Sunday, October 13, 2013

Big Cats

As the autumn here at the Northwest deepens, I love traveling to the Bay Area, even though it is usually for more work and not much relaxation. Fall is generally enjoyed most by the SF dwellers for its clear days, though I feel best when the mercury is above 80F and thus prefer the South Bay.

Flying to and from San Jose is so easy, and the drive to Los Gatos and Marketa's mountain hideaway even better. I actually thought Los Gatos meant male cats (el gato vs la gata) but apparently the Spanish plural does not distinguish the feline sexes.

Last weekend weather was so nice and warm that we moved our work outside and managed to make a big progress on "theculminationofafour-yearworkthatyouwillallembraceandlove-mfTHESIS".

You have to love the technology that allows us to be connected to all our information sources even where the cables don't reach (notice the tiny mi-fi mobile WiFi hotspot device?). But both days, I longed for a bike ride, especially when looking towards the Demo Forest (the ridge behind the flower pots). Alas, no bike available, all four of our bikes were sadly hanging in our Seattle garage where  rain water leaked on them. A five mile run on Aldercroft Heights road was a poor substitute, although the 1 mile climb back surely pulled on my Achilles tendons. The heavily barb-wired gate of San Jose Water company land made us turn around, but also indicated a possible connection to unexplored areas via the Wrights Station fire road.

Back home, low clouds, grey skies, drizzle, falling leaves and chilly mornings were quite a contrast. More work, long days in the lab, long evenings at the computer. After spending a Saturday morning removing the soaked remnants of four huge tomato plants from the deck, I went to explore trails at Cougar Mountain, using this course map of a 10 mile running race:

Cougar Mt. is one of the three prominent hills surrounding Issaquah, sometimes called "The Issaquah Alps". I hope that whoever named them "Alps" meant that as an irony. These wooded hills contain networks of fantastic trails both for running and mountain biking, but the Alps they ain't.

Fall trail running is actually great, there is decay in the woods but at the same time it is as if the Nature would be saying "see you in the spring". Wet roots and rocks required more attention and colors were interesting.

I managed to slog around the course in 2:18 hrs, stopping frequently to check the map and signage. Ten miles was more than I ran in a while and my legs felt pretty mushy at the end, and I almost rolled my left ankle twice - got to be more careful with these 2 inch thick soles (Hoka). But the cushioning of these shoes is just great and this fact plus perhaps sleeping with compression sleeves made the old legs feel fresh come Sunday morning.

So Sunday was another "big cat" day: Tiger Mountain closes for mountain biking on October 15 and this was the last chance of the season. I guess "sunny" forecast in mid October means low clouds and fog until 1PM, then few sunny breaks and more low clouds rolling up the hillsides by 5PM. The ride starts with a decent fire road climb, but I felt great and pushed the pedals with energy to spare. At the summit I put a Goretex jacket on, dropped the seat post three inches (I really really need a 1x11 drivetrain which would free the left side of the handlebar for a dropper seat post lever!), and hit the trail. The top part is a superb pump track and I grinned like an idiot going a bit too fast. The middle part of the mountain happened to be in a thick fog, which made the riding a little risky with low visibility and fogged up glasses.

My idiotic grin disappeared from my face at the lower section after getting my chamois soaked through by riding in a stream of muddy water and numerous puddles. Many rock and root drops landed in puddles where you could not see how deep it was and what lurked underneath the surface. Riding wet roots and rocks downhill is a real mountain biking! The final part of this ride on a deep green XC trail was just as good. Bye Tiger, I love you!

1 comment:

  1. I did a long run in the Issaquah Alps once, while visiting a friend in Seattle. I think it was around November 2010. I loved it; I remember the trails and terrain reminded me a lot of the forested trails in Juneau. Soggy and mossy.

    Hokas do take some getting used to. I was once prone to rolling my ankles frequently in any shoe, but now I almost never do so. I think Hoka running actually promotes building stronger ankles. Let me know when you're coming to town again. I'd love to join you for a run, and even though they're not your ideal size, you can always borrow a bike from us if you'd like. I'm leant then to taller friends before.