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