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March 14, 2006

Sunlight and Snowcaps

Blog note: Although we have no structured exercise plan, I thought it may be interesting to record the weekly training of my son as he prepares for his first 5K race next month. That information appears at the end of today’s post, and will be updated after workouts as necessary.

Now for our regularly scheduled post…

As I may have mentioned once or twice before in this space, I’m a native Californian.

But I have spent winters in cold-weather areas before – primarily in Colorado, where I attended high school. I’ve successfully blocked out most recollections of those long, cold winters – but occasionally something will trigger memories and I’ll remember exactly how it felt to wait out the seemingly endless days until spring.

Stronger hinted at this in a comment yesterday: in the mountains, there’s a whole separate distinction between wintertime snow and spring snow. And it seems like every time you think spring has finally arrived, another storm comes along to dump several inches of snow on your head. Then the next day will be sunny again and feel like spring, aside from all the snow on the ground.

When the storms finally subside for the year, the mountains keep their snowcaps for several more months, maintaining a wintry backdrop against the warmth and new growth of late spring and early summer.

I remembered all this on Saturday while running through the Salinas Valley. Yes, the Salinas Valley in California. Believe me, I was as surprised as anybody.

The agricultural valley is framed by two long mountain ranges: the Santa Lucias to the west, and the Gabilans to the east. In between lies 4000 square miles of rich farmland often referred to as the “salad bowl of the world.”

I work in Salinas, and occasionally run through the lettuce and strawberry fields during my lunch break. It’s a nice backup plan in case I’m too lazy to roll out of bed in the morning, as has been the case for the past few days.

Like I said, we’ve had crazy weather here lately, with snow falling in Carmel Valley and other areas of Monterey County. The result is that both mountain ranges were covered with a thick layer of snow that stayed in place during the day, thanks to the cool arctic air mass that settled in for the week.

To clarify one point: when I use the term “mountains”, it’s a very loose definition. The highest point in Monterey County is 5600’ above sea level. The highest points above the Salinas Valley - Fremont Peak in the Gabilan Range, and Mount Toro in the Santa Lucias – are approximately 3200’ high. Out here they enjoy “big fish in a small pond” status, but if you lived in a true mountainous area, you would call them mere foothills.

But here’s the thing: the Gabilans actually look like high mountains. They’re angular and
layered and stand prominently over the fertile valley below. Mt Toro (pictured) is barren of trees at the top, reminiscent of a mountain peak that juts above timberline. And when these hills are covered with snow, you would never guess they were located just 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

So yesterday I ran in the midday sunshine, breathing the frosty winter air, with majestic white mountain ranges on either side of me. It reminded me of the times I’ve gone running in Colorado, with the snow-capped Rocky Mountains dominating the landscape even on warm spring and summer days.

It sounds strange, but for the duration of my run, it felt like I was in Colorado again. (Well, except for the fact that I was in a giant lettuce field, and had about twice as much oxygen to breathe, but you get the idea.) If that doesn’t illustrate how discombobulated this cold spell has gotten me, well…I just don’t know what else to say.

Except that I’m looking more forward to springtime with each passing day.

5K Kid training update: Our first workout 2 weeks ago was 400 meters of jogging, 200m of walking, 600m jogging, 400m walking, and 200m jogging. Total mileage was 1800m, with 1000m jogging.

Last week was 700m jog, 200m walk, 400m jog. Total 1300m, with 1100 jogging.

Yesterday: 800m jog, 200m walk, 600m jog, 200m walk, 500m jog. Total mileage 2300m, with 1900m jogging.


olga 3/14/06, 11:20 AM  

The picture looks very gorgeous!
Go, Kid!

Kim 3/14/06, 11:23 AM  


backofpack 3/14/06, 11:51 AM  

Are you having fun training together? Tell him "way to go!" from the blogging world!

It's kind of fun to run in something different than you're used to, isn't it? That snow will be gone before you know it and you'll be back to normal. Glad you are enjoying it while it lasts!

susie 3/14/06, 2:58 PM  

I don't think I would mind winter with a view. But I am not-so-patiently awaiting spring, too.

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