Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fool In The Rain

Timothy Egan, a New York Times correspondent for the Pacific Northwest, once wrote a book called “The Good Rain.” I haven’t read much of it, but hope to some day. I understand it’s a conservation expose of some sort on the Northwest.

I just love the title. I may have written about it before, but I always think of it when the rain is good. It rains a lot here. Probably not in total cubic inches, and the rain doesn’t fall with the violence you see in other places, like Virginia or the midwest. That is a sight--the real thunderbursts. Thunder and lightning are rare here. But gray skies, they last from about October to April, with 45 degrees and mist being the norm.

I went running today, around Blanchard Mountain, two loops. A fool in the rain, on a real misty mountain hop. It rained, and rained, and rained. The good rain…not too hard, not too cold, thank you. I pulled out my  portable slicker for the second lap, and that really warmed me up. I am pleased that I launched off into that  second lap—sometimes the hardest part is the first few steps, but I got it going. The second climb up Kill Bill had me breathing hard.

I ran with a Nathan belt with two holsters. I’m seeking opinions on equipment for 50+ mile distances. In my longer ones, I tend to rotate belts, packs, and handhelds, so as not to make things too tough on any one set of muscles. The belt though is a little bouncy and tight on the lower abdomen.

I had a good week of running, with a midday track workout up at WWU, and a Bikram session on Friday night. Good times, bad times, but I'm out there. I am officially horrible at yoga. I cannot pull up on my, correction--I cannot reach my heels, or touch my toes, and my hip and left hamstring fight me the whole time. I fall sideways and hop. My toenails get a lot more scrutiny than usual, and the reports are not good. I hide behind a pole in the back of the room and drip a lot of sweat. It's good stuff.

Next week is the Orcas 50k, and there is a whole lotta love and excitement in the air. It’s going to be great—I’m looking forward to stepping on to that ferry, and getting over the hills and far away. Orcas totally gives me no quarter every time, but it is a great early year wakeup call.

This month is computer lab for me. First Facebook, now Twitter. There’s so much buzz about Twitter—I had to check it out. I understand it’s possible to “follow”, without tweeting, and so that pushed me into the pool, with so many things going on in the tweet world. If it’s cool, I’ll probably have a couple addresses, but for now, I’m @scottyrailton. I really went out on a limb with the name.

Ramble on…

Samish Island

Lilly Lake

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bat Strike

A bat flew into my left chin tonight. That's a first for me. I've had owls hit me on the head a couple times, but never a bat. Mr. Bat probably thought I was a slow moving tree. They have that special radar, and so they're supposed to avoid runners. I see them all the time when I have a headlamp on--they zip by at fast sharp angles.

The bat attack went down in the Connelly Creek area, just past the s turn by the fallen log, in the darkest part of the whole Sehome loop. About 5:50 PM, no headlamp. Technically, I never saw the bat, and so I can't give much of a statement as to the particulars, but it flew at me like a bat does and it felt like a bat wing. It happened so quick that it wasn't that ewww. But then you think about it, and then yeah, it's ewww.

Of coure, rabies is a concern with any personal bat encounter, but there was no break in skin, no bite, and I'm sure it's fine. I had to go through a rabies cycle about 12 years ago, because a dog attacked me in Nepal. It was one of those really tiny lapdogs with some sort of little dog attitude. Or maybe it had rabies. Dog rushed me from behind, my first day in town, and I did a 40 inch vertical jump when it bit my leg. The whole thing was a real big pain.

Near full moon tonight. Scattered clouds, the moon peeking through as I ran up the pier towards the Chrysalis.  A pretty good running week so far, nine miles tonight. I'm trying to bump up my weekday mileage just a bit.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


No race for me this weekend. I spent all day Saturday in Bellevue at a quarterly non-profit meeting. It's worthwhile, but I would've liked to be out there.

Afterwards, I saw Avatar in 3D. Technically, I think it actually might be 4D, since it is a moving picture involving time, the fourth dimension, but that is a real nerdbomber point to make. The movie is incredible, but I’m not into the glasses. I think I smudged mine a little bit with the butter from my popcorn, and I didn’t do a good job of cleaning them, or maybe it is just weird watching 3D. The stuff really comes out of the screen and towards you.

Also, I don’t really understand how the good guys can win in Avatar, without some interplanetary law to preserve native cultures. It seems like the Universe of Bad Guys would just keep coming at Na Hav'i, even if the clans won the first battle. There's a whole universe of greedy miners out there, and I just don't think they'd give up to the bows and arrows that easy. 

I really liked the movie.  The whole 3D thing is just amazing. It made me feel like a kid for a little while. The technology was fresh, like seeing something amazing for the first time, like Disneyland, or the first time I saw Star Wars.

Footnote:  Little has been made of the the fact that the blue guys and gals are trail runners. They run on giant tree limbs and get chased by wild animals. They are fast.

Today I went north on Chuckanut, and ran out to Lost Lake, via the Fragrance Lake Road. Not much to say about this, except not really a good run. The drive out was good. Coffee, my old pickup, through farmland. I really like the first part of the drive, before you get to the waterside. The road is empty in the morning, the birds line the wires, and you can see the farmland out to the islands. Mt. Baker was out this morning, and the swans were still flying around. I saw two vultures. They looked bigger than hawks, at least, and they were sitting in two different fields.

If you're local, the following Tuesday night event might be worthwhile. The presentation is put on as part of sports psychology training up at WWU, I think, and the speakers are good:

BELLINGHAM – Erin Porter Bembry, a short track speed skater who competed for the United States in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and Donovan Tildesley, a Canadian swimmer and multiple medalist who, blind since birth, competed in the past three Summer Paralympics, will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, in Arntzen Hall Room 100 on the Western Washington University campus.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Warm Winter Nights

We haven’t had much of a winter this year. The temperature made it up nearabouts 60 degrees today. The nights are long though. Considering how temperate it has been, I should be out there doing more night runs. I’ve had a few escapes, some notable, including a Baker Lake jaunt, but not as many as in past years.

But I got out there tonight, I did; and I ran well, which was refreshing, knocking out about nine miles. I essentially did a modified loop around Sehome Hill, which is a loop that a lot of people do, in one fashion or another, but my loop is best. The loop starts and finishes in Fairhaven. Tonight I added an out-and-back to Arroyo Park, with a detour up the C. Moore loop and through the dark wooded neighborhood that probably has a name. I pick the regular loop up again at the Connelly Creek area, and wind my way through student housing and the Arboretum, to the top of Sehome Hill.

I always have to summit the lookout tower at the top of Sehome Hill. The view tonight was brilliant, looking out at the Bay, with the city lights reaching to Cherry Point and Canada. Baker was not out.  Sadly, a body was found on top of the hill this past weekend, somewhere near the lookout. Suicide, it was reported, a young twenty-something. It really made me a bit sad tonight, even though I don't know anything more.

From the tower I drop into Western’s Red Square, taking a secret trail down the ridge, and then run down the steps behind the Viking Union, past the Outdoor Center, down to Forest, and then take a right turn at the secret Palm Street steps. These steps are crooked, and tilt downwards, on a 45 degree slope--very dangerous in winter. From there it's down to Boulevard Park and run over the water on the trestle path back to Fairhaven.

When running is good, it’s hard to beat. I felt like I had it tonight. I can be faster and all, with training, but I had that click tempo pace that works. No headlamps—I know these trails too well, and I enjoy the confidence before, and affirmation after, that I do.

The other night I had a pack of raccoons in the back yard. They came by last year too. The only reason I heard them was one of them knocked over the bird bath, which is glass, and I heard it. I opened the window, no lights, and I saw a shape out there. This raccoon had heard me open the window, and was on its hind legs, probably three feet tall, staring at me from ten feet away. While we were in the staredown, his pal climbed over my fence, and cut across the yard, a lumpy shadow.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nookachamps 1/2

This weekend was the Nookachamps ½ marathon, practically in my backyard. The weather was the best I can ever remember, at about 40 degrees with blue skies.

I finished in 1:51 and am kind of unhappy with my time/run. I just had no flexibility in my left hamstring, and my leg turnover wasn’t there at all. I think it may have had something to do with what I ate the night before, and having ran reasonably long the last couple weeks, but I want my bad runs to time out better than this. I feel like I need a whole lot more of everything—miles, flexibility (yoga), diet, speed, abs/upper body, etc. Arrghhh! Maybe I need a coach, maybe a running partner. Something. I probably should be on a track once or twice a week. But it’s hard, with so many other things in life going on. I didn’t get home until about 10 PM on two different nights this week because of evening meetings/events.

That said, Nookachamps was a place to be this morning. Lots of friends running or volunteering. The usual warm drinks afterwards, and this year the half finishers got a medal. There weren’t a lot of swans out there—one flock of white birds right as we got near Clear Lake. There was a horse in the field at the bottom of Francis Road that was neighing and dancing about. The hill sides looked gorgeous with the clear winter air, and Mount Baker was visible at the beginning of the run.

And all of this is so distant from the Haiti tragedy. The television footage is horrible—I haven’t watched much, just enough to know. Haiti crossed my mind midway through the run, as I was struggling and slightly irritated with myself. All things in perspective.

In other news, I’ve joined the Facebook thing. I probably should dedicate a post to my thoughts on this phenomena. Bottom line: I’m better off with it than without, I think, and I particularly like the opt-in functionality for groups and organizations, which I’ve been busy setting up. But it can be a timesuck and a focus gremlin. I don’t see FB displacing this blog--if anything, I'll probably mess around with more mediums and blogs, and in fact started another blog a week ago ("Three Words Of The Day" (: ). I think the whole on-line publishing thing is fascinating, and single purpose sites seem like potential tools for something or other. I want to be facile with internet mediums. Late to the party--party harder.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lake Samish and Bridle Trails

Saturday was a bit of a first for me, as I ran two races in one day. Trying to challenge myself and get in shape with WS on the horizon. Not that big a deal really, since I didn’t go for broke in either event, but it was a bit of a test, as far as the starting up, stopping, and then getting going again. I got a solid thirty-seven miles in, saw many great friends and family in Bellingham and Kirkland, and the weather was downright balmy for January.

The first event was the Greater Bellingham Running Club's Lake Samish Runs, a January tradition. I think this was the 33rd year of the race. This race has 6.5 mile and 13.1 mile options, meaning one or two laps around Lake Samish. Lake Samish is the lake to the west of I-5, just south of Bellingham. I took the 6.5 mile option. Start time was 10 AM, and there were about 300 runners. The run is free to GBRC members.

Conditions were the best in years--I think this race has been canceled two or three of the last five years. Forty-five degrees, with no real wind and a beautiful lake always to the left. My run was not real serious, as I stopped and took pictures a bunch and really got stuck on this one eagle for a couple  minutes. When I ran, I kept it pretty steady. "Comfort speed" = 8:15/mile. Room to improve, for sure, but its January. The eagle, pictured above, was at Mile 4, sitting in a tree, about 25 yards off the road. The point and click camera just doesn't really get the job done, but I try. I'm thinking of taking a course on raptors this month.

Race No. 2 was the Bridle Trails 50k. This race starts at 3 PM in Kirkland, 80 miles to the south, and so it was a bit of a scramble to get there, but very doable. It seems like every year is a little different, in terms of conditions. It can be a mud and poopfest, running on horse trails at night. This year the conditions were really good, and not that muddy or poopy, considering the rain we’ve been having. It is a six lap race, 5.2 miles per lap, and the last four laps are in the dark. There are also relay options.

I ran with Holley for my first lap, my cousin’s wife, and I spotted Aaron and Marty at intervals. I wasn’t that organized—I messed around way to much with gear between each of the first three laps. I seemed to settle down a little after that. I ran ok, but I can run better. 5:52, which isn't close to my PR--this was my fifth time at BT. There were some mudder stretches, and lots of bats flying straight at the headlamp.

I really enjoy popping out of the woods every 50 minutes to a little oasis of potato chips, M&Ms, and GU. Who doesn't? Seattle Running Company puts the race on, and they do a great job with all their races. It was good to test myself by running two events like this, and it went ok, but I have my work cut out for me. Or play, as it were.

There were some really impressive, noteworthy performances yesterday. Terry S. also did the B'ham-Kirkland double, opting for the half at Lake Samish, and he finished really strong at each. Dan P. had a lights out time at BT.  Shawn was the gal's winner, and then Aaron goes out and nails a win in the 2X relay! And, then on top of that, Peter and his buds set a course record for the 50k relay. I'm like that kid in the Bruce Willis film who's dead, except I say, "I know fast people." Congrats all!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tiger Mountain

On Saturday I ran the 25k option of the New Year’s Day Fat Ass 50k/25k at Tiger Mountain. I haven’t been to Tiger Mountain in twenty years or so, which probably sounds ridiculous to the King and Pierce County crowd, as I know it is a regular running haunt for many. I can see why. Lots of great trail, ledges, tree chutes, and plenty of climbs and drops. It’s a bit of a drive for me, which is exactly what folks say about coming up north. This Fat Ass has been around for years, and I've known about it, and so this seemed like a good year to check it out. Hopefully I make it again next year--great crowd, and apparently larger than usual.
One of the things I find special about Tiger Mountain is it is a place preserved in large part due to the efforts of Harvey Manning, who is also largely responsible for getting national park status for the North Cascades, and all sorts of other great conservation feats in Washington. I think it is safe to say that he is one of Washington’s great heroes of the last century, though for years I just saw him as a great guide book author. His advocacy has really made a difference on the local landscape. I understand they just erected a statue in his honor in Issaquah this past year. Harvey passed away about five years ago.
As for Saturday, it was rainy and windy to start, and had the potential to be a miserable day, but things magically cleared up 10 minutes in, after I turned a corner, making the jacket I brought extra luggage for the next three hours. I hate when that happens. I accidentally started early, as everyone was just signing in on a book on a car, and then appeared to be taking off. Someone said you just time yourself, and so I went, but apparently a big group did start at 8 AM. They caught me soon enough, which is for the best, as I probably would’ve missed a turn, as I am apt to do. The trail was marked with stockings and candy canes and other Christmas loot.
Outside of strong winds at the summits, the day was most excellent for running. There were some extended hikes as well, with over 3000 feet elevation gain for the 15 miles. Many did the loop twice—that didn’t sound right for me on this day, but now I'm second guessing a bit. No, I did right. I ran the larger part of the course with Glen M. Glen pushed me just a little, which was good for me right now. He finished WS last year, and will be doing it again this year, and so we had plenty to talk about it. Much excitement and much to think about and train for.
Next up: I’m going to try to run Lake Samish and Bridle Trails. Looking forward to both. Then probably Nookachamps, with some winter stuff spread out this month.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Running the Skagit for New Year's Day

I rafted the Skagit today with my neighbors, latching onto a trip with some wonderful birders and rafters who make this an annual New Year’s Day tradition. I fell into this at the last minute--pretty cool way to start the year!
We launched at Goodell Creek near Newhalem, and rode the river for two or three hours down to Marblemount. Nine miles of emerald, glacier fed river. This was an experienced group (or they fooled me), and they prefer the upper Skagit, whereas most commercial eagle watching trips start in Marblemount and pull out in Rockport. No one else was on the river.
We saw approximately 25 eagles, total. The eagles were regal, sometimes flying, sometimes sitting, mostly alone, but a few pairs. Just spectacular—I don't want to overwrite it, but this was so cool. The eagles really stand out in the leafless alder trees lining the river, or you can see them from half a mile away at a river turn, perched at the very top of a tree, checking things out. I wasn't able to get many eagle pictures, because I had to paddle, and I really didn't have a worthy camera.
We also got a little bit of white water, the only white water in Washington this weekend, I’m told. Class 3 rapids, 6000 CFS, with some mild flooding. It rained the whole day---the clouds moving through the hills and trees were spectacular. It was cold, probably about 40 degrees--the water was freezing and we did get wet, and there was snow on the banks early on. But we wore drysuits and goretex, and so I was pretty comfortable the whole float.
Happy New Year, peeps!