TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Trail Run

Sunday’s Route: Wood Canyon, Meadows Trail, Top of the World, Cholla Trail, Wood Canyon. 9.78 miles (15.74 km) , 1,163’ (354.48 m) elevation gained.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDespite my wacky schedule, I was able to end the week with a long(ish) Sunday run in Aliso/Wood Wilderness Park.  My feet didn’t hit dirt until about 2PM. And that was okay. I took the canyon trail first, full of shade, so I wasn’t bothered by the heat. I did run up on one rattlesnake though. But I was too slow with the camera to catch a picture before he slithered off into the brush.

Though it was warm (we’ve seen temperatures in the 80’s lately!), I did get some nice cool breezes. And even with the heat, it’ still not the same as the summer heat. Somehow, it felt like winter heat, and that was soothing and wonderful.

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By the time I reached Meadows Trail, which is pretty much up, up, up (switchback thankfully), the temperature had cooled tremendously. I was able to march up that incline considerably faster than usual of late, as there were some hikers I wanted to pass. And I did. Smile 

Reaching the top of Meadows was a great relief, as aside from the minor uphills along the way, it’s pretty much down hill from there. By the time I made it to Alta Laguna Park to re-enter the wilderness park, the temperature was ideal – coolish-warm, which is more on the cool side, but warm enough to not need a jacket.  I packed lightly for this run, but didn’t even need all the water that I did carry along. I so love packing lightly on the fluids. One of the wonderful things about running in the winter!

Anyway, I finished off not terribly strong, but not terribly beaten either. Made it home before dark. I was delighted, so much so, to not experience any plantar fasciitis pain.

Meadows Trail:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLooking back while climbing Meadows Trail:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESTop of Meadows Trail, facing Saddleback Mountains:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Santiago Truck Trail

I hit the road Saturday before dark in the first time in a long time. I much prefer sleeping in nowadays, to at least 6:00 AM (7:00 AM is even better). But on this day, I was out of bed by 5:30 AM. While driving out, I noticed that one of our neighbors a couple of blocks away still had Christmas lights lit. Other than that, the drive to Santiago Canyon was uneventful.

Ever since my trail accident, I have been nervous about running alone in the mountains. I prefer the coastal hills right now when I run solo. I have cell service there, plenty of people and easy emergency access. I’m wondering if I have been crazy rarely feeling any fear going off into the wilderness on my own all these years. With the recent death of an Oregon Trail/ultra-runner, I can’t help think that perhaps I should run with people more often. Fortunately, I know a wonderful lady named Sheila who likes trails too, and we met up together in Modjeska Canyon, where she followed me into Santiago Canyon for a parking space off the side of the road  She’s much more in shape than I am, and getting ready for the LA marathon, but she’s also good company and not seemingly annoyed by me lagging behind. 

It was a beautiful morning, not very cold at all, especially compared to recent mornings. And we had the trails all to ourselves for quite some time. We took Santiago Truck Trail out to the vulture crags, where a U.S. flags flies across the way, then headed back. The views were immense with clear views of the ocean and Catalina Island from there.

On the return trip, we came across several mountain bikers. And I even saw another trail running friend, Janine, whom I have not seen since Chimera, where she volunteered to work the Start Line aid. In all I put in 7.39 miles with 1,305’ of elevation gain.

Running Santiago Truck Trail with Sheila was the best of both worlds. I got companionship, and I got alone time. And I got home before 10AM. Winking smile

Taking the high trail above Santiago Truck Trail:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe Vulture Crags:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES2 6 162 6 16a

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Better For It

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI’m working such crazy hours nowadays (a split shift actually, ending around 9PM on most days), that I am getting most of my workouts in the gym.  I don’t hate it. But of course, I’d rather be out in the wilderness. Thankfully, I got in a trail run this past Friday, a good long run totalling 11.19 miles in Aliso/ Wood Cyn Wilderness. It nearly knocked me on my butt (not that I nearly fell, but rather that it wiped me out). But I am better for it. So, so, so better for it.

It’s still cold, but just cold relatively (say 50 to 60F, about 10 to 15C – I know, I have it tough). The jacket came off after about a mile. But I wasn’t crazy for shade, and I only filled my pack about half way, so as to not carry too much weight. I didn’t even drink it all (which was less than 35 fl. ounces – sorry, I don’t know the metric equivilant to that).

My route: Aliso Canyon, Wood Canyon, Mathis, Coyote Run, Rock It, West Ridge, Top of the World, Meadows, Wood Canyon, Aliso Canyon.

Elevation gain: 1,233 feet

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Calico Trail Run, 2016

The day finally arrived, though I tried hard not to think about it, that we loaded up the big truck with our sons and two extra boys, and headed out for Calico Ghost Town. Ends up, the park overbooked The Bunk House which is where we usually stay, so that put a damper in everything from the start. We drove back about ten miles to Barstow and got two nice hotel rooms, one for all five boys, and one for myself and my husband.  Good thing was, I got to sleep in a comfortable bed instead of those terrible bunk beds at The Bunk House. Bad thing was, there was no campfire, and my husband had toSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES wake before sunrise to drive me back to Calico to start the race.  About half way there, I realized that I had forgotten my bib in the hotel room.  So, we made the trip back for that. I arrived to the startline at day break, all bundled up in 40F degree weather with thirty minutes to spare.  I know, I know, that’s not very cold for most people.  But for a Southern California gal, that’s dang cold.

I saw some old friends and some new friends at the start line, but mainly mingled solo. My arm was achy, and I pretty much didn’t feel like doing this thing at all.  I thought that maybe I’d just walk the course, but that wasn’t really in the cards because walking would take all day. I coached myself with these thoughts: 1) Be sure to make a mid-foot strike because that’ll minimize the neuroma pain in my right foot, and 2) Kick out the back and no feet shuffling -- this was of utmost importance so as to not trip.  I could not afford a fall.

I got off to a decent start, but that was stopped short by the slapping cap upon my back.  I had velcroed my cap you see, onto my pack.  And unfortunately, I just couldn’t stand that slap, slap, slap. But there was no way I could contort my arms enough to unhook it. So, I had to stop to unhook the cap.  In the process, I tangled my earphones and my pack up so badly, it took several minutes to get it straight. Meanwhile, every runner passed me, and I wound up dead last for the first mile or two.

From the start I merely focused on putting one foot in front of the other, thinking about only the current section I was in.  This 30k race has five distinct parts in my mind.  First things first, I had to complete that first section which entailed approximately 7 miles to the first aid station.  I ran the first mile or so on pavement with the sweep vehicle following so closely behind that I ran in its shadow. Very annoying. What if I needed to pee?  I mean really! I decided though that I wasn’t going to be one of those runners who got snippy or complained to the volunteers. Instead, I used the tailgating as incentive to pass some runners.  After the pavement, that first section is mostly running in sand. But that can be avoided some by running off trail a bit, which I did, and passed four runners by the time I made it to that first station. With the sweep off my back, I was more comfortable heading off into the second section.

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Section two was about five miles, again of mostly sand, but some rocky technical areas as well, ending at the second aid station.  I ran through sections where gunfire echoed through the canyons from target shooters.  Relieved to finally be past the shooters, I managed to pass one other gal. Turns out that I knew her. And turns out that she passed me by about fifteen minutes later.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDuring section three the terrain became hilly and quite technical with lots of rocks and boulders. Though it seems much longer, this section is only about three miles.  During this part, I came to Ernie’s 50k split where the 30k and the 50k runners take different routes.  And then the climb grew and the number of rocks grew as well. The scenery was breathtaking, ending with big climb up onto a ridge overlooking a rainbow colored valley. I tripped a couple times during the downhill to finalize part three of the race, but made it safely to the aid station without a scratch.

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From there, I entered the most beautiful, and the most difficult part of the race, measuring about 2.5 miles. Section four consisted of running through a rocky canyon of red and pink walls, littered with mine shaft openings.  I snapped pictures as I ran, hoping to get some in focus. At times the terrain grew so technical that I needed to brace myself with the canyon wall.  Other times I picked up speed. Having run through this canyon now 9 times, I could maneuver pretty well. My hope was to catch another runner through this canyon because I always do. And I was surprised as I approached the end of this section that I hadn’t.  And then right at the mouth of the canyon, there he was, another runner, all for my catching.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI didn’t pass the other runner until I was about a quarter mile into the last section, which measures about 2.5 miles. This section is not terribly technical, and there are some beautiful parts that unfortunately have been trashed up by campers and such. There’s glass and trash strewn all over the place. There’s also some awesome quick tunnels to run through, and then a steep hill to climb to finally reach a ridge that overlooks Calico Ghost town. Finally! But the race was not over yet. There was some ridge running, and then finally running through the camp grounds, and parking lot, and last but not least, a service road named “Kill Bill Hill,” that was pure torture. My sons and their friends met me at the top of the hill and I trotted down Main Street on into the Finish, finishing this 30k with my garmin reading 19.43 miles complete. (And it only took me a good long 5 hours and 40 minutes! hehe Winking smile)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSo, there you have it. I have successfully completed 9 consecutive Calico Trail Runs.  So happy! It really wasn’t that bad either. In fact, it was kinda fun. Smile

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Whackier Things

Monday I had my last doctor’s visit for the arm.  It still aches a tad (actually both arms still ache) but I am without a cast or a wrap. Yay! The doctor was pleased with the x-ray.  He showed me how you could hardly see where the break was – it’s just a faint, gray fuzzy line.

Anyway, back to teaching at two schools this week, which means trail time is cut drastically short.  But I was able to get in a gym workout every day.  Friday, I finally made it out to some trails, my usual route to Top of the World.  I ran 6.12 miles over rolling hills, though tiring and enjoyable will do little to help me for this weekend’s footrace out of Calico Ghost Town.  I’m actually pretty crazy to go out and attempt to put in nearly twenty miles over rugged terrain.  The nueroma in my right foot is kinday acting up now.  Grrr. But I’ve got a streak to uphold.  This year is my 9th consecutive Calico Trail race.  It may end up being my 9th consecutive attempted Calico Trail run, because seriously, I can’t even let my mind go there and imagine how I’m going to pull this off.

Oh well, I think I have done whackier things.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Onward to Santiago Peak

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSaturday, I ventured up to Santiago Peak with my writing friend Elaine, and her three friends, two of which like herself are avid hikers. We met at the mouth of Trabuco Canyon, piled in my truck and drove that bumpy road to the trailhead. The two wild turkeys were still in the Holy Jim lot, the same turkeys I met four weeks prior when I broke my arm in that very canyon.  My new trail partners got a kick out of the birds and snapped photos away like I did the first time I encountered them.

We got a later start than I usually take to the peak, which I was glad for, as I appreciated sleeping in.  Sleeping in meant waking at 6:45 and leaving the house by 7:30 AM. I much prefer that to waking at ass o’clock in the morning, especially now that the heat is gone.  (Oh, I’m loving winter!)  

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The creek flowed heavily, with plenty of  little falls along the way.  Where there has been dry, rocky dirt for so, so, long, we made about five stream crossings.  None of the group, except for myself had been to Santiago Peak, or Holy Jim Trail for that matter, so it was wonderful to see people first discovering this wonderful place.  People are often surprised that we have these gem canyons right here in The O.C.  Most people think of beach communities, gated neighborhoods and meticulously planned out urban areas when they think of Orange County.  And for these reasons, we have a bad reputation.  But there is so much more – like Holy Jim, and Santiago Peak!

It was a good climb on that never-ending switchback to The Main Divide.  We stopped once by the spring that has so often saved my life.  And while I whipped out my protein bar, the others pulled out their nuts and chocolates.  I shoved some of the chocolates into my pocket for the remaining hike up.  They were dark chocolate balls filled with fruit juice.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESReaching the top of Holy Jim does not mean the climb is over, in fact, it gets steeper, and took a good long while to finally summit.  On the east side of the mountain, we had to walk through some snow and ice.  And I gingerly made my way through it, so fearful that I’d slip and fall and re-injure my arm.

At the summit, we took a seat upon the rocks and looked out on the immense space of ranges, and also to the great sea of clouds covering the Pacific Ocean.  Just the top of Catalina Island poked out above the clouds.  I pulled out another protein bar while the others took out their sandwiches, canisters of nuts, oranges, berries (blackberries and raspberries).  I think I even saw cheese and other goodies.  I SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTUREShad to giggle to myself on how differently hikers and trail runners do the nutrition thing.  I ate my protein bar, and had my fair share of cashews (love cashews!).  We all posed for pictures, and then finally left Santiago Peak at 2:30PM.  We had just three hours to get back by dark.   Needless to say, we hauled ass down the mountain arriving to the truck just at dark.  By 5:30 PM, we were driving that dark canyon road back out to civilization.  We picked up two other hikers and their dog, who rode in the bed of my truck back to the lot.  Turkeys were gone, or up in the trees I suspect, and surprisingly, there were still several cars left in the lot.  I didn’t realize that many people still played in the mountains after dark.

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I have to say that it was such a thrill hiking with the three ladies who are what I’ll call international hikers.  They all met training for and hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Africa last spring.  One of the ladies spoke of heading off to hike St. james’ trail in Spain some time over the next year.  I learned about a lot of wonderful hikes all over the U.S. as well, many of them mule supported, which I can definitely get used to.  Funny thing was, they called me crazy and teased me about my trail running, and they are just as crazy -- hiking elevations like Kilimanjaro with a summit of 19,000’.

Though the trail running community and hiking community are very closely related, and there are many crossovers, and much is the same with the too groups (like we are both kinda crazy), much is different between the two groups.  And I’m telling you, I’m going to be heading over to the other side more often.

Some differences I noticed and giggled about (& I realize this is not true about everyone – just generalizing for the fun of it):

Trail runners want to know the elevation gain, hikers want to know the elevation (I spent some time changing the settings on my garmin).                          

Trail runners want to know how much time has elapsed, hikers want to know the time of day.

Trail runners wear the smallest packs possible & cram everything in, hikers have plenty of room in their packs

Trail runners (generally) don’t use poles, hikers do.

Trail runners bring boring food like bars and gels, hikers bring fun food like nuts, cheese & berries.

Trail runners rarely stop, hikers enjoy stops.

Trail runners put electrolytes in their water and are known to frequently run out of fluids, trail runners drink straight water and bring plenty of it.

15.43 miles, 4,102’ elevation gained Smile

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