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Saturday, December 31, 2011

flipping through the logbook

I was out riding yesterday afternoon with one of my regular ride partners and as it’s the end of the year we naturally fell into conversation about the past year in biking and our hopes for the next. A year is a long time, though, so I keep track of things of the bike and run nature in a logbook. Our conversation also touched on this. Is logging time and distance and experience a little neurotic, or a lot? Maybe. But this morning I was flipping through the logbook and I was reminded of some really great rides I’d taken over the year that I hadn’t exactly forgotten about but that I couldn’t just bring up in mind immediately when thinking back on the year.

Interestingly, I started the logbook to keep track of miles, and I still do use it for that purpose, but the smiles that came to my face this morning upon its review were the little notes I’d made next to the miles. Often they’re just a word or two but hold a lot of info. For example: “w/Dan, Masi, 2xLida” or “1st Brown, Mindful Mule [5 exclamation points above the word Brown]” or “T80, Devil’s Gate Trailhead, 3xLida.” These brief messages to myself bring back a rush of memory. And then some of them are a little too brief and I’m not quite sure at first what they mean. Like: “Verdugo.” And some of them I repeated far too often, like: “Pub72.”

As for the running, the notes are little more monotonous, but of course there were some great moments there too. So much of running takes place in the mind that it hardly seems to matter that I was on Arroyo Run #xx or whatever, but highlights include: “Hills w/Hil” and “Devil’s Gate Trail, Soggy Shoes” and “J-Rock, Arroyo” and “El Prieto, 11A, 1:10ish, Sun, 80degrees, Cotton” and “Devil’s Gate + El Prieto, 87degrees, clouds” and “sunset, warm” and “Malibu Creek + barefoot” and “Lasse Viren” and “w/Hil, LPAC to Salvia Canyon, ASU jelloshot tailgate” and “w/Hil, Bridge, cloud/drizzle, 56degrees” and “Orchard, sun, 60’s, solo” and “Arroyo Lunar Eclipse!”

The miles, while significant accomplishments, have less meaning than the notes, and probably create the heavier argument for neurosis. But I’m still going to keep track of them next year. It keeps me going – on track. And since we’re talking numbers, this year’s numbers were quite acceptable. Even though I’ve been sick a lot, including the last few weeks, I somehow managed to coast into second place overall mileage for both running and riding. I guess that speaks to going when you can and not worrying too much about when you can’t. I’m still chasing that perfect year of a 1:5 ratio. I came close this year; 1:4.7 ain’t bad (just add some zeros). But the goal for next year may be to log a little more of the details, the experiences. And maybe share some more of that here on the blog.

And as for blogging, well, it’s been an interesting year. I’ve found a few new blogger friends which has been quite nice and lost track of a few others which is a little sad in some cases but also natural, understandable – people drifting in and out of each other’s lives, coming and going, or just passing through.

Thanks to all of you blogger friends who’ve been a part of this strange little part of life/blog/experience.

See you next year…

Saturday, December 10, 2011

running to the moon

I woke up early this morning. The moon was calling to me. I’d read yesterday that there would be a lunar eclipse. A full one. A rare one. Called the “impossible eclipse” with the eclipsed moon sinking into one horizon while the sun crests the other. I knew it would be cold and dark out, though, so I lay in bed for a while content just knowing that the eclipse was happening out there somewhere – a cosmic giveaway of sorts. Maybe I’ll just peek out the window and see if it’s there, if there’s clouds, or what. It took a while to find the moon. At this time of year it sets behind a large tree across the ravine. (It might have been a ravine once. That’s what I call it – where I live – it’s spotted with houses now but the earthly geography is still there somewhere.) After checking a few windows I found it through the branches of that big fir tree. A dusty smudge of glowing rust with one little glint of moonlight rounding out the bottom. I was going to need to go out there. It was already setting behind the ridgeline but if I could get out of the ravine quickly enough I could get a clear view. But what does one wear to an early morning moonrun and how does one quickly piece together the appropriate pieces of clothing when he is still one half asleep and the other half still drunk? The answer, is simpler than I could immediately come up with but I got to it – one wears what they’d worn the night before. So I set out for the moonrun with a wool sweater and long canvas pants, fleece cap and “magic” gloves. (“Magic” gloves probably deserve a post of their own but for now just think thin gloves.) It was very quiet and dark and cool – about 40 degrees. And deserted – 6am on a Saturday morning in December is a great time to be out in the world – and in my delirious state I was thinking to myself, I should be going running every day this early – earlier, 4am! There were some thin clouds in the sky that were threatening to cancel the show. When I first found an open clearing to the western sky I couldn’t refind the moon. Had it already set? Did I really take that long trying to get out the door? I saw a guy with a big ol’ zoom lens or was it a telescope, so I knew I wasn’t too far behind but he seemed to be packing up. Where is the horizon the lowest? To the Arroyo! Of course – sit on the edge and watch the sun light up The Angels while the Impossible Moon sinks low. The clouds had started to thin a little more and I refound the moon. It was quite dim, as moons in the shadow of their planet tend to be I suppose. But it was there and still several notches above the now lower horizon line. Sitting meditation-like on the cold stone wall overlooking my Arroyo, cooling nicely from the run with still a big warmth, the glow slowly fading into clouds and atmosphere and shadow, the moon evaporating, Rocket Man playing in my head. See you again tonight, Moon.

Friday, December 9, 2011

currently reading

To a Mountain in Tibet
by Colin Thubron, 2011


The Edge of Physics: a journey to the earth’s extremes to unlock the secrets of the universe
by Anil Ananthaswamy, 2010

Monday, December 5, 2011

two snakes

I guess it’s snake season. Funny because just a few weeks ago I was mentioning to someone that we shouldn’t expect to see any snakes up on the trail since it’s winter and they’re less likely to be out. I’m not sure where I got that impression – probably because that’s likely the case in colder climes. But here in the San Gabriel Mountains, at least at this stage of early winter, there are snakes out. They’re moving pretty slow. It’s been fairly cold overnight in the mountains. Probably approaching freezing. I imagine it takes all morning lying in the sun to warm up.

I saw the first of these two snakes on the Mt. Wilson Trail above Sierra Madre. It was stretched out across the path, slowly ascending the mountain, straight up, no need for switchbacks. I stopped my own ascent of the mountain (using the switchbacks provided) to let snaky pass. He was in no hurry. I waited about 30 seconds until most of his length was in the low brush on the side of the trail and just his rattle was dangling over the edge of the trail. He was a good-sized snake – medium, I’d say – with several links on his rattle. I believe they get an extra link on their rattle for each year of life, or something like that. I didn’t feel like waiting forever, though, so I continued along within a few inches of his tail. It seemed safe as he was all stretched out in the opposite direction, seemingly in a difficult position to whip around and strike on a cold morning. I heard one little tat of his rattle as I passed. Just sort of a “hi.” Or maybe it wasn’t even that, but just some accidental rattle as he moved a little further – one shift, one settling.

There was also a couple of hikers waiting on the up-trail side of the snake. They were a little more tentative about passing Snake on the way down. Eventually they did. I was a little ways up the trail already but heard them screaming and running for about a hundred yards down the trail. I imagine they got a bit more of a rattle from him. And I don’t blame them for running and screaming – it is a very scary sound – triggering a deeper fear response than we’re generally accustomed to feeling in the urban world.

Another day – another snake – this time on the route to Brown Mountain. Again just stretched straight across the path. But not going anywhere this time. Just enjoying a morning sun in no hurry – and why should she be? This snake was a California Glossy(?)– not dangerous, as far as I believe/hope. After waiting the standard 30-second-snake-count, I proceeded, stepping right over her (bike shouldered). I didn’t want to disturb her morning sun but as I was half way over she slithered back around toward her tail. Oh well, sorry. Hope you got warm anyway.

Thanks for sharing the mountains with me, my snake friends.

Of note: Neither of these two snakes turned into sticks as so many of the snakes I encounter on the trail do.

Also of note: I’m no snake charmer and you shouldn’t listen to any of my advice about safely passing snakes in the wilderness.