Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer runnin'

Remember this one?

Summer runnin', had me a blast...
Summer runnin', happened so fast...*

Uh, well, maybe that's not quite right. (There was nothing fast about it.)

But it was summer, that's for sure!

I would say that yesterday was my first real summertime run this year. I did in fact go to the beach at my parents' house, and I actually managed to go pretty darn early. Early for me, on a Sunday, anyway.

Low tide was around 8:22 a.m., and I got to the house just a little before 8:00. I am aware that it would be just as effective to start out an hour or so before low tide, but I'm rather impressed that I even got there as early as I did. It was a really low tide, -1'2", which basically means lots of open beach and tide flats all morning long. I hit the beach around 8:15.

My plan for Sunday was to do at least a 10 mile long run. The easiest (if "easy" is the right word) way to do this would be just to double up my usual 5+ mile beach route. I considered a variation where I would get onto the road from the beach and finish up on the road, but I didn't realy want to do that on a day when there was so much good beach. (Better on a day when the tide is coming in fast!) Also, I didn't really like the idea of running on a busy road when I could be on a deserted beach instead!

Or I could see how far I could get in the opposite direction after I finished my first out and back. Usually the section of beach east of my parents' is rockier and harder to run on, but with a super-low tide who knows? I decided to play it by ear and see what happened.

I started out easy going west toward Mission Beach. Although the beachscape is ever changing, there are certain landmarks (beachmarks?) that remain pretty consistent. Over the years we have named various landmarks and measured distance by them. Colon's bulkhead, Black Rock, Brown Rock, White Rock, Mission Beach, Mission Head (the last two being actual geographic locations) and various enduring logs and trees have punctuated our walks and runs. My informal measuring scale is ½ mile to Black Rock (or is it Brown Rock?), ¾ mile to White Rock, 1 mile to Mission, 1½ to Mission Head. By using MapMyRun I've been able to measure the whole distance, but there's no way to really calculate these informal mileposts.**

Once nice thing about running at the beach is that it's usually not as hot as running on the road. (Usually? Try never!) At 8:30 it was warm already, but pleasantly so. I dressed for the weather in a white cap, sleeveless shirt, sunscreen on my face, neck and arms, and a waist pack to carry my phone and other odds and ends that would usually go into a jacket pocket. I carried one 16 ounce bottle of water and left two more on the deck for later.

Running on a Tulalip beach is not like running on an ocean beach. It's not just sand! The terrain varies from hard packed sand (the best), to wet or dry soft sand, small rocks, big rocks (sometimes covered with barnacles and/or seaweed), and lots of logs of various shapes and sizes. I'm quite good at picking out the optimal running surface. I like firm sand the best (obviously), but small gravel-like rocks aren't bad either. In the sections of beach that have a lot of big, barnacly rocks you can often pick your way between the rocks, but there are always a few spots where the terrain is so rough that I have to walk, because running is just too risky. (The triple threat: tripping, slipping, and cutting your legs to pieces on the barnacles!)

The first bit of beach, from my parents' to Colons' Bulkhead, is usually fairly decent; slightly rocky (more gravel-like), but manageable. The long stretch between Colons' Bulkhead and Mission is the best. Very few rocks, long sandy stretches, usually packed firm (although occasionally soft and mushy). Mission Beach protrudes out into a point known as Mission Head. The section of beach approaching and around Mission Head is the most difficult—always rocky. I usually zig and zag from sandy patch to sandy patch, but inevitably have to drop to a walk to get past it.

I think I have learned some trail running style skills while running on the rocky beach. I find that instead of holding my arms in a typical running posture, I let them swing more freely on rough surfaces. This helps with balance and decreases the likelihood of taking a fall.

Once around Mission Head, the beach surfaces turns back into more navigable sand and gravel (though not as nice as the earlier section), and I can run freely until I run out of beach. How soon that happens depends entirely on the tide. Of course if the tide is very far in, I can't even get that far at all. But when the tide is out, I can run not only to the end of the beach, but out onto a sandbar that extends into Tulalip Bay. I call this the "spit" and it is only accessible at low tide. The sandbar is covered with barnacles, so it makes for a very crunchy run. I figure that the trip out and back is at least a quarter mile, so I added that to my total mileage.

Here is a picture of the spit, looking back toward the beach.

And here I am, in a typically unflattering cell phone self-portrait!

This picture of my shadow shows the real me—small head and big legs!
So, after dilly-dallying with picture taking (trying to get a halfway decent photo of myself), I headed back toward Potlatch to complete my first lap.

Back at the cabin, I decided to keep on going eastward and see how far I could get. I always consider the beach going toward Priest Point less desirable for running, but with the tide out so far it wasn't bad. In fact there were some sections that were quite open and sandy. I went as far as I felt I could go, almost to the end of the houses where several docks protruded over the beach. I think it may be possible to continue further on with some scrambling, but not running. So I turned around and retraced my steps.

Back at the cabin again, I faced a dilemma. Do I keep on going? Or do I detour up to the house for a bathroom stop? I chose the bathroom (no need to make myself uncomfortable). The stairway from the beach to the house is 120 steps, so it's not like I was slacking by going up there.

Since I was at the house, though, I pulled up MapMyRun just in case I had already run my 10 miles. I was pretty sure I hadn't, but might as well check. Sure enough, my calculations said just 8½ miles so far (including the extra spit). So, back to the beach it was (first grabbing a bite-sized piece of kringle*** that my parents brought me from church).

I just repeated the section from Potlatch to Mission Beach, turning around where I saw the Mission Beach road, to make an easily measurable distance. (It later measured out about 1½ miles each way, making my total run 11½ miles; perfect.)

I walked a little bit on the beach to cool down, and did ten angled push-up with my arms on a low log and my feet in the sand. Then I headed back up to the house. Usually when I go up the 120 steps it is a matter of pride for me to do them all without stopping or getting out of breath. Most people rest at the numerous landings along the way. But today I made a point of stopping at every landing to do stretches. I am notoriously bad about stretching after running—I figure I get my stretches in yoga class. But I thought it couldn't hurt to incorporate a little stretching into my running—and the benches on the landings were a great tool.

I got up to the house just in time for my sister's call saying that they were coming over to put out the kayaks. The summer before last I kayaked every single weekend in the summer, but I'm afraid we didn't take them out at all last year.

My mother and I made a quick trip to the Farmer's Market and grocery store to pick up food before Gretchen, Todd and Nissa (the dog) arrived.

When we got back Todd was already at the beach, but Gretchen and Nissa had come back up for some reason. We loaded up with pop and chips and headed back down. Then, after eating some chips and salsa, I took Nissa down to play on the beach while Gretchen and Todd got the kayaks out and cleaned them up. (I cleverly escaped the grunge work by dog-sitting.)

We only have two kayaks, so Todd took one and Gretchen let me take the other. I started out by paddling toward Mission, although I didn't go quite the whole distance, turning around a ways past White Rock. Then I went on a bit in the other direction. When I thought I was going to go in, Gretchen shouted that she was coming out. So I waited for her and we paddled down toward Priest Point. (We always try to go "against" the current on the way out and "with" it on the way back, to make an easier trip back. But it was kind of hard to tell whether the current had changed when the tide turned today. We finally decided that it was faster going back toward Mission, so that must be the way the current was going.)

All in all, I kayaked for about an hour and a half. Good work for my shoulders and arms, I hope!

And that was about it for Sunday. I spent some of my time out in the kayak thinking of planning longer kayaking excursions (like going up the river) and what it would take to arrange something like that. Or making my own mini-triathlon by bicycling to my parents' house (nine miles from my house), running on the beach, and kayaking (with the kayaking substituting for swimming, and I know the order is wrong).

We finished the evening with hamburgers from the grill. My only regret was that I had to head back to work on Monday! As always, I felt like I could use a day off after the weekend.

(Even though my Sunday was not nearly as grueling as it was for those who ran the Seafair Marathon!)

*You may be more familiar with this version:

**Until I get my Garmin! Which should be arriving any day now. I finally broke down and ordered one. I'm pretty excited. Although my ability to understand and use it is possibly questionable. I think I've already mentioned my two watches which I can barely set. And I have a bluetooth earpiece for my phone which I've had for a year but not yet activated... which had better happen soon, I guess, as the "no cell phone" driving law goes into effect on July 1.

***I really wanted to post a picture of this scrumptious Scandinavian treat, but I couldn't find one that reflects kringle as I know it. The linked recipe is pretty similar to my family recipe, except that we cut the base into two inch wide strips and then top it with spoonsfuls of the cream puff-like batter, which are cut into individual pastries after baking then drizzled with almond flavored icing and sprinkled with chopped almonds. Yummalicious!! I really need to make some this summer. On a hiatus from the no-sweets ban that is currently in effect.

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