Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Trot + Trails

Event #1: Turkey Trot
(4 miles)

This picture is from the trails portion of the day, but today was my first race back! True, it was a short four miles, and it was definitely not as fast as I've ever run, but it was a race and my foot didn't hurt at ALL. (I would like to say the same thing about my poor hamstrings, who were forced to run hard when I'd only done easy running up until now.)

It was lots of fun though-- my mom and I did the race, while my dad and my friend Jen went on a 25 mile bike ride. The weather was beautiful too, as can be seen in the one picture I actually took during the race.

Event #2:
Hiking on the Jesusita Trail (portion of the 9 Trails course)
(Tunnel Trail- Jesusita-Tunnel)
4 miles

Then we picked up my brother and his dog and took off for our family's favorite trail destination-- a small outcropping off the Jesusita Trail that has views of all Santa Barbara in the front and the Santa Barbara foothills behind.

While I did not get to do the 9 Trails course, (well, no one really did, as it got moved to Ojai because of the fires), this trail is part of the race. I've mentioned Santa Barbara foliage and general appearance in postings and this trail is very typical of other Santa Barbara trails. Steep climbs through dry scrub and sandstone lead to beautiful views.

One reason the city has been very worried is because of the post-fire qualities of scrub bushes like this manzanita- this bush has certain oils that keep the small bit of water it needs to survive inside, but when this plant is burned in a fire, the oil makes it difficult for water to sink into the ground, heightening the flood danger in any kind of storm.

Another fairly typical sight on Santa Barbara trails is streams like this, overhung with big sycamore and oak trees.

I hope to run some more in the next couple of days, but for now-- time to prepare for the wine-tasting biking adventure!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tramping (Tramps?) around Las Trampas

Las Trampas Regional Wilderness
(Elderberry- Rocky Ridge- Devil's Hole- Sycamore- Rocky Ridge)
(6.0 miles)

And lo, didst a miracle occur. A new trail was explored today!

I have sung the praises of the East Bay Regional Parks before, so I will not enumerate their virtues, except to say that I am continually amazed at the good fortune I have to live near so many miles of trails.

We were actually going to run at Garin this morning, but unfortunately La SingleTrackJunkie was sick yesterday so the two of us who remained decided to run a little closer to where my friend was staying, and thus Las Trampas became our destination.

I have a confession to make. I'm somewhat of an urban snob. I tend to avoid suburban enclaves oh, say, like the plague. I would take the grittiness of 23rd Street in Richmond over a strip-mall in Tracy any day (No offense to Tracy meant at all). I like either being in the heart of concrete and grime with tons of people and huge varieties of food to eat or out on a mountain somewhere. (Yes, I am a woman of intense extremes. Or an extremely intense woman. But that's probably a different blog posting.) What this has meant is I tend to run places that are close to cities, like Tilden, Wildcat, Redwood and, of course, all over Marin County (usually not north of San Rafael, though). Add to that the intense bitterness I feel for the 680 due to a year of commuting to San Jose twice a week, and poor Las Trampas didn't have much chance to make it on the radar.

Today, I humbly apologize to you, Las Trampas, for my short-sightedness. You are a worthy park, and indeed, your views are better than the much-trafficked Tilden. Plus, you have some behind-kicking trails.

We started out at the Staging Area, and took Elderberry trail (wide fire road) up, up, and more up until we were on top of Rocky Ridge. From the map, it looks like there is about 1,000 feet of climbing in less than 2 miles. Rather steep. The trail winds up through some oak groves and then climbs up open hills to reach the top of the ridge.

The view from the top of the ridge is well-worth the climb. We could see Diablo (as evidenced by the first picture), but views also stretched all the way to San Francisco and I think we also saw Mt. Tam peeking through the clouds.

Our original plan was to continue along the ridge, but we were intrigued by the "Devil's Hole" trail and so decided to make a detour. While this detour was a mere 2.5 extra miles, we dropped over 800 feet in 1.3 miles and then had to climb all the way back up. Steep, steep trails. Presumably at the bottom of "Devil's Hole," we met up with the single-track Sycamore trail and climbed, through Santa Barbara-esque scrub back to Rocky Ridge. This trail was what I would call rather technical. For such a low-profile park, Las Trampas has some intense running opportunities. Those who are trying to improve their downhill technique (or uphill strength!) should come straight here.

Once back on the ridge, we continued on the loop back to the parking lot, stopping only to observe this group of turkey vultures taking care of a dead calf. While I am sorry the calf had such a short life, I think turkey vultures are the coolest creatures ever. What a brilliant balance, that a being would exist who finds rotting flesh a delicacy. It makes me feel like I should go home and recycle more--the turkey vultures are out there, decreasing the waste matter--guess I better do a better job of attempting to keep up...

In short, Las Trampas= worth visiting. Perhaps not every weekend, but absolutely worth the time, and a guaranteed hill workout. Looking at the map, I would guess one could cobble together a good 12-14 mile loop, and maybe an extra 5 if you wanted to do an out-and-back along Las Trampas Ridge trail, so there is some mileage to be had as well. As Las Trampas is an EBRP, you can bring the pups and have them off-leash. (side note: the little dog in the above picture is my friend's new dog and she went running off-leash for her first time EVER today! Very, very happy dogs.) Additionally, since it's an EBRP, cows are a part of the landscape, but apparently the cows at Las Trampas are more mellow than the cows at Wildcat or Briones (or, from what I've heard, Mission Peak) and one actually moved AWAY from us.

Next posting: not running, but about my extreme productivity this weekend!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mt. Tam and Wildcat Canyon at Sunset...

"He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead." (Albert Einstein)

One thing I have loved about writing this blog is the way it forces me to pay attention to different details when I run. It is so easy to slip into autopilot in life, whether running or in work or relationships. Yet this attention to detail is what creates a sense of wonder and awe in us. I had a conversation about relationships a long time ago with my father, and he said that every day, the person you come home to is a different person in some way. What makes the relationship continue to work is finding out what has changed about the other person--how are they different today than they were yesterday? What new detail can you learn about them today? How do we keep a sense of wonder and excitement about talking to someone we've talked to countless times before?

Extending that outwards, how do we keep a sense of wonder and excitement about our world in general? The sun comes up and goes down every day, and while that is the most routine event EVER, I have been amazed lately at how much wonder there is to be found in the same landscape.

I haven't been running any place new lately because it seems like a hassle to drive for a 25-30 minute run. Instead, I have been running at Wildcat at sunset. I don't normally run at sunset because it requires very precise timing and I don't particularly want to be caught in the dark by myself, but since I'm not running long right now, it's easier. Plus, it's given me a whole new perspective on the beauty of Wildcat Canyon. Every single sunset is different, even though the same mountain presides over the bay every time. I love exploring new trails (duh) but I have also been thinking lately about what it means to really know a particular place in all its seasons and different forms. Being forced, in a way, to examine Wildcat Canyon over and over again (even if I don't write about it) has taught me to pay more attention to everything in my life, and to celebrate the quotidian.

I have developed a great appreciation for Mt. Tamalpais, living in Richmond. One might expect to say this living in Marin, but it's hard to see the mountain's silhouette while standing close. (Apparently there is no evidence of Miwok settlements ON Mt. Tam, but plenty in Sausalito-- perhaps they, too, preferred seeing the mountain from afar.) From this side of the bay, it's easier to see the entire mountain. On top of the ridge in Wildcat Canyon, I can see the two giants of the Bay Area--Mt. Tamalpais and Mt. Diablo (whose intricacies and crazy steepness I have yet to explore at all, believe it or not!). Regardless, the sunsets have once again drawn my attention to the wealth of detail available at any given moment. In ten minutes, the light changing behind Mt. Tam gives you 50 different pictures, all of them unique and ephemeral. Most of the time, I miss them--as we miss the majority of the miracles happening around us all the time.

Even this tree--something I have run past hundreds of times--is worth looking at a second time. And a third. And a fifteenth or two hundredth.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Volunteering at Stinson Beach- Summer in November!

Only one picture today because I kind of forgot about taking pictures. Whoops.

However, I would like to draw the reader's attention to the sky in this picture... and the number of people on the beach. And then kindly remember what month we are in. If you are a Bay Area native or someone who has lots of experience with the area, you should be further shocked by the location. Stinson Beach is notorious for having cold, foggy and windy weather even in the height of summer. (Actually, it's usually the worst then, but it's not usually like this in November!) 

The Bay Area is currently experiencing a record-breaking heat wave for this time of the year. I spent the day in a tank top and jeans, convinced that I had over-dressed. Even though the weather can be clear and sunny this time of year, it is very rare to see this many people flocking to the beach, splashing about in the water. 

Anyway, volunteered for another PCTR race, and as seems to be the norm for my volunteering experiences, had a great time. Even driving out to Stinson in the morning felt like a treat-- there was not a cloud in the sky and I could see up and down the coast. 

Once I got there, I helped sign runners in (over 400!), then set up food for a bit, and then was responsible for handing out t-shirts when people came in. This meant I got to hear from lots of runners about their experience with the course-- which was rather amusing. Responses ranged from "Wow! Beautiful day! Gorgeous course!" to "Wow! So many hills! So much pain!" or some kind of combination of the two. Lots of falls coming down Matt Davis-- I believe I fell on my first PCTR race at Stinson as well, coming down that section of trail. Band-aids were a frequent request. 

One thing I appreciate about trail races is that their start/finish is usually somewhere gorgeous, so people hang out afterwards, watching others come in and snacking on the various forms of sugar (and soup and chili) that are part of the PCTR post-race buffets. Yesterday's amazing weather meant that the post-race atmosphere was a big lounge-on-the-grass fest. 

I am hoping to run my next PCTR event-- which just might be Rodeo Beach-- although I have not decided if I am running the 8K (which seems a bit short) or the 20K (depends on the foot).

Speaking of which, I believe it is time to get myself and the Neko out in the sunshine for a run/walk before I gorge myself on a winemaker's dinner my friend is cheffing (can we use this as a verb?) tonight. Must burn lots of calories!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Santa Barbara- burning yet again!

Last night around 6pm, a fire started in the hills behind Santa Barbara/Montecito. It is still burning and as of the time of this article, 80 structures had been burned. (And according to this article, over 100.) Fortunately my parents live on the other side of town, but we have lots of friends who have been evacuated-- I am hoping they (and their homes) are all safe.

Additionally, the entire 9 trails course is either burning or shut down for fear it will be in the path of the fire. It does not look good for the race either.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fall Color

Well, we're up to two miles right now.

Don't worry, I'm not going to post a daily update with each mile added for the next few weeks. That would not make for interesting reading.

I am loving the fall color right now though. The East Bay Hills are shades of greyish green for the most part, but splashes of color treat those who pay attention to little moments of brightness.

I love this berry plant because it had lost most of its leaves (with the exception of the leaves seen in this picture, to be sure)--the primary adornment of the branches were explosions of red berry clusters.

The leaves looked much yellower in person-- you'll just have to trust me on this one.

I realize many people do not find this plant attractive because of its rather terrible (yet earned) reputation. Yet if a confession were dragged out of me, poison oak is my favorite plant to LOOK AT during the fall. I would be happy to find a dress in this color--really.

I mean really-- who can deny the beauty of such vivid color against the muted shades of the branches in the background?

Oh fall, you are my friend.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hitting the trails again!

Well, I wouldn't exactly call this a new trail or even a mileage worth mentioning, but hey-- I RAN YESTERDAY!!!

I went out yesterday with Jenn and Neko, and we did a whole bunch of walking-- we started up this trail (notice the exceptionally blue sky showing through) and then ended up doing the cow-infested Mezue Trail. Fortunately, this
 time we had only one tricky cow moment and I figured out my foot was fine to run when the cow started lumbering at us and I decided it would be a good time for Neko and I to start running away from the cow.

It was a glorious day yesterday though-- the air was crisp and clear. Fall is definitely my favorite time of the year in the Bay Area and I'm glad that my foot got better in time to do at least a little running before the rain.

Yes, you heard it right-- a little running! I ran a mile yesterday! I did not want to push it, so I thought I'd try just a short run, and I am absolutely ecstatic to report that it was fine-- I am definitely not in "running" shape, but my foot feels great this morning and I think I will try to run a little more (2 miles?) on Tuesday. 

So all is good. Hope everyone is enjoying the great fall weather...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Mixed Bag

  • Voter turnout yesterday.
  • Hearing disaffected high school students EXCITED about the election, talking about who could vote/who couldn't.
  • Feeling hopeful about the future. 
  • This sunrise.
  • My foot is feeling much better.
  • Possibly start running this weekend?
Very Uncool:
  • People trying to be hall monitors for the rest of the population. What do you care who gets married to whom?
  • The number of kids in the foster care system who a) do not have a place to go and b) are waiting for adoption. If you are not involved in the foster care system, let me help you out-- we, as a country, let so many children down, and leave them feeling unwanted and alone, it is shameful.
  • Arkansas decided to increase this problem by deciding that they should decrease the pool of adoptive parents (which isn't big enough to begin with) based on who the prospective adopters love. 
That's the end of the rant. I'm really hoping the next posting will be a run! (Perhaps a very, very short run, but hopefully a run all the same...)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

More Haruki Murakami...

A while back, I wrote a quick posting about an article Haruki Murakami wrote in the New Yorker about becoming a long-distance runner. I recommended the article for anyone who liked writing and running. Well, I was unable to resist the hardback copy of the book the essay came from, and I now pass on the recommendation of the book as well.

The book is called, "What I talk about when I talk about running," in a nod to the famous short story by Raymond Carver (who, incidentally, is one of my favorite short story authors as well...). The essays loosely follow Murakami's training for the New York City Marathon in 2005, but are mostly reminiscences of his running and writing life. 

As he points out in the beginning, the book is not a treatise on how to run better, or how to stay healthy. Murakami concentrates fully on the role running has played in his own life. He's not a particularly fast runner, and those who are interested in reading jaw-dropping tales of athletic feats should look elsewhere. He simply shares some of his running (and writing) experiences. It felt like having coffee with a good friend who said, "Sit. Let me tell you about this running thing and me."

Fans of Murakami's fiction will already know his writing tends to be understated-- no grandiose flowery prose. His essays are perhaps even more spare--Murakami is clearly a private person, and the desire to share this portion of his life despite a tendency towards reticence creates introspective, rather quiet prose. One of my favorite passages comes towards the end, when he is talking about participating in a triathlon:

"Of course it was painful, and there were times when, emotionally, I just wanted to chuck it all. But pain seems to be a precondition for this kind of sport. If pain weren't involved, who in the world would ever go to the trouble of taking part in sports like the triathlon or the marathon, which demand such and investment of time and energy? It's precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive--or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself. If things go well, that is." (p. 171)

"..awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself." I love that. This captures (for me, at least) the best moments of running I ever have. Murakami's essays made me wish there were other authors (well, I'm sure there are some out there, I just don't know them offhand) who have written with such introspection about their involvement with a sport. We have writers who write about sports, and we have athletes who decide to write books, but not so many writers who decide to write about the role a particular sport has played in their own life. It's too bad, because the combination of personal insight combined with running, all told in prose from a master made for a great read.