The week of the zombie.
I awoke Tuesday to legs feeling like Jello. They felt as though they were melting into the bed, a feeling I had experienced often when I rode regularly. I got up and tried to go about my day but returned to bed over and over trying to take a nap but unable to sleep. I skipped my run thinking that I needed the rest but feeling guilty of the first transgression of my running program.
Then it happened Wednesday and again on Thursday. Was training catching up with me? Was I over-training? Not eating right? Deficient in a vitamin or mineral? I spent my days trying to get motivated but was exhausted. In contrast, I couldn’t sleep either. There was no rest.
The answer was pretty simple…a conspiracy of events waking me up at 3am every night. I’ve had 1 nights sleep in the last 16 days. Lights left on, dogs barking, dogs with diarrhea, hot nights, cold nights, having to use the bathroom, train horns…why so many nights in a row? I don’t know but I am not recovering.
On Sunday, I was able to get my “long” run done. I set out on a trail that we had scoped out a couple months ago that didn’t look worth hiking. It was a perfect run although a little too much climbing for this stage in my training. The trail was a little hard to distinguish at first but eventually followed an old overgrown 4wd road that split the distance between Mount Shasta and Castle Crags State Park so the views were amazing. As I arrived at a high point on the ridge, I knew I should turn around but the goal was one peak away so, off I went, one peak too far. It was worth it but I paid for it later with my IT bands getting tight and subsequent pain in my knees and an extra 2 miles without water.
Unlike my hikes to Mount Eddy (6/30/2019: Hike Mount Eddy) and Black Butte, the fire lookout is still on Mount Bradley. I always find it interesting that, when you feel like you are in the middle of no where, you find signs of civilization. It could be a rose bush or apple tree in a remote field to let you know this was an old homestead. Here it was a decommissioned fire lookout. If I had to work at a remote fire lookout, Mount Bradley is now my first choice with Mount Shasta to the east and Castle Crags to the west and the little town of Dunsmuir straight below. Stunning.
Now it’s 5 am, do I go back to bed or go to the gym?
My training this week has been derailed by exhaustion. My legs feel like Jello. I’ve been waking up tired and unmotivated wanting to sleep more but just lying there instead. I was trying to go about my normal routine but not getting much done because of indecision. Then I thought of something to do to be productive that would not take much energy…read that book I got for Christmas. “Alone in the Wilderness, The Dick Proenneke Photo Album.”
It was the inspiration that I needed. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched the movie “Alone in the Wilderness.” I used to show everyone at work Dick’s craftsmanship as he built his cabin with hand tools and carved his kitchen spoons with a hatchet. The opportunities he had to capture landscape and wildlife photos and movies were amazing because he lived in a true wilderness (and he didn’t have 3 dogs chasing out the door every time a chipmunk squeaks). What I loved most was his positive attitude. Contrasted with today’s reality TV where everyone is whining that they have to work, Dick doesn’t say a bad word about anything. You can see the swarms of mosquitoes flying around his head! It must have been miserable but he makes slight of it and talks of the grandeur of nature.
If you haven’t heard of Dick Proenneke (1916-2003), he was a carpenter and diesel mechanic who “retired” to 5 acres on Twin Lakes in Alaska in 1967, built his own log cabin, and lived off the land for the next 30 years. At 79, he decided cutting all the firewood he would need for the -50º winters with an ax was getting to be a bit much so he stopped living there year round. At 82, he moved to California to live a more conventional life with his brother. While at Twin Lakes, he recorded everything through photographs, film and journals. In 1973, his friend Sam Kieth wrote One Man’s Wilderness about Dick’s unique lifestyle and in 1991, Dick met the Swerer’s (Bob Sr. and Jr.) who made the PBS production “Alone in the Wilderness” which showcases his photographs and film-making (Alone in the Wilderness). His cabin is now on the National Register of Historical Places and is part of the Lake Clark National Park.
While I am not ready to trade my chainsaw for a crosscut saw yet, his common sense approach to a simple life makes you think about what we have vs. what we need. Since watching the movie years ago, I have tried to incorporate some of his principles into my life and reading the book today was a good reminder. While I feel the movie is a better presentation of his story, the book fills in some of the pieces that I’ve always wondered about, especially his relationships with his brother, friends, and neighbors (40 miles away).
Both the movie and book quote Dick’s journals. “Eight and a half miles can be covered in minutes in a car on an expressway. But what does a man see? What he gains in time he loses in benefit to his body and mind.” It must have been the inspiration for my 5th blog (Traveling at a Dog’s Pace).
One of the quotes that I like most from the book was “Though life is simpler in the wilderness, taking the steps to get there and really doing it are not.” So true.
I’ve been following Hal Higdon’s Marathon Training Program (Marathon Training) for 4 weeks now and it’s keeping me on track. Of course I’ve added swimming and cycling to it but you know I can’t do anything the easy way.
When I am running, it’s really helpful to know that, despite how my legs are feeling at the moment, there is recovery time scheduled. It’s given me the motivation to push when the run isn’t going well. Since week 3 was a recovery week, I was feeling good at the start of week 4 (Running Week 3).
Of course, that was until 200 yards into Tuesday’s run when the dogs treed a bear. I am always scanning my surroundings. Regardless of danger, I want to see what’s out there. No sense of leaving the living room if I am going to run with my head down and miss the world around me. I saw an odd shape through the trees about 30’ off the trail and suspected that it could be a bear but the dogs were not reacting. Then we came around the trees and they darted into the woods. I called them off before they got far and Cash came running back looking like, “I didn’t really want to chase an animal twice my size but instinct made me do it.” With all of us watching from the trail, the bear climbed down and ran off in the opposite direction. Then it was on to a crowded Faery Falls.
On Wednesday, I probably should have found a flatter run because I rode in the morning…but I didn’t. We ran the Sisson-Callahan trail again (National Recreation Trails website). Steady uphill the whole way. Amazing to think that the trail has been in use since the late 1800’s because it seems so far from anything.
Thursday’s have been tough historically and this week was no different. My legs were fried from the bike and hill combination on Wednesday and the trail I chose was perfect for my condition. Because there was no trail. I had to pick my way through the flood debris on the Sacramento River. While, I could hardly call this running, I found a swimming hole that I will not be geotagging. There are enough footprints out there to tell me I’m not the first to discover it but it’s stunning enough not to draw anymore attention to it.
For Saturday’s long run, I decided to explore the Pacific Crest Trail from Park Creek Trailhead. The snow drift from last month was gone and the road was open (6/30/2019: Hike Mount Eddy). I am still amazed by the beauty of the area around Deadfall Lakes. The wildflowers were still stunning, especially compared to what I saw on Mount Shasta. It still looks like spring. We just did an out and back with stops at mile 3 and 6 so the dogs could swim in Upper Deadfall Lake.
I find one of the keys to getting back in shape is not to focus on what I used to do, just be happy with what I am doing. I haven’t run 9 miles in 10 years; I can be happy with that.
The latest Prakritinepal post was just published and I wanted to take the opportunity to share it:
Two years ago, I met Ajay while teaching in Nepal. He was working for Himalayan Medics and I was volunteering to help implement a new Emergency Medical Services pilot program in the Dhading District. Our conversations were limited to first aid and mountain biking. When I returned home, I found out that he liked photography, wildlife, travel, and blogging. I loved the concept of his blog and his photography is great but I felt that an opportunity was lost. We had so many things in common we could have talked for hours but missed the chance.
We’ve made up for the lost opportunity with texting and it has led to some interesting conversations. Sure, we have had technical conversations about macro photography (which I have yet to explore; lenses are saved to my wishlist).
What I found fascinating was our conversations about what is commonplace. He comes from a landlocked country so anything related to the ocean could be from a different planet. Elephant seals (Sea Creature – Wordless Wednesday) and sea otters (5/5/2016: Photographing Elkhorn Slough) were an everyday sighting along the California coast but he found them fascinating. To me, seeing an Asian Elephant (http://prakritinepal.com/asian-wild-elephant/) in the field is a Bucket List item. Mugger Crocodile (http://prakritinepal.com/mugger-crocodile/), and Grey Headed Fish Eagle (http://prakritinepal.com/grey-headed-fish-eagle/) were not on the Bucket List until I read his blog.
I hope someday to return to Nepal to take a photography trip with Ajay to the Chitwan National Park (https://www.chitwannationalpark.gov.np/). When I was in Dhading District, the Chitwan was flooded and they were using elephants to rescue people from remote locations in the park. I have a trip planned to the Chitwan, Mustang, Pokhara, and Annapurna when I return and the Himalayas on the following trip.
I often think about where I would take Ajay if he came to California? The ocean is a start. The Elephant Seal Sanctuary in San Simeon is obvious but I would take him to the remote trails where no one would be (01/05/2018: Hiking San Simeon Point). Then to Big Sur where we might see some California Condors, Redwoods and Sea Otters. If we don’t see the condors in Big Sur, I would take him to the High Peaks trail in Pinnacles National Park (1/28/2016: Hiking Pinnacles National Park). Depending on the season, do we head north or south? See the desert where the ocotillo or Joshua tree blooms could be amazing? Or head north to see the bird migration from the Klamath or Tule Lakes? A week in the Redwoods? East to see the Sierras, Sequoias, and Yosemite? Would he care about such puny mountains? There is a Bald Eagle that keeps returning to a snag down the street that I have been meaning to photograph so that is a must (A Week of Trail Running).
When he can’t travel, he’s focused the blog on what he’s seen in the yard. The change in scale is just as interesting because he focuses on the subtle insects hidden in the garden…details we often miss because they are so familiar.
One of my favorite conversations has been about “If you didn’t get a photograph, does it really count as seeing it?” When I post to iNaturalist (https://www.inaturalist.org/home), I always want to have a photo. I saw a rare heron in Belize last year and the mirror froze on my camera…I can’t prove that I saw it. People will always suspect that I misidentified it so I didn’t even post it. I love when Ajay lists the things he saw that he didn’t get a photograph of because, while if feels like failure to a photographer, sometimes it’s more important to put the camera away and watch nature in action.
I thought we were doing good this year because it was the end of July and, compared to last year, we hadn’t had any major fires. It made me think of this picture, the only one I liked from last summer that was taken in smoky conditions. As I looked for it, I realized that I was in Belize this time last year and we didn’t start living in the smoke until August. We are right on schedule.
I hope I don’t cough until October again.
Having guests threw off my schedule this week and I missed my first run. However, I did get a ride in…my second this year.
What do you do when you run with someone much younger who runs 50k’s? Drive them sea level to 7,000’ for their first run since recovering from pneumonia. Subconsciously, that’s what happened on Wednesday as we grabbed the opportunity to run the closed road from Bunny Flat to Old Ski Bowl on Mount Shasta. An 800′ climb to keep life honest. With all the trail running available, I felt guilty running on the road but we had it all to ourselves. I was disappointed that there were no wildflowers because they have been so prevalent elsewhere but there was still snow in Panther Meadow so it was like driving into another time zone. I fell through a snow bank and smashed my phone against a rock. Two more chips.
Thursday, we ran Faery Falls again since that never disappoints and my friend had never been there.
On Saturday we explored another section of the Pacific Crest Trail. We started at Gumboot Trailhead and ran north towards Mount Eddy (6/30/2019: Hike Mount Eddy). The smoke from the fire in Oregon was choking the valley when we left but the inversion was lifting as we got up high so it driving to altitude didn’t get us out of it (Fire Season). The dogs were hot despite a pre-run dip in Gumboot Lake. While the initial climb had me worried that it was going to be an uphill run the entire way, it started to roll along the ridge and became a decent course. Maybe because there was no view of Mount Shasta or maybe it was because they didn’t know where the fire was, but none of the backpackers on the PCT looked happy. That’s a long hike not to enjoy.
I awoke to the smell of smoke and knew that fire season was upon us. I didn’t want to jinx anything by mentioning that we’ve made it almost through July but I knew it would be here eventually. We wanted seasons when we moved to Northern California and summer is fire season. At least it is not right down the road this year. We will see the mountain again in fall…hopefully without a cough this year.
To read about life on the road during fire season see Out-Of-County 2014