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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gorgeous Gloomy Skies

My heart sang as I drove over the hill to see gray skies above Aliso Wood Canyons Park. We had five runners for a 6:30 AM start. I was happy to be there, my hand completely healed. A new member, Larry, showed, as well as Luis, who I’ve been calling Leo, which turns out to be his initials, as well as, ever-faithful running friends, Victoria and Tom (the first runners to accompany me on these Wednesday runs.)

We began at a pretty quick pace (for me) against a cool breeze. I took up the end and plugged in that bright pink ipod to keep these feet moving at a constant pace. Since this is “My Run,” sayeth Tom, I picked the route.

Well, I could not face the idea of climbing Mathis this morning. So, after pretty mild terrain, and the lovely Coyote Run trail that proceeds above the stream, we headed up, up, up via Rockit. Though difficult (at least for me – the others, especially Larry, seemed to plow up that thing), Rockit isn’t as tough as Mathis. I think it’s not as tough because there are brief moments of leveling out on the hilliest part, and there’s the fun single track further up. (For some reason, the thinner the trail, the easier it seems).

Then onto Westridge we climbed some more under gorgeous gloomy skies. After a break at The Top of the World, we headed back down Westridge, and took a right onto that oldie-but-goodie, Mathis. Mathis is such a delight on the downhill – nice and wide, plenty of visibility. That made it easy to focus (especially important for me after Saturday’s fall). After a detour onto Dripping Cave Trail and a quick stop into that hiding cave, we were off again to finish this Wednesday’s run with 10.8 total miles.

The sun did not show its face all morning, and I felt a lot stronger coming in today than I have the past many runs at Aliso Woods. I’m hoping this is a trend.

Again, a great group today. I feel lucky. It’s good to be the laggard – the others drive you to run harder, and that’s a fine place to be.

Monday, July 27, 2009

New Shoes, New Trails

This morning’s goals: 1) Try out new trail shoes (Salomon XA Pro) and 2) Run Hunwut and Alwut trails in search for the other two supposed entrances into Aliso and Wood Canyons.

I never heard the alarm this morning, and though I woke late, I was pleased to feel improvement in my hand. Some pain still, but nothing like the past couple days. I opted to skip the Motrin, drank a cup of coffee instead, then headed out about 7:30 AM. That’s dangerously late for my heat tolerance level.

Well, I couldn’t find Canyon View Park this morning – crazy, one might think, being that I run the Aliso Wood Canyons every week. But I have only taken off from the Canyon View Park twice. And so I drove around, in a rush against the heat. I turned down a street that looked familiar. (It only looked familiar because I’ve passed it on the way to the park before) At the dead-end I could see Cholla Trail in the distance, so I knew at least which direction to travel.

Seems like I’m always starting my day with an adventure!

As for the shoes: I have only ever worn New Balance running shoes, both on the road, and the trail. On one occasion, I purchased Brooks, and after running in them twice, my feet ached. (Those Brooks became my gym shoes). Needless to say, I was a bit leery going for something other than New Balance. To begin, I’m pleased to find that the Salomons were not too heavy, as they are waterproof, and seemed more solid than my usual trail shoes. In addition, they grabbed the terrain noticeably well.

On the other hand, the Salomon’s seem a little wide for my foot, only slightly, but I’d imagine people with narrower feet might have a problem – plenty of toe room though. The only main problem I had was with pull-tight lacing system. I just couldn’t seem to get this no-tie lacing system right. I’d either pull them too tight, or not tight enough, and found myself adjusting the tension 4 or 5 times. I’m hopeful, I’ll figure that out.

The one problem I hoped to gain relief from with this new shoe is the toe problems I’ve been experiencing lately (that is pain). To be honest, and I really do need to face the facts here, I’m pretty certain that weight loss is the real answer to that. (It’s been the cure in the past). So, I’m holding out for a final decision whether these shoes are Yay or Nay.

As for the new trails: After making my way up and down the lovely shaded Wood Creek Trail and winding my way through Coyote Run and up Mathis a bit, I headed off for Hunwut, which is just beyond the Old Corral. It’s a dry, exposed (HOT) trail that ends at a Kiosk and a gate with a sign that reads “No Trespassing, Violators will be Prosecuted”. I ran right on through a portion of the chain link that had been peeled back, and climbed up a wide dirt trail, that soon turned to a steep paved road. The end of this paved road dumped me into the cul-de-sac of a gated community.

I hit Alwut Trail up Wood Canyon a bit. And it began with a pretty good climb, continuing to the end. After about a quarter mile, the trail ended at a barbed-wire fence with a “Road Closed” sign attached. The trail on the other side was overgrown, so I took the opportunity to sit in the bench seat up on top of that trail and take in the majestic, California, dry brown grasses that contrast so greatly the lush Coast Live Oaks and Sycamores that run along the creek. I could see someone climbing Mathis in the distance. And way over there was another person making their way down Rockit. Awesome.

Miles logged Monday morning: 6.27

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Slam Dancin' with the Trail

Saturday morning I woke to the sound of my phone alarm at 4:10, and then promptly fell back asleep. I only slept 10 more minutes, thankfully, because I had places to go, things to do.

Tom and I hit the trail, Santiago Truck Trail, at 5:30 am, the sun not yet up above the horizon. The air was cool, beautifully cool, the slope: UP. A few minutes in I was already tired. (No three mile warm-up on Santiago Truck Trail).

Awesome Cool Morning Hittin' the Trail with Club Member Tom

Ahhh, so refreshing and COOL

We ran about 3 ½ miles, mainly upwards; plenty of steep inclines, arriving at the Vulture Crags blessed by cool weather. The trail was wide, hard packed dirt, occasionally some loose rock. Some single track greeted us here and there, red, white and yellow wild flowers sprinkled the edges. At times, the cliff drop was so steep, so gorgeous; I found it difficult to keep my eyes away from it. When I found myself gazing down that mountainside though, it seemed I’d lose my equilibrium. And so I’d quickly focus ahead. Focus, focus, focus.

Today’s goal was to reach “Old Camp”, from what I’ve read, an old Indian site. After lots of climbing, some of it my favorite, single track, I’m guessing approximately about 7 miles, we descended on a wide trail, into a different world: a world of green, shade and cool air (the sun had finally hit us back a ways, and I was beginning to wish that dang yellow ball in the sky didn’t exist). Then, can you believe, on the way down into that lovely forest, I tripped. I thought for sure I was gonna eat dirt. Somehow, I managed to plant my left foot forward, and kept upright. Extremely pleased, and relieved, I raised my arms up in victory. “Did you see that?” I exclaimed to Tom.

Making our Way down to "Old Camp"

Old Camp was lovely, and shady, and full of gnats. I pulled several of those tiny flying critters from my mouth before I learned that I had better keep my mouth shut. After some snacks and photos (gotta take those snapshots!) Tom and I made our way out of Old Camp and headed back up out of the shade. I remember telling myself firmly, “Do Not Fall.” On the way up we saw our first signs of civilization – 2 mountain bikers hauling down that shady trail.

Old Camp

Snacks and Photo Op

The remainder of our run was mainly down hill, though there were some climbs. And the sun beat down hard. Countless (and I do not exaggerate) mountain bikers by then made their way up Santiago Truck Trail, and I thought they were certainly crazy starting so late in the morning. And then somewhere, I don’t recall exactly when, I was actually feeling pretty good . . . I tripped. This was a hard trip, on a slight downhill, one that sent me slamming, and I mean, SLAMMING to the ground. My right side and calf hit first, and then my elbow rocked hard against the earth, followed by my palm crashing into the ground. The sound of my elbow hitting was eerie. I thought for sure I had probably broken something, just by that thud. Tom heard it too, as he ran slightly ahead of me. He said that he really hoped that it wasn’t the sound of my head hitting that trail. The two bikers we passed down at Old Camp witnessed my fall from behind, and with concern asked if I was okay, as they came up on us. I didn’t know just then about any damage. A tiny dab of blood formed on my elbow, and scrapes were already visible on my calf and palm.

(By the way, that’s number SIX. That is, six falls, 5 on the trail, 1 on the road)

After a short walk, we were off running again, and what a joy it was running back – that downhill (mainly, there were a few climbs) and knowing we were just around the corner from our cars, does lots for the mental game.

Vulture Crags in background

Fossil Rock (how many miles are we from the ocean???)

Burnt out trees from last year's fire, with new growth -- nature's glory abounding

Back at the car, we met up with Leo who had come out to run with the group. He had just finished up his run. Unfortunately, we missed each other. Still, we had a chance to talk about the trail, and share some ice cold water from the ice chest in my car.

Great run. Though tonight, my hand hurts a great deal, and Motrin has done little to alleviate the pain. Not much swelling, so I’m hopeful that nothing’s broken. I’ve got it wrapped in an ace bandage, because even slight movement HURTS. When this is over, and I’ve learned that I did not fracture nor break my hand, it will be good bragging material. : ) (Or not!)

Miles logged this morning: 16
Elevation gained: 3,000 feet

Friday, July 24, 2009

Heat, I do not adore thee

Posted Wednesday’s run for 6:30 AM with a plan to avoid the heat that kicked my behind last weekend. As soon as I got into the car and saw that sun shining at 5:55 in the morning, I worried that my heat avoidance plan might not work. Ahh, what the heck! I had plenty of water to carry on my back, and even downed a bottle of electrolytes before leaving the house.

Four other runners showed, one for his first run with the group. I was delighted – this trail running group motivates me, not to mention, they’re a friendly, welcoming bunch. We ran the usual, up to Top of the World, this time, via Mathis, which provides little shade. And it was tough. No, it was more than tough, it was excruciatingly difficult, the sun scorching away my energy, salty sweat dripping into my eyes. The others reached the top of Mathis before me and were waiting in the kiosk’s shade when I turned onto Westridge and continued running on up to the top.

“What??? You want to run to the top of that too,” they said and kinda chuckled. And then they commenced to pass me on the climb. Welcome rests for all at the Top of the World, with an ocean view to add, we drank up, took our regular group photo and were off again running.

Tom, Victoria, Me, Leo, Dave

The heat struck me hard running West Ridge to Lynx trail. And on the way down Lynx, a helicopter circled looking for a place to land, apparently to rescue a victim of a bike accident. Terrible. I could only imagine the worst in this heat. It had to be bad to require a that kind of rescue.

We never saw it land, as we turned off towards my favorite trail, Wood Creek, for the return. Grateful for the shade, I felt pretty good. My energy though, seemed to seep out, like a tiny leak in a hot air balloon once we hit that sunny Wood Canyon Trail. Struggling yes, I ran the remainder of Wood Canyon. But at Aliso Creek Trail, my feet simply stopped running. I opted for the paved path, I think we all did – I’m not sure. It’s all a blur now.

Deliverance! The shade of Wood Creek Trail

With a miserably hot 1 ½ miles remaining, I ran-walked about half of that. Tom and Dave were waiting at the bend, and had it not been for Tom, I know I wouldn’t have been able to run that last ¾ miles in. He encouraged me to find something on my ipod to move me on in, which I did, and I ran on in with Tom. Not a word escaping from my mouth, I pretty much stared at the ground. I couldn’t look up, because to do so meant to see how much longer remained. And I just couldn't bare that. I was tired, dead-dog tired, heat-stricken, foot aching tired, with no more desire than to crash into the asphalt, or better yet, fall into that stream. Then, with the ranger station in sight, at Tom’s urging, we both pulled out a burst of energy and raced on in. Thanks Tom. (I’m not being sarcastic) -- bursts like that (though I feel like vomiting afterwards) help increase my pace.

I ran with a great group of runners this morning. An inspiration.

Miles logged Wednesday: 11.4

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bommer Canyon – Wilderness Access Day

Six runners from my trail running group met bright and early for access into a normally closed preserve in Bommer Canyon. Even at 7:00 AM the sun bared down, while I signed in and clipped the day pass to my belt. Hikers and bikers, and our group of runners hit trails still somewhat shaded by the cliff’s edges. Right away, we made for the ridge, climbing, climbing, climbing out of the shade along East Fork out into the sun.

So alluring, a hearty welcome to this preserved canyon
Notice all that SHADE at the parking lot!
Victoria, Anna, Me, Tom, Kelly, Sheila

What a relief to make Hogback Ridge. I felt good, and was careful to drink from the camelback regularly. It was dang hot! We did some more climbing, ran Serrano Ridge along low-lying shrubs and cacti. A docent greeted us at one point, offered water, granola. We were a glad group, not in need of much water, still feeling strong. We descended down Shady Oaks (which wasn’t shady at all!) then made our way up Fox Run – a narrow single track, with a huge, tough, extremely tough grade, plenty of loose dirt and rocks. Somewhere on the way to Little Sycamore, we met another docent. I said, “Hey, he looks familiar,” when my group laughed and said, “he’s the same guy we saw back there!”

A quick stop to check the map

Who could tell that it would be so dang hot ?
Downhill at last -- love those descents

Flying through the brush

A pose just before the descent on Little Sycamore

Little Sycamore was a down hill blast, single track, with some treacherous rock work here and there. I was really feeling the heat by this point. So were the some of the others. One of the ladies was suffering, it seemed, more than the rest of us, as we made our way to the bottom.What a relief it was to make Nix Nature Center. We stopped for bathrooms and the water fountain. Wanting to conserve my camelback, I guzzled down at the fountain. Then after resting up we hit the dirt again for another series of steep climbs: Stagecoach South, Camarillo Canyon. Both offered very little shade. Cicadas buzzed in the brush, as the heat began to really take its toll on a couple of runners. Then on the nasty climb, beneath the sizzling sun, the group split. I told Tom that I’d wait for them at Ridge Route, because I wanted to run back the long way to get in my mileage, and I was off with two of the ladies who had to get back for prior engagements.

I do believe that's a bit a shade behind that sign!!

And then my water ran out! Okay, I already told Tom that I’d meet them at Ridge Route, but with no water, it wasn’t wise for me to take the long way. Docent! I needed a docent. I asked Victoria for her map to study on a few occassions, because I knew that we’d be departing soon (why did I leave my map at the car???) And then, up ahead on the ridge, I saw a police truck, a wonderful, wonderful police truck. I ran up, a crowd of hikers mingling about, and asked if he had water. Sure enough, he did, and I poured a bottle into my camelback. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I told him about our other three runners, and asked if he could drive one of them down if needed (dehydration is not something to mess around with). He didn’t seem too concerned, and answered that if the person was really bad off, he could take them down. I kinda thought that was odd. My feeling was that he would head along the ridge and see if anyone needed help. But it seemed he enjoyed the company of the hikers too much to stop chatting and take off.

Well, soon after, I departed from my running partners. Actually, they departed from me, taking a shorter, steeper way down. And I waited on alone the ridge, not a stitch of shade to be found, for the remainder of my group. I took the water bag out of my camelback to release the air (so that water sloshing wouldn’t irritate my ears). And, oh man! I only had a small amount of water left. Sweating like I was, it wasn’t going to last. No, I too might be in trouble.

And then an angel appeared. He rode a bike, and with the helmet on and the glare of the sun, I probably wouldn’t recognize this docent if I ever met him again. “Is everything ok?” he asked. “Yah,” told him, “just trying to get the air out of my bag.”

“Do you need some more water?” And then he commenced to fill up my camelback. He even let the air out. Wonderful, wonderful man. I told him about the three behind me, and about the lady in our group who was suffering some, and he headed off to deliver her some calories! An angel indeed!

Angel on a bike

As he rode off, I walked in that direction too, hoping to meet up with them. When sure enough, I saw my group, minus one. Thankfully, the policeman had driven down our runner most affected by this extreme heat. The angel docent refilled both Tom and the other lady from the group that I had just met this morning, and we headed back for the finish. We ran it in all the way back to the road. Tom ran all the way back to the check-in tent, like he was ready for another loop! We were offered water, and we took plenty of it. The volunteers commented on what a great job we did – “that would have been tough on a bike,” one of them said. We met up with our other runner who was resting in the policeman’s air-conditioned car. She looked so much better than I last saw her. I was glad to see.

I iced my hip and guzzled down two ice cold waters in my car on the way home. I continued hydrating at home, ate broccoli and rice, then a green salad. I bathed, changed and then crashed, I mean CRASHED. I cannot express how drained I felt. I lay on the couch for a couple of hours, and when I did get up, I lumbered. But I had chores to do, I didn’t have time for this! Oh yes I did. Finally, I got in at least an hour of sleep. Then after a spaghetti dinner, I began to climb, oh so slightly, out of the hole.

Today’s run wiped me out.I think Bommer Canyon is best for a winter run. (But I'm already happy that I did today's run -- a huge challenge met).

Miles logged today: 11.5
Total elevation gain: 2,400 feet