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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mt. St. Helena

(Note: Not Mt. St. Helens. No volcanoes on this trip.)

Mt. St. Helena is in the North Bay about an hour and 20 minute drive from Martinez. The write up online set this hike up as an epic hike. 10 miles is a long hike, but we were all suspicious about the "epicness" of only climbing 2000'. Rightly so.

A mile on single track winding through Robert Louis Stevenson State Park led us up onto a fire road, which we followed for the balance of the climb. We all agreed that had the single track wound through 5 miles of forest on the way to the top, then we could forgive the meager 2000'.
Alas, fire roads are not worth driving nearly 3 hours round trip for.

Nevertheless, we did manage some great photos of the rising fog merging with the clouds and rain that would settle in the second half of the day.

The near fog was moving like a glacier down the canyon

Vince, so where are your pictures?

Dianne, and Matt

Mt. Diablo on the horizon, just to the right of the bushes.

A Sea of Fog

Monday, January 24, 2011

Golden Gate Headlands Marathon

It's official. I'm signed up for the Golden Gate Headlands Marathon - April 2, 2011.

My Sunday morning training runs are getting painful.

But I'm doing myself no favors either. Saturday morning Matt and I hiked / ran nearly 10 miles having renewed the Saturday morning hikes after a month or so off.

From my phone...

A few minutes later, from Matt's phone...

5:30 am Saturday I was on my bike heading for the park for our unalterable 6:00 am start time. We have pondered pushing the start time back a little to grow our group, but determined that 7 or 8 would likely exclude as many hikers as 6, so 6am it stays.

Bec needed some odds and ends and a walk, so Saturday evening found us walking (Gianna in the jogging stroller and Ella on her scooter) up to Walmart and Lucky for 4 additional miles. Bec was charging away pushing the stroller with me struggling to keep up.

For Sunday I had mapped out an 18 mile run - my longest yet - following a familiar path down to the Martinez Marina, across the Benicia Bridge, and then nearly to Vallejo and back. A creeping, yet distinct negativity swirled around me like mist at 5:40am as I started out, and I knew something needed to change or I would never meet my goal. For some reason my intended route loomed boring. Boring is fatal for me.

I spontaneously changed course 1.5 miles into the run, turning right at Shell Ave. and ran the balance of the course in the exact reverse of my intentions. Over the bridge, and once on Military West, I ran straight toward Vallejo and Benicia State Park. At the park I made a hard left and began to follow the Carquinez Strait back toward the Benicia Marina - my second course alteration. By now my attitude had shifted from pessimism to a resolved optimism fringed with the realization that I was about to run a really long painful way.

The Benicia Marina was just coming to life as I pounded down 1st street. Elderly women in smiles and sweat suits with miniature dogs greeted me while their male counterparts seemed to begrudge the growing light and nature's call to man's best friend. I wound a course past the sail boats and yachts gently testing their tethers and caught glimpses of tables being set for breakfast on board. Gray haired men seemed the primary cohort among the oscillating masts.

From the waterfront I could clearly see the bridge nearly 2 miles up stream, and the Martinez Marina half way in between on the opposite shore. Wow, they looked a long way off.

Just under an hour later I was on that opposite shore looking back across the water with only 3 miles left. The final miles went far smoother than what I was anticipating, and with the exception of a customary depletion of adrenaline in the last 1/4 mile, I frankly felt like I could have kept running.

2 hours 50 minutes. 19.2 miles.
That averages out to a slower pace than I've been targeting, but, well, that's a long way to run.

...And I have till April 2nd to get my speed up.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Officially Broken In

Well the "new" commuter bike is officially broken in. I've been pedaling her around for a while but haven't really put any quality miles on it.

Saturday, Vince wanted to test ride some bikes in preparation for the summer fun. I offered to go along as did Dianne, so we met in my church parking lot and rode the trails into Walnut Creek. The warm sun in January had crowded the trails, so at Newell and S. Broadway we jumped a curb to follow S. Broadway and Danville Boulevard and joined the throngs of cyclists already breezing the bike lane.

Vince test rode 3 bikes at Pegasus Cycle Works in Danville. Our test route took us west of town and up a 1/4 mile climb, steep enough to make my lungs sit up and take notice.

None of the bikes met his approval, and after perusing 2 more shops in the area we wandered back toward Martinez. I totaled just over 30 miles, and gave my bike a good workout.

My legs got a good workout too. I decided to "pull" our trio in a pace line back along Danville boulevard. We must have looked like quite the mismatch - Me on my, well whatever it would be considered, Vince on his hardtail mountain bike sporting street slicks, and Dianne on her road machine. It was a blast.

My Sunday morning run was slated to be long. My legs hadn't forgotten the 30 miles. 15.5 miles was my longest run - ever - and my quads rebelled on every hill. I was able to maintain my 8 1/2 minute mile pace and am looking optimistically toward a spring marathon.

Sunday afternoon was back on the bike. We had a deacon's meeting mid afternoon at church, which I routinely ride to. I took the commute bike again and finally felt that I was at home on that bike - but my legs were done.

It's great to be back - in pain.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


My Camelback froze at around 4 miles, and my breath had frozen in tiny icicles on my hat brim and eyelashes. I decided it may have been colder than I thought.

It was 26 degrees.

We were long weekending with some of my wife's family recently moved to Nevada - South East of Reno. Suffering from sour weather and a variety of other excuses I haven't made time to run in a week and a half. I brought my running shoes and other essentials along for our weekend vacation.

Friday morning dawned foggy like no other I've ever seen. Jack Frost had been working overtime overnight. The trees, fences, cars, and - well - everything outside was covered with not only frost, but ever lengthening thorns of ice crystals. The meteorological term is "freezing fog," which worked for me, since visibility was under a quarter mile.

This weather could only be considered "better" since it wasn't actively raining. Though obviously below freezing, I was undaunted and antsy, and thus decided to tackle the 5.5 mile route I had established on my phone's Google Earth map. Every breath was marked by a burst of vapor that rose up and around the bill of my hat and then drifted off lost in the thick sharp enveloping cloud. A summer fog is something like a wet wool blanket. This fog was more like a swan dive into a half frozen lake.

The nice thing about running is that your body becomes an enormously effective heater. My long sleeve jersey, base layer, and arm warmers were more than adequate and were soon wet from the inside out. With speeds far slower than in cycling, the wind chill from my plodding actually become my friend.

I took a pull on my CamelBack about half way through the run, and thought I perceived a touch of resistance as I sucked frigid water from the translucent blue tube. A few minutes later I decided I didn't need to be thirsty anymore. The bite valve had become stiff, and in spite of a reasonable effort, the reservoir was no longer accessible - dammed off by a cylinder of ice.

The desert surrounding their town is considered "High Desert," for the simple reason that it is 4000' in elevation. With the flat terrain and towering peaks on the horizon it would be easy to think yourself much closer to sea level. My lungs weren't fooled though. At the end of 5.5 miles my muscles craved to indulge in far greater quantities of oxygen than my lungs were metering out. 5.5 might as well have been 10.

The run was the start to a wonderfully relaxing weekend. We spent a day doing - for all practical purposes - nothing. The drive home Saturday was punctuated by a half day at Sugar Bowl. I snow boarded for the second time, and my sister in Law skied for the first time in 10 years. We were there just long enough to ensure a sore ride home.