TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Well Intentions

Some days I leave for work at 7 AM and I am finally home for good around 9:30 PM.  Dead-do tired.  I do get big breaks, like 2 hours between the day work and the night gig.  And I don’t do this long work schedule every day.  So, when I finally get a morning and afternoon off, I make big plans.  After catching up on neglected chores, I spend a couple hours at the gym, or best of all, I make it to the trails.  The last time I made it to the trails, was Tuesday, where I squeezed in a short(ish) 7.25 mile run.  I ran the Mentally Sensitive / Meadows lollipop loop in Aliso Creek Canyon, and told myself that I’ve just going to be happy with whatever I can get out and do.  Good thing I was happy with whatever I could get out and do.  Because even though I had well intentions to put in a nice long trail run today, I fell ill.  No trails today.  I spent all of this day off home, answering e-mails, coordinating Chimera and sleeping.  

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday’s Autumn Run:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Recovery Done

Recovery Done.  Thursday, about 7 miles with a trip to Top of the World in Laguna Beach.

Now it’s time to get back in the game. Smile

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Twin Peaks Ultra 2014

To bed at 8:30 PM Friday, I woke to a 2:30 AM alarm Saturday morning.  Less than an hour after the bars closed I was on the road, spotting more than one drunk driver, on my way around The Saddleback Mountains, to Indian Truck Trail in Corona.  Total drive time: 1 hour.

4:30 AM Briefing for early starters (photo courtesy Michael Perlongo):10688387_10202926099048725_3889964526360438111_o (2)

I set up the mountain in the dark in my quest to conquer Twin Peaks Ultra   mostly alone.  But I had the company of a lovely lady for a while.  When she told me that she had run Nanny Goat, I jokingly replied, “That’s good, you know all about suffering then.”  She said, “No.  I had lots of fun.”  It’s then that I wanted to take her by the shoulders, look her in the eyes and warn her, “You are going to go to a Dark Place today.  DON’T WORRY.  It’s going to be OKAY.  You will get through it, and you will be better for it.”  Instead, I told her, “Just remember, you have all the time in the world.”  Since we were both intent on the 50k, we really did have all the time in the world, well, all the time that the fifty milers had – and that was good enough. 

The first leg of Twin Peaks Ultra is about 7 miles long, all uphill, along Indian Truck Trail, a dirt road over-looking Riverside County.  How did I feel?  I felt neutral.  I felt no fear; I was not anxious.  I was in “one-step-in-front-of-the-other” mode.  I reached The Main Divide in about two hours with cheerful aid station workers, and one lovely lady stating, “It’s Lauren on the Run.”  I cannot tell you how strange that feels.  People read this blog.  And when they see me, they smile.  I find that strange and odd.

The second leg was a short distance of rolling hills along The Main Divide, about three miles.  At 9 miles in from the start, the front runners who started at 6:00 AM began to pass me.  I ran much of this portion alone however, and it blessed me with tranquility. 

I met my friend (Chimera, Old Goat, race director), Steve Harvey at mile ten where he manned the Horsethief aid station.  I made my stop quick knowing what hell awaited me.   I met up with Greg Hardesty, on my descent, who took this awesome picture of me slightly loosing my balance as I made my way into Trabuco Canyon: 

taken by greg h

This third leg of Twin Peaks entailed about five miles of very technical terrain (Horsethief and Trabuco Trails).  I took much of the Horsethief portion slower than I wanted, mainly because I feared falling on the fist sized rocks that rolled beneath my feet, and also because I needed to step aside for runners to pass.  This trail is a true single-track, with no room to pass. 

I reached Holy Jim, slightly slower than than I intended.  Still, I felt no anxiety.  As I told the lady on the way up, “We had all the time in the world.”  And looking at this run as the first long in getting back to shape, helped a great deal.  This notion kept my usual evil negative talk at bay. 

The 4th leg, the Holy Jim leg, consisted of five miles uphill switch-back.  I cannot tell you how many times I have climbed Holy Jim. I have had good times, and I have had disastrous times with that monster.  But it has always, always been beautiful.  One person at the trailhead told me he had seen my video of a prior Twin Peaks and thanked me for the info.  I met another lady at the aid station who said the same.  I always feel a little embarrassed when someone tells me they saw my video or read my blog.  It’s like I feel I need to “measure up,” like they expect something better than I am.  And I am so not better than I am. Smile

Anyway, I stocked up with calories at Leon Gray’s station in the Holy Jim lot and trotted into the canyon behind several of the regular starters who were now approaching by greater numbers.  (Mind you, this was a mountain trail race, so by greater numbers, I mean don’t mean very many – only 79 people ran this race).

My first steps onto Holy Jim:

Those five miles up Holy Jim were a bear.  I saw friends who passed me on the way up.  Their encouraging words helped some.  Still, I felt miserable.  Weak, and totally unable to move with any speed whatsoever, I felt some solace over the fact that I had all the time in the world.   And I felt solace in the fact that I knew every bend in the road, and exactly when it was all going to end.

It took me two hours to climb Holy Jim.  My best time (I think) is 1 1/2 hours.  My worst time is around 2:15.  This was one of the worst times.  But I was not a wreck when I reached the top.  Still determined to finish this thing out, I felt confident that I would recover enough to reach the peak. 

On my way up The Main Divide, I passed four runners hovering over a map, and asked if they needed help.  They had already reached the peak and were unsure where to turn on the down trip.  I told them to turn onto Holy Jim and could have sworn that I read doubt in their eyes.  So I said, “Trust me.  I may come in last, but I know these trails by heart.  I know this course by heart.  Turn down Holy Jim, run back up to Horsethief . . .  Trust me.”

After these departing words, I began leg 5 of Twin Peaks Ultra – a three mile, uphill trek to Santiago Peak. 

I wish that I had the words to adequately describe the pure and utter hell that awaited me on leg five of this ultra.  It was only three miles.  But I think I could have travelled those same three miles faster if I were to have dropped to the ground and rolled up to the peak.  I was not in physical pain.  Sure the bottom of my feet ached a bit.  The plantar fasciitis in my left heel was hinting its way back.  Overall, I was okay physically and mentally – I was just utterly, UTTERLY exhausted.   

The hellish leg five mainly consisted of exposed, rocky truck trail with a relentless incline.  I was alone for the first 1.5 miles, and therefore resorted to mind games to keep me moving.  “Where do you think a half mile ends?” I asked myself, and then forbade myself from looking my garmin until I reached my guessed point.  I came up short each time, .3 of a mile, .45.  Doh!  But the game kept me going.  Somewhere in here I began texting my husband.  I needed something outside myself to help pass the excruciating slowly passing time.  Thank God I had service and was able to communicate somewhat with hubby.  He was so positive.  Oddly, I had this terrible desire to convey what I really couldn’t convey, and that was, I WAS IN HELL. 

About half way through this leg, I came to a flat portion and found very little strength to even trot it.  But up the next incline, I saw my friend Emmett Rahl.  What a welcome relief!  Coming down from the Peak, leg five had done him in as well, which made him decide to opt out of the 50 miler for the 50k.  I felt sad to hear this, as he had conveyed his desire to complete the 50 miler.  Regardless, I cannot tell you how much a friendly face helped on the course at this point.  Emmett pressed his ice filled hand-helds against my cheeks to cool my face, and I was off again, on again, with Santiago Peak in my heart.  That’s the only thing I wanted in the world right then – SANTIAGO PEAK.

Runners coming down from the peak told me about ice, and Reese’s candies, and great food that awaited me at the top.  I really didn’t care about anything except for the agony to stop.  I don’t know how I was able to put one foot in front of the other.  Passing a group of hunters drinking Corona beers, I was tempted to stop and drink a beer with them.  We chatted as I tromped by, and somehow I kept on going.  I saw a tree that I recognized, and I remembered that last time I came up this trail a LONG time ago, it had many more leaves.  And then I saw this:

The sight of the towers nearly broke me down.  I teared up, overwhelmed with relief.  The end of my misery was near, so, so, near, but at the same time, so gosh dang far!!!  Just a little bit longer, about a half mile, and I had this treacherous race in the bag.  I picked up my step some, and then lo-and-behold, another friend, Randall Tolosa, came up from behind me.  We made that last miserable part of the trek together, thankfully, as he kept my mind off the pure torture that I was enduring. 

At last!  Paradise achieved! 

At Santiago Peak I refilled my hydration pack with water, ice and Nuun tablets.  I guzzled three or four small cups of iced cola.  I ate a handful of potato chips, and I shoved a Reese’s two-pack into my pocket.  Now normally, I would never allow myself to eat two whole Reese’s to myself guilt-free.  Not so running down from the peak.  I ate both of them before the first mile off the peak had ended.

Heading down from the peak, I saw the lady whom I had wanted to warn about The Dark Place as we headed up the mountain so many hours ago.  I could tell from her face, she was in that Dark Place.  Yet, still she smiled.  That’s what keeps us coming back I guess.  We go to that Dark Place, and we still smile.  I barely recognized her, as we had met in the pitch-black-dark.  She wore a hat now, and she agreed with me that the trek to the peak was “quite difficult”  (those were her words, my words were not so nice). Winking smile  I also saw a young man, a slender young man, suffering terribly as he made his way to the peak.  He didn’t manage a smile.  I assured him that paradise awaited. And it really did.  I can’t think of anything that equates to the relief of finally reaching the peak, except for delivering a child.  The whole process is so terribly painful, and all you want is for it all to end.  And then finally, after so, so, so long of suffering, you are there – standing at the peak, or laying there with baby in arms. 

I headed down The Main Divide, then Upper Holy Jim cautiously, yet excitedly.  All I had to do was not twist my ankle or break any bones for ten miles.  Upper Holy Jim provided breathtaking views with steep, rocky and slippery terrain.  A couple of runners were making there way back to the peak for the fifty miler.  One of them shouted out to me, “Thanks for saving us earlier!”  He was one of the four guys I pointed out the way to at Holy Jim.  I smiled and told him how I thought they weren’t going to trust me, when to my surprise he hollered, “No!  I read your blog.  Great job, by the way, keep it up.”  That was the lifter I needed to carry on. 

Homeward Bound:

My goal down Indian Truck Trail, the last seven miles of this event, was to maintain a 15 minute mile.  I maintained between a 13 and 17 minute mile (downhill – 17 minute!!!).  I was that tired.  About a mile into the last leg, my phone rang.  Yes, my phone rang.  Without glasses, I answered the call blindly.  It was my friend Hank who had gone onward to work on the 50 miles.  He was hoping that I had finished the race because he was encountering some trouble on Horsethief (The man eater!).  To avoid telling his story before he does, I’ll just say that I worried a great deal.  I phoned Steve who manned the station at the top of Horsethief.  I didn’t get through but was able to leave a message.  Then after several attempts, and a great slow down on my part, I was finally able to reach Hank again by phone, and learned that he was coping. 

I finally crossed the finish line of Twin Peaks Ultra, the 50k option.  So happy am I that I decided to show up.  25k trained, I ran a 50k trail race with 11,000’ of elevation gain.  I feel like I gained a whole new family.  Twin Peaks is in my blood for good now.

Twin Peaks 2014a

Friday, October 17, 2014

Preoccupied

I got a run in yesterday – eleven miles.  They were not fulfilling miles, as my mind was so busy.  And I am not the type of runner that is within myself when I run – I don’t think much at all when I run.  Instead I like to experience the moment outside of me.  Not so yesterday.  I became way too preoccupied with my thoughts.  I don’t like that.  Still, it was all worthwhile.  If I had to be preoccupied with my thoughts somewhere, I’d rather it be on the trails.

10 16 14

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

To Go Or Not To Go

With Twin Peaks Ultra just around the corner, I am in deep do-do.  Saturday I was able to squeeze in a ten mile out-and-back up Holy Jim Trail in Trabuco Canyon.  It was a slow struggle up the mountain that convinced me that I’ve never been more out-of-shape or unprepared for a running event.  Never!  While running that long five mile uphill on Saturday, I seriously considered not running Twin Peaks on the 18th.  I thought that I might just work it instead, or possibly pace another runner.  I thought about this long and hard on the giant switch back often referred to as Holy Shit or Holy Cow.  But my mind kept wandering over to the logistics of getting aid station workers and sweepers on and off the mountain for Chimera.    What would you do?  Would you show up and try a race you have no business running?  Are you that crazy?

What I’ve decided is this:  If I don’t make the twenty-one mile mark in six and a half hours, I’m dropping to the 50k option.  Under no circumstances am I going to go onward to the fifty miles if I can’t make this time.  And I won’t make this time unless some sort of miracle occurs.   And so, the 50k I shall attempt.  And it will be the longest 50k I’ve ever run – that is, if I can do it.  To get my sorry butt to the start line, I decided to go into Twin Peaks with this mindset:  This will be my first long run getting back into shape.

In the meantime, I took in some wondrous beauty during the best ten mile out-and-back that I have:  Holy Jim. 

10 11 14

Friday, October 10, 2014

Chock-Full

My schedule is chock-full.  To the brim.  My running schedule:  Nil.

Instead of satisfying my wanderlust, this is what I’ve been doing the past couple weeks: During the days I substitute teach at mainly high schools and middle schools (only taking elementary assignments at my youngest son’s school).  During the evenings I teach between 11 and 17 hours of adult education:  math, computer software, and high school equivalency test prep.  I also sit on a program advisory committee for AB86, which meets periodically for several hours at a time.  (I don’t feel like explaining AB86 right now, so here it is for your reading pleasure:  http://ab86.cccco.edu/).  And finally, the most exciting edition to my busy schedule, I have taken on coordinating the volunteer activities for Chimera 100, “co-director” as the race director, Steve wrote in an e-mail. So, I’m running with that title (but I probably won’t use it again.) Winking smile 

This wonderful new position is hectic, it is difficult, but it is so, so, so wonderful.  I am right in my element coordinating Chimera.  And the people, they are amazing – truly amazing.  So far we’ve placed over a hundred, yes 100,  volunteers on the course to aid runners through this monster event.  I am in awe.  (Looking forward to sharing the experience in some future blog posts). 

All of this of course, makes running trails, or even cross training at the gym, quite difficult.  Since last Sunday, I got in only two runs.  TWO.  Sunday, I took off in the afternoon up Harding Truck Trail.  It was hot as hell.  What happened to autumn?  Consequently, the trip was extremely sluggish.  But heck, it was Harding Truck Trail, which is constant uphill.  The whole thing was an exercise in struggling, even the downhill. 

View from Harding Truck Trail:

10.13 miles, 2,386’ elevation gain:

10 5 14

This afternoon, I got in my second run, this time in the coastal hills.  I ran about the same amount of miles as Sunday’s run, but less than half the elevation.  I wasn’t in my groove, but that’s okay.  I can’t remember the last time I was in my groove.  I’ll get it back; I will I tell ya!  Until then, I’ll enjoy the trails regardless. 

For now, it’s back to work!  Nah, I’m going to bed.  I’m tired. Smile

10 miles, 903’ elevation gain:

10 10 14

Friday, October 3, 2014

Redemption Run

There are some runs that are left unfinished, unfinished because I could not complete them. I don’t have lots of them, but I have them. And those runs always linger in the back of my mind as unfinished. Last Sunday, I got out and finally finished one of those runs. This run: I bet my walk of shame is bigger than yours. Sunday, I redeemed myself by finishing the twenty-one miles that I set out to complete in the summer of 2013.

The run started off cold, yes COLD, and I was oh so grateful. I slowly made my way up The Main Divide with views of Lake Elsinore to my right, and the Pacific Ocean to my left. The air remained cool, and the skies cloudy as I ran along the ridge. Not a single person stirred for quite some time, when finally, as The Main Divide curved around to the Riverside County side, a lone mountain biker came pedaling by. An instance like this always amuses me – I mean, here we are, two lone travelers passing each other on a lonely mountain road. I couldn’t help but wonder why more people weren’t flooding this desolate mountain road. I mean, doesn’t anyone else know just how wonderful it is out here?

i

I felt good and strong . . . well, let’s just say “not weak,” as I ran the nine plus miles along the divide.  I came along one other person, a barefoot hiker, and we talked for a short bit when he asked where he might find West Horsethief.  After telling him that it was about a mile and a half on his right, I realized too late (as he was long gone) that I calculated my math with Trabuco Peak as my frame of reference.  Drats!  He actually had three miles to West Horsethief.  I wanted to yell my error to him across the divide, but that effort would have been of no use. 

I met no other people along The Main Divide, and came up on Holy Jim feeling surprisingly good. 

I literally raced down Holy Jim in a race against time to make up for my regular slow speed along the rolling ridge called The Main Divide.  Best thing was, gnats were nowhere in sight.  What a welcome relief – no tiny bugs banging against my ear phones, no little critters flying up my nose or into my eyeballs.  The tide had definitely turned; there was no better day to attempt this redemption run. 

I ran out of Holy Jim Canyon with 14.25 miles on my garmin.  According to EVERYONE who has something to say about it, I had less than five miles to travel up Trabuco Trail back to The Main Divide.  I had always doubted people’s claims that the trip was 4.5 or so miles, and then eventually doubted myself that it was a little over 5 miles.  I was after all, somewhat out of my mind last time I made that trek out of the canyon via Trabuco Trail.  So this past Sunday, I set my mind on a 4.75 mile trip, with an arrival distance of 19 miles at the top of Trabuco.  This somehow gave me peace of mind.  It was less than five miles, and no matter how hard anything gets, I can always do less than five miles!

The first two miles were lovely, and not extremely difficult.  The climb was gradual.  I stopped at my water stash along the way and refilled, though I really didn’t think that I’d need the extra fluids.  One of my number one rules, if not my actual number one rule,  is to ALWAYS refill fluids when I can, even if I don’t need it.  I’ve made the mistake not to, too many times. 

Well!  At about mile 17, my trek went from tiring, yet comfortable, to pretty close to hellish.  The climb grew steeper, and fatigue kicked me in the head.  I couldn’t believe that I had tried this during 100+ degree weather in the summer of 2013.  I recognized spots where I had collapsed on that “run,” and though it comforted me some that I was no where near as bad off as I was then, seeing those spots of prior despair added a little anxiety to this terrible march. 

My eyes glued, and I mean glued to my garmin, I was counting down tenths of a mile until I reached The Main Divide.  I did not need to stop and rest, and thankfully, the weather was not overly warm.  But, still, it seemed as if this trail was never going to end!!!

I just might flip out the next time someone tells me that the Trabuco Trail trek is less than five miles.  I’ll tell you exactly how long it is.  The trail is 5.25 miles.  And I’m never going to doubt that again. 

I was so dang relieved to finally run down The Main Divide, I wept.  I had been gone from my family way too long on Sunday.  I missed my guys.  This is just about the only true negative aspect to my hobby – I’ll take the terrible uphill treks, the loneliness (in fact, I kind of like that), the utter fatigue, the failures (which ultimately are triumphs), the gnats, the heat, the cold, the falls, and everything else.  The absence of my family for so many hours, well, that kind of sucks!

redemption run