TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Sycamore 100K

I woke earlier than the crack of dawn Saturday morning.  3:15 AM I was up and dressing for the Sycamore 100k relay.  3:45 AM Hank and I were driving in my truck to Poway, a city I’ve never traveled to, which is a good hour and fifteen minutes away.  (Often when we talk distance in my parts, the measuring system we use is time. Smile )

Once I exited the 5 Southbound, I was in unfamiliar territory.  I drove the 78 in the dark, in the rain, and then onto the 15S, still in the dark, and in the rain.  Of course we missed our turn-off into Sycamore canyon.   Did I mention that it was dark and raining?

Our first stop about 5 miles after missing the turnoff was a gas station.  When I was young (so very long ago) a gas station was exactly where one went when needing direction. Apparently, that’s not the case any longer.  The employee at this station pre-5AM had never heard of Sycamore Canyon.  They also didn’t have public restrooms.  Grrrrrr.

Next stop, a 7-11 convenience store.  Neither of the employees could give me directions.  And again, no public restrooms.  It looked like we were going to have a problem.  That is until Hank suggested going into the pawn shop a couple doors down that was open at 5AM in the morning.  Well, I thought it was a pawn shop because the pawn shop in that strip mall was so brightly lit, it looked like a casino.  The establishment that was actually open at the time was East County Bait and Tackle.   Hallelujah!!  There are some things that fisherman and trail runners have in common.  First off, we are apt to get up at “ass-o-clock-in-the-morning.”  Secondly, we are interested in canyons and other wilderness areas, and generally enjoy helping people figure out how to get to their destinations.  We both love an adventure. 

Not only did the gentlemen (there were two) behind the counter tell us how to get to Sycamore Canyon, they printed up a Google map to aid us on our journey.  They definitely saved our morning.  (If you happen to be in the Lakeside/Poway area – give them your business. Smile)

We pulled into Sycamore Canyon at approximately 5:20 AM, in plenty of time for check-in and race directions.  For the moment, rain had ceased.  I wasn’t that nervous because I feel confident that I can trudge through almost any misery.   

This 100k course consisted of 9 loops along a figure-eight route.  Each loop measured about 7 miles with 1,000’ of elevation gain.  My strategy for HL2PY (our team) thankfully was agreeable to Hank.  That strategy was, he took the first loop to get us out ahead, then he took the last loop to catch us up again. 

The rain began to fall just minutes after the first runners went off, taking the loop counter-clockwise.  About a half hour later, the early starters began to dwindle in from their first loop. 

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Hank came in from loop #1 slightly earlier than I had expected (1:15), so I felt good about the course not being overly difficult for me. 

I was wrong.  I took the course clockwise, up a rocky terrain, stumbling some in a light drizzle.  Though I encountered difficulty on the downhill portion where I was hoping to make up some time, I finally found my groove and was able to keep a decent pace for several miles. 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe mood was festive, even with gloomy skies.  I saw lots of runners that I know, or know of.  Twenty-two of the runners ran solo.  There were seven 4 person teams, and three 2 person teams.  HL2PY was the only mixed gender 2 person team.  It was going to be tough for HL2PY to make the cutoff (last lap by 7:30PM).  But based on Hank’s first lap, and my first lap (which was 1:50), we would be able to make it, even if we slowed a bit.  Problem was, that first lap for me was tough.  Really tough, and I worried that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up a 1:50 (or even a 2:00) lap.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI welcomed the rest after lap two (my first lap).  Rain poured down as soon as Hank took off for lap three, and I bundled up in layers beneath the E-Z up belonging to a very friendly 4 man team (all who were Navy men).  With rest, my doubts about completing lap #4 (my 2nd lap) vanished.  Taking in lovely views as the rain departed, I sat by the timing table waiting for Hank to come in.  Before he arrived however, the weather grew colder as drizzle set in.  In addition to my running jacket, I put on a “rain” jacket fearing that a downpour would return. 

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Hank returning from lap #3 (his second lap), with an approx. time of 1:30 (I am writing times from memory, so I could be off some):SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

With Hank’s first two laps coming in well under 2:00, I felt good that we could make it, especially if I could stay around 2:00.  It was cold when I took off.  But within a mile, I began to overheat, TERRIBLY.  I struggled to tie my rain jacket around my waist while running the rocky terrain, and dropped my beanie in the process.  I back-tracked a bit to collect my beanie, then took off downhill, still overheating tremendously.  Within the next mile, I had my running jacket also tired around my waist, in addition to gloves and a beanie in my pocket.  I felt so miserably hot and muggy in this drizzly weather, that if I would have passed a campfire I would have gleefully threw all my warm clothes into it.  I was aggravated me that much.Baring teeth smile

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I tossed my jackets, beanie and gloves at the aid station which was located at the center of the figure-eight.  As I ran to what is called “Cardiac Hill” (Not “Cardio”, but “Cardiac”), I felt so fatigued that I wondered how in the heck I was going to manage another lap.  I struggled up that last hill back to race headquarters, coming in at around 2:05.  I felt on the verge of tears.  I didn’t think that I would be able to manage another loop. 

The rest and camaraderie did wonders.  After calling home and taking in some refreshments, I felt confident that I could pull off another lap at around 2:00 (but hopefully less). 

My rest and wait were long.  It was so long that I began to worry.

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I knew that something had to be wrong with Hank still not back an entire hour longer than his last loop.  I imagined the worst.  He turned an ankle and was limping his way back.  Eventually, Jessica sent a runner out to check for him.  She knew that 2:25 was much too long for Hank, and pondered that perhaps he had gotten lost.  Meanwhile, a runner occasionally dropped from the race for various reasons.  Though the rain had ceased, we were wet, and some suffered from chaffing and the pure difficulty of the course.  Though it was not a excruciatingly difficult course, it was nowhere near easy, and some parts were pretty dang tough.  My typical 7 mile run is an out-and-back to Top of the World in Aliso Wood Canyons, and this course was much more difficult than that. 

Turns out that Hank took a wrong turn, resulting in running one portion of the figure eight twice.  This added at least three additional tough miles to his loop.  With my usual slow pace, this put us in the deficit, especially since I wasn’t going to be able to make up time.  Turns out for me, loop six (my 3rd) was terribly, TERRIBLY difficult.  Pain in my right heal flared up, and I experienced a slight tinge of pain in my right hamstring as well.  I put us in the hole even deeper, coming in around 2:10 (perhaps even later – I stopped looking at my garmin at a certain point – I felt too low to deal with the facts).

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHank took off on loop seven at approximately 5:15 PM.  He looked strong and good to go.  Even with no rain, I felt that it was impossible for us to make the time requirements.  He wanted to give it a try, so I hunkered down and waited his return under darkness.  Runners continued to drop as the night grew wetter and colder.  Hank would need to run a record loop 7 if we had any chance (record as in, better than his first lap).  Even then, honestly, I do not think I could have performed a pace good enough to make the cutoff.  I knew that we had no chance and resolved to call this inaugural Sycamore 100k a DNF. 

As we waited beneath headquarters' cover, I chatted with many wonderful runners, watched other wonderful runners  drop, and yet others finish triumphantly.  Jim Tello and a lady whose name I know on paper and on the internet, but only met for the first time on this day (Desi Klaar) both urged race director Jessica Deline to allow Hank and I to complete laps 8 and 9 simultaneously.  Can you believe that she agreed to that?  I can believe it.  I can believe it, because Jessica genuinely wants people to finish her races.   She shows no outwardly joy for low completion rates.  Believe me though, her agreeing to let us run the final laps simultaneously does not come as great news when one has already resolved to a DNF.   The rain had stopped, but who knew if it would pour again? Besides that, it was cold and wet, and I really didn’t think that I could do a 2:00 loop.  And quite frankly, I didn’t want to disappoint myself again.  But I dug through my gear and put on my headlamp nonetheless.  And if Hank would have come soon, I would have headed out for lap #8 (my 4th). 

Now, if Hank pulled of a great lap 7, he would come in about 6:30PM.  That hour came and went with no Hank.  7:00 PM hit, and the rain fell in a down pour.  That’s when I made the mental decision that I could not go out there again.  Hank was already at a 1:45 loop, which meant something was up.  I didn’t see things heading toward an upward momentum.  7:20 rolled around and Jessica advised that runners should really head out by 7:30 on the last loop if they planned on finishing on time.  The park had a hard cut-off for locking the gates at 9:45PM. 

There was no way we were going to make it, even with running laps 8 and 9 simultaneously.  I started packing up the truck.  Hank came in at around 7:30 PM. 

I was relieved that he was “done” as he put it.  Turns out, he missed the turn off to climb out of the canyon, which accounted for his 2:10 lap.  He was in good spirits, and hopefully he wasn’t too disappointed in not finishing.  The race had to be called.  We were done.  The only team to DNF, though 60% of the solo runners had DNF’d.

I am a-okay with not finishing.  I got in a dang good workout.  And quite frankly, I would have never gotten in 21 miles under off and on rain left to my own accord – especially with that elevation gain (3,400’).  Heck, who am I kidding, doesn’t matter what elevation?  I would have stayed home bundled up if it wasn’t for Sycamore 100K.  I am at the point now in my trail running that I am grateful for the experience, and even more so for the camaraderie.  I loved being in the atmosphere.  My team partner Hank was a true champ.  He was supportive all the way, and I never saw him lose his cool concerning the extra mileage he put in due to the wrong turns (his mileage totaled around 31 miles). 

Next year, I think a 4 “man” team might be best. Smile

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beauty Vs. Brawn

Sunday, we got a good downpour here in the land that seldom sees rain.  I know that we need the rain, but rain spoils things for me, especially since Mondays are one of the few days that I can get out and run.  As expected, all my local tails were CLOSED “due to wet and muddy conditions.”

Well, I had me a full tank of gas, so I thought, “Hell with it,” and headed up Ortega Highway in my beloved truck.  I know that I would have been better off staying home and putting in miles right out my front door.  I would after all, have time to get in some good mileage if I had chosen that route.  But what I wanted was beauty, not brawn. 

I pulled into Blue Jay campground an hour later, and felt calm and joyful being back to this lovely location.  The ground was still muddy, a few campfires smoldered beneath overly cloudy, cold skies.  Gosh, it had to be 50 degrees F!  (I’m so sorry – I know that isn’t cold for the rest of the world, but it is cold here).  Branches were strewn about; no trees were down, though a few widow makers hung precariously from branches above.  I felt so at home that I could have pitched a tent and stayed a week.  

I cannot adequately relay just how happy and peaceful I felt.

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Since hubby had indicated that he would pick up the boys from school, I took off down San Juan Trail feeling like I had all the time in the world.  I did not see another soul on the trails as I made my way toward the San Juan / Old San Juan Trail junction.  But I was not alone.  The forest was alive with sound – critters scrambling through the brush, birds singing anonymously among the trees.  Listening to this music, I had no desire for man-made music, and kept my ear buds hanging over my shoulders. 

I spotted my destination, Sugarloaf Peak, a mile out.  It took some trial and error to find the path that leads to the entrance at the top.  Then it was climbing time, scooting over boulders, grabbing onto branches.  My legs were scuffed with scratches.  Oh the glory. Winking smile 

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0223151244-00I summited Sugarloaf Peak and took a seat on a large flat boulder. I could see Los Pinos Trail climbing up the mountain on my right.  I could see as far as the Pacific Ocean, with ridgeline overlapping more ridgelines reaching out to my left.  I had my beauty.  And it took some brawn to get it.  (The best of both worlds).

The wind picked up; the temperature dropped.  And I simply sat there on that rock and took it all in – the sights, the sounds, the chilling wind.  It was a little spooky, like the wind might swoop me off my rock.  I dug around in my pack and replaced my cap with a wool beanie, and I was good for the cold.  Then I sat some more.

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Eventually, I felt that I ought to get going – not that I wanted to go (I could have stayed all day).  I just needed to get back to reality because I do have a wonderful family back at home (young sons that I desire to see, since I miss out on so much with this crazy work schedule).  And I also had a meeting with my boss later in the afternoon.  

I finally glanced at my garmin when my feet hit Old San Juan Trail.  It read 1:10.  Flabbergasted, I thought to myself, “This must be time elapsed – it CANNOT be 1PM!”  But, alas it was after 1PM (time elapsed was much greater).  One might think that since it was so dang late, that I would have picked up my step a bit.  But I did not.  Instead, I lackadaisically ran back (because that is the way roll) toward my truck. 

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At the Old San Juan Trail / San Juan Trail junction, I decided to take a so-called short-cut by going straight up Old San Juan instead of meandering San Juan.  (Okay, we have two trails out here called “San Juan Trail”, not to mention an additional “San Juan Loop.”  We have an older, less travelled trail, the original San Juan Trail, that we call “Old San Juan Trail.”  And we have a new San Juan Trail that we call “San Juan Trail” or “New San Juan Trail”.  Just thought I’d straighten that out).  Now, speaking of so-called short-cuts, I know darn well that “short-cut” never really means that the trip is shorter in time.  In fact, short-cuts are usually much more difficult.  And that it was.  But it was a lovely struggle getting back to the truck.  All that beauty was well worth the brawn. 

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Training for Sycamore

I’m trying to put in some last minute miles.  How it will help me for next week . . . well, I don’t think it will.  But I am going to show up at next week’s race anyhow.  Reason 1) because I am running a relay with my friend Hank which will be fun (and as such will only need to do half the course), and 2) the Sycamore 100k is Dirty Feet Productions’ new race – and I want to support Jessica Deline, the race director.

If it wasn’t for Jessica, I may not have put in ten miles along these awesome trails on Friday.  They were tough miles (because I am so DANG tired), but they were awesome and worthwhile.  Trail miles always are, and I might have never known that. 

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Before Jessica Deline, like Friday’s trail, I was mentally sensitive.  I was scared to death to venture out in the wilderness alone.  It all started like this (not Friday’s run, but my first trail run): In an effort to get trained on trails (because I had stubbornly decided that I HAD TO run the Calico Trail Run, as I had camped there when I was in the fifth grade, and it made a big impression on me), I sought out other runners for help.  I searched the internet until I stumbled upon a Yahoo group, called OCTR (Orange County Trail Runners), which was founded by Jessica.  The group was free, so I signed up right away, and some time in June 2008, I signed up for a group run in Peter’s Canyon. 

I got lost on the way to Peter’s Canyon, parked no where near where the group was supposed to meet, and anxiously looked about for any group of runners.  Feeling defeated, as I had missed my chance to hit the trails with a group, I stubbornly decided to run them nonetheless.  I. WAS. SCARED. TO. DEATH.  Seriously, I didn’t know what was going to get me – a rattle snake, a mountain lion, an axe-murderer?  I think that I may have even picked up a stick as I headed off down a trail that was surrounded by tall dry, brown grass.  I remember meeting two women coming up from the trail.  And I asked them if it was safe to venture there, to which they seemed hesitantly to agree that it was okay for a while if I was alone. (hehe!)

The first hill nearly knocked me to the ground, panting.  Those were the days that I thought I needed to run every inch (I have since wised-up Winking smile).  My confidence grew as I made my way around the lake.  Each step was exciting and offered something new – a strange plant, a lovely boulder.  I asked every group that I came up on, “Are you the Orange County Trail Runners.”  Finally, I came upon a group, and they answered “Yes!”  It was a small group, consisting of Jessica Deline, Tom Fangrow (the guy who since taught me almost everything I know on the trails), a swimmer named Laura (that I ran with one more time), and a couple more males.  I kept up with the group fairly well because I was a road runner back then with a much quicker pace.  They all carried jugs of water or packs on their backs.  And they ALL wore shorts.  I only wore pants back then – lesson learned on this day:  don’t wear pants running trails (not unless it’s snowing!).  Tom asked me on that first day, “Where’s your water?”  I laugh now at my answer:  “I don’t run with water.”  Little did I know that you can die trail running without water.  I went on to run some solo miles with Tom that day when the group ran back to their cars.  I put in 9 miles total (my long run on the road was 14 miles).  For several days afterwards, my glutes ached to lower myself into a chair.  I felt exhilarated.  I couldn’t wait to get back out on trails, which I did about a week later, at Aliso/Wood Canyons with Jessica, Tom and Laura.  This time, I wore shorts.  And I carried water. 

Oh my gosh, little did I know how that day in Peter’s Canyon would alter my existence.  I cannot imagine a life without wandering about trails all by my lonesome.  And I cannot help credit Jessica and Dirty Feet Productions for helping me find this part of myself.  And for that, I ran on Friday so that I could somehow go out and attempt the Sycamore 100k and be a part of Jessica’s new race.  Thankfully, I have an awesome partner in my relay who will probably make it possible for us to finish the race within the time requirements. (Yay Hank!) 

Friday’s run:

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Before trail running I was like this tiny caterpillar I came across on Meadows trail as I made my way along this oh-so-tiring 10+ mile trip in Aliso and Wood Canyons:

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

I am Fifty

Monday I completed my fiftieth revolution around the sun.  It was a good day. I felt fortunate to have made it 50 years.  So many people are not so fortunate.  The day came as a holiday (President’s Day), which was also a good thing, because I got out for a run with my friend Sheila, then spent the rest of the day with my family (pretty much just lounging).  Sheila and I ran ten miles along Arroyo Trabuco Trail out in Las Flores and Rancho Santa Margarita, a trail often travelled by myself.  We chatted during nearly all of it.  Arroyo Trabuco, unlike myself, was in full glory, abounding with spring.  The creeks were full, and the grass grew tall in the meadows.    A great place to complete my 50th trip around the sun. Red rose

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Lessons Learned

Can someone please remind me that I need to run every single day.  It screws my head on tight.  Otherwise, I go around with a loosely screwed on head, and I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.

Seriously!

Being a school holiday, I left the house with the boys still sleeping and hit the trails in Wood Canyon today at 9:30AM.  It felt like summer with a slight breeze.  (By the way winter – please do not skip us completely).  

Wood Canyon was crowded with hikers (twenty plus!) and mountain bikers as I headed up Cholla Trail on my way to the ridge (known as West Ridge).  As I suffered up that short trail, I passed two struggling mountain bikers – one guy laughed and said “Vamos!!”  He walked his bike up a super steep portion, while the other stood by his and rested a bit.  I thought to myself, I know that spot – don’t worry, there is someone you can pass.  There is always someone you can pass.  (Anyway, I had translated “Vamos” as the command, “Let’s Go,” however but wasn’t sure, because I had always thought “Vamonos,” was the word that meant “let’s go.”   At home, I researched the two words and found that Vamos is not so much “let’s go,” but instead, “we are going.” That’s the new thing I learned today, besides the new thing that I learn all the time, which is that I really should run every day. Smile)

Anyway, my run helped lift stress right off my shoulders.  Spring flowers littered the hillsides and the deep blue ocean stood out sharply against the pristine clear skies and the rocky outline of Catalina Island.  It felt like life was grand, and that all the things that weigh had vanished.

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I made my way to Top of the World, recalling once when the two guys I met earlier on mountain bikes passed me.  I paused here and there for a photo, and delighted in the fact that I had my legs moving beneath me up and down rolling hills once again. 

On my return, I passed my two mountain “Vamos” bikers – this time I headed down Cholla as they headed back up.  They stopped me and laughed, stating that every time they’d see me, I was up ahead of them and they would remark – “she passed us again!”  I had no recollection of passing them again, and remarked that it must have been during the times I took the side trails off of West Ridge.  These guys, by the way, were out for a tough route today with three (3!) trips to Top of the World. 

One of the side trails off of West Ridge on the way to Top of the World:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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I ended this run with slightly over 6.5 miles completed and about 1,000 feet of elevation gain.  I ended today’s run with this:  toward the bottom of Cholla I spotted a robust young lad (very young, as in elementary school) making his way up Cholla.  A man, who was probably his father, followed closely behind.  And then a little ways down, I ran past another young lad (about the same age as the first).  Red faced, and appearing like he might burst into tears, he struggled, trying to push down on those pedals in an attempt to traverse up the hill.  Passing I said to him, “this might be a good place to get off the bike and walk – it will be more worth your effort.”  It seemed like relief set in when he realized this was an option.  His face relaxed, his shoulders lowered.  Very quickly, he hopped off his bike and strained to push it up the toughest portion of Cholla.  Remember those times when you thought you had to run every second (or ride, in this case)?  It took me a long time to realize that when running was going to lay me out on the trail, it was wiser to go ahead and hike so that I could run later.   I hope this boy learned that lesson today. 

Lessons learned.  Winking smile

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Green!

So busy lately I haven’t had much time to run.  I squeeze in trips to the gym here and there – but the trails are just a memory.  I wish that I could blog about my last run, which was last Saturday, but I don’t recall much (though my garmin says it was 11.13 miles).  I do vividly recall one thing.  There was so much green.  Finally, green is here! (I hope it’s still green by the time I finally hit the trails again Winking smile)

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Calico Trail Run 2015

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI will  cut to the finish right away and end the suspense.  I completed my 7th consecutive Calico 30k trail race last Sunday.  I did worry about this one, that I might get pulled due to time requirements.  I tried not to think about that, but the fear lingered in the back of my mind.  At the rate I’d been going and due to the difficulty of this course, I figured I would be lucky if I “ran” this one in less than 6 hours.  I didn’t want to worry about this though – I’m not that kind of runner.  I have always been in it for the adventure. 

We arrived in Calico Ghost town the afternoon prior to the race.  By “we” I mean, my three sons, my husband, our nephew and middle son’s friend.  After taking in some sights – visited the old school house, rode the train, ate dinner – we headed back to the bunkhouse.  I was early to bed, and woke often, at least once an hour, maybe more.  I woke for good at 5:45 AM.

As I walked through the desert into Calico Ghost Town, I didn’t much feel like running.  Knowing that this course runs long, I was looking at close to 20 miles through the desert.  I’m talking uphill in sand, boulder hopping through canyons, kind of trails.  Tough stuff.  For a second, a milli-second, I considered walking back to the bunkhouse and skipping the race.  But then I faced the facts.  I would never be able to handle watching the runners come through the finish as we took in the town’s sights.  The self-bashing would be immense.  

At a complete disadvantage physical fitness-wise, I needed to come up with a plan – something to get me to the start line and through the next twentyish miles.  Pacing plans were out of the question – my pace was too slow for a “plan.” 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThis is what I came up with:  BE PRESENT.  I had to be there on the trails, not inside my head, not ahead of myself, or looking back.  It was essential that I focus on my step – my current step.  I had to be there.  And there I was – in the present, running down an asphalt road out of Calico.  I saw Steve Harvey, and a few other friends, including followers of this blog that I was so fortunate to meet for the first time.  It was a lovely beginning with a nice pace to start (can’t beat a downhill asphalt start Smile ).

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I stayed so focused in the present trekking through that soft sand, that I didn’t turn on the music until mile 8.  MILE EIGHT.  I didn’t even notice the music’s absence.  Instead, I looked for hard spots in the sand, which were mainly off trail.  Believe me, if they were easily accessible, I was off trail to run the hard stuff often (And I was not the only runner doing this).  I chatted some with other runners, and I focused on covering 4 miles in the first hour.  I did that, plus some, coming in at 4.5 miles after the first hour. 

I ran into the first aid station thirty minutes shy of the cutoff.  Stopping briefly, I headed out with a pocket-full of Jelly-Bellies and a handful of Party Mix (Pretzels, Cheeze-Its, etc).  I hit mile 8 within two hours.  That’s when the trail grew more and more technical with slants, uphills, fist-sized rocks and boulders.   

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I made the half-way point at 2:15.  A negative split was pretty much out of the question (as was an even split) with the trail gaining in difficulty.   So, I knew that a sub-five wasn’t going to happen.  That was a-okay – remember I was worried about a six hour finish. 

I lost my four-mile an hour goal at about mile 12.  This did not concern me.  I could actually see other runners, as opposed to being so far behind that I was out there in the desert by my lonesome.  Being out there by my lonesome wouldn’t have been that bad though.  I have run this course enough times that I know it by heart, and the trail’s rugged beauty is breathtaking.  Unfortunately though, the trail grew so difficult that I had to focus so hard on my step that I could not look up often and enjoy the beauty.  But I did catch glimpses.  Winking smile

I love this spot – it comes right after a particularly technical portion, followed by a good climb.  At this point, the colorful views greet you just before a nice mile-long downhill: 

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As I summited the last big hill of the race (there would be a couple little hills to come), I met up with and passed two runners I had been trailing the entire race.  They asked when the next aid was, and I gladly gave out that information as well as a whole lot more, especially about the two miles of extremely difficult trail that we would encounter soon.  (Though I passed these young ladies, they passed me after the last aid station, which I was glad to see – I know, weird – weird as in, who is happy about someone passing them?  I was happy for their success.  Funny.  One of these young ladies told me that they chose this race to train for the L.A. Marathon.  I thought to myself, having not ever run the LA Marathon, that the Calico Trail Run will make the LA race seem easy – he,he).

Onward into that last aid station, I still held firm in my attempt at four miles an hour, though I had lost it recently.  When I hiked, I hiked determined and quickly, moving at a 15 mile pace.  I told myself, “If you can’t hike a 15 minute mile, then run!”  Glancing at my Garmin more often than usual, I sped up when needed, but never told myself to slow down.  Fatigue was setting in.

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I never felt stressed, panicked or scared during this race.  Yes, I grew irritated at times, and frustrated when some runners passed.  And yes, I was extremely tired.  Cramps were right at the edge – I kept them at bay by sipping my electrolyte water (3 Nuun tablets to my 70 oz).  And though I was not a particularly quick trotter, landmarks continued to come in much sooner than I expected.  If you run trails, or if you run at all, you know the sheer delight of coming upon a landmark all of a sudden when you didn’t expect it.  It’s a lovely thing!

Those last 4 miles of the Calico 30k are the toughest of the entire race.  The rocky trail slants one way, then the other.  You must zig-zag through the terrain, else eat dirt (or rather, rock).  At times, I braced myself against the canyon walls, but I never needed to stoop down and butt-scoot down a boulder.  I noticed a runner scoot down a boulder ahead early on, which was the sign that I needed to tell me that I could pass her.  Difficult terrain is my strength among the back-of-the-packers.  I passed her easily and ended up passing three runners total during this difficult canyon.  I was thrilled.  But the pressure was on to keep moving quickly.  Last thing I wanted is for runners that I passed at the end of the race, to over-take me toward the finish. 

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This pink canyon was the final landmark I waited for – it meant the technical aspect was over – that I was entering the final stretch:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

With about two miles remaining, I worked hard at leaving behind the three runners that I had recently passed.  And I passed another runner as I made my way back into Calico.  It was a difficult, final stretch, with a killer (though very quick) climb.  By the time I made it to the Calico parking lot, I felt that I could not run another step.  Two of my sons and my nephew met me at the base of the utility road back into town.  They marched up it with me, and kept a lookout for the “orange guy” (the last guy I passed).  I didn’t need him passing me so close to the end. 

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My oldest son ran me through town to the finish line.  He urged me to sprint.  All I had in me was a trot.  I crossed the finish line at 5:15, with 12 runners (out of about 45) coming in behind me.  When I finished, I was spent.  I had no more gas in the tank.  But what did I need gas for?  The race was over, and hubby was going to drive us all home.

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