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