Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bat Caves

Lots of races this weekend, with friends running at Capitol Peak, Eugene, Vancouver, California, and who knows where else. Good luck and congrats to all! I stayed home, with intentions of working on work, maybe getting some stuff done around the home, and just in general hitting the reset button. I've been going too many directions the past few months. Next week will be Lost Lake, which will be hard and probably a little more than I want, but it'll keep me honest, and the trails are always good.

I decided to run around Blanchard today. A few pics here. Midway up the Last Big Climb, I took a left and checked out the bat caves for a bit. It was wet and too slippery for anything too venturous, but I peaked in a few caves. I haven't been there in a while, and I've never really gone inside any of the caves. I found some ropes for dropping in, but it didn't seem like a good idea. I'm sure there are bats, which is sort of interesting, but it was slippery and it was just me.

Weather has been really tough this spring, moreso than I can remember. We've had late snows over the past few years, but the weather has consistently been rainy and colder than usual. I'm going to have an extra month of heating bills this year.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Big Beaver Valley

I went out to the Big Beaver Valley behind Ross Lake yesterday, which is becoming an annual thing for me. One of my favorite places, and my first trip into the North Cascades since last fall. I was excited all week just to make that drive up.

I got up early to go—5:30 AM, and by 6:00 I had received a ticket from the Washington State Patrol. C'mon.'s not like I was going that fast---the citation is for *5 MPH* over the speed limit!—he said he had me going 65 in a 55, at 5:50 AM on an empty road. I haven’t had a ticket in 20 years!! He was even coming the other way. I spent way too much time on the trail thinking about whether to contest and how. And now here I am blogging about it. Maybe it's good to be angry about something sometimes.

So anyway, this is usually a pretty easy 22+ mile out and back. I’ve done it many times. Yesterday was more of a challenge though, as the trail isn’t clear yet, and there is still snow on the last few miles to the old growth cedar grove up Big Beaver. Trees down everywhere—I counted 109 trees which I stepped over or crawled under going out. Most were small, but there were 13 even before the dam. Kind of interesting to see how tough winter is on a trail. I’m sure they’ll be cleared soon. The trail up Big Beaver Valley is actually pretty clear, but for snow and mud.

And the snow isn’t that bad, passable, but the last two or three miles to the old growth cedar grove involved falling a bit. Tough and slower than I would’ve liked. At first it is no big deal, but then the shins start getting cut by the ice, and you grab a pricker bush for stability, etc. There's a cumulative effect. But I made it, and it was indeed worth it, just to see the snow melt around the ancient trees I know well, and to watch the quiet of the wetlands in early spring. It might be interesting to snowshoe there some time, maybe next year.

The weather was perfect, 60+ degrees, with picture blue skies, and real UV radiation on the neck. Maybe the best day of spring so far, way too late in coming. And the trail was empty going out—not a car in the parking lot when I showed up. Highway 20 is still closed, right at the trailhead. I only saw one pair of backpackers the whole day. I didn’t run great—not a lot of snap to my steps, a bit of a tight hamstring. It was plenty of a workout, hopping trees and scrambling through snow.

Ross Lake is a beautiful reservoir, and the water levels are down right now, and so I explored a bit near the mouth of Beaver Creek, something I haven’t done in a long time. Fields of stumps from where the land was logged before the river was dammed, creeks cutting through sand. I kiled a good 45 minutes wandering around, looking at animal tracks, rocks, and stumps. I live on the edge.

The mountains were out in spectacular fashion. The snow is still deep in the high country. The valley is in a bit of a winter-spring conflict, with skunk cabbage sprouting next to melting snow banks. It’ll look different next week. And so it goes.

Saw a coyote on the way up, in a field. A deer, and some elk, on the way back. Annie’s Pizza on the way home.

A few pics below, more pics here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tulip Festival

Tulips are in bloom in Skagit now. I imagine they'll be out a little while longer. Crowds are tough, but I shot out into the valley tonight around 7:30, and there weren't many folks around. I think a weeknight after 6 or early in the morning is probably the way to go. I missed the Street Fair this weekend, but hope to hit the salmon barbq one of these days.

I spent Saturday up at Western coordinating a clinic on citizenship. Great working with students and other volunteers. Afterwards, I toured the back trails of Lake Padden, which was basically a mudhop. I could still feel the effect of running fifty last weekend, in the quads and knees. My recovery time isn't what I'd like it to be--I think I need to be spending more time in yoga or just stretching. Some of it might be just jet lag from flying back--I was zonked. On Sunday I went and ran around the Nookachamps valley a bit--standard loop. The running was not effortless, but ok.

Hopefully I get out this week for a few good evening runs. The days are getting longer--time for the  occasional eveing push up Max's Shortcut or Chin.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bull Run Run 50m

I had the great pleasure of running the Bull Run Run 50 miler in Virginia on Saturday.  Pleasure and pain, I should say. I haven't ran a 50 miler since last year. I ran ok, finishing middle of the pack, though I definitely have run stronger. Sometimes you have to throw yourself out there and see what happens, or at least that's my theory.

Bull Run is special. I believe I read that it is the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club's oldest race, and one of the older trail runs in the country. Terrific club--I got to meet a few of their stalwarts, some of whom will be coming west in August for Cascade.

All day there were positive vibes in the air--hellos and smiles on the out and backs, great cheers and support from the aid stations. Very encouraging. There was even fresh pizza at the 32.5/35.5 aid station! And they gave me an ice cream sandwich at the end--I have never tasted one so good. Finishers received a terrific Patagonia half-zip, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run.

The Battle of Bull Run was the first major land battle of the Civil War. As a kid, when I grew up in Virginia, we went to Bull Run and carried out a little reenactment of the battle between the North and South. I died, taking a Nerf Ball to the shoulder, during an all out charge. In this race, you have to declare your affiliation and you can sign up to be on teams for either side. All good fun. 

The course itself is beautiful, and we had perfect running weather. Spring is one of the best times of year to be back east, as the famous Virginia bluebells are in bloom, along with all sorts of other foliage. The course  meanders along different creeks, called "runs," like Bull Run. The trail is single track, with flowers to the sides, and brown leafs on the ground. Topographically, the course ascends and descends frequently, and in the aggregate is probably 4 or 5k in elevation gain, as per one Garmin report I saw. The up and down wore on me after a while. Not too technical, though there are a few spots.

The course goes south of the battlefield to begin with, on a 17 mile out and back. The mud factor was high, with every step requiring that little extra pull to raise the feet. It rained a lot the day before, like a monsoon. The rain can be really mean here. There was a busted bridge we had to cross early on that was a real hazard. I slipped crossing it, and had to crawl to reach the other side. Someone else went all in. There were also a number of creek crossings--the feet got wet.

The second half of the race was drier, and would've allowed for more speed, if I had it. The course wanders over nobs and by muddy waterways, through deciduous trees, and across the green battlefield. The sound of muzzelloaders going off could be heard, probably as part of some reenactment drill. They make this loud crack, that kind of hangs in the air, and if a bunch of them go off, it is really something. This added that extra little flavor of history to the run, Stephen Crane style. I think the protagonist in his book ran, away, and then later returned to fight.

Toward the end of the out and back, at Mile 32.5, there was a little three mile loop, called the Do Loop, I think. A little up and down affair, over every possible ridge. I bonked here, and lost a lot of ground on my time. After that, I just kind of sucked it up and finished the event, frequently walking, running when I had it.

One thing that made the event particularly special for me is my sister Anne came out with her fiancee, both locals, and supported me as they could. This was my first time meeting John, and we got to spend some time together, between the start and the wonderful barbq afterwards. Add to that the time I've spent with the rest of my family, a little bit of work and visits with friends, and it has been a wonderful visit.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jim Bailey

On Thursday I had the privilege of hearing Jim Bailey speak regarding his experience of running the first sub-four minute mile on U.S. soil.  The event, hosted by the GBRC, was very entertaining, and a whole lot of club members showed up.

On May 5th, 1956, Bailey knocked out the 6th sub-four minute mile ever, and 1st on American soil, down at the LA Coliseum as part of a USC-UCLA track meet. I think he said his previous best was a 4:05, and although he was certainly fast, the sub-4 and the win over John Landey was unexpected. We got to watch old film footage of the race, and the man came out of nowhere on the backstretch to catch Landey, who had been leading. There were 40,000 people in the stands.

Both Bailey and Landey are Australians. Bailey apparently was a brash roughneck of sorts, to hear him tell it, while Landey was the crowd favorite. Bailey said he can relate more to the runners in Chariots of Fire than to the incredible runners and their training today. He also ran for the University of Oregon, and it was interesting to hear him describe his own experiences of Bill Bowerman, who was a much younger coach when he was there. Not quite the legend he later became.

Bailey answered questions about spikes, cinder tracks, training, and his racing history. He was ever amusing and entertaining, and somewhat wistful I suppose about his relationship with his native Australia, which really didn’t take to his comments after winning over Landey.

Blaine Newnham of the Seattle Times wrote a great little profile on Bailey roughly five years ago, which tells more details. Here's a link.

Off to run.