Wind, waves, and grasses

waves_1
Viewed from the bluff the waves don’t look all that menacing. They are rolling with six to eight feet of height above their troughs. There are two triangles that come into play. I am about a hundred yards in from, and about thirty feet above, the edge of the bluff. The edge of the bluff is about two-hundred feet above the water—and my mind goes away trying to guess at how far out my line-of-sight intersection point with the water is. Those nonmenacing looking waves are around a thousand feet away. Their white caps, the endless frothing and roiling would not be any sort of safe haven for a small boat.
gb_wind_2
The grass when captured by the camera does not tell of the wind. A glanced at Web site told me today’s wind is steady at about 22 knots, with gusts to 30 knots. There is an option to have the wind speed shown in miles per hour, but I am comfortable with knots. The ship tracking Web sites all use knots to tell me how fast the large floating things will be gone. I sometimes turn down Water Tower trail, running hard to get to Brave Heart and Raider Creek–barely looking for cars as I cross to Kyles Kettle trail and hope to get to waters edge before the ship is visible from Partridge Point. That doesn’t happen very often–distractions come too easily with no goal but to be back in ninety minutes attached to today’s run.
Sometimes the directions were unclear to me.
I can still see the trees whose job it was to hide the old foundation. They did it well. Grasses and vines were called to assist; the greyness of aged concrete spoke of years gone by; beckoned history—until some well-meaning do-gooders came one weekend with clippers and shears and gas-engined trimmers and left a now bare and exposed naked to the world foundation that barely draws a glance.
pp_waves
Down and around, the ship long forgotten, greenness surrounds me most every step. I run with no apparent noise. The wind whistles. Trees push and rug against one another; moans and even shrieks are heard. There are no snapping, popping, cracking sounds of branches breaking. The wind is not pushing that hard; is not from the right direction to cause a run to be cut short as a forest danger turns from possible to present.
pp_waves_3
Frothiness Factor of 3.7 on a scale of 5.0, not something you will find in any science book, but it seems correct today. When the FF is above 3.0, there is a tendency to pause to watch… bobbing birds, a occasional seal or sea lion, a tug with a barge rounding the point and turning into the wind. No sounds come from all these things. The wind carries away all. The wind is today’s orchestra and choreographer… and I have stood too long, again.
rhodies
Rhodies. Rhodendrons, “rhodies”, are blooming all over my forest. The deep hued red of buds a day or two away from opening are just one branch away from the pink and white of fully-opened flowers. Bees, bumble and regular, small fliers of several sizes and many humming variations are magically heard in this pocket of quiet, tucked away from the wind as I turn past the lake. We thought winter was late in leaving. We thought spring was fickle in her arrival. I think the forest is a very busy place as all things assigned to pollination seem to be out and about.
waves 019
The yellows, Scotch Broom and gorse, dominate the hillside as an old tree, fallen and slowly changing from wood to dragon tell anyone the shelter of the woods is gone and the wind is still there. Fifteen feet from trail’s end, safely back from wind’s edge and the chickadees play. Two flashes of yellow, or is it yellow-green? It matters. Yellow would mean the gold finches are back. There is a nest here–another pause point, but they don’t return. Vireo? I will return and eat lunch here on Thursday. That will give me time to find them, or for them to accept me for the coming summer.
wind_grass
There is a way to photograph the moving grasses so movement shows. I do not know how to do that, not with a still camera. The dull yellows and browns of winter grasses are turning to green. Tourists will complain of the trail being overgrown. I enjoy the grasses pulling at my hands as I pass. It is a small sacrifice. The park is mine five days a week and on weekends the visitors rarely venture more than a few hundred yards from the parking lots. For now I am concerned with these two triangles, once more in front of me, and the fact that my “I’ll be back in ninety minutes” seems to be just over two hours.
gb_wind

———-Run gently out there———-

Recovery

I wish this were a “John’s wisdom will come shining through” sort of thing, but I know it is not. I was never at the elite level. On the other hand, I think that is a major fallacy of many advice articles–very few recreational runners ever perform at the mental and physical levels the top tier competitors do.

The folks that go into an event with the idea that anything less than a top five, maybe top ten for a championship event, finish being a failure are committing so much time and physical and emotional energy to each race, emerge totally spent and their recovery–just as their training–will seem extreme to most.

They push themselves into a “last resources used at the finish line” environment. The lesser runners sometimes do that, but it is more often because of going to the starting line somewhat poorly prepared (the just finish, just beat the cut-offs, don’t care about time realm). One group prepares themselves with total immersion in the needs of the day; the other embraces survival shuffles; often thinking a survived death march is a badge of grand performance.

In between… in between, uh, rest the masses? Some of us set goals that demand a lot of effort–keep in mind the psychological side of effort can be just as draining as the physical. It might be an effort level that will deplete the resources to get out the door for a while. I think the psychological aspect is just as important as the physical training, but it gets ignored; lost in the selection of gels, powder, pills, clothing gimmicks, and which sound list to use.

Sorry–this is something to be discussed while running side-by-side during three or four hours on the trails. Running has so many parts. When you get to that upper tier, some “least little things” can wreak havoc not to be recovered from that day and whose after effects will be felt for weeks.

Concrete examples in this nonelite household. We believe in active recovery. We run the day after–the day after long runs, as well as the day after races, i.e., if a long run or race was on Saturday, Sunday was a short run–just long enough to loosen everything up, get warmed all over, see how everything feels–nothing strenuous. Monday would be the rest day.

We ran Strolling Jim (40ish miles) on one Saturday and ran Coast Hills 50 (50 miles of trails) the following Saturday. We were not racing, just running at a reasonable pace. We wanted to see what consecututive long-run weekends would feel like. We thought of those two runs as a major psychological training lesson.

I came off a subseven-hour 50-mile time (6:31ish) with a 100k on a three-week horizon. We paused at a campground on the way home to get in the “just a few easy miles” run the next day. The next day was a rest day. The rest of the week was just easy stuff, tenish miles on Thursday and Saturday was a couple of hours. The second week–the middle week of the three–had three days with a lot of “playing” built in. I ran on routes with forest beauty and waterfalls, creeks and a meadow or two. The running might include “sprinting” to the next tree or switchback—anything to get the mind back into the enjoyment of small-goal segments.

The third week was back to nothing more than 45 minutes and nothing of hard effort. I knew the endurance was there. I sort of thought the mind was back. I knew I was not injured. Off we went to the 100k (I won :) ).

That is sort of what we did. I used a five-day run week. Kathy tended to run seven days a week. We were not elites, but we did win a few. There were quite a few consecutive weekends of marathons, marathon/ultra, or ultra/ultra, but most of them were just running. We never did get to the top of the ladder where there was nothing left to give.john_on_horse002

I have been accused of heresy for not running all out. My running, even the racing, was done with being able to enjoy the day, and the day after.

Sorry for the rambling, but it isn’t a well-defined thing for me.

———-run gently out there———-

Fragile and vanishing…

The caretakers, never in the majority, are losing ground to the users.Ant hill?If the users and caretakers are the same, as in an ant colony, Garrett Hardin’s musings will not come into play.

If you are small, but hardy, not given to large numbers and unable to run and hide, you might still be able to survive the innocents as they pass here, trample there, by making your home on the steep bluffs of an island–just out of reach, maybe.
IMG_0671
The signs saying “Property of The Nature Conservancy”, while looming visibly on the fence a mile or so away, provide little protection when officialdom is rarely visible. The spines, protective against wildlife, are but a small hindrance to malicious fingers.HPIM4553And, besides, I just wanted one leaf; just one little spiny ear–not enough to be noticed, nor missed–except by the brittle prickly-pear cactus affected. That might be what was said. Mightn’t it?

If, on the other hand, the numbers are scarce, cactusas in the case of this brittle prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia fragilis), Hardin’s worst nightmare–in its purest form–rules this commons. This plant will vanish. This will, quite likely, be its last spring. The innocents, though seldom far from a parking lot, will need justification for wandering this far. A conquest, even if only of a small plant, is needed with no concern for damage and a rush to extinction....
I have watched it for seven, maybe eight, years. The “Dead Tree”, a name we gave with no one’s official sanction, served as protective cover. The small cactus hiding on the away from the trail side; in false safety. That first summer, the small cactus was just a beautiful surprise found while running on one of the bluff trails of Whidbey Island. Its ten, maybe even a dozen pads (cladoles?) in varying shades of green and red; the celebratory year of yellow flowers was worth a second trip just so I could share what was seen on a solo run. They seemed safe on the downhill side of that long fallen windward-edge giant. As the dead tree has suffered decay and the visitors to the commons yielded to some perverse need to break a branch here; pull a loose piece of long dead trunk and toss it down bluff’s side over there, the small plant’s presence discovered, and its death begun.

The sunrise that went on and on and on...

An Orderly Series of Errors

There is an… No. There should be an order to the occurrence of errors. Mistakes should be arranged in a certain magnitude as the day develops, as the miles pass ever more slowly. The suddenness of the change from running to walking tells of the ignorance in which I sought shelter. There was no one to tell me running sevens (mile pace) for fifty miles was not to be done this early in the day.

The web of deceit awaits...
The web of deceit awaits…
I was eating well. Someone even took a picture of me dallying at an aid station and put it in UltraRunning. There I was, preserved for eternity, trying to gain weight as I ran my first 50-mile ultramarathon. The eating was not a problem that day. A lack of respect, based on the bliss of ignorance–there is that word again–let me leave the 40-mile aid station still running just over seven minutes to the mile. The debt collector, never a humorous sort, came calling about a mile later. He arrived with such suddenness that I actually fell off into the roadside bushes. I am never a pretty sight, sometimes I frighten small children or puppies–what could I look like with these spasmodic limbs and uncooperative joints as I tried to regain verticality? I crawled to a nearby highway sign and slowly returned to upright.

I started walking. In just a few steps normalcy returned. Aha! It was just a random cramp; just a minor inconvenience.

I have never had pineapple upside down cake at an ultra, but...
I have never had pineapple upside down cake at an ultra, but…
It wasn’t. The seven-minute miles became ten-minute miles with no pause at the in-between numbers. The brief flirtation with tens was short as 15-minute miles now seemed to be all-out running and that was the way things would finish.
Sometimes the directions were unclear to me.
Sometimes the directions were unclear to me.

“Do you want to change shoes?” I looked around at the three other runners. They all had a pair or shoes in hand to change to after the river crossing.
“Yes.” Kathy brought a pair of shoes. The wrong shoes. Everyone has some wrong shoes.If you look at a problem from a different viewpoint...If you look at a problem from a different viewpoint…

I absolutely cannot remember where I was going with this.  I know I sometimes repeat mistakes–argue which way we went at a certain fork again; causing some unneeded bushwhacking or two hours extra running when we finally turned around.  It helps that I usually run alone.  I live with the groans and the chorus of “why and why and why” from the demons, and run on.It wasn't that they weren't on the right feet.
It wasn’t that they weren’t on the right feet.

I have never run with my shoes on the wrong feet.  I did run a 10k on trails with one Saucony and one Brooks.  I don’t remember which was the left one and which was the right one.  I won age group; kept a straight face when asked if I always mixed brands.  I ran a couple of hours with no insoles one day because I forgot them.  That one has an easy solution, relace–tighter.  Don’t run long downhills in loose shoes.I think staying home would have been a better idea
I think staying home would have been a better idea

We left the house one day with snow coming down, wind picking up and we were happy with the thought the trails will be all ours today.  We ran a bit, paused to ooh and ahh and revel in the God’s own beauty.  Kathy was the first to notice the wind was moving the tree tops a bit more.  The gentle swaying was turning to dancing, some jerky and snow that had been clinging to the firs and cedars was blowing loose–clumps falling here and there.

It wasn’t long in coming.   Ceraawaack!  Shoulders are scrunched.  Neck is drawn in and both arms go over your head as you try to believe you can tell which direction the sound was—then silence.  “Let’s get down away from the ridge.”  “Okay.”  We dropped down, still hearing limbs breaking, wishing we were on a steep downhill trail and not the contour following one we were on.  The good fortune of knowing that forest meant we could turn down a game trail we normally did not run.  We just wanted down, away from the wind.  We went back the next day.  This time the oohing and ahhing was from looking at the trees and were strewn like pick-up sticks.The decision will be made by someone else.
The decision will be made by someone else.

I am cold.  You have been cold before.  It’s getting colder.  Run faster.  Where is the car?  I parked it down there and ran back up here.  I think I’ll stop when I get to the car.  I’m not going back to the car for a while (she said while running off up the trail).  I don’t have a key.  I know that, keep running.  You’ll warm up.

———-Run gently out there———-

Differing Days

There are days when I simply do not want to have to look down at my feet every step or two.   A deserted road with a center line whose end I cannot see might call. _evening 015
The mountains just across the water, the tendrils of smoke from a mill, or, perhaps it will just be the graceful flight of a Northern harrier searching the prairie for a snack–any number of gentle tugs will let my feet disengage from my conscious and time and distance will go away.
herons_geese 048
Bends and curves will be rounded with no thought about–hmm, I suppose that is it.  I sometimes want a run with no thought to be called forth.  Some conscious awareness is needed for seeing geese, eagles, or bicyclists, and  hopes of not quite imagined things are always there.004
Hills, up or down, are just differing strides, shifts of effort.  A watch is just so I know when to turn back.  It has no duty today, no splits or paces to tattle or nag about. It the route is a familiar one, the watch is left on the top of the refrigerator to sulk. jul_17_18 017
Somewhere east of Tonopah was a road whose end we could not see.  We could see mountains that could not be reached if we ran all the rest of our days.  They set just above the ground, shimmering in the heat.  They might be real a hundred or a million  miles away or not at all.  We would flip a coin and the winner would get to run toward something not there, maybe.
Trails ask for more attention, more than just passing awareness, and fewer glances–if any–off into the distance.rain 025Wandering eyes, a meandering mind, and a switchback that has no concern for the state of my mind accounts for scratches from briars, rashes from poisonoak, and the occasional short flight through the air with little grace, ending with the “whoooompf” of the last bit of air leaving my lungs.
auntit_pat_ 053The far side of a valley is not a thing to contemplate as you descend a trail in open country. Rocks await the moment of errant eyes. On a good day it is just a short slide on a grassy hillside. On a more typical day it will be scrapes and bruises and maybe the bonus of cactus needles as a reward.
...On an almost weekly basis I pass under this “leaner”, sometimes pausing to look for signs of recent movement. When it finally falls I will return with saw and clear the trail. I have paused on the uphill side, letting my eyes and mind pretend I see what I will do should it decide to fall as I am coming helter-skelter down Boundary Trail. Our truce has been honored for seven years, but so has its muteness.
bluff_trail_dead_treeThere are trails that seem to live in a world needing neither strict attention nor allowing day dreams. They often add time to runs, but no distance.
—–Run Gently Out There—–

shades of grey

Shades of grey

How many words for grey: ashen, sooty, pearly, silvery, dove-gray, tattletale gray, darkening, foreboding, silver-haired, even fuliginous or grizzled. The waters of Puget Sound were having trouble deciding what shade to be today. I was on pavement trying to get from one park to the other and on to the trail to the house.

An old Douglas Fir, top broken who knows how long ago.
An old Douglas Fir, top broken who knows how long ago.
Blues were trying to break through the upper layer of clouds, or were the clouds trying to close to hide the blue sky. I zipped the front of my tattered windbreaker as I passed the pasture with the llamas. There were llamas on Hope Pass ‘neath a sky more blue than grey some time back. I needed to top the hill so I could pretend to pick up the pace and warm my legs again. Cold has colors too, mostly behind darkened doors. Greys and pale blues don’t warm legs. Gloves have been put back on my chilled fingers.

Anything would brighten the run. It had become one of those runs that is two miles too long. Lambs? I don’t want lambs playing next to the fence as I trudge past. I want… What? Sympathy?

Yes, a display of commiseration would work.

I get lambs. Silly leaping lambs. Now they are playing with the baby llama. Lambs standing on their mother’s back. Oh great, now the wind has died and it’s warm. A hundred yards to the trailhead. Wild roses spread pinkish polka-dots to tell me where to turn. Car noise dies behind me as I escape into the woods again.
HPIM4511
There is no grey in my woods. I see only patches of blue as I look up through the cedars and madronas. We saw trilliums and dogwoods two weeks ago, gone now as the leaves thicken and the darkened forest floor of summer comes. Canada geese were in large number on Wednesday, singing their way somewhere; surely not north, not yet. I see more cormorants in the water. The harlequin ducks ride in the cold waters of their winter home. They wait patiently waiting for some sign that I will never see, hear, or sense, and they will take wing, gone to their mountain homes.
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The unwanted two miles is lengthened as I turn toward the Old Men and my footsteps are quieted as the dirt of the trail becomes padded with the fallen needles of a hundred autumns. Through the darkness of the cedars come slashes of light. Turning at the fork I retrace the steps just made. Steps not mine anymore are set quicker now, legs of years gone away stretch out, briefly a smile as trudge becomes run, shoulders relax, and ground is covered. I feel I could run forever. If I had time, but I don’t know what color time is.

—–Run gently out there—–

30 Years Ago Today

hour_glassI am prone to falling prey to a nagging memory that spins tendrils of smoke to keep me from concentrating.  It started on the ferry this morning.  There was something in mind, but what?  It is Monday, so that might rule out running.  Late February… last year?  Nothing.  Here and there in my mind–what was in February?  Mudderfell 6-hour?  Yes, no… not sure.  Snake River Marathon?  I think that was March.  February?  Seaside?  Trails End Marathon was in late February.  That could be it.  Why now?

And then it went away–until about an hour ago.  The Seaside part had clicked.  I quit keeping a running diary in 2002.  Most of the old diaries are in a box in the garage; destined for the recycle bin if I ever take the binding out of them.  Most of them.  1985, 1986, 1997, and 1999 are not in the garage.  They are on a nearby shelf.  1985?  That was the first year.  I had started running in August of 1984.  My first official marathon was the Trails End Marathon in Seaside, Oregon in… oh… oh my.

Thirty years ago today.  In the same place the demons reside are angels sent to brighten otherwise nondescript days; to bring smiles and long gone images.  The cryptic aspect of entries in old running diaries.
—–
Saturday, February 23, 1985
48º start : 58° finish, overcast, no wind– Seaside, Oregon–Trails End Marathon
Disaster–too fast–ran 7:03s thru 18–7:10 for the 19th and then hamstring cramps the rest of the way.  2:16 for the first 19, 1:22 for the last 7.2, 3:38:08 total–oh well, live and learn.  I died a thousand deaths, but I finished and I will do another.  I don’t think I should have done the practice marathon three weeks ago (3:48 on Cap City course)–there is no one to ask.
—–
I looked for history on the Internet and found one Web site with old Trails End results, but it only lists the sub3-hour folks.  I would never make that list.  It required more concentration than I seemed able to hold.  That list caught my eye because of some of the names–mostly Pacific Northwest nostalgia.

Warren Finke 2:35:18 — One of the PNW’s greats and Mudderfell co-RD
Lary Webster 2:48:11 — The grand old leader, almost sub6 at 50 miles at 50
Ron Nicholl  2:49:31 — Hee hee, cut the bracelet off my wrist years later
Chuck Cammack 2:49:58 — Would win one or two (ultras) up here
Lee Fields   2:53:24 — Always flirting with the top ten
James McDowell 2:55:26 – His son, Nate, would be the first to run sub20 at Wasatch
Brian Kessler 2:56:02 — He who knows not of cold (shirtless at 35°)
Sonny Condor 2:57:59 — My memory fails, but…
Fred Willet  2:59:41 — Fred might recall– Fred won Siletz, a tough 50 miles of Coast Hills trails and logging roads, in ’87.john_on_horse002

Thirty years ago today I ran my first marathon.

———-Run Gently Out There———

No Relevant Pictures

Just as the really hazy thought “Was that a root?” passed through some
unnamed, and seldom used, region of my cerebrum, I lost my balance.
_shoes 002
I can usually spell the second sound, the sound you make as you hit the
ground and most, if not all, of the air leaves you lungs. Whumph,
whoomphhhf, ooufm. or some variation.a_sequoias1
It is the first sound I was concerned with at the moment. I was making it
as my eyes searched the landing spot for rocks (none), pointy things
(none), and that little distraction of whether or not I will miss the trail
and finally find out what it feels like to slide down two-hundred feet of
grassy, but really steep hillside.

Maybe hnnuhhoumph? Seems close.

I’ve got the right should turned so I will land on my side, Uh oh, I’m
crooked and I am going over the edge. Am I above the lake? Yeth.
charlie_dog
Something like wahhnooumpurhk? Maybe.

Ooumph? Okay, some air is still in the lungs, but I am slipping over; grab
something… no, not on the downhill side, grab something on the uphill
side..huh? Anything, just grab something. Okay. Got some vines. Be still.

It was more high pitched. Haennpheeeeng? Yeah, that’s real close.
cosh_1
Got balance back? Almost. Can I roll left? Uphill? No. Slide your
right hand down and find a grip. What are you doing? Looking at the
driftwood I’m going to roll to a stop against. Push with your right hand.
Okay… any air around here yet?

Okay, I think “whaneieenungh” fits. Yeah. Can I roll over now. Pull on
the vines a little. Okay. Will they hold? I think so. Only need a
couple of inches. Ready. Go. Push. Okay? Yeah, I’m good.

Whaneieegungh followed by ooumph should do it.
kathleen_prairie (Large)
How long you going lay here?
Not long.
What did you trip on?This.
Not much of a root.
I can do a lot with a little.

—–Run Gently Out There—–

An Unexpected Gift

Friday is almost always a no-run day, has been for years.  That is not to say I don’t get out for a walk, a pedal, or… trying to catch sunset in pictures again.sunset 008
The prairie is behind. Waters of Admiralty Inlet in front. The Olympic Mountains, complete with winter’s shoulders of snow, are just across. The sun is moving slowly across their skyline. A voice from somewhere in time barely remembers something about “two diameters a day”–a clearer memory says we are just over one third of the way through this winter. A solstice or two found me out here checking, taking note of just which peak kidnapped the sun that evening. A ransom was exchanged and warmth returned… two diameters at a time. Ravens and eagles played along the bluff. Vibrant black feathers shone a little brighter each evening. Two eagles, almost adults, only a few brown streaks in their shoulders and great broad tails, played, talons flashing like swords of old. Each day’s passing gave a few minutes more daylight; two diameters at a time.
sunset 023
At water’s edge…, “Is this the ocean?” I looked around, small people nearby–one looked at me quizzically. Where is her big person? “Is this the ocean?” I sat down on a driftwood log, picked up a pointing stick, “No. This is not the ocean.” I pointed off in the distance at the end of the mountains to the flat spot. “See the flat spot?” “Yes.” “The ocean is out there.” “Is that where the whales are?” “Yes. It is getting dark. They go out there to sleep.” “Why do they go out there to sleep?” “If they sleep in here the light from the lighthouse (pointing at the Port Townsend lighthouse—on cue) keeps them awake.” “Oh.” Small person runs off to a large person, “Mom, he said all the whales went out there to go to sleep.” I turned to look at Mt. Rainier.
sunset 026
I should have come out earlier; gone up on the bluff. Time has lapses up there. A not painful, but inconvenient lesson was learned when I plopped down to watch a ship or two, outbound, probably to Perth or Busan or maybe somewhere romantic like Long Beach. A gazillion tons of things unneeded, but easily sold–hidden by lights that look like Japanese lanterns slowly going out with the tide. I have no flashlight tonight and the little person is coming back.
sunset 033
“Do you know her?” “No. I just thought taking a picture of someone taking a picture was cool.” “Oh. Mom wants to know where the trees are.” Hmmm, there aren’t any trees here. We are on the prairie. “The trees all got knocked over by the glacier a long time ago.” “A glacier?” Uh oh, she knows what a glacier is. “Yes, there was a glacier here about ten thousand years ago.” “Where is it now?” “Canada. It was from Canada and it went home.” “Where’s Canada?” I pointed to Canada. “Is that where the trees are?” “What trees?” She pointed at the car, “The trees on the book.” I glanced at the car. Mom(?) was looking in the back window… hmmm. “Where are you from?” “Iowa. Do you know where that is? We don’t have any of those (pointing at the Olympic Mountains). We don’t have any big trees neither. Where are the trees?” I really wish I could guess at her age. What age does curiosity go away? What would she think of a jelly fish? Mom (?) is still at the car. I got up and walked over. “Are you really from Iowa?” She smiled, “Yes. I’m sorry about Clare bothering you.” “Not bothering, just asking questions about things not in Iowa.” She pointed at a copy of a book in the car. “We both want to know where those trees are.” Ahhh, those trees.  How did they know it was my car? There is always a copy of my book and a copy of Kathy’s book in the car. I unlocked the car and got my book out and handed it to her. I explained where Baker Lake is and how you probably can’t get there at this time of the year because of snow. Mom looked disappointed. Small person looked very disappointed. I got a trail map of nearby Fort Ebey State Park out of the car. In the fading light I explained about Cedar Grove and the old men, the old trees up there–and maybe, just maybe, the two eagles we think live there … “Eagles!?” Small person bounces too. “Yes, maybe, but even if they aren’t home it is a beautiful trail with some very old trees.” I turned to leave. “Bye!” “Bye, Clare.” Mom held out the book, “Your book.” I said, “No, your book–enjoy our island.”
cover_mixHow did they know it was my car

—–Run gently out there—–

A good thing ends

26 January 2015 … Mr. Whitley on my mind

HPIM3781
Forever in love with the ghost in the distance

“When good things end” rattled around in my head as I started up the last bit of climb to the trailhead. I thought about delaying the end, but the sun was just about to touch the water when I left the bluff thirty minutes ago and, try as I may, I have not been able to slow its descent. There is a single LED light in my fanny pack, but its uselessness as a primary light source has been proven. Sadly, I must admit, more than once. I did postpone the inevitable end of my run for a few minutes by turning up the trail with no name. It is a horseshoe trail off the main trail that has caused more face plants and strained shoulders from grabbing limbs for balance than any other three trails put together. I took it simply to add time, not really caring about the reduced speed in the darkening woods. Reduced speed? Had the day been about speed? Or focus? Or something else? What was I doing that I was so reluctant to end? It had not been a well-focused run, not thought out at all. chuckanut 031 When I began this run, the time it took to find out what today’s run should be or was to bring passed without notice. The grey, almost black, clouds got more attention than the junctions and decisions about effort. It wasn’t until fifteen or twenty minutes after I started that I noticed the face full of zeroes on my watch. Okay, scratch running the perimeter for time. What is the next option? Just keep going and enjoy the day. At the bottom of the kettle five trails come together. From here my mind’s eye sees me as being in the middle of a five-petalled flower. Each teardrop shaped petal is about a half mile long and climbs (or drops) about 200 feet. Aha! I’ll do each “petal”—obviously a hill-repeats day. The face full of zeroes glared silently. I started up the hundred yards of ball bearings that lined the first climb. chuckanut 008

I made it through two petals and was merrily kicking rocks out of the way going down the third when I did one of the few tricks that I have mastered with no regard to speed, terrain, or season. I kicked a rock. “Watch that rock,” came a voice inside. Hmm, it is rolling back into the trail… right where my mind’s eye says my foot will need to land… uh oh… this is where you do the magical change stride length while in midair. I cheated by grabbing a handful of salal to pull myself a few inches to one side while my eyes remained locked on the still-moving rock. Okay, now I know the rock can’t see me and doesn’t know which way I will go, but it has just adjusted course so I know it is going to be under my lead foot. If its intentions are to cause me to stumble and roll most of the way to the bottom, it is doing a pretty good job for an inanimate object with few sentient qualities. The guys in charge of deciding on shoulder roll versus butt slide have opted for butt slide. I accept their decision. I’m going down, but it is a controlled fall and I am back on my feet before the bottom. Two petals to go.

The pleasure of an unexpected hard workout raised my spirits. As I ran out from under the dense canopy of the forest, the cleared power line right of way let me see the clouds again. A touch of chill came in on the wind and the warmth from my recent hard effort went away. Pausing to see which way the clouds were going, I untied the jacket from around my waist and slipped it back on. I laughed at the lump in the pocket. Gloves? Yes, there are almost always a pair of gloves in my jacket or fanny pack or backpack or vest or whatever. I have never known the weather to guarantee feel good stuff. Above me, there was a distinct line separating the black clouds from the grey across the westerly sky. There was a front coming in. I thought of which trails would have the most tree cover and turned off the power line trail. chuckanut 032

As so many times before, the first drops of rain brought the late Keith Whitley’s “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” to mind. I was silently getting through “I’m no stranger to the rain, I’m a friend of thunder…” when the first flash of lightning came. We don’t get many thunderstorms up here. We get gentle rain, sometimes followed by hard rain, sometimes accompanied by wind, but we don’t get flashing lights and sound effects. “And I’m good at finding shelter in a downpour….” Maybe I should try for another song. I wasn’t worried about the lightning as I had turned down onto a trail that was winding its way around and down—down where no trees were on high to attract a random bolt of electricity. I was looking for some cedars—nature’s umbrellas. I got to them and sat down on one of the contorted roots I had long ago understood to be there as a bench for when I wanted to sit and pause in the quiet of the bottom of the kettle. I pulled a smashed up PB&J from the pouch, knowing I wouldn’t need much time to eat it. Rain that started that suddenly with that intensity seldom lasts very long around here.crooked_trees 066

The quiet returned as the rain passed. The rain laden leaves were heavy enough so as to not dance in the rising wind. My sandwich was finished and the rain was gone. I got up, listened to the creaks and pops of my now cold joints, and started the climb to the bluff overlooking the beach. Passing storms mix the grays, greens, blues, and whites of the water in the strait that, like snowflakes, are never recalled as having been seen before. The eastbound storms hide the mountains to the south and east, but the westerly end of the mountains are visible and sharply silhouetted by the lowering sun. A raft of surf scoters, probably never having acknowledged the storm, bob on the waves.  There are three kayakers just pushing their always frail looking watercraft back into the waves. I wondered if they had soggy PB&Js to eat while waiting out the storm. The sun is a lot lower than I had expected and I needed to head for the car, but the clarity of wave patterns and snow lines on the mountains kept holding me there. The contrasting stillness of the mountains and the ever moving waters of the strait are left to a poet to describe—all I can do is look from one to the other. The contradictory thought of each being older than the other does not bother me.

What bothers me is not having a flashlight and the idea that a good run is in need of an end.

—–Run Gently Out There—–