TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year! My 2009 Recap

2009 what a year! I'm not exactly sure why, perhaps because it's the most recent year, but this one seemed to have put a deep impression in my mind. My mind, my mind, my mind . . .

I'm not sure anyone cares; I suppose I'm doing this for myself, a reflective exercise. Perhaps I simply like the sound of my fingers tap, tap, tapping away : )

My 2009:
Miles Run: 1,317.62
(the most miles I've put in over a year in my short running career)
Elliptical Miles: 414.98
Yards Swam: 49,000
(not as long as it may seem, about 28 miles, 1,960 laps in my gym pool)
Miles Cycled (in the gym : ): 331.95

I'll spare you the number of crunches, the number of laundry loads, giggles, jokes attempted or classes taught, the number of fits thrown, tears cried or the number of times I checked and re-checked whether the door was locked.

I can't spare you this: I ran 20 races. I'm proud of that accomplishment. I'm not sure I've been prouder of any other accomplishment, most likely because it's something I would have thought I could never have done. These twenty races -- they make me glad. And I'm not even an athlete (kinda like I'm not even a writer : ). My favorite races of 2009: Calico 30K, Great Silverado Footrace, San Diego Rock n' Roll Marathon, Buffalo Alley (see November) and the SBSD Mudrun (see September), and of course BULLDOG.

I raced Bulldog TWICE (A 22K and a 25k) and ran 3 mud runs. There was one marathon, two half marathons, four 10k's, four 5 milers (8k's), and three 5k's and 1 each of the following: 4 mile, 4.8 mile, 15k, 22K, 25K and 30K. Fourteen of the twenty races were run on the trail, the lovely trail.

My least favorite race: Dana Point's 10K Turkey Trot (November) and Heartbreak Ridge half marathon (October). I'll probably run the turkey trot again. Doubtful I'll do Heartbreak again. Heck though -- I may do Heartbreak and chuck the Turkey Trot : )

I crossed the finish line bruised and bloody in two races, and they're listed among my six favorites: Calico 30k and Bulldog 25k. Isn't that funny?

My favorite runs: Maple Springs, Trabuco Canyon, Weir Canyon, Santiago Truck Trail and Running up Meadows (both times, but especially the first), and countless others too many to list.

My least favorite run: Fremont/Blind/Weir Canyon loop (not to mention Heartbreak, but that was a race).

Injuries: sprained wrist (twice in about a month), toe problems, a few IT band injuries and quite a few scraped knees. Thankfully, nothing serious (except for that root canal, which was totally unrelated to anything I'm writing about -- and even that wasn't really serious, I just hated it!)

Wildlife sighted: bobcats (twice), lots of quail, bunnies, lizards, a coyote, rattlesnakes (at least 3), a couple gopher snakes, several deer, beetles, blue herons, gophers, squirrels, sea anemones, star fish, several sea lions, pelicans, seagulls, and countless other birds and butterflies and other insects and spiders.

Tracks noted: cougar (not to mention plenty of bobcat and deer)

Life in General, what comes to mind when I think of 2009 -- this was the year when . . .

I learned Aliso / Wood Canyon Trails inside and out.
My oldest son earned his second degree black belt.
Took on a new teaching assignment involving high school students.
Found a new doctor that I like and trust for my son.
My cousin's son was diagnosed with Leukemia.
Meet wonderful senior citizens teaching at the Assisted Living Home, then had to sadly say good-bye. (State budget cuts)
Attended my first Writer's Conference.
Started my SimplyFictionalTales.blogspot.
Moved my running blog to blogspot.
I met my new baby nephew for the first time.
Stopped paying attention to politics (For the first time ever!).
Endured a deeply troubling economy & witnessed countless teachers, architects, engineers, contractors and more lose their jobs, saw friends lose their savings, put their homes up for sale.
Reconnected with two cousins I have not seen since I was a little girl.
I mourned the death of Jose.
Learned my dog has kidney disease.
Had my first root canal.
Registered with the bone marrow registry.
Welcomed my baby brother home from Iraq and attended his wedding.
Was so lucky to be a part of two so generous families (mine and my in-laws).
Played some piano, played some guitar and on the last days of the year dug the accordion out.
Looked in the mirror and cried and cried, not because of what I saw on the outside, but what I saw on the inside .
Met new great friends -- and enjoyed great old friends (One is Silver and the other is GOLD).

And that was my year, plus SO, SO MUCH MORE. No matter what, I was able to find time to squeeze in a run -- a glorious run.

Happy New Year! Y

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hittin' the Hills with the Girls

2009 approaches its end; Calico is just around the corner. Am I where I wanted to be physically coming up on this race? No, I am not. Does that concern me? Surprisingly, it does not. : ) This year has been a learning year -- I try not to let the little things kill. Sure, I work at getting better. Every Monday, I start over, I eat a better diet, worker harder, practice more patience, and gradually it slips away . . . until the next Monday. And then I start again. That's why I love Mondays.

Anyway, when I contemplate Calico, I don't think about beating a particular time, nor do I think about finishing the race (because I'm pretty sure that's a given). What I think about is not losing my focus, and conserving energy, and NOT FALLING, but most of all, enjoying the beauty and enjoying the race. I simply can't wait! Until then, it will be hills. And then more hills, laying off some the week prior to the race.

This morning, I hit the hills at 7:00 AM with the girls. It was dang cold, but it was beautiful as we made our way up Cholla (& I struggled, but it was the good kind of struggle) and then up and down Westridge to that grand ole' place, The Top of the World.

Lovely run, great company, 5.9 miles logged.

Top of the World (Me, Sheila and Kelly)

Heading back on one of the flat portions of Westridge (Santa Ana Mountains in background)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Big Cat Challenge 2009 / Central Park, Huntington Beach

Just when I thought that I wasn't going to get in twenty races this year (because Crystal Cove was rain-postponed), I received an e-mail with a list of local races -- one of them the Big Cat Challenge in Huntington Beach. It offered a half marathon, a full marathon or as many miles as you could put in during a 12 hour period. The course: a 2 mile loop around Huntington Beach's Central Park. I wasn't sure about the repeat loop thing -- 7.5 times I would need to run it for 13.1 miles. And I always hated running a track. Still, it sounded interesting enough to give it a try.

When my phone alarm went off at 5 AM this morning, I thought to myself, "Whatever I've got planned I'M NOT DOING IT." I had to think hard before remembering -- I've got a race! And so I was up and out the door under darkness by 5:45. (I felt good driving in the dark for a run -- brought back good memories of amazing races and club runs.)

Breakfast in Central Park -- a quaint little joint with a lake view


The friendliest birds on Earth??? Coots. These birds just walked right up to me.


Bundled up good, layered with long sleeves (but wearing shorts), gloves, beanie and even scarf, my teeth still chattered from the cold as I picked up my bib. The t-shirt was top-notch, black with the gold Big Cat logo. I chuckled to myself over the fact that I'm embarrassed requesting a Small. I have this idea that the person giving me the shirt is thinking "You're NO small." : ) (Really, though, Medium race t's are too big.)

The crowd was indeed small. Less than 100 runners it seemed, all of us cold, but chipper on this beautiful December morning. I recognized some faces, runners I've seen at races, at least one that I've read her blog. I also recognized and talked to Mark, the guy I came in neck-in-neck across the finish line at the Route 66 half marathon in '08.

This was a "small town" race in the big OC, put on by Bob and Jenn English (I hope I got their names right) -- and they really couldn't have done a better job. We got off to a late start (thirty minutes), as Bob still had some course marking to do. Then Bob stood on his chair with the race directions, and after they played a recording of the National Anthem, Bob and Jenn set the clock, and we were off.

Listening to Race directions

At the Start Line


The loop was two miles. And it was surprisingly pleasant knowing just what to expect, having run it again and again. Mostly paved, we got in some trail portions also, with beautiful lakeside views. We all seemed to take that first loop pretty slowly at first. So cold it was, the woman in front of me ran with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Before finishing the first loop I ran into the parking lot (a quick detour) to put my gloves and beanie cap away.) Coming up on the aid station for the first time, I stopped quickly to tie my long sleeve around my waist. Before finishing lap 2, I took a second detour to my car to put away my shirt -- Now, that's something I've never done in a race. That's just how easy going I felt. This race for me was more about the experience than it was about my time.

Mid third loop, mile 5, I was lapped by two runners, a male, and the female who won Surf City's half marathon last year. I laughed and said, "Oh No, you lapped me!" The guy said, "Don't worry, you'll catch up."

That was nice. : ) I finished the third loop at 1:03:00. Not great, but not bad at all. I felt fine about the time -- this was a no pressure race for me -- my last of the year, my twentieth race : )

I took time on my fourth loop (miles 8 and 9) to document the course with photos. After each click, I tried to speed up my pace to make up for the photo stops. I'm not sure I did that. What can I say? Have camera, will click. That's just me.

The beginning of the loop, leads to a turn around toward the left corner of photo

After turn around, gonna veer off to left, making our way toward lake

Entering the dirt portion of the course (the one slight incline in the course)

We got a nice down hill just before entering this lovely grassy field

Running around the lake to finish up the 2 mile loop






Swans


There's those Coots again




Mile 8, a different guy lapped me. Mile 10, the first two who lapped me and that Mile 8 guy lapped me all at once. I was amazed at their pace. Then, at mile 12, the woman who one the Surf City Marathon, lapped me again -- she was minus those two other guys. She really was amazing.

I finished up lap 5 at 1:46:00 (again, not terrible, but could have done better). I felt pretty good, and tried to increase my pace on lap 6 to make up for those trips to the car and photo stops. Lap 7, I pushed. I knew I wasn't going to beat my best half marathon time (2 hrs, 15 minutes), I figured if I came in under 2 and a half hours, I'd be happy. And that I did. I finished at 2:21:??. And I was happy.

Me at finish (notice cool finisher's medal)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Early Morning Run

Merry Christmas (Eve)!!

I really can't think of a better way to open up Christmas Eve than to run to Top of the World. Yes, it was cold, cold, cold, especially in the canyon where frost could be seen on low-lying brush. But we were well prepared with gloves, beanies and Santa Hat.

We originally planned an out and back, up Cholla, to Westridge to the top where the trail overlooks Laguna Beach. On the way back, we took a slight detour, down Rockit to Coyote Run back to Wood Canyon, totalling out this Christmas Eve run with 7.47 miles.

Top of the World (Me, Victoria, Dave)



Waiting for Lauren : )


Bridge from Coyote Run to Wood Canyon Trail



Stream along Wood Canyon Trail

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Solitude Run -- Out and Back to Top of the World

I had originally posted a group run for this morning, but then learned about possible rain. So I cancelled that post, with the hope still that rain would not fall, and I'd get out there anyway. Gear ready, ipod loaded, I went to bed with my phone alarm set for 6:00 AM. I'm unsure exactly what time it began to pour -- somewhere between two and four AM, and I continued to wake throughout the night to the sound of high winds and more rain.

There went my plan.

I slept in (oh, til about 7:00 and lay about on the couch). Skies were clear when a few hours later I phoned the wilderness park to learn it was indeed open! By this time, I was preparing breakfast for the boys, and I thought all hope was lost for a trail run today. Oh, I'm going on and on here -- needless to say, I got out to Aliso Wood Canyons for a nice long run today.

The wind blew cold and hard as I made my way down into the canyon. The skies though, were bright and blue. Glorious. The trails were virtually empty, one or two bikers here and there. I saw one runner making my way through Wood Canyon. The solitude was joyous.

Who says we don't have fall color in California? (Oops, it's not fall anymore -- yesterday it turned winter : )



Crossing the stream on Wood Canyon before Mathis Trail


Still on Wood Canyon Trail, 3rd stream crossing


Mistletoe clumps high up on Sycamore branches


Leaf litter at the base of giant Sycamore in Wood Canyon


Shelter from the wind came just a bit after the Sycamore above, where the Coast Live Oaks shade the trail and the stream gurgles a few feet below the trail's edge (a little over 3 miles in from the ranger station). I didn't notice any animal tracks, no bunnies hopping about, no quail families wobbling alongside the trail. I was completely alone. Even when I came to the end of Wood Canyon where usually a small group of bikers congregate before making their way up Cholla -- no one.

Fungus along Wood Canyon Trail


Wood Canyon -- Moss growing along stream's edge


Running up Cholla was tough -- but it's getting easier. I made that turn at the top on Westridge and continued up and down, mostly up before any huge relief. The wind blew stronger on the ridge which was a little more populated with bikers and hikers. Just as I reached the top of the slow steady climb toward Rockit (& the water tower) a biker cycled up and stopped in front of me.

"Whew," he said. "That was tough! I WAS TRYING TO CATCH YOU BACK ON CHOLLA." He shook his head. "You're good."

There was a biker on Cholla? I chuckled. I guess I am improving some. Though I didn't acknowledge the compliment, I heard it loud and clear, and smiled.

"We've got a few more tough ones up ahead." I pointed up Westridge toward Top of the World.

"Oh, I'm going the sissy way," he said. "I'm going down Rockit."

"I wouldn't call that the sissy way," I laughed. And he zoomed down Rockit like a "bat out of hell."

On Westridge looking over, ALMOST THERE . . .


Top of the World! At last!



The wind blew its strongest at Top of the World. I took a quick detour into the park to refill on water and call home with an estimated time of arrival. The wind blew so hard that my husband couldn't hear me. Upon ducking into the bathrooms, I told him I'd be back at the car in about an hour and a half. And then I ran back up to the trail and headed back exactly the way I came. And it was a joy! Even back on Wood Canyon when I found myself kicking my ankles (from fatigue), it was still a joy. There were more bikers, a couple more runners, several more hikers. I saw a boy and his dad standing with their bikes on the side of the trail. They pointed out a coyote to me who stood off in the field. He was just looking at us.

Passing Mathis Trail, I began counting down the miles -- a sure sign of fatigue. Two and a half miles left! At the end of Wood Canyon, I turned back onto Aliso Creek Trail -- One and a half miles left! When the dirt trail ended -- .75 miles left! After passing the last sign marker -- .5 miles left! And then I could see the Church Steeple! That meant it was almost over -- success at my fingertips.

I ran on into the parking lot feeling pretty good for a hard 14 mile trail run. I was glad. Mighty glad.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Spontaneous Turns

I looked forward to my Sunday run when I went to bed Saturday night. Sunday morning, 6AM, I crawled out of bed. I thought seriously about skipping it and sleeping in. But after 2 cups of coffee and over an hour later, I finally took those lonely steps out the door.

It was COLD. The breeze blew at my face, my legs were numb. I pulled my cashmere beanie over my ears and pulled on those gloves. (I wore shorts because of the pockets -- I knew that I'd need them later). With an ipod loaded with new music (not new as in recently recorded, but new as in music I haven't heard in a while), and ran myself into oblivion. I mean, I ran, and ran, and ran . . .

Not an hour in, my beanie was stuffed in my belt, my gloves in my pockets, my face and legs now enjoying that cold breeze. I ran inland for a while, up, up, up, then made my way down the condemned bike path to Monarch Beach. Waves roared and crashed violently on the shore. Dozens of surfers dotted the waters, runners and walkers alike made their way across the sand. The tide was high, but receding. Blue skies, white clouds -- absolutely gorgeous!

I ran at a slant on Monarch. The sand leveled out by the time I reached Salt Creek. The surf ate up much of Dana Strands, but I ran as much of the sand as I could, and taking a detour up the rocks, ran all the way to the cliffs, where I wondered if hopping up onto the cliff base was a good idea. There was little room to stand as the waves crashed all around me. Last thing I needed was to be swept into that cold water : (

And so I ran back across the sand and ran up the hill at Salt Creek towards town. I made a SPONTANEOUS turn back onto Highway One. Having not run this portion before, I didn't know there wasn't a sidewalk on the side of the street that I wanted. I like to run facing the traffic. And since I wasn't gonna run in the street, I crossed the highway for the sidewalk. Cars whizzed by, 50 mph plus, causing some anxiety. I noticed my breathing became labored -- nervousness? Or maybe I ran faster just to get off that part of the highway.

Coming into town, I noticed the new trail system on the bluffs was complete, so I took another SPONTANEOUS turn and ran up onto the Headlands where plenty of walkers made their way through the narrow landscaped trail that meandered in many directions. I knew I didn't have much time left to finish up this run, but I pushed it to fit in some more of my favorites -- the Cliffside path, pedestrian bridge, Doheny Beach, the jetty and wharf, when I finally made that climb up the big hill home.

Whew! I was a little tired. : ) I'm sure glad though that I didn't decide on sleeping in.

Total miles logged on Sunday: 15.63
52 Runners Total -- 4 of them barefoot (53 if I include myself who was running with shoes : )

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quick Run to the Top (There she goes again!)

Skies were blue with white wispy clouds today as I headed up Cholla Trail. That trail now seems so, so much easier after Meadows Trail (Cholla is at least half the length of Meadows).

Didn't have much time today to fit in anything long, but I was determined to make it hard. Up and down Westridge was a chore, stopping just a few times to take a snapshot of the erosion from our rainstorm last week. I snapped a few more photos at Top of the World and quickly headed back.

At the bottom of Cholla I met a fine man, who I later took home with me (he was my husband!). Anyway, he was hiking up Cholla and invited me to go on up with him. So I turned around and made for a second run up Cholla. I wasn't ten steps in when I decided, "Hey, I already did this -- I'll wait for you back at the cars. : ) As previously mentioned, I am a planner. And I hadn't planned on heading back up Cholla.

And so I ran through the lush Canyon Vistas Park and stretched a good long while, much longer than I ever do. And then I cleaned all the trash out of my car (a spontaneous move!) -- and there was lots of it (not to mention some bags to put the trash in : ). I waited for hubby to return, then we both drove off together back home.

Miles ran this morning: 5.9 (actually a tad longer, but who's measuring?)

Erosion on Westridge


Looking back at Westridge from Top of the World
Saddleback Mtns to Right
Straight Ahead (very faintly) snow capped San Gabriel Mtns

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kitty on the Trail

The first thing this morning I checked Aliso/Wood Canyons website. CLOSED. I held out hope though, because the note was dated yesterday. 7 AM the park usually opens, I called to receive the message that it was closed due to muddy conditions. I still held out hope. After dropping my two oldest boys off at school, I phoned the park on my way back to the car. Same recording: CLOSED. Back at home, I checked the website and phoned again. Same answer: CLOSED.

Heck. I figured I better just get my youngest ready for school and prepared for a road run. Minutes before walking out the door with my antsy five-year-old, I refreshed the internet page one last time. It was about 8:45 (An hour and 45 minutes after Aliso Wood Cyns opens) and wouldn't you know it! The announcement read that the park was OPEN.

Well, somewhat ticked -- no a bit more than that, I rushed about my bedroom. I was prepared for a road run. I couldn't wear pants on the trail, I had to change my shoes, and my socks, not to mention find a handheld and fill it with water! Besides all that, it was way too late to go for a trail run. I worked this afternoon/evening -- I had way too much to do.

But I wanna run on dirt : (

After dropping my boy off at preschool, I drove on over to Aliso, still ticked and hit the trail wearing gloves and long sleeves -- but shorts mind you, my ipod, water, trail shoes and socks. (What's the difference between the socks I wear on the road and the ones I wear on the trail? Well, I wear any ole' socks for the road, but for the trail, I wear socks that sweat well, and socks that are firm around the ankle so that less debris can get in . . . just in case you were wondering).

Have I mentioned that I was angry? People who know me well, know that I am a planner -- I know well in advance when I am going to run, when I'm going to swim, when I'm going to get gasoline. Seldom do I do anything spontaneous. Needless to say, this morning -- not knowing, then deciding on the road, then changing last minute to a trail, well that threw me off. And so . . . I decided to RUN UP MEADOWS TRAIL. Tell me why Angry = Running up Meadows Trail? I'm not sure myself. I've only ever run it once with fellow runner Tom. And had he not convinced me, I probably wouldn't have run up Meadows yet.

I ran Aliso Creek Trail, which wasn't too muddy (and saw my Blue Heron friend), then turned off onto Wood Canyon for a quick left onto Meadows. Fast to get into my groove, I was not at all stressing over facing the climb. I was just running, listening to my music, thinking about nothing, but noticing bobcat and coyote tracks in the mud. Then up ahead, I saw a bobcat. He simply sat there on the paved trail that runs adjacement to Meadows Trail for a bit (Aliso Creek Trail). He was light, a grayish-brown with dark spots. He sat up straight, his ears pointed, looking right at me.

Can you believe that I didn't bring a camera? Alas, I did have my phone! I snapped a shot, then wondered what to do. I didn't want to cross his path running, figuring that might trigger the cat to chase me. I'm sure that I could fight off a bobcat, but he could probably do some good damage, leave some deep scratches. I took a step forward, slowly, and then another, and another. He just sat there, staring me down. I looked directly at the beauty, not wanting to show hesitation or fear, and I was sure as heck not gonna turn my back on the creature. Honestly, I wasn't too worried; I was more curious, wondering how it was gonna end.

Looks like an itty-bitty kitty in the picture my phone captured


Heck! I had the phone in my hand anyway, so I decided to phone my husband. I told him how I didn't want to run past the bobcat, and with each step the cat wasn't budging. He suggested throwing a stick or a rock in his direction. Not liking that idea, I took hubby's second advice. Just keep on slowly walking on the trail. I did that and the cat eventually, so, so, slowly backed up, And then he finally turned around, but kept his head turned back, looking at me the entire time he crept back into the brush. When I was certain that he was off and on his way, I picked up my run, crossed the bridge and headed up Meadows Trail.

Meadows was muddy and difficult to run. But not as difficult as the first time I ran it. A bunny thrashed through the brush so loudly that I literally jumped back when he darted across my path. At one point RUNNING UP MEADOWS, I had to grab onto branches to keep from slipping in the mud. It was great fun, salty, sweaty, how am I doing this fun!

Great relief to reach the top. Then when this lady (me), who had no time at all for a trail run, made the BIG loop. That is across the neighborhoods, along Westridge to a final descent down Cholla. There was plenty of erosion from the rain, mostly on Westridge, which had crevices so wide, it reminded me of an earthquake fracture. Cholla took all that rain pretty well. Wood Canyon was in good shape, with sandbags placed here and there to divert the runoff. I passed the other Blue Heron, and also a woman sitting high up in a sycamore tree. Her legs were swinging back and forth, her husband (I think) at the base looking up while he rocked a baby in a stroller. (Did this really happen?)

No, it wasn't a dream. When I finally reached the ranger station, one of the rangers said to me, "You've been all over!" And then he offered me some ice cold water from their supply inside. What a treat!

11.64 miles today

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rain, Rain Go Away

Rain poured down upon us this week, not unlike the dental bills that slapped me as well. Thursday, the clouds parted, so I was able to squeeze in a nice beach/marina run, totalling 9.9 miles. I felt relief. That night we celebrated my oldest son receiving his second degree black belt with dinner at a scrumptious Italian restaurant. (Boy, was I glad about those ten miles!)

Friday, it was awards for the boys at their school. Then it was more rain and back to the dentist. Ouch, ouch, ouch. And then . . . and then, a gypsy woman snagged a twenty dollar bill right out of my hand in the Target parking lot. No lie.

I really needed the rain to LET UP. But that, it did not. Squeezed in the gym on Saturday. It just wasn't the same as getting out there and running.

Rain, rain, rain -- all day Saturday. Sunday's race cancelled (therefore, I won't make twenty races this year), I still laid out my gear for a run Sunday A.M. I was hopeful. So, so hopeful.

Up at 5:30 AM Sunday morning, the skies dark, but dry, I laced up my shoes, donned a pair of running PANTS and gloves, zipped up my hoodie, with the hood tied tight around my face and ran out the door at 6:30. It was cold, cold, cold, but that breeze was wonderful.

I headed south first -- the streets were wet and empty. The river that dumps into Doheny flowed with choppy waters. The campgrounds practically empty, I circled them twice before running until the sidewalk ended.

The hood came off quickly, as did the gloves. The sun peeked through the clouds for a bit. Then the black clouds rolled back in. Counting runners as I made my way through the beaches, I never really felt fatigued. I felt relaxed, tranquil. I ran out to the jetty -- thousands of birds flocked about the waters. I ran through the wharf, more and more runners showing up. And I wondered how much longer I'd be able to keep up this run before the rain came down upon us again.

I ran across to the island, a sea lion leisurely swam at the mouth of the harbor. I reached the cliffs, amazed how quickly the miles had sped by. And there at the base of the cliffs, a rescue boat floated just off shore, looking for a jumper who took a dive off the cliffs to end it all. As I ran up the grass park and alongside the cliff path, I could hear the search helicopter and sirens headed in that direction. And way over there on the cliff where the woman had jumped, I saw a person standing. (I heard later at the grocery store, that the poor jumper was with a friend when she decided it was better to die than anything else -- I wondered if that person I could see was the friend. What a terrible night she's having tonight). Terrible. Someone at the store said that the woman was the third jumper off those cliffs this month. Can you imagine?

I can't.

Miles logged this morning: 12.55
Number of other runners out there this morning: 44

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Break in the Rain

Rain never let up yesterday. After a root canal and entirely too much drilling on my teeth, I cancelled my trail run for the next morning. But I knew that I'd be damned if I wasn't going to fit a run in somehow this morning. And somehow, I did. Out the door just before 10:00 AM, I set out, not really sure how much I'd put in. Ended up, I ran 10.7 miles of music, with thoughts of pretty much absolutely nothing. Bliss.

Marina in view from cliffside path


One of several mosiacs at base of pedestrian bridge


Doheny in sight


Capo -- nearing where the sidewalk ends (where I tapped out and turn around)

Doheny


The Wharf


But bikes and scooters are okay.


On the island


Crossing bridge back to mainland : )

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another Run At It (What are you running from?)

Saturday:

Aliso Wood Cyns Park was packed this morning (at 8AM -- much later than I'm usually there on a weekend) -- there were groups of cyclists converging in the parking lot, whole cross country teams mingling about. I drove right on by the ranger station (having finally figured out how to get to the the end of Wood Canyon via automobile without getting lost first -- that is to Canyon Vistas Park).

Skies were cloudy and gray. I wore my sleeves long, a beanie on my head (& I even debated on whether to wear pants). Crowds, crowds, everywhere were crowds. But it was the good kind of crowd, not the mall sort of crowd, or freeway sort of crowd. Crowds on bikes, crowds carrying water, walking sticks . . .

The air was cold as I took off into the canyon. Turning off Wood Canyon Trail right away, I faced Cholla anxiety-free. Then I commenced to run up Cholla the same time with 4 cyclists. Talk about pressure. One of the guys kept a constant lead on me, the other three I left in the dust. Thus I figure: it's a hell of a lot tougher to cycle Cholla than it is to run it. Needless to say, upon reaching Westridge, I promptly tucked the beanie in my belt and rolled up my sleeves.

I saw a lot of people, mainly runners and hikers struggling up and down Westridge, particularly toward the end. I made it to the Top of the World about two minutes faster than Thursday's run and two minutes quicker making it down. I was pleased with the improvement.

Miles logged 5.9

Sunday:

Depression came for a visit this morning when I got to thinking about my reasons for running. I've often heard this question: Are you running away from something or are you running to something? I kinda chuckled when I heard this, never really thought about the question UNTIL TODAY when I wept over the fact that I'm running AWAY. Yes, that is my motivation, that's what gets me up sometimes at 4 AM, that's what puts me on the road driving for hours to run out in the desert, that's what gets me out the door on cold, cold mornings. I'm running away from something. That something is MYSELF. That's why I run! I run to bury my feelings of inadequacy. I run to entomb the loser. And that made me sad.

After dwelling over this for the entire morning and some of the afternoon, I finally laced up my road shoes and ran out the door. I ran straight up the hill and turned to climb another previously daunting hill, reaching the city's high point. I wore no watch, carried no water, didn't even bring a phone. I wore my ipod though, for fear of being alone; I was afraid of what I might think.

Turns out, I didn't think much at all. I ran down to the beach, where the tide was high, the surf rough. I ran up to the rock cliffs, hopped tide pools and climbed up and over the rock wall with waves crashing at my feet. Then after crawling over a huge boulder wedged between the cliff wall and another larger boulder, I took in the choppy ocean beneath sunny skies mixed with rain clouds threatening to burst. Waves crashed up onto the rock ledge as I took this in. I noticed tiny fish swimming in the pools up there.

I took care making my way back down the rock face. A fall here meant a certain plunge into the ocean, with perhaps a few head gnashes along the way. And then I was off again on the sand, running Dana Strands, Salt Creek and Monarch Beaches. It was an uphill climb practically the entire way back home.

And I felt a lot better.

Miles logged: 6.7

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Just Enough Time for a Short Run

I didn't have much time this morning. With a desire for hard miles, I drove to Canyon Vistas Park (again forgetting how to get there) and ran down through the finely manicured park into Wood Canyon. Just a few minutes into the trail, I met up with my good friend, Cholla Trail (with very little time to grow anxious over running it). I began running up Cholla the same time as a cyclist made his way.

I said, "After you."

He said, "No, after you." : )

For a while there, I had him beat. Then he finally overcame me about half way up. At the top, he made his way back down Cholla. I took a left and ran up and down Westridge with delight in my heart, sweat pouring down my face. I felt strong and tried to power every hill, making Top of the World in about forty minutes.

Topping off my handheld, I quickly turned back, ending this short run with a well focused speed burst back down Cholla.

Miles logged this morning: 5.9

Looking over the other side of Top of the World (Laguna Beach)


The message that greets me on my way back down . . .

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Workin' the Hills

I went for a solo run in Aliso/Wood Canyon Park this morning for some hill work. Very few runners out this morning. I passed one woman running the opposite way on Wood Canyon Trail. There were some cyclists out. Some bunnies and one blue heron. I thought that a nice long warm-up through Wood Canyon would help some with the hills. I'm sure it did. But Cholla was dang hard. I began to feel anxious even approaching it. My run was slow and difficult up and down Westridge, especially toward the end when the climb simply mocked me.

Huge relief to reach Top of the World. I ran through the neighborhoods and about half way through them, passed that same woman I saw on Wood Canyon Trail -- we were doing opposite loops!

Meadows Trail had quite a bit of erosion, which made it difficult to fly down. Music turned to high, I ran down carefully and rather slowly, and even slower back through Aliso Creek Canyon into the ranger station.

Dead-dog tired, I hardly had a moment to rest the remainder of the day. But I was dang happy to have put in those excruciatingly difficult miles. That's what's it all about -- tasting that salt running down my face : )

Miles logged this morning: 11.64

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Crystal Cove Xterra Training Run

A fitful night of sleep, I woke surprisingly rested at 5 AM, rain pounding down, wind whistling through trees with their branches swaying ferociously. (It was quite a scene -- I'll tell ya!) Gosh, I thought, and I'm going on a trail run. I bundled up good and hit Highway One under darkness. As soon as I made Laguna Beach, rain had ceased.

Thank goodness.

There were about 13 of us in the group today, some of us training for Xterra's 17K next month, others out just for the fun of it : ) Boy am I glad I got a look at that trail before attempting it in the race. It begins on a good mile and a half uphill, up El Moro Ridge to Bommer Ridge (which leveled out some, but was still ascending). Even going down "Pacific Ridge Trail" wasn't all downhill.

Quite a trail -- I've got to get my behind in gear for this one, less than two weeks away. (And I do have a game-plan, but I think I'll start it on Monday : )

Miles logged this morning: 10.6 (17 kilometers)

Despite the trail's difficulty -- it was a beautiful day indeed!

Me in the beanie and gripping a parking pass that I just paid FIFTEEN dollars for, Sheila lacing up for the run, Hank raring to go (photo courtesy Tom)


The climbing begins from step one (photo courtesy Tom)


Group Photo of some of our group (13 total ran today -- again, photo courtesy Tom)


"Mama always told me not to look into the Eyes of the Sun.
But Mama, that's where the fun is"


And I ran with a rain poncho tucked in my belt the whole way!


Heading back (& climbing again)


If I can see it, we're almost there -- see that blue there yonder?


"My Bonnie lies over the ocean . . . "


Some of the guys (I didn't catch everyone's name -- I was too far behind : )
(Tom's photo)



Tom provides cold drinks for all!



Sheila bids Farewell (photo courtesy Tom)