Saturday, November 3, 2012

Only 3.7 miles but ...

Well folks - I know you've all been dying to hear another episode in the saga of my running life - all those sweatty T-shirts and grubby trainers - so now here it is!  I finally ran the Palm Springs  Tram Road Challenge along with 1400 other obsessive runners and walkers. Its only 3.7 miles - a mere doddle for any regular runner but it rises by 2600ft into the stratosphere at the base of Mount San Jacinto.


Somewhere in the distance is the base of the aerial tram that rises to the mountain top
The race begins - I'm one of those yellow T shirts at the back of the crowd

I've been training for this for some weeks now - well actually three years but this is the first year to actually run the race. Two years ago, I planned to run but had an infection and decided that running at an altitude with a hacking cough wasn't a wise move. Last year a bad tempered knee and the aftermath of my broken foot dissuaded me from running, so this year was 3rd time lucky! Training for the race has been challemging but a wonderful thrice weekly experience. In order to run before the heat of the day has meant starting at sunrise with a 2.5 mile cycle ride, then run up the hill, run down again and cycle home! Yes - I am totally mental but its a great excuse for a hearty breakfast!

As I run up, I refuse to  look down as this is the reward when exhausted, I finally stop at whatever point, turn round and look back. The desert is spread out beneath me with the stark white wind farm windmills turning to the north and the grid of palm lined roads radiating out to the south. I stand and listen to the silence - something we so rarely experience in the modern world. For a few moments this rough, rocky cleft in the mountain is all mine. A magic moment!

The reward for running!

No gardener can run without keeping an eye open for what's growing along the route, although the tram road is a little barren of horticultural interest! Despite being October, there has been no rain here for months so most vegetation is totally dead and brown, awaiting the winter storms. Surprisingly there is a scattering of  Datura stramonium growing lushly and flowering. Apparently the seeds of this annual can lie dormant for many years and germinate when the soil is disturbed, rather like poppies or foxgloves. Now whilst this makes sense, as this roadway and footpath was reconstructed earlier this summer, I cannot see how any seed found enough moisture to germinate in the fierce desert heat, let alone produce a leafy flowering plant. Incidentally new flowers are produced daily and shrivel by lunch-time.

Datura stramonium - highly poisonous but with a whole host of native medicinal uses.
The race itself was fun but tough. The winner, a local 30 year old Olympian, breezed in at 28.22 mins. I had set myself a target of finishing within an hour and managed a very presentable 52.26 and yes its only devoted runners who know to the second how long it took! I came in at 271 out of 1424 runners and 20/78 for my age group. There can't be many communities with a similar aging population, demonstrated by the 211 finishers over the age of 60! The oldest entrant, who completed the course in just over two hours is 89. I have a few years to go yet.

Not the most flattering of pictures but I did cross the finish line still running!

And as I started the long walk down again, I was rewarded by a flash of red at the side of the road, a small plant of Zauschneria californica a colorful native that is now sometimes confusingly classified with Epilobium, although the Plant Finder still lists it as a Zauschneria.

Apologies the pic wasn't taken on this occasion - I didn't run with my camera too!



1 comment:

  1. Fantastic result Ian! It's no easy feat, and three years of training have definitely paid!

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