading east in time to race the ING NYC Marathon on Nov. 7). It wasn't until Oakdale at the edge of the foothills, however, that flashing signs warned me that Tioga and Sonora Passes were closed due to accumulated snow. Sheesh.

So I drove through the town of Sonora, heading north in a gamble toward Monitor Pass, which I hoped was still open. I stopped in the evening at Calaveras Big Tree State Park for a shake out, jogging out and back slowly along a fairly hilly road, then finishing on a beautiful ~1.5 mile loop through a spectacular grove of sequoias. Boy I'd forgotten how wonderfully big--big is just right, but still understatement-- those trees are. I found myself staring up, hardly watching where I was going. I wished I had more time to spend there, but around 6:30 drove on.

After a winding, dark, laneless road on the backside of the Bear Valley Ski Area, I made it to the top of Monitor Pass without a hitch--jet black, but no snow--and slalomed down the eastside all the way to the Travertine Hotsprings in Bridgeport. Along with the trees, the soak made the longer drive almost worth it. When I arrived at Mono City, I filled the bathtub with cold water and kneeled in it to ice off the lower legs, which are pretty brutalized from the half-marathon--my first real effort in flats, instead of trainers.

Since then, I've tried to encourage my calves to come around as quickly as possible with some double runs. Meanwhile, as you might have guessed, winter has arrived, or at least made an appearance, in the Basin: the Sierra are entirely white above 8,000 feet; the crowns of the Mono Craters are wreathed in snow; and the White Mountains, in the Nevada distance, are once again themselves. Tuesday and Wednesday, when the peaks out my window were capped in low-slung, brooding storm clouds above the colorful aspen, I bundled up in running tights, long sleeves, gloves and fleece hat, reminding me of many miles earlier this year on the Western Slope of Colorado. But today the clouds have mostly cleared--Tioga Pass has reopened--and it was warm enough for short-shorts! Whoo hoo! Not quite a second summer, but I won't complain.

Yesterday, I ran a solid, steady 15 miler tufa-to-tufa on the Southwestern edge of the lake, but today I was a little tired--and the calves were still complaining--so I held off on a workout, which I plan to do tomorrow instead.

10 mi, 71 min; Decambeau loop; + strides

Wednesday, 10/6: AM: 15 mi, 105 min; Tufa-to-tufa, on Test Station and Picnic Ground Roads

PM: 5 mi, 35 min; Mono City sagebrush ramble

Tuesday, 10/5: AM: 10 mi, 70 min; Hwy 167-Cemetery Rd-Mono City

PM: 5 mi, 35 min; Mono City sagebrush ramble

Monday, 10/4: 10 mi, 77 min; Calaveras Big Tree State Park, CA

Sunday, October 3, 2010

San Jose splits

More to come, but thought I'd post splits, before I unthinkingly erase them from my watch:

5:12, 5:13, 5:11, 5:14, 5:10 (26:02, 5 mi), 5:13, 5:11, 5:13, 5:15, 5:12 (52:08, 10 mi), 5:09, 5:20, 5:48 (for 1.1 mi) = 1:08:26

Good for seventh. I'll take it.

1 mi, 10 min WU; 13.1 mi, 1:08:26; 4 mi, 30 min CD

Week Total: 85 mi

Saturday, 10/2: 5 mi, 35 min; PV

Friday, 10/1: 8 mi, 56 min + strides; PV

Thursday, 9/30: 12 mi, 84 min; Woodside loop

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The sound of water

Shook the legs out today. Seems like the effects of the hike for the most part have dissipated, and I'm looking forward to this weekend.

I went down to Cemetery Rd as the light lifted from the sage, and everything went smoothly in the cool air. (I also made a point of glancing at my watch less.) I tried to concentrate on relaxing my arms, and turning over my legs (rather than over-striding, which I think I sometimes tend to do).

Before the workout, after warming up, I stopped on the road to stretch more and do some strides (unlike my first interval session this training cycle ... which went less well). And suddenly, with no breeze around, I was hearing what sounded like water. I paced back and forth, and looked off into the sage, and then realized it was flowing underneath me. I imagined it was natural tunnel, pumping water to a gushing spring near the lake's shore. Through a lava tube! Maybe I was the first to discover this astounding, unseen waterway, coursing through the desert like vein!

More likely, it was the pipe I've heard diverts water from Wilson Creek to Dechambeau Ranch, which wouldn't be one, otherwise.

4 mi, 28 min WU; 5 x 2 min hard, w/ 90 sec rest; 5 mi, 35 min CD; Mono City-Cemetery Rd (12 mi in all)

Tuesday, 9/28: AM: 9 mi, 63 min; Poole Power Plant Rd

PM: 5 mi, 35 min; Mono City sagebrush ramble

Monday, September 27, 2010

Woe is he who eats too many wasabi peas

Enough said. I'd planned to go a few miles longer, but cut it short, exhausted. They say one's diet is crucial to training. I believe that, but seldom abide by it. Example A: today.

Also saw my biggest rattler yet on Conway Ranch Rd, in the vicinity of Rattle Snake Gulch (which, after this summer, I truly believe is rightly named). Girthy feller, maybe 3 feet long. Let me tell you, rattlers get a little nervous when you come up on the jog. Thank goodness for low light and shiny scales that gleam (unlike a twisted piece of sagebrush) from 100 yards away.

16 mi, 112 min; Conway Ranch Rd-Hwy 167-Cemetery Rd-Black Point Rd-Mono City

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Full circle

Made it, mentally refreshed, but awfully sore. As the poet A.R. Ammons so eloquently wrote, "firm ground is not available," as true here, at Mono Lake, as at Corsons Inlet. I'm always amazed, after a good long hike, how apparently different the muscles are one uses for walking versus running. Throw in a lot of additional stabilizing muscles for shifting, boggy terrain, as well as backpack, and you've got the makings for several stiff mornings. A gloss of the trip, with photos, is on its way, in some form.

Yesterday, I ran twice, just to push the blood around. Today, I ventured into town in the late afternoon for a tempo run that went relatively well, considering my hike. I ran 5 loops of about 1.1 mi, starting once more at Mono Cone: 5:33, 5:44, 5:46, 5:44, 5:46 = 28:34. The first was little too fast--the initial stretch, not surprisingly, is downhill--so I backed off a bit. By the end, I was feeling taxed, but was glad to hold it together.

I would have delayed another day, perhaps, but I'm gearing up for a half in San Jose a week from today, and wanted to get this safely under my belt. Won't help me next Sunday--the consensus, of course, is that fitness gains from any particular workout take a couple weeks to materialize. But it won't hurt, in terms of confidence, considering my last tempo (which I neglected to write about, but may still) didn't go as well. I'd call this back on track.

3 mi, 21 min WU; ~5.5 mi, 28:34 min tempo; 4.5 mi, 31 min CD (13 mi total); Lee Vining

Saturday,9/25: AM: 9 mi, 63 min; lesser Dechambeau loop

PM: 4 mi, 28 min; Mono City sagebrush ramble

Week total: 58 mi/4 days + 45 mi backpack, Circum-Mono

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Caving in

Yesterday, on an easy 9-miler, my legs were definitely feeling Monday's long effort. I went counter-clockwise around Conway Ranch, running on Goat Ranch Cutoff toward and then along Wilson Creek, which I'd never done in that direction.

No run today, though, I've decided, because instead I'm off a hike around Mono Lake--45 miles, three days, two nights. I've resisted the endless opportunities for backpacking/big hikes in the Eastern Sierra for a long time now, mainly for the sake of running, and I just can't do it anymore.

Back Friday!

Begin circum-Mono

Tuesday, 9/21: 9 mi, 65 min; Conway Ranch loop in reverse

Monday, September 20, 2010

My longest run ever

... time wise. Seriously, now--how do people run for 4+ hours? (People are amazing.) I can't imagine it. To spend so long out in the elements? All that time on your feet? And mentally? That's forever to focus. Good on ya, marathoners. You've made the term mean more, and I mean that in the best of senses.

This morning, I cracked the 2.5 hour barrier for the first time, and that felt like just about enough. I think my previous longest run was about 2:28-ish, back in 2008 in preparation for my first marathon in Austin. I got back to the house, after my usual long loop to Cottonwood Canyon Rd, in 2:11 (drank some water I'd set out on the driveway), then added on 23 minutes in Mono City. By 7-min "badger miles"--to which, you may have noticed, I've come to ascribe (because I just don't care to guess at/drive my distances)--it was 22 miles. But, for once, I'll fess up and gloat that this was at least a 23-, quite possibly a 24-mile run. (The few marked, but otherwise unremarkable miles I did on Hwy 167 were at 6-6:30 pace ....)

And, what do you know, the decision to postpone my long run a day (which felt like such anathema since we, runners, tend to live by the calendar week) was glorious vindicated by the stupendous, refreshing, fall weather, with just a whisper of breeze. On Goat Ranch Cutoff Rd, I crossed over tracks in the sand and stopped, very briefly (a paws?), to verify that they were mountain lion--out for a stroll/on patrol on the road under moonlight, I imagined. They headed up into the Bodie Hills. An auspicious start to the week.

23 + mi, 154 min; the usual grand loop to Cottonwood Canyon Rd

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wind delay

When it comes to running, there's little that ruffles me as much as wind. Perhaps it's because I'm a tall strider, not a squat stormer (to offer an awkward phrase). All extension, instead of middle-distance power. I'm lanky. I admit it.

In any case, wind sometimes renders me nervous, jumpy, when the day's run is still before me. And today was awfully windy, though "awfully" might not be extraordinary here in the Eastern Sierra. By ten it was a more-or-less steady 20 mph, with gusts into the 40s. So I spent quite a number of minutes over the course of day staring out various window, like a (small, toy) dog that wants to go out, but hates a stiff breeze whipping through its coat. I was supposed to do a 23 mile long run, and per my usual route, that meant 10-plus miles of running, trudging, directly into the wind. The weather forecast confirmed that it wouldn't let up.

Finally, I decided (in consultation with the Internet) to save my long effort, which I want to run a pretty good clip, for tomorrow. So, that's to come.

Tonight, however, I ventured out at the last minute and ran 9 miles. From the start, I felt solid about the decision to postpone, since I couldn't hear a thing, and my face felt like it was alternately being pummeled and massaged. Every so often, I'd take a step in which my lifted leg would fly off into the one planted, almost tripping me up. Two and half hours of that frankly would have blown.

As I sailed down old 395 toward County Park, the lake reminded me of a conveyor belt, at a baggage claim, say. Even from a distance, swells were moving fast to the east across its surface (but they hadn't really broken into all-out white caps, for some reason). The day had cleared out the haze from a distant, unknown-to-me fire that had lingered around the Basin this week. And when sun disappeared, the wind quieted a bit, making my ascent back into Mono City easier. The blooming rabbitbrush quivered bright yellow in the dusk breeze. I was glad to be out, finally.

9 mi, 63 min; Old 395-Cemetery Rd-Mono City jeep trail

Week total: 87 miles -- less than the 100 I'd anticipated, due to a delayed long run

Saturday, 9/18: 9 mi, 63 min; Aqueduct Rd and Lower Horse Meadows at twilight (then to the Tioga Gas Mart for a burger and short films, courtesy of the Telluride Film Festival)

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Though I often feel like I'm running along the ocean here in the Mono Basin, I've wanted to try out Ten Mile Beach--an actual beach--on the north shore of the lake, for awhile now. Tonight I finally decided to test its waters, with a second run (no, I didn't swim--you'd be mired in mud, I think, just few steps in). I hiked out with my binoculars, because it's a not-to-be-believed-until-you've-seen-it world of birds out there, a never-never land of the sprightly and winged: Grebes on the lake to the horizon's edge. Phalaropes flickering in handful-flocks over the water. Ruddy ducks beating loudly across the lake, in display I guess. Ungainly avocets, stilted on the shoreline. And, of course, gulls lumbering about on all mediums.

After sitting for awhile, watching the sun burning into the mountains,I set aside my binoculars, swapped shorts, and lumbered myself, to the east along the beach. The sand was fairly firm, for the most part, at the top of the ridge waves had made maybe twenty feet from the shoreline. But I did have to slog through a few sections--how at the mercy of the ground we are! In the distance, I thought I saw lagoon cutting into the perfect crescent of the beach, and chased it for awhile, until it disappeared.

Along the way, I also scarred up a wee-phalarope--they weigh about 5 ounces, I think--with a broken wing. Must have collided with another bird. It skittered wildly down from the ridge into the water, where it bobbed alone, and I was sad to know it would never leave the lake, or this season.

If only the sand were a little firmer, I'd venture back out to Ten Mile for a regular easy run. But I think I'll leave it for the rare, gorgeous double.

AM: 9 mi, 63 min; Test Station Rd, on the south side of the lake

PM: 4 mi, 30 min; Ten Mile Beach

Wednesday, 9/15: 15 mi, 105 min; Hwy 167-Cemetery Rd-Dechambeau Ranch-Black Point Rd-et cetera

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why do I bother?

Got up this morning in time to see an unexpected entrant, Ryan Hall, demolish the Tioga Pass Run, which starts in front of the Mono Lake Committee and finishes at the entrance to Yosemite Park--a 3200 ft climb. Apparently, he does similar runs somewhat regularly--gez--especially on Rock Creek Rd. He ran over a full minute faster per mile, on average, than the second place finisher, which could have been me, except I took the easy way out and didn't run. But I was able to give Sara, his wife, and an elite runner as well, a lift to the top. We stopped at various turnouts to cheer him on; he hardly needed it. Nice to chat with her, though, and hear about life in Mammoth. At the top, Ryan declared, "I can't believe other people are doing this." Well said. People are amazing. I dropped them off in Lee Vining so that they could head up to the Whoa Nellie Deli for some grub.

I didn't run, until later in the day, that is. Fresh with inspiration, and guilt (I mean, if Ryan could take down Tioga Pass only a month from his goal race, the Chicago Marathon--and only a week from a half-marathon in Philly--then why couldn't I have, two months away from my race?), I took to Aqueduct Road. But goddamn if it wasn't very long until I was feeling lousy. On flat-to-rolling terrain, I was probably going slower than Ryan earlier in the day. Why do I bother? I thought. The legs were tired and tight--from yesterday, I suppose--and my stomach was churning. Only went 16, which was the plan. A good riddance run.

The most awkward (and funny) moments of the day, however, were atop Tioga Pass, where after the race numerous people began mistaking me for Ryan. They'd come over to shake hands, though I was wearing corduroys, a fleece, and flip flops, leaning idly against the stone wall beyond which was Yosemite. "I'm not Ryan," I had to say, several times. "He's cooling down." Sara joked that I should take the prize basket (if there was any) and make my get away.

When I got home, a friend of my housemates, who was visiting, said, "Didn't I just see you running up Tioga Pass?"

"No," I said, with a laugh, "that was someone else."

16 mi, 111 min; O+B on Aqueduct Rd from the base of Horse Meadows Rd to the backside of Grant Lake

Week total: 80 mi/6 days -- Not bad, considering. Gonna try harder next week.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stealing glances

The view from Krakatoa

I came off the islands around 11:30 this morning, having picked up more dead birds in the last 48 hours than I ever have before (I mean, than I ever have over the course of one day). After spending a few hours lazying about, I geared up for a makeshift fartlek session around 3:30 pm. It was surprisingly cool--I guess it really is fall--and my legs felt pretty good considering I'd spent much of Thursday and Friday on my feet, helping to mend the gulls' chicken wire corrals, or walking slowly around the islets, doing my best to spot mortality. E.g., a rare white pelican:

Anyway, I jogged down to Cemetery Rd, then out and back toward Black Point. Then I went straight into an interval on Cemetery's long, straight stretch. The goal was to do 6 x 1:50 hard (i.e., approx. 600m, at 4:40-ish pace), with 90 seconds rest (i.e. jog) in between.

I didn't take a break to stretch and run some strides before the intervals, like I would have for a workout at track. Perhaps a poor idea, because picking it up, hard, after 4 miles easy, was startling, and maybe hard on the legs. No idea how fast I was running to start, but I suspect I started too aggressively--such an interminable stretch of road eggs you on. After 2, I was feeling it. After 4, I had to take an extra minute, I'm afraid* (Cemetery Rd kind of has my number). The last 2 intervals I tried to just keep steady and strong, though they undoubtedly were slower. After about 3 miles of fartlek, I'd felt like I'd just worked out in the OMAC back in college (and let me tell you, the air is drier out here than it was on that indoor track). The usual top-heavy, light headed sensation--you know? But I went straight from my last interval into a cool down to make it a continuous run (minus that minute-long break ... ug).

I could be disappointed in this session, but nah. The idea was simply to throw down finally, get the wheels turning for more to come. Hopefully they will eventually be on the mark (I think I'll measure one out next week). But I'll admit, I made it more painful by glancing at my watch at least once mid-session, instead of waiting to hear the beep. That's a gesture that implies feebleness, that cries out half-ashamed, When will this ever end? Sometimes I'd resist that glance until about 30 seconds left, but once I was shocked to still see 1:10. By the the pagan gods of Mono, could it really be? Argggh! It's not often that time seems as long as the road before me.

Anywhooo, I cooled down 28 minutes more to Mono City. The legs were super tight, leaden, by the end, but they'll wring out just fine.

4 mi, 28 min WU; 6 x 1:50 hard, w/ 90 sec easy jog between (~3 mi); 4 mi, 28 min CD; to Cemetery Rd, for the workout, and back (11 mi, 78 min total)

Friday, 9/10: -- (stranded on a desert island)

* (to use the sage)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Islets ahoy!

I returned to a windy Eastern Sierra yesterday afternoon, and squeezed in an early, easy morning half-marathon, heading out around 7:15 am in order to catch a boat to the islands at 9:30 (to help with the yearly California gull chick mortality count--"mort," for short). Brisk, fall run, low pallid light streaming through my salt-smudged sunglasses. The legs felt recovered from Monday's hour-long "marathon pace" effort, but they'll have a day off tomorrow, as I'll be marooned in the middle of Mono for two nights. According to the schedule I'm (loosely) following, this week's to be a recovery week, anyway, so I'll just go with the flow.

And off we go:

13 mi, 91 min; Dechambeau loop plus O+B on Cemetery Rd toward County Park, and an add-on in Mono City

Wednesday, 9/8: 9 mi, 63 min; early morning run around PV, including Deer Path Trail

Tuesday, 9/7: AM: 10 mi, 70 min; to Woodside and back, a classic PV run

PM: 5 mi, 35 min; Hidden Valley Rd and Georgia Ln

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sawyer Camp at 'thon pace

Back in the bay for few days, and decided I'd make use of the marked miles at beautiful Sawyer Camp Trail along the Crystal Springs Reservoir for an honest "marathon pace" run. The paved bike path, with a gravel shoulder I like to run on, winds sinuously around the oak-filled canyonettes that dip into the water. Warmed up 3 miles, then ran 11 miles at an average of 5:30 pace:

5:26, 5:34, 5:34, 5:31, 5:32, 5:26, 5:27, 5:30, 5:34, 5:32, 5:24 = 1:00.36

There was a slight breeze I found irksome coming around some of Sawyer Camps many bends, and when I left home, the temperature read 90 degrees. Considering that, this was a solid effort. My legs didn't feel fresh, so I just tried to remain focused and keep up a steady push. I'll be excited to exchange my trainers for flats next month for the San Jose Rock'n Roll Half-Marathon, which I plan to use as another measuring stick/tune-up for a November marathon.

Hopped straight in the car after my cool down in order to go to a delicious chinese dinner with family!

3 mi, 21 min WU; 11 mi, 1:00.36 (5:30 avg); 2 mi, 14 min CD; an old running haunt, Sawyer Camp Trail

Sunday, 9/5: 5 mi, 35 min; PV -- I'd hoped to do more, but arrived home too late in the day

Week total: 79 miles -- A bit less than the past few weeks, mainly because I held off on a Sunday long run to do a marathon pace run on Labor Day

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The north shore

Yesterday, S's last day in the Eastern Sierra, I ran down from Mono City to Ten Mile Beach, on the lake's north shore. It's so named because the turn to the water is immediately after the 10 mile marker on Hwy 167. It was awesome to run away from the sun, with a slight breeze at my back. That's the furthest on 167 I've run to date.

S met down there, and we enjoyed some crackers and cheese, and couple Blue Moons, by the water on a one-plank, ground level bench someone had left. The place was just magical, an immaculate evening--the water glass still, luminous, and reflecting thousands of red-necked phalaropes twisting and peeping low over the lake in sinuous flocks. Many American avocets around, too, flying back and forth along the shore in groups of 10 or 20--long, wading legs trailing awkwardly--and further out, untold grebes to the horizon of the lake like ant on an endless tabletop. The north side of the lake is officially my favorite, I think. I'm going to do an easy run along Ten Mile Beach soon--the sand seems firm enough.

As for today, I went back in that direction and jogged around Cottonwood Canyon, still craving the view up there. In my second to last mile, I suddenly heard a rattle from the sage just off the road I was on. There was a snake. It was on full alert, and kept up its racket (with its head and neck reared back in a V, ready to strike) for at least three or four minutes as I watched. I was amazed its tail didn't tire out! Finally, I caved, went on--no sound on the way back.

10 mi, 70 min; sandy run in the vicinity of Goat Ranch, at the top of Cottonwood Canyon Rd

Friday, 9/3: 13 mi, 88 min; from Mono City to Ten Mile Beach, via Cemetery Rd (with an additional mile O+B east on turnoff to the water)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Carrying a torch

It's encouraging to have a practical purpose to inspire a run. Like you need to drop a letter in the post office box a few miles away, for instance. Or ... well, that's pretty much all I can think of.

But this morning I ran back to the house with another purpose. With a message. Last night, my housemate, a videographer, mentioned that he'd always wanted a classic shot of a rattlesnake striking the camera (affixed to a broomstick, of course). Conway Ranch Rd is the place, I said. Then, around 10 am, about three miles in, there a snake was, reclining lazily in the sun on the soft sand at the edge of the road. Heck, I thought, I'll just run back to the house to rattle off an alarm.

So, I drew a line with my shoe across the road's sand--opposite the rattler--to mark the spot. Then I giddy-upped the 3.5 miles yonder to Mono City, finishing my run earlier than I'd planned (only 49 minutes). But I felt like a scout relaying an crucial message (kind of like the fabled Pheidippides, who ran from the Battle of Marathon back to Athens to deliver an announcement of victory ... and then keeled over dead with exhaustion). There was umph to my step. Never mind that the news was slightly ludicrous, deranged. It felt good, too, to run in a new direction on 395, back toward Mono City.

J, I said, rattler! Lickity split, he duct-taped a pink, plastic coat hanger to the end of a spare crutch--the perfect implement for wrangling. We piled into his truck and drove over, noting that there were probably a thousand snakes nearby, and here we were chasing just one.

Of course, it was gone. It'd been about a half hour since I'd seen it. The snake had seen enough sun, I guess, and the chase was half-baked idea, in the first place. But at least I made the effort.

AM: 7 mi, 49 min; up 395 to the back side of Conway Ranch (rattler!), and back

PM: 5 mi, 35 min; Lee Vining Creek Trail and around town

Wednesday, 9/1: 15 mi, 105 minutes; down old 395 to Cemetery Road, around Dechambeau Ranch, then through it, and on til Mono City

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Double take

A day well spent, in two parts, up Lundy Canyon. This morning, huffed almost to the resort at the backside of Lundy Lake (or the front side, I guess ... depending on whether you have a peak or basin perspective). Cruised downhill, with heavy thighs, faster than Mill Creek.

Then, in the late afternoon, S and I drove past where I had turned around to take a short hike into the Hoover Wilderness. The wildflowers had mostly passed, but there were still lots of larkspur, monkshood, columbine, paintbrush (scrophulareaceae galore), and one lonely tiger lily to be seen, the final flame of August:

The canyon must have been unbelievable with color earlier in the season. In any case, it's a good thing beavers don't gnaw down wildflowers. The aspen (and, as result, the creeks), in Lundy Canyon aren't so lucky:

Also went for an easy double round the city at dusk.

AM: 10 mi, 70 min; Out Lundy Canyon Rd (or rather, up), nearly to the end of the lake, and back

PM: 5 mi, 37 min; Mono City sage-167 ramble; plus a short hike up Lundy Canyon

Monday, 8/30: 9 mi, 63 min; a ramble that included Conway Ranch (past the fish ponds and cross-country for a bit near Wilson Creek), the Goat Ranch Cutoff development, a utility road, and Hwy 167

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Catching up

The season seems to have surged away from us the last two days, suddenly (a high of 58, a low of 30). But it should fall back in a few days (high of 81 to come). Bring out the guns (Jokin might say)! But I'm already anticipating the day it will pull away strongly, if not for good. We're always catching up.

Another long run, on the chilliest day of the summer or one of the first days of fall. The wind was out of the northeast, unexpectedly streaming over the Bodie Hills and slowing me on the first half of a 21-miler. But when I turned toward the lake at Cottonwood Canyon Rd at about 10 miles, I started to feel better (maybe it was leaving the sand) and though it rained on me the last 5 or so miles (light, but frigid; the sand dimpling, puckering, and firming up; the upwelling smell of wet sage; a long sleeve shirt, stuck to my chest), I finished pretty strong. I did an extra loop of lower Mono City--at least a 5 minute circuit--but was surprised to find myself back at the house exactly at 2:13, which meant I'd run the loop faster than last week, despite the weather. I added on a bit more.

It's not wrong to say that, here, I find myself racing the weather, and the light, as much as myself, or a watch. Some days its to squeeze in a run before the sweat-raining heat, or to beat the wind which is constant as afternoon. Other days, I chase the sun to avoid a chill, hoping to stay in front of a line of light as it pushes east along the ground before dusk. On occasion, running on Highway 167, I've run toward and into the line of shade, noticing the green-gray area, where I'm half in, half out of light. It's like the shallows of a pool. The edge is not sharp, but diffuse (a hundred feet?), when the shadow falling forward is that of a mountain range.

21 mi, 141 min; the Big Loop, with a couple miles added on in Mono City

Week total: 91 miles--another good week

Saturday, 8/28: 9 mi, 63 min, small loop around Dechambeau from Mono City (Windy as all get out! Gusts to 30!)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tempo in town

Late in the day I headed into Lee Vining, intending to do a tempo on Aqueduct Rd. Didn't get that far. Instead, I decide to use the asphalt (in part because of my thoughts earlier this week) in Lee Vining, settling on a box-ish loop that started at the Mono Cone (a burger stand), went north on 395, turned right on the short road to the Forest Service Visitor Center, right again on Mattly Avenue, and right once more 1st, to complete the circuit around the high school back to Mono Cone. I drove it once, before warming up, and the odometer read 1.1 miles, for what that's worth.

I ended up starting at around 7:30 pm and doing 5 laps--5:42, 5:45, 5:44, 5:42, 5:46--each lap noticably darker--finishing in 28:41, under the street light. Probably about 5.5 miles, at roughly 5:15 pace? I'd intended to do 6 miles, but was feeling at my limit after 5 laps. It was windy, of course, heading gradually uphill on Mattly Ave, which I think took a little something out of me.

Still, I was happy with the workout. Only wish the Mono Cone had been open afterward. It was rather tantalizing running past it, again and again.

3 mi, 21 min WU; 5.5 mi, 28:41 min tempo; 3 mi, 21 min CD; Lee Vining

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Driving home from Lee Vining after a dusk run at South Tufa, the rising moon--two days past full--seemed a hilt, and its reflection, a sword that came straight through the window into my chest, or onto my shoulder, I don't know which. I should go for yet another run, I thought, to the chant of the trilling crickets! I should stride out this minute, with the soft-spoken poorwills that flutter after the glowing moths as they ascend! I should let my eyes widen, and widen, and feel my way humbly, confidently across the pale washboard sand!

But here I am, instead.

AM: 10 mi, 70 min; Hwy 167-Cemetery Rd-Mono City Jeep Trail

PM: 5 mi, 35 min; O+B on Test Station Rd from South Tufa

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The dictator

I have certain misgivings about how much running I do on sandy surfaces. Certainly it makes you a stronger runner, developing both robust ankles and the patience to endure moments of slog, which sometimes seem interminable. But it probably isn't training me to be a faster runner. You lose the bounce in sand that comes with running on harder surface, and so, in sand, you're supposed to lean forward, engage your calves more, and lift your knees instead--great exercise, I suppose, that could pay off. But should it be a focus of marathon training, where efficiency is everything? I find that on a road like Goat Ranch Cutoff I weave restlessly back and forth from one tire track to the next in search of the most compact line (which often doesn't exist to my standard). At times, I feel like I'm grinding to a halt, but step sideways can get me going again. And I have noticed that the footprints I leave--some from weeks before, layered with tire tread, and the tracks of rabbit (a constellation of pads), deer (cloven), and snake (long-intestinal)--rock a bit too much. Dastardly heel strike! If I were smart, I'd make a point of running longer, harder efforts on pavement, since ultimately that's what the race will cover, and focus on my form on the sand for easy/"maintenance" runs. But, we'll see.

In any case, it's a good reminder that Mono Lake is always affecting me. Often it seems so distant, just a mirror reflecting islands (I never run right along the shore, though I'm planning to, soon, up at ten mile beach). But of course it lay down the old lake bed I run across day to day. It sits there, at the center of the Basin, and from eons ago dictates my training.

15 mi, 105 min; Conway Ranch loop + some ever sandy Goat Ranch Cutoff O+B, and a mile more through Mono City

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The oncoming moon

Aqueduct Road and Lower Horse Meadow tonight. As I finished up down through the meadow, the full moon rose in a saddle of the ridge that leads to the top of Williams Butte, a sway that looks just like a horse's back.

I'm sorry to continue going on, like a kook, about snakes, but c'est la vie: Starting out on Aqueduct Road this evening, I passed a white truck--a couple of hunters with, in no particular order, their compound bow and a black dog in their laps. Didn't think a thing of it, until, returning, I leaped, in my usual awkward and compulsive way, over a garter snake in the road, yellow stripes down its dark back.

The sun was gone--no snake in its right mind would be lying exposed. Sure enough, and sadly, it seemed gone. I was sure it was the truck that had run over it. It was still warm, though cold-blooded, like a rock cooling off after dusk.

I squatted by the little snake, perhaps a foot-and-a-half long, resting my elbows on my knees. Then, with a finger, I felt it, pushing one of its curves, gently. There was no stiffness in it, just residual life, the twitch of nerves. So as if drawing pictures or patterns in the sand, I puppeteered for a moment--I don't know why--pushing the snake forward in curves, allowing it to crawl one last time. It was playful and solemn, like the best of ceremonies I think, and it made me happy to imagine I could help it go where ever it was going.

At last, I made to lift it off the road--and, it yawned. It opened is tiny jaws, each like a fingernail, as wide as they would go, nearly 180 degrees. I wondered if it, still alive within, somewhere, though not on our plane, was remembering the last cricket or blind, newborn vole it took from the grass. Weirdly, I almost wanted to give it my finger--let it clamp down harmlessly, soothingly at the last. But I did not. It was not a gasp, just a yawn before a long, early hibernation. Or a waking? I moved it off the road--and it yawned, again. The final stretch, I thought. I watched it, for another moment, but it didn't move again.

When I finally uncoiled from my squat and went on with run, I would find that I was stiffer, colder, too. But beforehand, high in the blue above us, a raven called out. Perhaps the bird--a mere black dot, overhead--would find this garter in the morning, and to help, I coiled it in a corkscrew, turning it into an artful eye that would find the raven and the sun lifting over Mono Lake. Or the oncoming moon.

10 mi, 69 min; O+B on Aqueduct Road across Williams Butte, as well as Lower Horse Meadow

Monday, 8/23: 10 mi, 70 min; loop around Dechambeau Ranch from Mono City

Sunday, August 22, 2010

No snake this time

Just a knockout view down Cottonwood Canyon Rd. From that vantage point, the islands, the Craters, and the High Sierra past Mammoth all align, like stair steps, or a craggy, geologist's dream/bingo. Might be my favorite view around. And, best of all, the stretch is downhill--I can just roll, and gaze.

For once, the wind died down over the course of the day, rather than picking up, and I timed this loop just right--left just before 6, back just after 8. I also managed it about 4 minutes quicker than a week ago (then added on a few minutes at the end). I'm heartened by the fact that, while training for my first (and only) marathon in Austin, I launched into my first long runs about this week, twelve weeks out from the goal race. So, though I may feel a bit behind per my goal of running faster this time, I've got more long and medium-long runs under my belt already.

19 mi, 133 min; my Big Conway Ranch lop (same as last week), i.e. Hwy 395-Conway Ranch Rd-Goat Ranch Cutoff-Cottonwood Canyon Rd-Hwy 167-Cemetery Rd-Mono City jeep trail

Week total: 91 mi -- after two weeks of travel, finally a solid week of training, the kind I need to string together

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A must-stop location

S and I headed up to Tuolumne Meadows this morning to catch a poetry reading at Parsons Lodge. It was a fall-like day (or, so everyone seemed to say), overcast up high and blustery. There were white caps on Mono before 9 am. From the Meadows, I went for a spirited, easy run just over four miles down the trail to Glen Aulin, hopping from rock to root (or over), trapezeing a log across a creek, and dodging Boy Scouts and other flush-faced hikers. At times, much like the river, I followed cairns over fields of slick rock (though the river follows, or flows, what it will). I turned about after 29 minutes at the first big view of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, where I paused (see photo ... someone else's ), with my hands on my hips, soaking up all that granite. The stop felt absolutely warranted, appropriate (perhaps I should write a "training article" about the most beneficial implementation of the mid-run scenic rest). At the end, I added on a couple miles through the Meadows proper, before finishing up at the stables in time for lunch on a gravel bar and the reading.

10 mi, 70 min; Tuolumne Meadows, the trail to Glen Aulin

Friday: 12 mi, 84 min; past Black Point and Dechambeau Ranch from County Park; also, a hike to Parker Lake in the evening

Also: A Mono-logue post, "Of insects and exclosures"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

DP in the desert, yo!

So, I was reading in Daniel's Running Formula last night about tempo runs--yes, I have such books, but for some reason, I rarely browse through them. Anyway, he, this legendary coach, made a point of stressing that tempos should be on more or less flat, evenly surface, and windless terrain. I thought to myself, Dang.

My tempo last Tuesday (which I haven't written about til now, sorry ... maybe what comes next will suggest why) didn't go so hot. Well, no, it was hot; I ran in the early afternoon, on Cemetery Rd, the same stretch I used for my first tempo. But I intended to go 5 miles, and only managed 4. It might have been because I went out too hard--I don't really know, the miles aren't marked--and the wind was bad. During the first mile, I ran straight through a bona fide dust devil, sand whirling all around me, and held my breath. Then, mile 3-ish was pretty much all up hill, though relatively gradual. The footing everywhere in the Basin is sandy as all get out, at least in (unexpected) sections, and full of rocks that can test an ankle. To cut this sob story a bit shorter, I called it off after 4 miles feeling tapped running back into the wind, uphill. No juice to be squeezed. God-lessly awful. Not fun.

So, today, I wanted my tempo to be extremely funner. I drove to more level terrain (check!), Aqueduct Rd, just before 7 pm--when it was COOL (how reasonable!)--and parked at Walker Creek. I got out of the car, opened the doors, and blasted The Strokes, as I half stretched, half danced in full view of gorgeous mountains and dangerous volcanoes. (I was really shaking it out! It was a dance off, and the challengers were the Mono Craters and my elbowy, distorted reflection in the Jeep!) It made think about how fun the old locker room days in college were--terrible as the music often was--or just those days of rollicking company, period. That's another drawback to training alone.

Anyhow, even before the warm up, it was off to a good start. A success, even. Never mind that my legs felt pretty Cemetery, though I'd tried to leave that behind. I guess that's what 60-ish miles in the last four days can do to you.

My warm up was indeed heavy, stiff, and I'll admit, I had a few doubts. But what-ev. I lay down some short strides and set out at a brisk clip. But not too fast (YES!). And the best part of Aqueduct Road is that it works with you. Dances with you? No, that may be going too far. But it does bend in and out of the wind, as you run roughly parallel--this is key--to the mountains (though one of those bends is at least a mile, and you can see all the way to the other side, which is intimidating, because it looks so freaking far). This way, you don't suffer for too long in the Santa Chilla always rolling down those glacial canyons. And it went fine! Just fine, considering my legs. They continued to warm up and by the time I finished my solid 27 minute tempo I'd almost forgotten about how rough the road was. Almost.

At one point, I chased a mountain quail. It skeddadled straight down the track for about a minute, before taking flight, finally, in a puff of dust. Why? Cause I was gaining on it ... ha! Then on my return, coyotes sang out from the hills. Probably dancing up there, too, old Wiley. To The Strokes?

Here's what I've learned, in the end: I must try to be both Roadrunner (or quail) and Coyote! I'm sure some interpretation argues they're of the same ego, anyway.

3 mi, 21 min, warm up; ~ 5 miles (or who knows) in 27:11; 3 mi, 21 min, cool down

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A dip in the Poole

I drove forth from Mono City this morning intending to run Aqueduct Road, the Williams Butte traverse. But rounding the lake, I could feel the heat at 10am (oh, if only I was a real morning runner...)through the dusty, bug-spattered windshield, and the air conditioning wasn't cutting it, yet. So I drove up to Poole Power Plant Road instead, which is an oasis of sorts, for me. A break from the sage, a homecoming to shade--a plunge into the mountains! Quaking aspen are always reassuring, and not being able to see around a bend is a novel, welcome distraction, when you're not used to it. Plus there's coming upon pint-sized tumbling waterfalls--seldom bad. I parked at Moraine Campground, ran the approx. 3.5 rolling, upward miles to the humming power plant (it's kind of exciting to reach it), and doubled back several miles in the shady section to make it more-or-less 10 (i.e. precisely 70 minutes).

Much later, at 7:30 pm, I doubled back once more for 5 on Test Station Road from South Tufa. As I strode, the lake fell into that vibrant, ice blue rife with wind-borne stripes (like cracks in a glacier) that arrives, from certain angles, just after the mountains have become dark, abyssal shapes. Nice evening for plodding, as ever.

AM: 10 mi, 70 min; Poole Power Plant Rd

PM: 5 mi, 35 min; Test Station Rd from South Tufa

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Submaximum mileage effort

Physiology aside, the truest benefit of a weekly long run is that it makes a "medium-long run" (read another long run) feel like no big thing. Just a medium thing, I guess, so it's aptly, if not boringly named. (What if a medium-long run were to be called something flashy, like the "submaxium mileage effort"?) A little over a month ago I might of complained about a 14-miler--I surely did. Now I count my lucky Eastern Sierra milky way, and relish in the fact that, back in high school, say, such a run would have laid me flat for the day. Now, I only require the aid of iced coffee to keep purring ... as spacey as my purring may be ...

We found our way past the little green church in the evening for a soak in The Hot Tub. There's a reason that Mammoth hosts an enclave of elite runners, and it's not entirely the altitude. At least I hope not.

14 mi, 98 min; Hwy 167 to Cemetery Road, around and through Dechambeau Ranch, and on til morning

Monday, August 16, 2010

Several erratic thoughts, as usual

Tired today, after a late long run last night and an early-ish morning in town. Took a nap in the afternoon before an evening jog. Some days the legs are simply content to rise and fall (all I do is lift), and this, to my mind, is the difference between a run and a jog. When you run, you push forward, purposefully, with each stride; when you jog you lift your legs and let them end up where they may, which tends to be forward. Runners usually try to finish each run at the same pace or faster than it began, and, as one maxim goes, to finish at the same pace, it has to feel like you're speeding up.

But, I pretty much went jogging today. Let gravity carry me down the old 395 to Thompson Road, to Cemetery Road... I noticed the ants busy around the cracks in the retired 395, and wondered what kind of kingdom they've built below those fissures, with old pavement for a roof. I thought then of the fissures atop Black Point, which I've explored, which were formed when Black Point, a volcano, erupted under the ice age lake; and of how the earth's crust, just like our roads, breaks down, and things descend, or push up from below. Up the hillside, meanwhile, lay the moraine south of Lundy Canyon, buggy-sized erratics--granite boulders with flat faces, left at the toe of the ghosts of glaciers--speckled over the hillside. Mini monoliths, they reflect the western light amid the sage, creatures beached far from the deep from which they came. Later I found myself looking at the lip of rocks and sand the glacier-esque Mono County graders/machines had created at the side of the road--a mini moraine full of fist-sized erratics, and who knows what small bones.

I'm not sure what it is about this place, or running--maybe the views--but I'm often sucked into a bottomless whirl of scale-play (just as I'm often sucked into word play here). Forgive me. At Cemetery Road and Wilson Creek, I ran out and back on the Black Point Rd 10 minutes to make it an easy 10 miles by the time I got back to the house in Mono City.

10 mi, 70 min; Old 395-Cemetery Rd-Mono City Rd loop

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's alive ...

Both the blog, and the rattler I saw today as I crested the hill northeast of Conway Ranch. I had shooed a garter off the road a few miles earlier, and must have been channeling a charmer's energy. The broken sagebrush strewn across the road even had a sinuous quality.

Luckily, I saw it before it was trouble. It was on the left side of the road, and I was jogging down the middle. Thick, girthy, its pale sides glinting in the post-6pm sun that was pouring its final moments over Conway Ranch. I suspected at first glance that the snake was no gopher, and it's six-tiered rattle confirmed that hunch.

I stopped, of course. I often feel guilty when I pause while "training", and feel the pressure to keep on, to keep the heart-rate up--I just can't help it. One part of my soul loves to linger, the other chafes. But I fought my guilt off for longer than usual this time. If anything, rattler's would have such an effect. I circled around it, squatted down. It raised its rattle and gave two shakes and side winded to the dirt lip at the edge of the road, with its head tracking my shins the whole time (don't worry, I wasn't dangerously close). I think I stood, or took a step closer, and then it slithered quickly over the little embankment and coiled, in a perfect pretzel shape, in the tight clearing between several sagebrush. Its rattle was upright before its body, like a shield, its head reared back--a classic display. It would take a fool to mistake this for an ordinary snake.

But I followed it, stepping off the road, and observed the rattler for a few more minutes. Its forked tongue--jet black at its prongs, a pearly coal further in--slid out and down, in a slow, sense-ful flicker, and then, sometimes, curled back over the top of its spade-shaped head. I stepped from side-to-side, trying for the best angle to see the creature, and it's dagger-face followed knowingly. From the road, before I left, I couldn't resist boyishly prodding its side gently with the twiggy tip of a sagebrush branch, and it turned toward the provocation violently, giving two isolated rattles--like the single click of a castanet--that were quite elegant and clear in their message. (When I told this story to a friend, she mentioned that it's usually males 18-30 who get bit by rattlers ... I can't fathom why.)

Then I went on another 14 miles, or so, down Goat Ranch Cutoff to Cottonwood Canyon Rd, to Highway 167 (a stretch I normally don't reach), and back on Cemetery Road to Mono City finally, after dark.

19 + mi, 135 min; a big Conway Ranch Loop

Week total: 75 mi

Also: A Mono-logue post about a gull, "An elder in our midst"

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Oregon ho!

I'm heading 8 hours north to today, and will be back Thursday, so the posts might be infrequent. Just back from a 16 mile, or more, effort out in the sage, on the old Conway Ranch loop plus Goat Ranch Cutoff out-and-back add-on. I tried to push the finish a tad and force the legs to turn over despite a shortened stride, which is inevitable when it comes to long runs. Otherwise, nothing eventful to speak of, really, except perhaps for a large redtail that lumbered off a pole, working hard without a thermal. I got far enough down GRC that I could see Cottonwood Canyon, which is the back road to Bodie--connecting Cottonwood Canyon Rd with 167, with Cemetery Road might make for a good long loop, when I finally need it. I swear, a map soon.

And remember: it's always an excellent idea to go for a big run right before you jump into the car for an all day drive. The legs love it.

16 mi, 112 minutes; Conway Ranch Loop plus Goat Ranch Cutoff O+B add-on

Week total: 82 mi

Saturday, July 31, 2010


So, there's this wonderful development, just across 167 from Mono City. Why is it wonderful? Because it failed to develop. Out in the middle of the sage, on the West side of Goat Ranch Cutoff (the road's in two parts, divided by Wilson Creek), 7 or 8 big houses sit lonely, like ice age tufa. A new, low sign at the turn says Rainbow Ridge Realty, June Lake--it's no ridge, but I bet they do get killer views of 'bows over the Basin through their tall glass windows.

The roads in this stalled (for now) development which have the houses on them are in pretty decent shape. But get this--there's a small network of house-less lanes between them, complete with cul-de-sacs, which is quickly being reclaimed by the desert. The pavement is broken at regular intervals, and rabbit brush and sage have filled the cracks. Streets with names like Conway Rd, and Glacier Rd, are announced on weathered signs at pointless, dead end junctions--here, there is such a thing. When I run through this place, I would feel like a member of the legendary "Steeple squad!" leaping over these rows of bushes, except that, being tall, I hardly have to leap.

It's an experiment in what lasts, what doesn't. I wonder how often all the other roads around here have to be repaved to stand a fighting chance against the elements. And desert plants, why, they're downright vicious! Their gnarled taproots go 15, or 50 feet into the ground, in search of a hint of water. You think a pancake thin spread of pavement's going to keep them down? They root with vengeance.

Anyway, I began running through this bizarre landscape, a ghost-almost-town, because a) when I was dealing with real/potential injury, I wanted to avoid sand while staying near Mono City b) running mindlessly down short cul-de-sacs and dead end streets is a super way to eschew long stretches of head-on wind, and so stay fresh (sort of--purposeless running can run you down, too), and c) nothing tickles me more that thwarted suburbia. It's a runner's Disneyland.

8 mi, 56 min; a ramble through the Conway Ranch development, 167, and the sage aside Mono City -- maybe I'll call this run "Disneyland"?

Friday, July 30 -- AM: 9 mi, 63 min; "inner Dechambeau loop" from County Park -- PM: 4 mi, sagebrush ramble by Mono City

Thursday, July 29 -- 10 mi, 70 min; 167 to Cemetery Road

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rattling off the miles

Today, prompted by a bulldozer up ahead (still widening the road), I diverged from my usual Conway Ranch Loop, running around the hill on the Northeast side of the ranch, instead of over it, on a jeep trail I'd never tried out before. The road dipped through a spot of willows near an irrigation ditch, and there, I leaped! Even belly up--clearly deceased--a snake triggers instincts I can't suppress.

I kept going, but as I so often do, turned around. Because it didn't quite look like a gopher snake. Sure enough, it wasn't. It was a rattler. I squatted, flipped it over.

How did I know it wasn't just feigning death, like a hog-nosed snake sometimes does? Well, red ants crawled over its body, and there was a coagulated explosion on one of its long sides (evidence that it had been run over). I brushed two fingers across its amazingly large, smooth, ribbed and layered scales (see photo ... someone else's), and noticed its black tongue was sticking out, still, from the point of its diamond head as if the snake died mid-taste. And I counted four tiers to its rattle (incredibly, these are modified scales), which means it was just four years old.

I paid a little more attention to the ground for the next few miles. A good run, otherwise.

13 mi, 91 min; Conway Ranch Loop (slightly modified) with Goat Ranch Cutoff O+B extension

Tuesday, 6/27 -- AM: 10 mi, 70 min; old 395 to Cemetery Rd -- PM: 4 mi, 28 min; Mono City Sage Ramble

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fire above the hills

An atypically dramatic day in the basin. Around 4:30, I walked out onto our deck to see smoke spiraling up into the sky from across the lake. The fire quickly grew to 500 acres. Sarah and I drove around for a few hours in search of the best vantage point from which to photograph the blaze, whose smoke lifted into a shifting funnel braiding north with the wind. Helicopters and tankers dropped water from Grant Lake and vermilion fire retardant.

In the evening, I drove up the rough end of Black Point for yet another thrilling view. It was as if the Mono Craters, after 650 years (when Panum Crater let forth), had come alive again. Smoke unraveled to the east, and up. I imagined an octopus, with waving tentacles, holding against a rock in a pool (the basin) as the tide went out.

I descended just about at dark, and having been distracted from my run by the blaze all afternoon, set out at about 8:45 pm. I parked by Wilson Creek on Cemetery Road, and ran the ~ 6 mi loop around Dechambeau Ranch. As I started out in the dim light, poorwills hopped off the road in front of me, some lighting into the sky after moths. They would flutter up, short-tailed, then the circle around and land on the road, becoming rock again (as members of the goatsucker family seem to), in an enthralling game of touch and go.

Then, the moon rose. I had fire on the mind, so when it came up--a brilliant, smokey orange over the ruffled edge of the clouds on the east side of the basin--I thought the White Mountains were burning, too. My God, I thought, what a conflagration--those mountains are doomed! It took me a moment to catch on. When it came clean of the clouds, the moon was just a few days passed full, so for the rest of the loop I ran with my shadow (a strange feeling to have it fall to the West, after noon). The crenelated sage on the side of the road let through slants of light across the sand before me, but I felt myself leaning forward more than usual, hoping to strike firm ground. Running in the dark on an uncertain surface can be like feeling out the end of a stairway at night. (My hips concurred, come morning.)

I added on to the loop by going out and back to the Black Point parking lot from my usual left turn. Along that stretch, the moon's reflection lit the lake where it's broken by a reef of tiny islands between the mainland and Gaines Island. The long buttress roots, then stump, of Negit, were sharply defined as well by a luminous halation that moved with me.

Every once and awhile, a rodent scurried in the sand or scrub nearby. But the only time I was fearful was passing two trailers on the bluff between Black Point and the Dechambeau Ponds. No doors flew open. But humans are unpredictable.

8 mi, 56 min; Dechambeau loop from Cemetery Road and Wilson creek, plus O+B add-ons to the Black Point parking lot and toward County Park

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Solidarity in rain

Thunderclouds, lightning, downpours today, and forecasted for the next few. Some runners--at least me--become down right doggish when weather comes. Most of the afternoon, I felt nervous, pent-up. When the booms shook the house, a part of me wanted to scamper downstairs to the bathtub and cower. Or, to switch metaphorical tacks, when the day's mood is off, I find myself walking to the window and looking out, my hand on my chin, like someone in a harborside house who compulsively looks out for the return of the beloved under distant masts. A person introspective, in all appearances, but more actually numb. I dramatize (though, we do have a view of the lake). But when the winds are suspect, I become anxious searching for the right window to venture out, and it's then, more than any other time, that I sometimes miss company on my runs. Solidarity in rain.

Of course, once I'm outside, it's often not so bad. Quite nice, in fact. And in the Eastern Sierra, if you drive a canyon or two over, sometimes you can discover that window. Rather unfortunate that it doesn't work that way everywhere.

Tonight, after a short store shift, I drove just south of Lee Vining and parked at the base of the road to Horse Meadows. From there, I ran on a jeep trail to Oil Plant Road, which merges with Aqueduct Road (which rolls over Walker and Parker Creeks). I crossed the north side of the June Lake Loop, went over the wooden bridge that spans the Grant Lake Reservoir spillway, and then turned around at 49 minutes. My legs felt heavy for the first quarter of the run, then I warmed up (I even left my shirt behind, three miles in, and was a bit chilled by the end). The vistas from Aqueduct Road, especially of the Mono Craters and Reverse Peak above June Lake are altissimo; horns should accompany! (Or at least photos, soon!) The lake, meanwhile, was shrouded in mist and rain, but the sky ever so politely spit just a little in the South Basin.

Also: near the turn around, I spent a few minutes watching an osprey hover and swoop over Rush Creek. Tourists are often miffed as to why an osprey, an exclusively fish-eating raptor, would nest over Mono Lake. How does it survive? I pose the question ... No, not on shrimp... Well, there above was the answer silhouetted below cloud and light rain. The bird had flown down from Grant Lake Reservoir to test Rush Creek for trout, but quickly went back. We passed each other twice, silently.

14 mi, 98 min; O+B on Oil Plant Road and Aqueduct Road from the base of the Horse Meadows Road

Week Total: 76 mi

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fire in the hills

Around 10am, I went out for a tour around Conway Ranch. Some entity with bulldozers--the County, I assume--has widened what was a perfect jeep trail. Now, the road is roughly graded, and the sage has been torn up and crushed along the edges and pushed into isolated pyres that will probably go unburned for years. Seems like a quintessential case of work for the sake of work--there's absolutely no reason, to my mind, why this road needed to be "improved." It might see a car, or two, on a good day. In any case, as you can probably tell, my aesthetic and environmental self (and economic, such as it is) found the change irritating. Pretty strange to see orange Slow, Work Ahead signs in the middle of nowhere. I did not slow, but I wasn't going fast, either.

Had thought about going for a moonlit double, but it didn't pan out after my South Tufa tour and store shift, which ended at 9:30pm. Too late. But the basin just started "pop'n" with rainbows and brilliant light before dusk after scattered thunderstorms much of the afternoon. People were pulling over on the side of the highway to snap pictures of the 'bows, and the Mono Craters were going on and off like Chinese lanterns strung toward Mammoth. Also, a lightning strike kindled a sizable fire in the Bodie Hills, which mushroomed a spectacular, billowing cloud high into the air (allowing me to imagine what a volcanic eruption might look like beside the lake). Added further drama to an already unbelievable landscape. We'll see how long it continues to burn ...

9 mi, 63 minutes; Conway Ranch Loop, without the Goat Ranch Cutoff ext.

Friday, July 23, 2010

In no rush at Rush Creek

Considering the jolt I put my legs through yesterday, they were in decent shape today. Went for a leisurely, ten mile shakeout on Test Station Road around 6pm, then walked about a mile down to the Rush Creek Delta. I've never been disappointed there. Downy, golf ball-size spotted sandpiper chicks were peeping in the salt grass, bobbing their featherless rumps just like the adults. I oh-so-cruelly cornered one, and it calmly hid under a small log where I took its photo.

I also saw a gadwall with sixteen ducklings on a reedy back pond and, later, accidentally surprised the mother. She started doing a broken-wing song and dance routine, awkwardly sculling through the water in a plashy fit to distract me, the menace, from her brood.

Finished my stroll just at dusk--to the elation of the birds, I'm sure. But I then managed to spook three poor poorwills off the road on the way back to town. Almost a complete moon over the Basin. Driving home after ice cream (dinner) at the Mono Market, the mountains and craters were faint-gray aglow. Tomorrow, I'm planning on several late, easy miles beneath the full effect.

10 mi, 70 min; Test Station Road (a kind of modified Tufa-to-Tufa)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gunning it

Roads out here often gun straight to the horizon. Take 167, which beelines what must be 20 miles from Mono City to Nevada with hardly a swerve in a horizontal direction. A more average road can, without warning, go a mile no sweat without a curve. Perhaps these cuts through the sage feel drawn out because there's nothing to contain them on either side--no shopping center, city block, or buffer of green to give the overall space a cupped sensation. The basin is a broad platter. Or it could be that lines on this landscape feel narrower, longer, because so little else around conforms to the edge of the yardstick humans are habituated to wheel.

I thought about this tonight, kind of, because my first tempo run on Cemetery Road (great name for a workout arena, right?) included a long straight stretch. Of course, I was hardly thinking about anything at all during the effort, except smooth breathing, an easy arm carry, and an efficient stride (not even how I eventually aim to go faster for 26.2, not 4+ miles). I started at the Mono City-Wilson Creek-Cemetery Road junction and headed northeast, covering at least a mile of dirt before a bend. Since it was my very first workout (of what will be about a 4 month buildup to a marathon), I did it on feel. It felt like a clip, but who knows really--perhaps I'll measure the route later. Figuring I'd manage at least 5:45 pace on average, I planned to go 11:30 out and back. There were some gradual declines (on the way out), and some inclines (on the way back), and by the finish I was feeling it, but still steady. I returned exactly at 23:00. I felt strong, and I'm pretty sure I covered more than 4 miles. A solid first wake up call for the ol' legs.

10 mi, 65 min (3 wu, 4+ tempo in 23:00, 3 cd); O+B on Cemetery Road from Wilson Creek past Dechambeau Ponds turnoff

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

At last, not one, but two

At the modest hour of 9:30 this morning, I drove up 120 to Poole Power Plant Road, parked at Aspen Campground, and jogged through Lee Vining Canyon to the dead end at the Southern Edison generation station. Oh shade, I always forget how I had miss thee amid the base, groveling sage! (That's not fair, I know.) I felt downright stealthy slipping along in the mottled lee of aspen and a jolt of delight climbing the cool, prostrate, drawnout shadow of a humongous ponderosa up the pavement. It's a stellar stretch that follows Lee Vining Creek--full of Pooles, indeed. (The anglers knew.) Hard to believe I've never fished around up there, really, til now.

It was only two miles to the power plant and back, so I kept going the other direction past Aspen Campground on PPP Road before turning around to make it nine miles ultimately.

And then ... ten hours later, I went for my first "double" since college. Now, that's saying something. That's ambition, for me. I toured/tooled around the sage roads and gravel pits beside Mono City, which is first rate second run/add-on ground. Suitable dirt biking territory makes for an engaging run--it's only the pace that's different. Tonight, I encouraged the sand to encourage an easy pace, and the nighthawks meep-ing and sweeping low in the faint light made good company, if not decipherable conversation.

9 mi, 63 min, AM: Poole Power Plant Road, in Lee Vining Canyon

4 mi, 28 min, PM: the sagebrush ramble beside Mono City

Also: A blog post, In Defense of a Rock, for HCN.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brief observations

from tonight's run, finished at dark:

The only time Cedar Hill, on the northwest shore, appears as the island it once was, in the ice age, is when the sun has at last fallen behind Conway Summit, and the rest of basin has waded carefully into shadow. Then, looking the miles to its lit slope, I imagine myself 700 feet underwater.

The ants on the road up to Black Point--a feature which was also underwater, and erupted there, super-heating the lake--have cleared each granule of black sand, each rounded shard of basalt, around their own small, waiting craters.

There's a certain distance, running away from Wilson Creek, where the water sounds as a car, and instinctually I turn, startled. Afraid. How far we, I, have come from our original confidence in and closeness to streams.

Nighthawks were born to spook runners, and each other, with their shouting feathers.

12 mi, 84 min; Mono City to the Wilson Creek/Cemetery Road junction, and out and back, spidery offshoots from there toward Black Point and County Park

Monday, July 19, 2010


Note: Sorry for the long gap between posts. Will do my best to infill.

After essential stops in Bishop--the bookstore, the art supply store, the thrift store, and Galen Rowell's Mountain Light Gallery--S and I forayed further east to the ancient bristlecone pine forest in the White Mountains, at over 10,000 feet. We hiked the 4.5-mile Methuselah Trail, aside of which grow weather-sculpted, dolomite-fed trees more than 3,000, or 4,000 years old. Couldn't figure out which in particular was the Methuselah (the oldest living thing in the world), but mountain bluebirds were numerous, gorgeous, and the bird-of-the-year were in an especially plaintive, begging mode.

Before we left, I rambled up, up, up the dirt road that runs toward Mt. White the Patriarch Grove. On the way, I passed the jeep trail that sluices down Wyman Canyon into the learned Deep Springs Valley (at one point, we could see the strikingly green ranch from the Methuselah Trail). Between the hike, a long-ish run yesterday, the elevation, and the hills, it was a bit of a huffer at times (have I made this term up?). I climbed to the next hurrah-of-a-view of the Sierra, its long spine veiled in haze, and heat--over 100 degrees down in Owens Valley, but only mid-80s up high. Then, I turned myself around and lurched gradually back down.

We were low on gas and water when we departed, but hardly had to used the accelerator as we dropped over 6,000 feet in about 24 miles. Refueled, and bought orange Gatorades, in the little town of Big Pine.

8+ mi, 60 min; Out and back on Mt. White Road from the Schulman Grove; + 4.5 mi hike

Also: A short article out today in HCN about a prehistoric spearhead find: Case in point

Sunday, July 18, 2010

First long-ish run

Fourteen miles today, my longest run since the late spring of 2009. Waited until the afternoon cooled, then did the usual Conway Ranch Loop, but added on a couple more miles out and back on a relatively level dirt road--I think it's called Goat Ranch Cut-off--that runs north of and roughly parallel to 167. (I'll make a map soon to delineate these various obscure routes.)

Near my turn around, I slipped past a cluster of rusty cars and trailers in an expected, disorganized junk circle (like they'd come to a watering hole altogether to drink). And there was a man, sitting outside, focused on something in his lap. He didn't notice me as I went by with the wind; the road was soft with shallow sand. I wondered if all those metal animals belonged to him, or if he'd simply joined their lot for the night. Or the summer? If longer, I suppose they arrived, gathered around him one at a time, like the sheep and Basque herders that ran not long ago in nearby hills.

14 mi, 98 min; Conway Ranch Loop, with an extension down Goat Ranch Cut-off

Week in review: 65 mi/6 days + 1 rigorous hike

Friday, July 16, 2010

The pineapple

Put off the run until evening, because, for the first time this summer, the basin threatened to storm all day. Gray, curling clouds came with the light, and lightning came from them before long.

But at last, before dusk, a window cracked, the lightening acquiesced, and I strided over firm pattered sand to Dechambeau Ponds from Mono City, straight toward the arc of a rainbow not quite bridged at its height, for the clouds truncated its color. First the bow was more (most!) vibrant to the right of Black Point (to the west), then the column dissipated and what was left, to my left (to the east), glowed stronger, as if it had absorbed all that energy. It appeared as if the rainbow was shifting, softening, but it was me, maneuvering it. Erelong, I hope to research the science of rainbows (beyond the basic middle school experiments), so I can really chase them.

I will say, though, that there's something about an arch ahead--a tunnel, an entrance to forest--that quickens the step. I can't explain it, except to theorize that a frame does for a runner what it does for a painting: contains, focuses, draws forward. This, I reason, is why races often end below an arch of balloons or a metal scaffolding (the clock atop helps, too). When I was in college, my team used to race in practice toward "the pineapple" (actually a pine cone, I think; we debated this point often) hanging from a patinated arch on Federal Hill in Providence whenever we took that route. I don't think it was the fruit, but its stem, that was the catalyst. (Thoughts guys?)

Anyhow, it was a tad more arduous on the return tonight. Could be because the rainbow had disappeared. Could be because it was uphill. Added-on a smidge at the end.

12 mi, 84 min; around Dechambeau Ponds from Mono City (a good keyhole loop)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A step toward impulsion

There’s inertia to overcome, running day in and day out, and sometimes no energy to drive anywhere for variety. This morning, for example, I headed out on the good old Conway Ranch Loop (how quickly it’s aged!). The circuit’s quite nice, especially the middle five miles of dirt road that passes the tumbled boulders of Rattlesnake Gulch (I’ll try to have pictures soon), before climbing up and over a rise for views of the islets and the White Mountains in Nevada.

The run joins Highway 167 eventually, which crosses Wilson Creek on the way back to Mono City. It’s not a natural creek, but a once-upon-a-time ephemeral wash that, for a long time, has served as a return ditch, more or less, for Mill Creek’s water, after it’s siphoned through the Southern Edison power plant (on the other side of 395). The water has steadily cut (or “incised”) into the sandy soil, producing a soft canyon, maybe 50 feet deep in places, that might look natural to the untrained eye, but is far from it. Willows fill the bottom of this long winding trough, and do provide habitat. Running on 167 where it dips across Wilson, I’ve flushed black-crowned night herons and, I’ve seen them spiral down to that spot from afar, as well.

Every time I jog over the creek, I peer longing at the rippling water, about the width of a healthy sidewalk, as it flows under the road. On the downstream side, a culvert jets water into a roiling mound-of-a-pool, and a little dirt cul-de-sac blocked by three large rocks leads right down to its weedy lip. Today, I couldn’t resist. I ran over the creek and away, but u-turned eventually—actually, I turned a few circles, making up my mind—and ran at a clip back to Wilson Creek, where I tore off my socks, shoes, and shirt (stretched my hamstrings and calves, briefly), and waded in.

Quite, the, shock. The current strong, the water sweeping into and around a row of willows. I was worried about my feet getting painfully lodged between stones, so I lowered myself in and scuttled like a crab across the swiftest part to a quieter spot on the other side. Paintbrush stood at the edge of the pool, a dash of red matching my shorts. I was hidden from the highway (which was high indeed, for once) and couldn’t hear a thing, except for the motoring water.

Why was I indecisive in the first place? Well, it’s a long walk back. Took me about a half hour to trek home along 167, and then through the sage, to Mono City. Along the way a tiny convertible brimming with four smiling Japanese tourists pulled up, not to offer me a ride, but to ask, “Mono Hot Springs?” Ain’t any, I said. They were searching for the Dechambeau Ponds, which does have a fount of hot water (let loose by a search for oil), but it may be scalding, and it runs into a reedy, yellow-headed-blackbird-infested pond.

I told them to go to Travertine. Twenty-two miles North. Take a right after the Ranger Station. One of the women wearing a broad-brimmed, floppy hat lifted her hand and waved from the backseat as they blew past me going the other way.

12 mi, 85 min; Conway Ranch Loop, doubling back, finally, to Wilson Creek

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Slight detour

No running today, because Sarah and I climbed to the overlook of Upper Yosemite Falls. Only 3.4 miles to the top, but over 3,000 feet. Good strength work--spectacular views!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The mind, like the foot

Why am I so often writing of birds? Perhaps because there are more flitting about in the desert that there are snakes slithering or chipmunks scurrying (though I do owe mammals of some sort a post soon).

A kestrel, on a wire (a kestrel rarely feels complete without one). As I approach, it gave its call. To imagine it was kee-ing at me is anthro-hubris, but, as I was running (and oxygen deprived) I thought of it nonetheless.

Kee-kee-kee-kee. Perhaps it meant run-run-run-run? If it had been my old coach, John, it would have certainly translated to, Relax and go, relax and go (but it would have been much more reserved, and respectable).

Or maybe I misheard, and it was he-he-he-he-he. Or the classic Run, Forrest, run?

No--it was, Nice short shorts, I'm sure. Then, like one of any number of grade schoolers (or even teenagers), it skipped the other way.

The mind, like the foot, extends towards the ground that presents itself, but it cares far less about how it lands.

10 mi, 70 min; Mono City to Old 395 (I think), to Cemetery Road, to 167

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fine desert sand

Squeezed in 12 miles before the World Cup final along the Test Station Road. Running around midday, when the light is sandy (and often as rough as pumice), tends to be unremarkable, mind-numbing. But Rush Creek was pushing 500 CFS, or so, under the road on its way to the delta--a lot of water, a roaring, if not raucous outpouring through the culvert. After I finished, I desperately wanted to drive back and jump in to the wave train (which I hear people have surfed of late). But there was no time; I regret to say (truly) that futbol won out, today.

Adding on the final two miles down Picnic Ground Road, I passed a poorwill nestled into the sand that some tire didn't avoid. How they sit on the road and glare at oncoming death with a bright, reflective eye. Running, I encounter as many passed animals as live, and examining them I've learned something, briefly, about anatomy, or at least its fragility. This poorwill, a night bird, an insect feaster, reminded me of the Western screech owl that I carried like a football tucked in my arms back to my house in high school, only to keep it frozen for one and a half years (beside a DO NOT THROW AWAY index card that my sister finally had the good sense to ignore).

I'd like to think I'm growing out of my interest in roadkill, which is void of what matters. At the very least, now, when I stop to examine roadkill, I make sure to carry it off to the shoulder of the road. But I did pluck a few primaries to hold up to the light: an alteration of brown and black like the shadows in the imprint of a tire on fine desert sand.

12 mi, 84 min; Test Station/Picnic Ground Road (aka, Tufa-to-Tufa)

Week Total: 70 mi