TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dirt Tastes A Whole Lot Better Than Pavement

Overslept for a 6AM run (because I need an hour or so before heading off for a long run), I finally made it out the door 6:22. I looked forward to this twenty mile run, not really wondering if I could do it, because I knew that I could. Actually, compared to the trails, I figured it would be a cinch. In the midst of our usual end-of-August heat wave, I carried a handheld for water, with several electrolyte tablets packed in the strap for refills along the way. Good thing. Can you believe it was already warm at 6:30 in the morning? Not just warm, but muggy.

On the way down PCH I met an out of town trail runner who asked for directions to the beach. I told her, as well as, what I thought would be about a five mile run. We joyfully compared the trail to the road, the trail of course so much funner. And I ended by pointing to my scabbed knee with a comment about falling on the trail.

At least I won't have to worry about that on the road!

This is how I progress my way through long runs: I break it into portions or "legs". And I work on just one leg at at time.

Leg One (5.28 Miles)
Leg one started off great, meeting a fellow trail runner as mentioned, I looked forward to some nice solitude, good music. And then . . . AND THEN (I practically weep thinking about it), I FELL! I actually tripped on a sidewalk crack and plummeted forward. I hit that sidewalk hard, knee landing first, and then I rolled to the left (instead of my usual right, I suppose because I held my water in my right hand). All the while, cars whizzed by.

Well, I was pissed. I mean, damn angry, grumbling profanities beneath my breath. How could this happen? I wasn't even running downhill. Scab blown off, my knee bled afresh. After cleaning it with an antibacterial wipe, I applied an over-sized band-aid and put my feet to the pavement, and continued running.

There are differences between falling on dirt versus falling on pavement. First off, pavement DOES NOT MOVE. There's no give whatsoever. That makes for a much harder impact. Also, when I fall on the trail, dirt completely covers my wounds, pretty much stopping the bleeding immediately.

Anyway, there was a dead duck on the sidewalk after that. And the air smelled of gasoline as I made my way inland. Occassionally, glass littered the way. And here and there a single sock laid in the gutter or in the landscaped planters. When the climbing began, I ran it stoically, never stopping (because these beach city hills, though steep, are nothing compared to say, Mathis or Cholla in Wood Canyon). Then toward the city's high point, I noticed a thin rope tied across the sidewalk, attached to a street sign. What the heck? Up a ways, another rope taut across the sidewalk.

The downhill was no thrill for me. My bandage saturated in blood, I moved on through this leg to a paved path that led me down to the city's northern most beach. Plenty of hikers made their way down this trail, which about half way posted a sign that read "Trail Closed -- DANGER of slide." I let my mind wander, thinking about my life, still angry about my knee, my shirt now irritating me as it rode up my waist. And then suddenly, a feeling of despair overcame me. "Don't think, don't think," I told myself. JUST RUN. And so, I kept on running, because I really had no choice as far as I was concerned. Besides that, Leg One's end was in sight.

Leg Two (1.94 miles)
I ran out under PCH to begin Leg Two. Plenty of runners made their way along this beachside path. Not a breeze stirred as I began another climb that ended running beneath the highway for a flight of stairs up to the apartment complex that my husband and I lived in for many years. (memories) From there I made another climb up the same hill I ran down a few miles earlier. I looked to the trees, desperate for air movement. Not a leaf stirred.

Leg Three (2.65 miles)
This leg began on a downhill, back toward the sea. The bloodied bandage weighed on my mind, and my shirt irritated me so terribly, I was about to rip it in two when I decided on a four block detour (8 total for a round trip) to head home for a new shirt and clean bandage.

Back on the road, more comfortable in my favorite green, snagged-up shirt, I ran through the town center where vendors set up today's market. It smelled of bell peppers, onions, nectarines and all sorts of wonderful produce. Few buyers strolled about at this early hour.

I crossed PCH once again and ran to the cliff that overlooks the harbor. The air was still. But my spirits now lifted with a new shirt and clean bandage, I ran down the stairway for a gorgeous run on the historic cliff side trail to end with another stairway back to the road. And then I was back again, running down the same highway, toward the same beaches I told the women how to get to a few hours earlier.

Leg Four (3.86 miles)
This phase was the longest, mentally, and the hottest, yet the flattest portion of the run. It was mainly on asphalt where I ran through a crowded campground that smelled of campfires and cigarette smoke. I ran the straightaway, the waves to my right unseen because of RV after RV parked against the sand.

When the sidewalk ended and I made that last turn around, I was not physically tired, but mentally so.

Leg Five (4.36 miles)
Finally! The beauty of the run! Shade!!! I ran up to the jetty, a multitude of long boarders off to my left waiting for that perfect wave. An actual breeze blew as I made my way through the crowded wharf, restaurants full of morning diners. People lined the sidewalk for day long fishing trips. Several other runners made their way alongside the marina's still waters, very few smiling. It was hot!

Leg Six( 2.44 miles)
Portion six ended coming off the island, where I ran past the marine institute to the cliffs that tower above the small beach there. Tide was high, the surf rather calm. And then it was homeward bound with one last hill to climb, which I ran confidently, all the way back home.

Well, that's enough of the road for now!

Trails, take me away.

Miles logged this morning: 20.53

Falls to date: 8 (But who's counting?)

ps. Back at home I asked my husband, "What's the matter with me? Why so many falls?"

He responded, "Didn't your family used to call you 'Grace' when you were a kid?"

(Well, first of all, I was never a goat, but . . . ) Oh ya, that's right. I almost forgot: I'm a clutz. Okay . . . I feel better now.

All is well in the world. : )

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nice N' Easy

I've been semi-secretly toying with the idea of running another marathon this October. Shhhhhhh! Don't tell anyone. Like I said, I'm just toying with the idea. In deciding, I set aside one day this weekend for a long solo road run, just to see how it goes : ) And not wanting to push my weekly miles up too quickly, this morning I decided for a nice n' easy run.

I set out LATE, 8:18 AM to be exact. I ran straight down to the coast, hoping for some relief from this heat. What I got was humidity along the still marina waters. But what I also got was giant waves crashing down on the jetty rocks, sending splashes rocketing before spectators at the cliffs. Uneven sets of harsh waves rolled in, one after the other, white water dominating the first fifty yards or so of the ocean. An untamed sea gobbled up the tiny beach there at my turnaround. What an awesome, fierce sight! And I was off again . . .

Careful not to put in very many miles, I plowed up the big hill home. Just once I found my hands on my hips, which I promptly flung away to pick up my pace some back to Highway One. My family used to me being away for hours when I run, my husband laughed when I came through the door. "What'd you run, 100 yards?"

Nope.

Miles logged this morning: 4.32

Number of other runners on the road: 12

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On the Road Again

The morning after Bulldog, I crawled out of bed aching from head to toe. This was no ordinary worked-out-too-hard ache. This was a slammed-hard-to-the-ground-on-a-downhill-run ache. It felt as if I had been in a car accident. My arms, my chest, my legs hurt. Everything hurt. Even my fingers ached from digging out tiny pebbles beneath the skin.

Day two I felt much better, though opted for another day of rest. Day three -- time to get back to the trail. I couldn't wait, though I could have easily slept in when the alarm rang at 5:20 AM. After two short days, I felt like I was missing out. I wanna run!! (Or do I? Am I crazy or what?) And so, Tuesday, 6:30 AM, a camelback strapped to my back, a cell phone and camera, plus a couple pieces of gum in my belt, I hit the dirt running, headed for Top of the World with Tom and Luis.

The weather cool, the skies cloudy, almost misty, we took Aliso Creek Trail to Wood Canyon -- chatting along the way, laughing, taking in a lovely breeze, shady groves, and a nice wide, flat trail. Before we knew it, we hit a wall of hot air, and that's just about when the climb began and the sun shined through. I told Tom and Luis to go on ahead, that they'd have time to rest at the top, because I was going to take a while. But I did run every step of that steep trail named Cholla, and it was even slightly, so slightly easier than it has been before (thank you Bulldog!)

From there we took the ridge (Westridge), a rolling hill adventure, with two rather difficult pieces (one of which Luis sprinted!). At Top of the World, the marine layer gone made for a gorgeous view, as well as a photo-op (lest I forget). We took one of my favorites, my first favorite trail actually, Mathis Trail, on the way down -- what a delight to just run a downhill, no racers breathing down my back (though there's a place for that too : ).

In all we ran 11.63 wonderful miles, arriving back at the ranger station ready for the start of a brand new day.


Running Westridge, Looking towards Santa Ana Mountains

Tom, Me and Luis (Laguna Beach in background)



Tom catches Gopher Snake on the way in to ranger station

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bulldog 25K

“That’s the only way to do it – go. When there’s a jungle waiting, you go through it and come out clean on the far side. Because if you struggle to back out, you get all snarled, and afterwards the jungle is still there, still waiting.”

Peter Mattheissen, At Play in the Fields of the Lord.

I woke at the ridiculous hour of 3:45 AM, after dreaming, it seemed all night long, that I was sitting in the bleachers, waiting to compete in a “marathon” swim. Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t know how race dive anymore, or at least wasn’t sure if I could. And so I fretted, waiting my turn, trying to sleep, conjuring up ways that I could make up for a poor dive, etc., etc., until my cell phone alarm went off and I lay in bed wondering, “Okay, what day is it, where am I supposed to go?”

BULLDOG.

That’s where I’m supposed to go!

I headed out at 4 AM, gear bag in hand, coffee thermos in the other. Then at the door the thermos handle broke and my coffee fell to the hardwood floor. My husband was quick to aid, and fortunately I had plenty coffee remaining when I finally hit the road at 4:10 AM. (But as usual, the day started off as an adventure!)

I drove the entire distance under darkness and arrived in Calabasas at the local Albertsons where I picked up fellow club runner, Larry. And then of all things, we got a first row parking space, directly in front of bib pick-up.

In an attempt to condense this blog down from TWENTY-FIVE pages, here’s a few things up front:

1) I changed my mind last minute and went with my standard, oldest pair of trail shoes (New Balance), though I packed the Salomons in case I changed my mind again.
2) The weather was cool and cloudy (Glory be to God!)
3) The freeways were empty and I made it to Calabasas in just under 90 minutes
4) My goal for this tough 25k was three hours, though I knew that would be difficult with such steep climbs, in the back of my mind, I knew that 3 hours would have to be the best trail run I’d ever ran.
5) And finally, I planned to run straight through the creek and not worry about balancing over rocks.

Anyway, I felt strong for a good long while – nice flat entrance on this Bulldog 25k course – perhaps 3 to 4 miles of quick, yet comfortable pace, gorgeous warm-up. It was wide roads, then rocky single track just off the stream. Some time after all that, the climb began and I came upon the first aid station. Water, sports drinks, pretzels, saltine crackers, and candy a plenty awaited us. I took a handful of Skittles, chewed down and sucked on the wad of sugar as I plowed up, up, up towards the peak of the Santa Monica Mountains that overlook Malibu. The climb so steep, it wasn’t long before everyone around me was walking.

Making our way in


Remnants of M.A.S.H. television series set

Climbing . . .

I had some rules for this most difficult portion of the race:

1) No hands on the hips. I put my hands on my hips, it means I’m resting – BIG TIME. Hands on the hips means I lose arm momentum, and going up that steep trail, I need all the momentum I can get!
2) Haul ass on any and all flat portions – that means run fast!
3) Make it to aid station #2 within 1 ½ hours
4) And finally PUSH – not matter what! Even on the steepest of climbs – push, push, push!.

I kept a keen eye on my watch and about an hour twenty minutes in, knew I wasn’t making aid station #2 within my time limit. I kept trying though, and when I got weak, my mantra was “push, push, push . . . “ I kept those arms going and even chatted a bit with other runners on the way up. Then finally, I saw aid station 2 in sight and though I was over my time limit, I raised my arms in victory as I ran down to it. One hour forty minutes it took to arrive to this destination. And even running a bit over time, I called my husband to tell him the news, and I stood in line for the porta-pottys (Gosh, I hate that!!)

Yahoo!!! Aid Station Two


Leaving Aid Station Two

There’s still a climb after that second station, a beautiful, sandstone climb overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Though cloudy somewhat, the Pacific provided a grand view. I spotted a blimp off in the distance. I snapped a few pictures, but at some point I tucked the camera away for good, because I knew I had lots of time to make-up for a 3 hour finish. There were more climbs to make, which I took rather well, power walking some of them, running others.

Awesome Stuff

And then the grand descent began. And what fun it was. I passed some who walked, others who ran it cautiously. Downhill is what I’m practiced at, and this was a nice, wide fire road, for a whole 2 miles. It was beautiful, and I wore a broad smile as I made my way down, relishing music from my ipod.

Just towards the end of this nice wide downhill, I caught a glimpse of the boy’s detention center (where my final ascent would be) and I thought looking at my watch, there’s a very slight chance I could make my time. But . . . after another uphill climb, I fell light-headed and my right leg began cramping. So I downed some Gu. The calories seemed to help my weakness, though the cramping persisted as I ran, reaching back to massage my right calf.

Then off onto the downhill single track I ran. It was thin, and rocky, a few runners ahead and a few runners behind, I took it rather quickly, giddy for the end of this 25k. And then . . . I’m not precisely sure what happened. Perhaps my leg cramped again, or perhaps I simply tripped. All I really know is that on a pretty good descent, I flew and landed hard on the rocky terrain. And when I hit, my body cramped all at once. I scared the lovely lady in front of me, as she turned back to see me sprawled out on my back (I didn’t land on my back, when I hit I rolled.) She ran back to help, as well as, the two or three others behind. They hovered over me, “Are you alright? What can we do?” My hands were bleeding, as was my knee. But I knew nothing was broken. I just had to get out of this body cramp! I wanted to say, “Can you rub my leg to get this cramp gone?” But I didn’t dare ask strangers for such a favor. However, I couldn’t reach my calf myself, because even after sitting up, my body was still full-on, stiff in a cramp. Then one of the gals asked, “Can I help you up?” I gladly responded, “Why, yes you can.” and couldn’t tell them enough how nice they were – they after all took several minutes off their time to help me. Standing up, I was able to reach down and massage my right leg. And one of the ladies gave me an electrolyte pill for the cramping. I was off and running before it even took effect (which it did several minutes later) and at the next aid station I took time to thoroughly wash my hands to make sure I didn’t have any gaping injuries.

At that point I still had too much to traverse to make my time. But I kept on running. I was thinking, “okay, 3 hours ten minutes . . . “ The cramping now gone, I still felt okay, but quite tired. The scenery lush and shady, I ran on through the single track passing runners here and there, despite aching hands and bloody knee. When I came to the stream, I by-passed the line of people waiting to cross over the most opportune rocks. I plowed right through that water, causing an uproar of laughter from those who cautiously crossed to avoid wet feet.

Wet, muddy shoes, I made that last uphill at a fast pace, running when I could, power-walking the rest. A few runners passed me, running amazingly strong. And when I could look down at the boy’s detention center, I felt great relief. Home was just around the corner. A woman behind me exclaimed about then, “Oh my gosh! Did you fall?” I laughed and said that I did, and that nothing was broken, so all was well. “What’s a trail run without a good fall?” I joked. (She laughed and agreed).

I was dead, dead-dog tired. Though flat, the last bit of this Bulldog race was tough for me. Still, I ran it all the way in. I didn’t make my 3 hour limit, but after the initial disappointment, I’m happy about my performance. (Someone called out 3:21 when I crossed the finish line – don’t have official standings yet)

Crossing Finish Line


That’s quite a trail race! Be sure that I’ll be back next year to try for 3 hours once again.

So Happy to be done!


Larry, fully rested after coming in at 2 hrs twenty something minutes!

Kilometers logged today: 25 (just under 16 miles)
Injuries: a bruise, 4 small cuts on the hands, 1 swollen and scabbed knee
Body completely crusted with salt, arms, legs and face filthy but . . . Toes aching: ZERO!

And the tally shows . . .Total number of falls-to-date: 7

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not Much Else I Can Do . . .

Does everyone get this anxious before a hard race? Every race is “hard” I suppose, but there are those special ones that are excruciatingly difficult for me. Obviously, Bulldog is one of them. Even the name sounds too tough for me. BULLDOG – I better watch it, or that thing will bite my ass off.

Well, I've done all that I can do at this point. My left foot toes are in better shape, though not completely pain free. I’ve been resting, or cross training rather, and have been soaking my feet in Epsom salt. I’m wearing a brace on my right knee, overkill for the slight ache I felt this afternoon. Sound crazy? I’m sure it does. I’ve also been wearing the trail shoes that I’m pretty sure I’m wearing for Bulldog, all day, every day this week, so that they feel like they’re part of me, an extension, not just a pair of shoes. (And I’m still packing my old faithful trail shoes, just in case I change my mind at the last minute – which I did the last time, the first time I ran the Bulldog trail back in May ’09 – Xterra 22k).

I’m promising to sleep in as late as I can tomorrow, which will probably mean, that I’ll first wake at 6:30, then go back to sleep and wake at 7:30 and force myself to stay in bed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if just for tomorrow I could sleep in until 9 or 10? Chances are slim. Regardless, Friday is set aside for complete rest, except for an hour drive out to my parents and back, and a few, very few chores around the house. (Friday’s bedtime is set for 9 PM at latest)

I’ve already got everything I need for the race in one bag. The ipod is loaded and charged, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, etc., etc., all there. Tomorrow I will ceremoniously sort through my stuff, pack my belt, fill my camelback, select socks, undergarments, shorts, shirt . . . I’ve been looking over the map, coming up with strategies, time schedules. I even spent time today viewing Bulldog clips on the internet – how fun, I thought to myself, I can’t wait. But then again, it was kind of a “dread” sort of “can’t wait.”

Does that make sense?

There’s not much else I can do at this point,

Except . . .

Dream, dream, dream.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My favorite Trails in Wood Canyon

My last run before Bulldog, I posted an approximate 8 mile run through Wood Canyon -- or so I thought. I was kinda guessing, based on other runs. Turns out I was short a bit, two miles short.

I chose my three favorite trails to run with this morning's group of five. The first one (which we arrived via Wood Canyon Trail) was Dripping Cave. There's some climbing on this trail, but nothing like running to Top of the World. The best part of the trail of course is the actual cave, and that downhill back to Mathis where the vegetation along the single track grows taller than me. And then there's Coyote Run, which I've described in detail many times -- that enchanted trail that starts and ends just above the creek. And then lastly, my newest favorite trail -- Wood Creek. We ran it backwards this time. Ha! We didn't actually run backwards. I mean, we ran it in the opposite direction than I've ran it before. It's a gorgeous, thick groved trail, off the beaten path with no bike traffic. When I run it alone, I blast through half a dozen spider webs along the way. Today, Larry took the lead, so he got that pleasure, I'm sure.

Still not certain which shoes to wear for Bulldog, I wore the Salomons today for another test run. And then I stepped through the stream to see how they handled wet. Because when I come to the stream crossing at Bulldog, I'm probably not going to balance myself over the rocks -- I'm going to run straight through. The shoes did well wet (and I even wore them for a few hours after the run to make good and sure they kept their comfort -- if that makes any sense!)

Anyway, we ended with only six miles. At Wood Canyon's final Kiosk, Tom was raring to go up Cholla and back. But in the end, he couldn't get any takers. Perhaps he missed the heavy duty climbing from his "flat" week last week.

Well, like a broken record (remember those, when the record used to skip and play the same note again and again?), I couldn't let this cool morning run on my favorite trails pass without another group photo. Sorry folks, I'll try to ease up on that a bit. But I really enjoyed the run and the company, and this picture will put it down in posterity.

Miles logged this morning: 6

Tom, Me, Sheila, Luis, Larry


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Tapering? on Arroyo Trabuco/Tijeras Creek Loop

I love these gray, cool August mornings. What’s better than that for an early morning group run? Aiming for ten to twelve miles, I really intended on cutting back my miles, if not now, then this coming week. It’s the TAPER before Bulldog. I’m always nervous about THE TAPER, but now that I’ve got two toes angry with me, I think it’s best. Let’s just call it “resting up,” before Bulldog.

Anyway, Saturday morning, the group of four of us found ourselves lost (for just a bit) running the roads looking for O’Neill Park. Luckily, I wasn’t leading, because I still don’t have a good feel for the geography or direction of the local mountains. And we weren’t really even in the mountains, more like at the base. When we finally did find it, I was amazed to find myself on a trail in O’Neill Park that I’ve run before, but had arrived to by a completely different route. I had no idea we were even in the vicinity. I’m only now slightly able to recognize and name the peaks, figuring out the valleys and canyons – yikes.

Sheila, Kelly, Tom

The run was lovely, relatively flat, with minor rolling hills (except for a few moderate climbs towards the end). We ran through several creek crossings. And then, best of all, we ran through that charming shaded trail that the high school cross country runners call “The Jungle.” And when we got lost for a second time, well, not really lost, just off onto a dead-end trail, we spooked three deer. What a delight to see them spring away to take cover behind nearby vegetation. If I didn’t say, “Deer!” as soon as I spotted them, we may have had a better view for a longer amount of time.

Headed Towards "The Jungle"


"The Jungle"




So more distance added from the back-tracking there, Kelly jokingly hollered to me “How’s that taper going, Lauren?”

We ended Saturday’s run with some climbs in the sun. On the way back into the high school parking lot I caught a glimpse of the pool and yearned to hop that wall and jump in. Back at home, I didn’t nap, in fact, I didn’t feel wiped-out at all. So, Sunday, I woke early to quench my thirst for the pool and swam laps at the gym (2,000 yards).

Cattails

Awesome Old Tree (& gotta love that shade!)



Me, Sheila, and Kelly (perhaps a display of her and Sheila's newly coined phrase: Direction Disorder Syndrome)



Miles run Saturday: 13.83 (I guess, the taper starts this week, and Thursday and Friday REST – let’s see how that goes) : )

Friday, August 14, 2009

Easy, Breezy Run

I have got to fit in short runs more often -- they do much for my attitude. I woke Thursday morning dead, I mean DEAD, to the world. And I told myself, "This must mean that I need more sleep, I should go back to bed." But I got plenty of sleep. I was just down. So I sat around, down, for a good hour and a half, then finally ran out the front door. I ran the marina, the wharf, on a practically empty road. There were a few walkers, two other runners. The sky was gray, the surf calm, and these big feet felt like feathers. That quick run lifted my spirits almost instantly. I felt strong, and pushed it harder. Adding a little more here and a little more there, I didn't want to stop running! Finally, I stopped myself. I also didn't want to lose that easy, breezy run.

Miles logged Thursday A.M.: 5.89

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Cool Summer Run in Aliso Wood Canyons

I worried about today’s run because of my difficult time Saturday. Plus, I’ve got this toe injury/problem, whatever it is, that makes me wonder if I’m even gonna make the Bulldog 25k in two weeks. For some reason sleep has been tough (perhaps the writing deadlines I have put on myself for a September conference). And alas, the dreams-before-a-tough-race have begun, as I woke from a humorous one that I frantically searched the house for a pair of shoes. I wasn’t laughing in the dream, but looking back, I’m amused that I could not find one single matching pair of shoes for a softball game I was already late for. I barked out orders for everyone to LOOK, while I scrambled about on the floor, searching under beds, etc., and threw every single running shoe I found into a mound. And in the end, there was this giant mound in the middle of the room – not one shoe a match!

I woke this morning 5 AM, my toe barely aching, though I treaded lightly, afraid to face the real deal. Free to walk firmly with laced shoes (because for some reason, the toe hardly aches in shoes), I drank my two cups of coffee, surfed the net, then headed out the door about 6:10. (No breakfast, mind you, but some calories in the car for later and plenty of water for the run).

With one no-show, it was just Tom and me running Aliso / Wood Canyons this morning. The skies were gray and misty and lovely. The air was very still, and oh so cool. Perfect running weather. Wearing an old pair of trail shoes, I experienced no ache in my right toes whatsoever. And I was careful not run on my toes over those steep climbs. (Toe running up steep hills is suspect for my toe problems – but there’s plenty of things suspect, while I wait here guessing what the problem is, trying to wish it away.)

Entering Aliso Canyon on a Misty Morning

Nearing the End of Wood Canyon Trail, Canopied by Coast Live Oaks


Anyway, we took Aliso Canyon to Wood and ran it to the end where we climbed up Cholla. Confidence returned when I ran the entire Cholla uphill climb with greater speed than usual. Then we ran Westridge all the way to Top of the World. After a rest in the park, not to mention a “group” photo, we headed back down to Mathis to hit Wood Canyon Trail again. Then we came on my most difficult part of the run, that mile and a half back, half of it trail, the other paved. The difficulty has nothing to do with the climb, as it’s relatively level – the difficulty is all mental. I guess it’s the straightaway nature for some of it, plus the fact that I can’t see the end until about a quarter mile away. At that point, we dug in (at Tom’s request, thankfully, because if it were left to me, I probably wouldn’t push), and we finished off this morning’s run in a blaze. : )

Photo Op at Top of the World

Hitting Paved Road for the last 3/4 miles (the hardest part!)


Miles logged this wonderful Tuesday morning: 11.78

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Docent-led Trail Run on the Fremont, Blind, Weir Loop

Up early, early again this morning for a 6:30 docent-led "intermediate-advanced" run. The morning was so very cool for an August morning in California. The skies were blue and spirits were high among the 12 runners.

I have two words to describe my running performance on this eleven mile run (pardon my bad attitude and language): I sucked.

After a couple hundred flat yards we began about a two mile climb that I just could not hack. It wasn't hot, and there was plenty of shade. The group was good, the docents were friendly. I simply could not hang. And it was that way the entire run for me -- exhaustion, like I could barely lift my feet off the earth. Negative self-talk was an added hurdle.

Irvine Lake in Distance

Looking Back Over Approx. 2 Mile Climb


A Rest Near The Top (& I'm not in a smilin' mood)


Down in Weir Canyon

Docent Shares His Knowledge


Cougar Tracks? (They measured the size of my fist -- not a bobcat's tracks)


And More Climbing . . .


The last 3 or so miles of the run, eight of the runners got out so far ahead that they were no longer in view. And the remaining 2 runners were so far behind me, I couldn't see them either. The trail seemed pretty straight forward, but now in with the heat and lack of shade, I grew worried that I had taken the wrong path. I just expected to run down when the end was near (but it wasn't near, despite my hopes). Then at one point, I took a fork in the trail that headed downward. I ran that trail until it dead-ended. Fatigued, I turned myself around and ran back up that trail and continued on to another fork. Following the footsteps in the dirt, I ran straight instead of down to the right (not wanting to duplicate my earlier error).

A bit later, I saw a group of people down off in the distance on a paved road. Thinking these were the runners, I turned around AGAIN and ran back down to the last fork. There I ran the other trail that lead downward. After a couple minutes though, I had to face the fact, no fresh footprints, this wasn't the trail to lead me back. And so I turned around AGAIN and headed back up to the fork and continued onward.

Well, I ran and ran, up and down rolling dirt trails, completely unsure I was headed in the right direction. The runners behind me were nowhere in sight, and I feared that waiting for them would do me no good if I had taken the wrong trail. And so onward I ran, checking my phone. It read 9:30 AM, and "No Service." Heck. At least, I still had plenty water in my camelback.

Up ahead I noticed the toll road, and remembered early on looking back on that. The fact that I was running towards it, gave me hope that I headed in the right direction. I just needed to get beyond that toll road, so that I could look back on it again. I was pretty demoralized and continued running, sweating pretty good, thinking, where's that damn pile of coal that the docent pointed out? I remembered just beyond that, he pointed out the dam to Irvine Lake.

Eventually that lonely road veered to the right, and I finally caught sight of the dam! Damn!!! Before long, that large mound of coal came into sight and I ran straight on into the staging area where a 9 of the 12 runners were resting and a big ice chest full of cold Gatorade awaited me.

I have to take this as just a bad day, and not bash myself for utter poor performance. It happens to everyone, and it's happened to me before (plenty of times). Still, I thought I was out of the woods for something this hard on me. At least I didn't get dehydrated. And even more importantly, I didn't fall.

But I have to explore, what did go wrong? Last night I woke every hour for some reason. And this morning, I did something that I never do before big, early runs: I ate breakfast -- peanut butter on whole wheat toast. I know that isn't much, but it's different than my usual habit. And speaking of running habits, usually I get my mileage in over 3 days of running. This week, I did it in 4.

Oh well. I'm hoping for better runs, and more importantly triumph over the voice in my head that says, "I suck" when things like this happen.

Miles logged this morning: 11

OCTR Members
Front Row: Me, Luis, Polly, Victoria
Back Row: Daniel, Tom

Friday, August 7, 2009

Vasque Peter Cyn Summer Trail Run Series #3

I am not an afternoon or evening runner. Actually, I am not an afternoon or evening racer. I love relaxed evening runs down at the marina, restaurants lights reflecting off the water. Races in the evening heat, that’s a different story.

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I registered for race number three of the Vasque Summer Series Trail Runs. I knew I wasn’t an evening racer. I guess I did it for the same ole’ reason – I wanted to see if I could beat last year’s time. Plus, there’s an added bonus to this race. It starts and finishes in Cedar Grove Park, so the whole family can come and our my boys can play while I run.

A pose before braving the canyon

Good-bye my oldest son, I shall miss you


And the horn sounds . . .

Last year I ran the trail both clockwise and counter-clockwise, and I’m not really sure which one I preferred. This year, I registered only for the final race, which ran clockwise. After a flat start, plenty of dust kicking up from all the runners, my boys running beside me for a bit, we veered to the left for an ever so slight incline on a wide almost sandy, pretty dusty road. The weather was warm, and I thought to myself, “What have I gotten myself into???”

It’s like the day zaps my energy for any kind of race later on. I tired pretty quickly Thursday evening. Not stopping for water, I sipped from the handheld that I brought along. And though, I didn’t stop running, I didn’t feel like I was progressing along very well. But I wasn’t dead last, and unless I broke a leg or something, I was gonna finish this race.

The trail is not a super tough one, but its tough enough – plenty of climbs. And on the down hills, which were rather steep I was unable to take it in my usual zig-zag manner, because the other runners ran it straight down.

I was tired – way too tired for a five mile race. I relished the cool breeze that occasionally blew in. But I mostly looked forward to finishing this race. More than anything I wanted to beat last year’s time, which was 0:58:19. My internal clock though (when am I going to get a watch?) said that I wasn’t going to make it. Felt more like an hour had already passed as I made my way toward the finish line.

Youngest and middle sons play waiting for Mom (with no fists flying!)


The Final Stretch


I saw my husband and boys before I could read the clock. He snapped away, while my two oldest boys screamed and ran alongside me. When I saw the clock read fifty-two minutes and some seconds, well, the torture was well worth it.

Final time for this 5 mile trail race: 0:52:44 , pace 10:33 (last year 58:19, pace 11:40)

I placed 173 out of 281, and was 13 out of 31 in my category (females age 40 – 44)

I'm happy that my boys got a couple hours in the park. But I’m thinking that’s the last afternoon/evening run that I’m registering for. I’m a morning gal now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Energized

The sun shined brightly this morning for a 6:30 club run. The temperature though, was cool. Oh, how I love that cool temperature! And with no marine layer, humidity was low. It was just a beautiful morning, blue skies, dazzling clouds. I hit the dirt with Tom and Luis, feeling pretty good, trying out my Salomon’s again.

We took Wood Canyon, in and out of shade, and amazingly, I didn’t feel like I needed that long 3 mile warm-up that my body usually insists upon. After a couple creek crossings (not actually through the water, but over it), we made our way into that gorgeous shady grove towards the end of Wood Canyon. The weather still cool, a nice breeze, the company was splendid. Then, we all felt the temperature dramatically change as we ran up Cholla. It was as if we ran through a door of heat. And though Cholla was extremely tough, I ran up the entire thing, and didn’t feel like crumbling to the ground upon reaching the top. I just smiled wide and exclaimed, “that was tough!.”

Anyway, I kept up with the gang surprisingly pretty well on Westridge. We ran all of Westridge, and into the park at Top of the World. Then we took the road across the ridge to meet up with one of my favorite trails, Meadows. Meadows is brown now, no green grass, no yellow mustard wildflowers. The ride down is still exhilarating.

Top of the World, About to Descend on Meadows Trail (Luis, Me, Tom)


After a rest and photo-op, I flew down that trail, and made my way in at a pace quicker than normal (according to Tom’s GPS). I was surprised that my energy didn’t drain in the end. I ran it all the way in.

Perhaps it was the shoes. But I really have to credit today’s energy to 1) Saturday’s Trabuco run, which notched my ability up some, 2) light work-outs on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and 3) most importantly, a change in my diet – that is not to say that I’m on a diet. I have just changed my diet, to include ten, count ‘
em TEN servings of fruits and vegetables.

After a round of chores at home, my energy started to seep. Today’s nap was from 2:00 to 3:30. But I pretended not to sleep, because for some reason, I feel guilty about napping. So when I’d hear one of my boys or my husband walk into the living room where I slept on the couch, I said a word or two, like I was just resting my eyes. I was sleeping though, most of the time. Don’t think I fooled anyone. They were good. I didn’t get any flack.

Miles happily, joyfully logged this morning: 11.5


Monday, August 3, 2009

Sleepy Gal Shootin' Baskets

I got in a two hour nap after Saturday’s run, and still went to bed fairly early. There was no recovery run for me Sunday. I just couldn’t put myself through it. How about a recovery swim? Okay, so I woke early, and hit the gym pool at 7:00 AM with a promise of only 1,500 yards. That’ll be an easy workout, I said to myself. Sunday afternoon, I promptly napped for a couple hours again.

Sleepy gal here. Well, I got to thinking, maybe I should take it easy for a bit. As a matter of fact, I haven’t done a short, easy road run in it seemed like ages. So I laced up my road shoes this morning and ran out the front door at 7:15. The sun was shining brightly, and the air was still. I ran right down the highway to the seashore, ran along the jetty where a couple of fishermen threw out lines. Then I made my way over to the wharf. Tourists, and I’m sure locals too, enjoyed breakfast in the restaurants that overlook the water. One boat took off from the wharf filled to the brim with eager fishermen.

This run seemed so unbelievably short. And though I worked up a good sweat, it was quite “easy” too. Easy’s a relative term of course. It was like I had been shooting baskets with a bowling ball, then this morning, someone all of a sudden handed me a basketball. And I took that basketball and floated alongside the marina, stopping for quick drinks at the water fountains along the way.

At the cliffs I turned around and made my way back home, plowing up the big hill with much improvement over past runs up that hill.

And then I dozed off yet again, about 3:30 this afternoon.

Miles logged this morning: 5.18

Sunday, August 2, 2009

In Over My Head

I worried Friday night that I was going to be in way over my head on Saturday’s run. Then I laughed to myself, because that’s most of the time the case on these trail runs. But I really had no idea – no idea of the utter difficulty of “running” up Trabuco Trail and no idea of the sheer beauty of the Santa Ana Mountains (and in the middle of summer to boot!)

We met at 6:00 AM with five runners: Tom, Larry, Luis, Daniel and the only female in the group, myself. We started running up the canyon, past sporadic cabins, and a bullet ridden car through the cool shade. At the West Horse Thief / Trabuco Trail fork, we headed up Trabuco in and out of the shade, on a slow steady climb. But then that climb took off into the sky. There were wide rocky, desert-like roads, single tracks alongside tremendously steep slopes, and shady enchanted portions beneath forest trees.

Bullet-Ridden, Rusted Out Car

Making Our Way to Horse Thief / Trabuco Fork

Ferns in the Shade

I wonder What Lives in that Cave?

Which Way Should We Go???

Thankful for a cool breeze, I really couldn’t wait until we made the Main Divide. First timer on this run, I really had no idea when that might be, which makes a run mentally difficult. But when I saw some metal posts in the distance, I wanted to sing a joyful song. Nah, I don’t think I had that much energy. I was sure smiling though. We could actually view the other side of the Santa Ana Mountains, Lake Elsinore down below.

Going Up . . .

Still Going Up -- Looking Back (Towards The O.C.)

At The Main Divide


Lake Elsinore In the Distance (Look Very Closely)


We ran some rolling hills for a bit, one of them too long and steep to be called “rolling.” And up on that climb, I spotted a cluster of huge pinecones littering the trail. They were quite prickly and sticky with sap. I picked one up anyway up for my youngest son (he loves pinecones and I knew this one would amaze him). When I turned the corner to meet the guys, they all kind of chuckled at my notion of carrying that thing down Horse Thief. I was thinking heck, it’s all down hill from here – I can do it. Sometimes, my judgment is skewed.

Thankfully, Tom tied it up onto the back of his camelback, and we all made our way down that rocky, switch-back named West Horse Thief. I concentrated hard, with the rocks literally rolling beneath my feet, the terrain steep. There was no time for photo ops down this trail; it was that difficult for me to run.

Running out of the canyon, hikers here and there made their way in with walking sticks. I was tired, but knowing that the end was near, I was able to keep on running back into the parking lot, flabbergasted by the trails I had just run.

Now that was great training for the 25K Bulldog at the end of the month.

Front Row: Daniel, Tom
Back Row: Me, Luis, Larry


11.8 miles logged on Saturday Morning with 3,300 feet of climbing.

ps. My four year old loved the pinecone.