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March 16, 2011 / elodie kaye

Rattlesnake Canyon Trail

I ran Rattlesnake last weekend with Greg and Scarlet who were visiting from Minnesota, and LA, respectively.  This trail is interesting in that it starts out very green with hops back and forth across Mission Creek, then climbs into dry, loose rock and chaparral, quite exposed to the sun, then goes back into a well-watered, wooded section with a waterfall, virtually all of it climbing up.  It comes to a rugged conclusion at a road with a spectacular view of Santa Barbara’s harbour, the wide blue ocean, and the channel islands offshore.  You earn the view with sweat by coming up the trail, or take a roundabout drive up Gibraltar Rd.
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February 11, 2011 / elodie kaye


It was supposed to be a mountain trail run, but I wimped out.  I’ve been tired, I didn’t get enough sleep, and for the first time in a long time, I can’t say I was galvanised by the thought of reaching for a summit to see what’s up there.  I didn’t even feel much like moving my legs.

These days, I find myself in a position where I don’t have to run.  I’ve logged fairly steady mileage for a few months, with a good mix of long runs, speed, hills and trails.  My routine pace is a little bit improved, and best of all, running feels easy and smooth every day.  I’ve run so much that I don’t need to push for a while.  For the last month while I’ve been in Santa Barbara, I’ve run chiefly because I couldn’t stop myself.  It is the sort of place that makes me want to break into a trot when I walk from one building to another, just to feel the play of warm air and sun over my skin.
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February 6, 2011 / elodie kaye

San Marcos Foothills

Santa Barbara is wedged between the ocean and the Santa Ynez mountain range.  The nearest trails climb up, up and up — relentlessly up towards a summit, or another trailhead, which then continues to go up and up to one of the many peaks.  On the east coast, trails cross creeks, rivers, go down into valleys, through forests and meadows, up a knoll and down, and perhaps up again.  Here, descents in the middle of a trail are considered with a residue of resentment as gratuitous, whereas none of the trails I run at home have any summits at all, sometimes not even the suggestion of a destination.  The trails have a start and an end, but in the densely developed northeastern U.S. where I started running, the destination is often the path itself.
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January 30, 2011 / elodie kaye

Under Construction

Part of the bluff trail that I run almost every day looks like it’s being ripped asunder.  There are bulldozers, men in safety vests and hard hats directing walkers, runners and bicycles.  Young men and women, dressed differently — students, volunteers, they look ecologically conscientious, not like the construction workers — are moving succulents, ground cover, and huge mounds of earth from one side of the path to the other, and re-planting.  Today I noticed a small sign explaining what was happening, the trail is undergoing a face-lift because of trampling from overuse.  In the winter wet season, parts of this trail turn into broad fields of thick, black, sticky mud.  The soil here has natural tar and oil deposits.  Once, I ran through a mud patch and my left shoe stayed planted in the mud while my foot continued blithely on its arc.  At its highest point, I stopped.  Panic-stricken, I teetered on the right foot, trying to deduce what had happened.  I tried to hop to the lost shoe, but of course the right shoe was now trapped, too.  I ultimately escaped the muddy quicksand, but the sock could not be saved.
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January 17, 2011 / elodie kaye

Drunk on Sensation

Whenever I move, my perception of effort is swamped for a week or two from an overflow of sensory stimulation.  I’m distracted by the bright sunlight, stark shadows.  The smells are familiar, sweet green eucalyptus, sage and laurel, wet salt and seaweed, but they’re sudden and too strong after months of sterile ice and snow.  My feet patter to a different rhythm on rain-softened clay, and my skin all over is flooded by the movement of air, after weeks of being sheltered under layers.
I keep forgetting to run slow and easy.

I ended my long run on trails at the Ellwood Butterfly Preserve.  Thousands of monarch butterflies migrate here for the winter, nest in the eucalyptus trees, and mate.  During the cold nights, their wings are folded and still.  Massive clusters of them cover the trees and look for all the world like leaves, until the sun warms them and they begin to wake up.  Their wings slowly pulse and open revealing brilliant colour and they begin to flit away from the trees, one and then a few at a time.  By mid-morning there are hundreds in the air at once alighting on branches, stems, and if you’re very still, on you.  They chase each other, play, and soar on the updrafts of sea air on the bluffs.
It’s not easy to remember to run slow.

December 28, 2010 / elodie kaye

Winter Animals

To run long in the winter is to accept cold as a state of being for that interval.  This is a dirty little secret that outdoor Canadian runners keep to ourselves.  We bear our stoicism to the weather like a patriotic badge, and to admit that running for more than 3 hours in the winter is unpleasant, is to risk derision as a Bad Canadian.  But, it’s true.  No matter how carefully you layer, cover, zip and un-zip vents, it’s impossible to maintain a perfect defence.  There is no triple-layer, technical laminate to shield you from the reality that you will come to know the growth and spread of chill, across your skin and into your bones.  It’s not a terrible, mortal cold, and from a broad perspective, two or three miles at the conclusion of a 3-hour run isn’t very much time, but neither is it avoidable.
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December 7, 2010 / elodie kaye

Spring Plantings

I first learned to train and race while living in Washington, DC, a city with the illusion of a four-season climate.  Winter days that don’t warm up above freezing happen less than 10 times a year, and a snowstorm that drives residents to stock up on bread, toilet paper, and water, amounts to about 2 inches.  One year we had 6 inches fall in one night, shutting down the city for 3 days.

By Canadian standards, DC only has three seasons, but my instinct to plan for a running harvest in April is a legacy of those beginnings.  Training for April races entails hard, quality running through February and March.  In Toronto, February is the coldest month of the year, when an hour of temperatures above freezing is a heat wave, and days in the single digits will be more common than days above freezing.  March is warmer but has the risk of freezing rain, much more hazardous for running than a blizzard at 25ºF.
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November 25, 2010 / elodie kaye

Hazardous Conditions

The conditions were supposedly dire: 34ºF with an 18 mph wind and freezing drizzle, a weather advisory for drivers against icy patches.  It may have been bad for cars, but a beautiful night for feet.  The cars went directly and obediently home, leaving the streets quieter than usual.  When I went out tonight, it was calm and gently misting, casting an amber aura around all the street lamps.  The slick roads reflected glossy pools of light.  Not quite half of the houses in my neighbourhood have their Christmas lights on, making it cozy and cheerful to run among them.
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November 14, 2010 / elodie kaye

Sick Note

I do my best dreaming when I’m sick.  I’ve had the flu now for a week with the first 3 days under a delirious fever, so that’s a lot of really great dreams.  The last time I was laid up like this I dreamed about running a marathon, and then trained for it for five weeks before realising that dream was best left in my imagination.  Dreaming when you’re absolutely powerless to bring it about about is very freeing.
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November 1, 2010 / elodie kaye

Reprint: Going Deaf

On this first, truly cold excursion of the year, I remembered why I dislike running in the winter.  It’s not the cold, which is easier to get used to than the heat.  When I’m dressed just right, it’s even cozy to be outside in a blizzard.  I still love running more than anything else I could do in the snow, but I hate that my legs go numb.  Just like heat acclimation, your body eventually responds to the need to conserve heat, so it stops sending blood out to the surface of your skin.

Apart from the fact that my arms and legs no longer feel moving air because they’re covered, they stop feeling the slow, accumulated fatigue that I use to measure how much I have left in the tank on a long run.  Even on steep hills, my quads are impervious.  They just get a little heavier; then they fall off a cliff when they’re completely spent, and I discover I suddenly have no knee lift any more.  Of course, they don’t go completely numb.  I can still feel some vibration from foot strike, so harsh strides ripple differently than light ones, but it’s as though the echo is very far away, like going deaf.

It becomes more complicated to puzzle out what my effort really is, but more than that, I’m deprived of one of the things I love best about running.  Sensation.
I love bathing in the feeling of air and wind and power in my limbs, even pain — no especially the uncontrollable fire of taking a hill hard.
Today was a journey of longing.

Originally posted on dailymile, October 31, 2010.