Saturday, 1 May 2010

Bambi and an Amazing Journey

Apologies for the lack of updates of late. My last week in Mammoth Lakes was characterised by snow, sunshine, more snow, and some great training. It seems that I'm acclimatised to the altitude now, and even better, I get to run at sea level for a few days. After training at 2,400m for two weeks, sea level running is very easy. Shame that it won't last!

Yesterday afternoon I got a lift from Mammoth Lakes most of the way to Palo Alto, where I am now. And what an amazing journey it was. Not only was it cheaper than a flight, but it gave me the chance to see just about everything that California has to offer, in one afternoon. Wind, rain, snow, sunshine, rainbows, mountains, hills, plains, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, forests, marshes, and green pastures, all made for an awe-stuck 6-hour drive.
Mono Lake, which was the epitome of tranquility when we visited a week and a half ago, was more like a roaring ocean today; the wind causing rippling waves across it's troubled surface, and the rain showers in the distance giving the scene an eerie feeling. And that was just the start of it.

Along the way, we navigated multiple mountain passes as we crossed the Sierra Nevada; passed by Lake Tahoe and the surrounding ski slopes (nearby Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympic Games); drove through Christmas Card-type scenery where the snow was clung to pine tree branches; and witnessed yet another snow shower, before finally descending into the Sacramento Valley.

After being dropped off at Walnut Creek station (thanks Scott and Audry for taking me that far), I made my way across San Francisco via two trains. The first, the BART to Millbrae, just beyond SFO, ran smoothly and it was from there that I saw the first rainbow that I've seen in years, and got my first glimpse of Golden Gate Bridge. Upon reaching Millbrae, however, I realised that I had just under 1 hour to wait for my connection. That wouldn't have been too bad, but for the fact that it was the windiest and coldest train station I have ever witnessed. And believe me, I have endured some pretty cold, prolonged stays in train stations. When I didn't freeze to death last night, I'm pretty sure that I could handle Antarctica (not that I'm going to rush there, or that I would ever, by chance, happen to find myself on the Southern-most Continent).

There I am, moaning about the environmental conditions again. I do realise how lucky I am. Honest. Especially when I hear that another British bank holiday weekend is going to be dominated by rain.

Anyway, Palo Alto - why am I here? Palo Alto is a town in the San Francisco Bay Area, 35 miles from ('if you're going to') San Francisco and 12 miles from ('do you know the way to') San Jose. More importantly, it is home to Stanford University, which tomorrow will host the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational, America's premier T&F meet for distance runners. There are tasty fields entered, and strong contenders from both Ireland and Britain in most of the events. There is even talk of a possible American record in the men's 10,000m. Hopefully there will be some exciting results and photos from the event to post tomorrow.

Today, I took a walk around part of the campus, and was very impressed. I'll be adding it to my (not so) short-list of favourite University campuses. Here are a few photos I took.

And so the the Bambi reference. No it's not a pet-name that I have given myself. I actually saw a baby deer this evening on my run. In fact, it was no more than 2 meters from me when I spotted it, before it turned around and bounced off into the distance. Special! Of course I didn't have my camera with me, but who needs photos when you have memories?

And so, that's me back up-to-date with my updates. Good luck to all the Birmingham boys and girls competing in BUCS Championships over the weekend. I look forward to hearing how everyone did. For the rest of you, enjoy the rain!

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