Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Good and bad news

Well at last i got the test results today, if i am to believe all the blood tests i'm so fit it isn't funny, which considering how i feel with the lingering cold is bit of a joke. However another problem that i was having and was tested for came up with inconclusive results so it's off to a specialist Monday, the saga continues. Looks like a weekend of rest, which probably isn't a bad thing but if i'm honest times ticking away regarding some of those overseas races so i'm getting a little impatient !!.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Mystery illnesses and similar stuff

Maybe one day i will regret the description of me as "Indestructible" in this months Run For Your Life Magazine.
After being pretty much at my peak fitness wise at Great Ocean Road Marathon and Tamborine Trek, i've proved yet again it's only a small step between being very fit and not being well. The cold i had after the Gold Coast 100K's followed by it's recurrence before and during should have given me a hint that my body was struggling a little. From the moment i stepped off the plane last Thursday (12th July), i've been battling with a sore throat and only just staving off another cold (not helped by the damned Melbourne weather), after about a week of this i really could no longer blame it on jetlag, so yesterday went in for a full medical (as needed for one of the runs listed in my last post so i thought of this as well when making my appointment). Won't get the results until Wednesday, i'd hope they all come through with flying colours but after my "mystery results" at the medical check which meant i was pulled at Michigan Bluff i would much prefer to know any thing that is actually wrong with me. So watch this space, i'll definitely have answers Wednesday (and possibly Tuesday night) so at the present am pretty much out of action running wise, although it is at least giving me time to plan ahead race wise.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Not the end - yet !

Since my return to Australia have been asked by a number of people whether that rather indecisive last post was the end. It was more the "watch this space" post, at the moment i'm unable to load pictures to flesh out my posts (and give an idea of what i was rambling on about), as simply the cable is in storage at Grace Brothers and rather expensive to get out :-(.
Since returning the house auction has been and gone, certainly that surpassed even my wildest dreams was very thankful i was there otherwise if i'd have been told those details over the phone i would have thought someone was having a lend of me.
This also means i have a definite settlement time meaning that if i want to do some more races overseas i can before resettling down to a normal suburban existence.
Guess that's the main reason for keeping this blog in action as if i head back overseas i should at least having something half interesting to record.
First inclination is to do Trans Gaule again, as soon as i finished last year i was convinced that with what i had learnt that if i did it again i could take %10 off my previous time. Certainly for the last few months it has been a very serious thought (probably moreso than Western States was for quite a while), particularly when i consider that the Rolling Stones European Tour will still be on the same time (unfortunately the timing of their French concert doesn't work however i've been in touch with some other fans i know in nearby destinations so yes a concert is part of my plan).
At present the Trans Gaule field is full, however i have been offered a spot as we'd had this discussion before so in theory this is all systems go.
But as i sit here with a calf strain (not sure if i didn't stretch enough before my 30K on Sunday or just simply the cold) and a cold (pretty simple it's been freezing in Melbourne since my return,21985,22093199-2862,00.html and i think the change from summer in the US to this has knocked further that evidently struggling immune system of mine - such is my level of fitness usually it's only a small step from ultra fit to sick, not often i step over that line but i think the last 5 weeks i really haven't quite recovered from the first time after the Gold Coast 100K), so am just delaying making that commitment (also simply have a few things i need to cross T's and dot I's with the sale before i leave).
The other inclination, and frankly only one i've had because i enjoyed the US so much and feel that just over 3 weeks there wasn't enough is to go back and do some races there.
I guess part of the thought process on that is that i'm still very peeved (i'm sure i could say something much stronger but i'm relatively calm as i type) that i'm shown on the Western States Website as being a drop as being late to cut off. Not happy with that at all, i'd been there for an hour and had been told by the doctor not to go further, personally find that listing as an insult, oops getting mad again !!!.
Anyway i've spoken to a number of race directors about races in the coming months, and these all are possibilities (with the proviso i give myself two weeks to acclimatise beforehand): Mt Disappointment 50 Miler August 11 as a lead up event for the Angeles Crest 100 Miler on September 15 (although at the moment am trying to sort the trail work required for this)
or the other option being Headlands Hundred 100 Miler August 11 (very tempting as put on by the same organisers as Angel Island and even better appears to be more low key just like the Aussie events i'm used to).
as well as a couple of other races (one thing about the US definitely not short of Ultra opportunities).
Basically my main criteria being that i'm back a couple of weeks before the Melbourne Marathon (Grand Final isn't an issue as Richmond isn't going to make it from 16th place !!), of course that makes fitting Stones concerts in an issue (i've already worked out where 3 of the US Stones Tribute bands that i know of are in that timespan but nothing beats the real thing and let's face it after 45 years you never know when the last time may truly be the last time so yes i'd still be trying to squeeze in at least on Stones gig). May even get around to see Shari perform again as her latest dates seem to fit in pretty well with my planned itinerary if i make it there.
So at the moment all is in a planning stage, but very likely this blog may continue for another couple of months assuming that my health improves.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

It's almost over (shame i feel so Californian)

Up this morning with a slightly heavy heart, reckon slowly i'd began to feel like a local and today would be my last move before Australia. Couldn't resist taking the drive i'd planned yesterday (or part thereof), typically foggy start but really wanted to get to Stinson Beach. First stop was the campground "Deep Ravine" or some similar name full of great rustic cabins (note to self would love to stay there some time), with Turkey Buzzards soaring overhead. Lovely beach at Stinsons with grey sand (as opposed to our golden sands), very interesting "beach houses" - wait for the pictures - prospects of decent surf (according to locals the surf is often good), but still only 60 degrees would love to be there on a sunny day. Back via Muirs Beach (pretty much the beach below yesterdays Muirs Woods). Then the non eagerly awaited drive back across Golden Gate Bridge to SF. $5 toll but got across surprisingly easy. I'd booked the airport Travelodge with the plan of dropping of my luggage then the car at the airport (and taking the free hotel shuttle tomorrow). Theory good, practice not so, spent 30 minutes getting on the right side of the airport for the exit (don't ever say South Airport Boulevarde to me!), finally checked in and then off to return the car. Found i'd done 1,276 miles (i drove 6 of the 10 days i had it), but of course nothing is that easy was only 2 miles from the hotel but nowhere for us pedestrians to walk back. Logic said take the train to South San Francisco, good idea but nothing familiar so a 2 hour walk till i finally sighted the hotel sign (at least i'd found a Safeway to get stuff for dinner apples & peaches at $0.99 a pound, bread rolls to go with my almost endless supply of sliced meat and a cold beer - can't believe only $1.09 for a 24 oz can of Bud). Now back and having a relaxed dinner, pretty close now to the end of this blog except i will add pictures on my return. Shame there is no internet, haven't had access since Auburn.

Monday, 9 July 2007

I went for a short walk after breakfast !

Above is probably one of the great understatements. Was looking forward to a nice easy day and a drive down to Point Reyes, but thought (being only 9:30) that i'd check out over the freeway and the actual town of Mill Valley. Beautiful town (full of what appeared to be very expensive houses and apartments) all based around a lake. In the distance was a very tempting mountain peak, further i walked closer i got. The actual village reminded me of Lane Cove with bush trails and a country feel. Reach the end of Blithdale St and see a track labelled "Blithdale Summit" so assume that's my peak. As i climb (typically clear and sunny everywhere bar SF itself) i realise that peak is actually another but thankfully when i hit the top i see a track across. Eventually after 4 hours i hit the top (no cap, no water, no sunglasses remember it was only a stroll - so thankful i bothered to take my wallet), luckily there is also a real road up and a car park, visitor centre and most importantly a kiosk. Two gatorades (didn't touch the sides) and i was ready to discover Mt Tamalpais (2,571 feet), incredible views everywhere (bar SF) as well as being a railroad from 1896 to 1930 and turkey buzzards soaring above. Had a few long yarns at the peak (including Stan who's ambition is WS100 2010). After another gatorade i was ready to follow the old railway trail back down. More great trails and views and then on to the intriguing West Point Inn. Finally i hit Muir Woods home of giant Sequioas, very handy as it meant i could look at a map at the info centre there. Now i knew i was 6 miles by road from home. A mile along saw a firetrail looking to head the right way (was not enjoying the busy, skinny sealed road made even worse by the fog rolling in), bad idea as 30 minutes later it came to a dead end. Now i wondered whether i'd be home before dark. Back up and then a very skinny, busy road plunging into the Valley. Finally into town and my first deer sighting (outside Safeway in the main street), finally home at 8 !, exhausted.

Finally a successful US ultra!

At last race day, a 10 minute drive to the ferry terminal ($15 for all day parking :-( ), picked up my number as well as a ferry ticket, now i had an hour to kill. The queue at the coffee shop showed it was the preferred option. Cappucino and a chat with a few runners (only proves some people read this blog) then off to the ferry queue. Dramas for a moment when it looked like there may have been more runners than the 396 allowed on the ferry (there were 4 distances: 9km, 16km, 25km & my 50km). All was right in the end but were now running late and looking at a 9AM start, nice trip but freezing under the fog. Alighted at the terminal (apparently an old immigration stopping point) and then us 50 & 25 k runners were sent off together. First a lap of the lower island (first 5ks on road made me wonder what sort of "trail run" this was) of around 9ks and was starting to awaken that dormant "racing" feeling. Next lap was up mid height, unfortunately still foggy and i was struggling to stay warm. Next lap was up to the heights of Mount Livemore (750 feet ??), very steep up and down some narrow trails. That was the first 25ks (in 1:58), the second 25 being an exact repeat (still meant another 3 times up the 50 odd steps behind the ferry terminal - well over them!!). Had pretty much been running with the same 5 blokes throughout but was feeling stronger the longer the run went so passed in a couple of surges and felt even better. Last lap was getting hard with lots of tourists on the thin trails making it hard to get a good rhythm going as well as the early leader (who i learnt later had lost 12 minutes with a wrong turn) right behind me. On the way down from the top he passed me and stayed just in front from then on. Finally i finished 7th in 4:35 with the winner doing a bit under 4:20, off hand there 40 or so in our distance. Heaps of soup & chili (i was still cold and running with gloves at the end), after was much appreciated. At least the sun was now burning through the fog as we all sat around and traded "running war stories", even met a runner formerly from Broadmeadows. Caught the 4:20 (second last) ferry back and really enjoyed the day (and redeemed myself after Western States as well as being rapt to still have that old "fire in the belly"). I'll happilly do some runs next time i'm here and would thoroughly recommend these to all.

Finally a run

After heaps of walking in the last couple of weeks thought finally Friday was the time to go for a run and Monterey had a bike/running trail (actually the old railway), straight outside my front door. Very enjoyable to get that old rush out amongst fellow runners and cyclists. It gave me a chance to see all the historic parts of the city, Cannery Row, the aquarium, the bay seals lying on the beach. Back on Hwy 1 with San Francisco next stop. Santa Cruz was next stop, had a great 3 hour walk around this town, first the pier then the Boardwalk (very much like Luna Park and giving the whole place a St Kilda feel). Back on the road, and fleeting sea glimpses. Cappucino and samosas at the quaint village of Half Moon Bay in preparation for an unwelcome Friday arvo drive into the big smoke. Made it across town and over the Golden Gate bridge, now to find a hotel close to the ferry at Tiburon. Tiburon i could only compare Mosman, beatiful area on a lovely bay with flash houses (both booked out hotels were over $300 a night), so worked out that Mill Valley on busy hwy 101 would be my accommodation of choice (even with a fridge and microwave 3 days here was cheaper than Tiburon).

Friday, 6 July 2007

M to M

Last nights heavy fog meant the fireworks were pretty much just big bangs in the dark, i'm sure they would have been good as there were 20 minutes of banging but speaking to locals wonder just how many fog free nights there are here. At least we got a local 3 piece blues band "The Deakins" as entertainment, can't complain as they did a great "Little Red Rooster" as well as many other classics. Having come here worried all i'd hear was rap have been very happy to have been proved wrong (car radio reception is rubbish so my solitary cd is getting hit hard - yep yet another album i know backwards - but when i do fluke a station its pretty much a Gold clone so good while it lasts). Interestingly the main radio ads are for the California State Fair in a fortnight with Bob Dylan, Aerosmith & Stevie Nicks as the main acts (just how much would that be worth for a ticket back home?), the other main ones being for Kevin Costner singing (i'm serious it is the actor his career must have made a bad wrong turn) at the local Indian Casino. Anyway that's me wandered off subject, really needed that heater last night (summer by the bay ??) and again when i awoke the mist had rolled back in (doubt it actually left). By the time i left -10:30 - the temperature had climbed to 60 (15) and visibility still terrible a shame as this next part would be the US answer to the Great Ocean Road. San Simeon i couldnt resist my first chance to get out the car and walk along the beach, wild, windswept and too misty for a decent picture. Next stop had to be the 124 roomed Randolph Hearst castle of the same (until now say San Simeon to me and my first thought is the WA pacer of the early 80's winner of his first 31? starts, my second thought would be an expensive block of apartments of similar vintage in Golden Four Drive Tugun) . Considering the number of houses i had inspected of late it was easy to resist paying $24 to inspect one not in my price range so was happy to view at a distance and watch the film of it. Back on hwy 1 and more sea glimpses through the mist and then a "must see" the Elephant Seal colony, massive beasts moulting, fighting and generally being seals (apparently not quite as big as ours). From then on awesome scenery as we approached Big Sur but a combination of that damn mist, insufficient places to turn off and view and heavy tourist traffic meant i didnt quite get satisfaction. By Monterey my back had had enough of my drivers seat (the Corolla isn't a bad car to drive but the last 3 days 100 to 200 miles is all the back could comfortably handle), so simply followed the traffic off the freeway till eventually i stumbled upon a cheapish motel. Spent the next 5 hours walking around the place north to the imagitively named town of Seaside and then all the way into the centre of town via the beach. Great surf, good wide sand but still struggling to hit 60 temperaturewise or a metre visibilitywise !. Heaps of historic buildings but of course the one that attracts my attention has the sign "Chinese All you can eat $6.99" .

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Summer by the bay?

Having left Bakersfield with the temperature over 80 at 8.30 the thought of a day somewhere by the ocean was one of the major thoughts on my mind. Guess the other thought should have been "How do i get out of here?", easily found the cheap petrol i'd spotted yesterday ($2.959 per gallon) but from there simply had to drive around till i found a sign pointing to Hwy 158 West (my map not being quite detailed enough). Eventually stumbled upon it, very much an ordinary road going through farms (first fruit trees then cattle then apparently rice). Crossed under the major freeway to LA (The I5) and then it was like being back in Australia (think Benalla or somewhere out on the Newell), according to the sign no services for 70 miles at the next town Santa Margaqita. Could've sworn i was back in Australia, hot weather, dry plains and rough winding roads and only two cars (both flew past me doing the limit) in that hour or so. According to my map i was near the sea but surrounding undulating hills gave no hints. A short stint on the freeway to San Bernadino and then off as soon as i see the sea mentioned. A place called Morro Bay, for quite a while all i could see was a misty, fog covered outcrop i was to learn later that this was Morro Rock a volcanic 500 foot high rock at the entrance to the bay seperating it from the Pacific Ocean. But where had the warm, sunny seaside weather gone?, the car was showing 60 degrees now and it was now blowing a cool wind as well as that mist. Beautiful little beach village but hard to imagine it's ever that warm as all the hotels advertise fireplaces. Shame there is such a great beach, big waves and wide stretch of sand but no beach weather. Have never seen such big seagulls (at least 3 times as big as ours) or big (fat i guess) squirrels (they hang around the eateries helping themselves to food with a cuteness a rat could never match). Undoubted highlight are the sea otters playing in family groups off the shore (how well photos of them will come up is another matter). Great fish and chips but mystified why they come as pieces rather than as a fillet. July 4th fireworks tonight over the bay should be worth seeing tonight (no matter what i may think of over the top US patriotism this will be my second for the week, there was a great display half way through Sunday nights gig although at the time i remember wondering whether it'd be Howie or David to break out into a Jimi Hendrix style Star Spangled Banner - disappointingly neither did). Possibly there were fireworks last night but wasn't confident enough they weren't gunshots to go and look. Finally the cold is gone, unfortunately replaced by hideously chafed lips from too much sun and wind on the high mountains.

So much like Australia

Ended up having a hard decision just which way i'd head but finally decided a circular trip was the way to go. The thought of a couple more days in Yosemite was so tempting but after Saturday's experience of the valley being 'shut' was a bit wary still no idea of the reason but if to do with crowds was likely to be even busier with Independence Day holiday and if to do with backburn forecast was for even hotter conditions. So after 5 nights at my Mammoth Lakes home away from home ( it was off down Hwy 395 heading South, first big town Bishop and then worryingly next little town appeared to have all accommodation booked out (was assuming the reason being that the town was called Independence and seeing that the next day was July 4). By then more magnificent mountains were looming more precisely Mount Whitney (at 14,494 feet highest in continental USA), damn next visitor centre i'd have to stop and see what chance of getting up there (those people out there who know me well realise i'm a man of addictions - love the surge of adrenalin i get when racing, love the buzz of a good live concert, love being out in the bush just man and nature and with that last addiction an insatiable urge to reach the top of every big mountain i see - best explains why i'd enjoyed so much the previous 2 days between Mammoth Mountain, The Devils Postpiles, Ansel Adams Wilderness and Shari's gigs i'd found 2 out of 3 ingredients for my idea of bliss all now i needed was a race to compete in). Lone Pine visitor centre (at the end of Death Valley Rd - all that gave me an urge to come back some time and the Badwater Ultra even now it was 110 degrees), gave me the info i needed not good unfortunately only a certain number of hikers per day given a permit and that booked out months in advance. Possibly wondered whether i'd been out in the sun too long when he said it was an 8 to 10 hour walk (which i immediately countered with 'so i'd knock it off in 5 going by estimates of hike times i've done here so far'), nevertheless despite my inability to get what i wanted it was a fascinating Visitor Centre (you get this feeling one day i'd be back). Back on the road again, mountains to my right desert plains to my left felt just like i was back home but with better roads. One jet fighter overhead (just like Top Gun) was the most notable thing for the rest of this highway. Turn off to hwy 178 and different scenery big cactus type plants growing on steepsided mountainous desert (pictures explain better) then off into the Kern Valley (reminded me of Bright). Lunch at Mesa Creek (smaller the town the better the coffee and even stranger cheaper ?). From then on simply followed the narrow winding road (which follows the mighty Kern River) to Bakersfield. Town with a population of 300,000 (shame i didn't note that when drooling over all the $40 motel listings. Still very easy to find my way around with streets numbered 1 to 24 one way being crossed by streets lettered A to Z (okay i'm not sure how my motel is in Union St). Very cheap (and big) supermarket nearby (this may be explained by the fact it appears to be the Mexican area most signs are in Spanish ?, though at least the plethora of 'Bail bond places' have English signs as well. Looks like another hot day coming up so i'd be guessing the next stage of this trip will be seawards (even if it means dearer hotels).

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Where's Kelvin

After 5 great days at Mammoth Lakes i'm off tomorrow, not really sure where next (have to be in SF on the 6th for the race on the 7th so inclined to go back through Yosemite and stay somewhere near the valley there but with July 4 holiday may be easier said than done). So not being confident of email access i should summarise the last two days. Couldn't think of a better way to spend my time, two brilliant days exploring the wilderness near Mammoth Mountain (elevation 11,053 feet well and truly at home at altitude now). By night i've been Number 1 Aussie fan (okay probably the only Aussie to have seen them - beware i now have a personally autographed CD) for the R & B band 'Shari Puorto & the Rhythm Addicts' a couple of great gigs at the ski village (5 minutes walk away - only sad note the Stones tribute band Hot Rocks are there in 2 weeks - do i really need to head back ?). Thankfully tonight was an early gig (finishing at 8 as there was also a kids talent contest) so after a yarn with the band (heading back to LA) and the local fill in guitarist Howie (would you believe an Ultra runner doing Leadville?) an early night and a good chance to update my blog (just how can there be 40 tv channels and nothing to watch ??).


A great nights sleep and another glorious day awaits. I'd sort of got used to the Sierra's cereal free continental breakfast narrowing my menu down to two toasted apple & cinnamon bagels with jam, two danish pastries, three glasses of orange juice and one cup of uniformly tasteless coffee pretty much a big meal early on simply because all being well come lunchtime i'd be in the middle of nowhere (well out in the wilderness of Yosemite). Unfortunately the day started off with a wrong turn, found Hwy 395 easy enough but first road sign i saw showed Bishop was 20 miles closer than when i started (so i was heading to LA instead of Yosemite). One detour and i was back on track, was shocked to be told Yosemite Valley was shut for 3.5 hours (still no idea whether this was Saturday overcrowding or some backburn issues), not really an issue as Tuolumme Meadows was todays destination. First stop Lembert Dome a massive exposed rock (9,450 feet), awesome views on the way up and then simply do it yourself trail to the rather suicidal top (who knows how Australia with its public liability woes would handle places like this!). Back to the bottom and in awe of rock climbers tackling the sheer 900 foot cliff face. Realised i was only a mile down the road from the campgrounds and, more importantly canvas restaurant. Best cappucino on the trip so far and a very good Chili as well as a yarn with a family travelling to Vegas for volleyball championships. Back to the dome car park and off to beautiful Dog Lake, after an idyllic paddle (and a lie down) decided i'd follow the Pacific Crest trail through some incredible scenery for an hour before turning back (forgive the gushing writing but only pictures - and i have heaps! - can express the beauty). Personal highlight foot long trout encountered on rather 'hairy' river crossing coming back via Pacific Crest trail, closely followed by seeing the rock climbers finally reaching the dome summit just before i left. Days don't get much better than this (well maybe they do if the next two days are anything to go by - explaining the lateness of this post).

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Big day at Mammoth

As you'd expect from a town called Mammoth Lakes everything about this town is big being at 7,554 feet (at least 200 metres higher than Mt Kosi) thought i was best to adjust to the altitude by wandering around the town and picking up some maps. After lunch decided to head up to Inyo National Forest where the ski resort is (at 8,909 feet), couldn't resist a walk starting at Minaret Vista (9,240 feet) the most incredible views (so many pictures from so many angles) and then virtually a vertical, windswept climb to Deadman Pass (not exactly a hopeful name!) and then onto the delightfully named 'Unnamed Peak' at 10,225 feet, well worth the effort but between my cold and the altitude one of the hardest 10K walks i've ever done, hard to believe it's possible to do by mountain bike. After returning to the start found a much easier track to the ski village (where i was dying to take a picture of the lifesize mammoth). Had a chat with the Ranger on the way (reckoned she had never heard of an Aussie up that high before), unfortunately i learnt i needed a different pass to my Yosemite one to get into other parts of Inyo. Finally back to my lodge surely tonight a good deep sleep awaits me (and with an overnight low of 40 ideal weather for it). Have to admit my blog is at the moment more for my sake (so i have a diary of where i've been and also match my photos), and am now only one day behind where i actually am (hard work typing via phone whilst watching 'Dodgeball' and cooking pasta while drinking a couple of Budweisers obviously both the cold and the trip are on the improve :-) )


Original plan, after discussions with the locals on Tuesday, had been to stay at Groveland (nearest town to the national park) but the weekend and Independence Day meant places were twice as dear as listed so i'd booked at Mammoth Lakes on the other side. $20 for a 7 day park pass was good value, and then i felt even more at home - bushfires !. They were doing a backburn in one section meaning they were directing us around fires. Glorious scenery everywhere the only downside being the number of tourists the main parking area being full. Ended up parking along the road and walking back to the info centre, an hour or so there and i thought a short bushwalk was in order. Track lead to the base of Yosemite Falls an incredible drop of 2,425 feet. Long climb in the car out along Tioga Rd will post pictures on my return as words can't do it justice simply 3,000 metre mountains with lakes ! . Eventually hit Hwy I 395 meaning 30 miles to my destination, great view of Lake Mono (around 120 miles north to Reno & 350 south to LA). Get to Mammoth Lakes (at 8,500 feet a very large ski village with a population of 7,000) just in time for the petrol indicator to come on but still its only 352.9 per gallon as opposed to 450 in the park. Notice that all California servos are prepay !. Check in at Sierra Lodge great room with an incredible view now to find something to cook in the microwave.