Monthly Archives: May 2015

Wind, waves, and grasses

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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.

———-Run gently out there———-


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———-