TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Flat Runs are Fun too : )

I didn’t run this morning – too cold, though it wasn’t actually TOO cold to run. It’s just that I’ve got this IT band thing, in other words, my hip HURTS. I swam yesterday, and the whole 2200 yards was pleasant, no pain whatsoever. As soon as I pushed myself out of that pool – ouch, there it was: IT burnin’. I’ve been wearing ice on my hip like a gun in a holster.

So, I wasn’t eager to jump right out of bed this morning to run in the cold. But I knew that I needed to run, my psyche needed it. Last run was Tuesday (my run up Meadows Trail), and that was way too long ago. Since then, I see people run, and I get jealous (and I’m not really a jealous person!).

After taking it easy this morning, turning in attendance, post office mailings, phone calls, e-mails, etc, then watching my soap, I finally DROVE down to the marina for a run. I never drive down there anymore – I always run out the door for my marina runs. But today was a good day for a perfectly flat run, and the only way for that to happen was to drive down the big hill. Hopefully a flat run would ease the pain (or at least not worsen it).

Turns out, there was some burning during this afternoon’s run. I didn’t care – not one bit; wait that’s putting it loosely, it’s more like I DIDN’T GIVE A DAMN. I wanted to run; I ached to run.

Enjoyable, that’s how I will describe this flat run alongside the harbor waters, despite the burning. I stretched when I drank, and the pain actually seemed to lessen with movement. The breeze was strong and cool. The skies were blue. White seagulls crowded the waters. When I ran beneath the island bridge (twice) the winds rushed against me furiously – it was almost surreal.

I concentrated on posture and listened to my music, thinking about mundane things. I decided that it was time to change out my white canvas purse for my blue, Mayan embroidered one. I wondered if those tiny pin legged white birds tip-toeing about the island were Egrets, or some other bird. I also decided what to post on my literary blog, and which Sunday to post a Top of the World trail run. I thought about some of my students, and how relieved I was to get their progress reports done before the weekend. I thought about how to carve our three pumpkins, and that I’d be better off leaving that to hubby. And sometimes I thought about nothing at all. : ) Bliss.

And oh ya I thought about one more thing: I LOVE THIS SONG (Catch and Release by the Silversun Pickups, I played and replayed it the last two miles of my run : ))

Follow me
Want to live in a fantasy
Quietly
Show you everything you'll ever need

I hope you'll take it
I know you're faking just a little bit
Come on and taste it
Just get excited cuz you're giving in

Come and see
How the wind in your hair will feel differently
Catch and release
The lure above

Who...

Here we are
In the bathwater hold afloat
Later on
Don't say I didn't tell you so
Maybe I didn't but you're taking it
Knew you were faking just a little bit
Now that you'll taste it
No need to fight it cuz you're giving in

Follow me
Down the streams of sweat on your body
Can't believe
The lure was enough

Do you see?
How the wind in your hair now feels differently
Catch and release
The lure above
Who knows?
How this feeling grows?
Was it truly what -Truly worth the starting
Who knows?
Why the engine's blown
Was it truly what -Truly worth the parting

Follow me
Down the streams of sweat on your body
Can't believe

The lure was enough
Do you see?
How in the wind in your hair now feels differently
Catch and release the lure above

Miles logged this Friday before Halloween: 6.5

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j08iHBqiavU&feature=PlayList&p=22D536FC7CADE48C&index=1

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Running Up Meadows


I showed up to my regular Top of the World run, met fellow club member, Tom, and we headed off down Aliso Canyon about 8:30 AM. We spotted a Blue Heron along the way, and plenty of other runners and cyclists making their way in and out of the wilderness park.

Well . . . upon reaching Wood Canyon Trail, Tom mentioned that it was decision time. “Nah, “ I said, “we’ve got plenty time.” I was thinking we could go up Mathis (which is over a mile away), or after that, Rockit, or Lynx or Cholla. We had lots of choices. One thing I knew for sure, “Not that way,” I said to Tom, pointing up Aliso Canyon.

THAT WAY was Meadows Trail, and I had never run up Meadows. I tried once, couldn’t make it. The second time, I just hiked the whole thing, which was difficult enough. Tom hadn’t ever run the entire thing either.

“I’d just like to get it over with,” he said. It was kind of tempting for me to get the climb done right away. And so we turned off onto Meadows Trail, headed for the most difficult run to Top of the World.

Once we ran through the meadow (which is actually brown right now) and over the small bridge, the climb begins very slowly. And then – Wham! Probably not even a quarter mile after than turn, the hellish climbing begins. It may seem tough to start. But it only gets worse.

Meadows is a switch-back trail, that makes it to the top in about a mile. I tried to only think about running to each corner. That didn’t help much, so I tried not to think about anything at all. Good thing I had my ipod with music to push me along. As I ran higher and higher up that trail, I would think to myself, I’ve got to be close by now. I’d look down at the canyon, and it seemed so far away. Then I’d look up at the ridge – and it was still SO FAR AWAY.

My calves hurt, sweat poured down my face like rain, but I kept on running. Tom was quite a bit ahead of me. But I could see on some of the turns that he was still running up that deliciously tortuous trail as well. About three quarters of the way up, I really felt like I could not run another step – it seemed like the trail was getting steeper and steeper still. But I had run it this far, there was no way that I was going to stop running now. I can’t really brag with, “I ran 75% of Meadows!” And so, I pulled this one out of the magic hat, and kept on running, my calves aching and my IT band now burning. And then, and then . . . I made it – I ran up Meadows Trail! Tom was up there waiting. He smiled and said, “It’s all downhill from here.”

Not quite. After some down hill on the paved ridge, up we climbed again to the trail that goes around the private neighborhood. And after running down that, we had to run back up out of it. After finally reaching the neighborhoods at the Top of the World, there was still some more up hill! And then, at last – down hill : ) Oh, the glory.

The rest of the run was easy, a pleasure really, with cool breezes and overcast skies. We also saw two deer on Wood Canyon Trail. Upon reaching Aliso Canyon trail, I said with delight “homeward bound!” And we ran that last mile and a half back in, finishing strong at the ranger station. I was wiped out. My hip still burned, and I knew I was going to be in trouble the next day (which I am), but it was all worth it. WE RAN UP MEADOWS!

Miles logged Tuesday morning: 11.84

Elevation map courtesy of Tom (miles 2 thru 3 is the Meadows climb -- notice how it's not all "down hill" after that : )))

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Peter's Canyon

When the alarm rang out this morning, I looked at the clock, 5 o’clock, and thought to myself, awww, that’s a joke, right? Some kind of mistake! Why am I waking at 5AM on a Sunday morning?

Didn’t take long before I remembered that I had rsvp’d for a group run today. And not knowing just how long it would take me to drive to Peter’s Canyon, I set the alarm extra early. I left the house extra early too – under darkness, like some kind of crazy : )

I arrived to an elementary school parking lot a good fifteen minutes before start time. No other cars in the lot, I made sure the doors were locked and fought against falling back asleep. I thought to myself, “my husband surely would not appreciate this – his wife sitting in a lonely parking lot, in the dark!” Shhhhh. Nobody tell him, okay?

I really wanted to make this run though, because it seems I run pretty much the same trails again and again – I looked at the chance to run Peter’s Canyon again, as an opportunity (see she is a little whacked!) Peter’s Canyon is the first place that I ran trails back in June 2008.

6:30 AM sharp, the other runners drove up – first Jennifer, then Tom, and right about that time, Sheila and Kelly. The sun had not yet begun to rise when we took off running on the streets towards Peter’s Canyon Park. Sheila, Kelly and I ran the ridge route, proving to be tiresome for me, with some pretty steep climbs, but at the same time, some nice steep down hills. Tom and Jennifer took the canyon route. We all met up on the other side of the lake and ran together back in via the canyon. Right about the end of this wonderful journey, we took a thick creek side trail that reminded Kelly of the Hawaiian rain forests. It was a nice detour and delightful way to end this Sunday run.

Miles logged this Sunday morning: 6.5

Early Morning on the Ridge:




Coming Off Ridge




Meeting up (Sheila, Me, Jennifer, Kelly, Tom)


Heading Back (Tom & Sheila crossing creek bridge)


Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Good Girls Don't, But I do."

I want to swim tomorrow, especially because my wrist x-ray came back normal. So, today was run day for sure. But where to run? That was the question of the day (well, actually the first question of the day; a day is filled with lots of questions).

After dropping my two oldest boys off at elementary school, then an hour later, my youngest to preschool, I debated whether to run down to the marina, or to run to the Top of the World. Oh, the dilemmas of life! If I ran out the door for a harbor run, I’d be tempted to run ten or so miles, resulting in way too much time away from chores and other things on the “to do” list. On the other hand, the shortest route to Top of the World is only a 5.9 mile run. Ah – but there’s the drive to and from, adding to the time away from essentials.

What to do? What to do?

Quite frankly, I didn’t spend too much time deciding. The answer was easy. Onward, to the Top of the World!

I love that anxious feeling driving to Canyon Vistas Park, knowing that hot, steep climb up Cholla awaits me with open arms, stoically, non-judgmentally, yet mockingly. I love the twists and turns in the trail, swerving up to the ridge, lots of bike tracks, few shoe tracks. I love that I can’t see the top, but how suddenly after a bumpy rock outcropping and quick right turn, I’m there, at the top of Cholla Trail – as if it wasn’t that bad after all, but really, running up that thing was hell.

But wait, there’s more delight. Upon reaching Westridge, its two plus miles of rolling climbs are laid out entirely before me. I can see it all, and it’s more than intimidating, its frightening : ) But not too frightening. I put one foot in front of the other, once again and ran it all the way to the top. Just toward the end, Westridge’s most daunting climb, I told myself, “don’t look at the top,” and I put my eyes to the ground. Funny; I couldn’t stop looking. It was so difficult to run, I just had to see “how much farther????” I made a deal, don’t look until the song’s over. There was only about ten seconds left of the song, and I looked to the top about three times. Here’s the deal when I concentrate on the top of a tough climb: I slow down, I feel even more tired, and I want to quit. That’s why I try not to look. If I just focus on the moment, think about one foot at a time, I can take the hill a lot stronger.

About half way up these difficult part on Westridge (if you know the trail, it’s the climb that leads up to the Mathis intersection, the same one I fell down months ago), a song piped in through my headphones, a one hit wonder from my high school years, that I haven’t heard since about then. Good Girls Don’t, I’m pretty sure it’s called. The chorus goes, “Good Girls Don’t, Good Girls, Don’t, She’ll be tellin’ you, Good Girls Don’t, but I do.” I laughed out loud and changed the meaning of that song right then and there running up that hill – those words don’t mean what we all thought they meant! Good girls don’t get all dirty and run up ridiculously steep climbs like this, BUT I DO!

it's a middle-age sadness
Everyone has got to taste.
An in-between age madness
That you know you can't erase
Til she picks up her pace.

You're alone with her at last,
And you're waiting til you think the time is right.
Cause you've heard she's pretty fast.
And you're hoping that she’ll pick the trail tonight.
So, you start to make your play,
Cause you could've sworn you thought you heard her saying...

Good girls don't,
Good girls don't,
She'll be tellin' you,
Good girls don't, but I do.


Earlier today, when I was delirious this cracked me up. It’s not so funny now, but funny enough then to get me to the top of that climb. When I finally reached Top of the World I took in the ocean view and quickly turned around for that glorious run back. What a great feeling to finally make it to the top, sweating, dirty, and dead-dog tired! The run down was exhilarating – memories of getting up there, of conquering the monster, seeing the strain on the faces of the bikers who now made their way up. There are some up hills on the way back, it is a ridge trail after all. But Cholla, that’s all downhill, twisting, turning, glorious downhill.

Miles logged this morning: 5.9
ps. The song referenced is from "The Knack."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top of the World on a Cool October Morning

Rain woke me all through the night Monday. When I phoned the ranger station Tuesday morning, I was surprised to find that Aliso Wood Canyons Park was open. In fact, it hadn’t rained there at all.

Let me tell ya! I did not feel like running one bit. I was so tired; I thought to myself, if no one shows, I’m driving straight home and going to bed. By the time my face hit that cool air and my eyes took in those blue skies however, I began to feel like I could do this.

Two club members, Tom and David, arrived to join me on this weekly run in my favorite wilderness park. We ran through Aliso Canyon and took a right onto Wood Canyon. It was quiet, cool, and we took it at a good pace. Tom commented that at “this pace we could run 100 miles in 16 hours.” At this rate, my warm-up was going pretty slowly – I wasn’t going to get my grove for at least that many miles!

So, it was the usual lovely Wood Canyon, shaded by sycamores and live oaks. We met dozens of crows mingling about in a group on the trail. I saw a bunny hop off here and there in the brush. At Cholla, Tom turned back for a 9 mile round trip. I tried to snap a group photo at the departure. The first one, I got the trash can lid in the picture, the second one sans the lid, I didn’t much like. (I ended up cropping out the trashcan for the group photo below).





David and I ran up that tough, tough exposed Cholla trail and continued on Westridge to Top of the World. What a run that is! I can’t help feel like I accomplished something great after that – even if I had walked it, which we didn’t. We ran all the way to the top. From there we ran through the Top of the World neighborhoods to enter the park on the other end. The goats had moved farther down the ridge. The skies were beautiful, blue with puffy clouds as we headed down Meadows Trail. David kept me on my toes, running this at a faster pace than I’m used to when I run this park solo. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was racing me. (kiddin’ -- but don’t you hate it when you’re in a race and don’t even know it? : )



Anyway, we ran on into the ranger station with a total of 11.64 miles logged for the morning. I was dead-dog tired, and had to replenish calories quickly, because weakness began to fall heavily upon me.

What a run! I loved it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Seaside Run

We were socked in today in this seaside town. Good thing, because I heard it was hot, hot, hot inland. In our town, it was kinda cold. : )

I took an afternoon run after forcing myself to sleep in. I left the house at 1:30 and ran downtown, having to stop frequently for red lights. I ran by the post office and dropped an envelope in the shoot, and then ran on over to the cliff trail overlooking the marina. The falls which sometimes roar in the wintertime, were bone dry as I ran across the wood plank bridge alongside that cliff. The ocean was a light green, that wonderful, coca-cola bottle green. I ran down the hillside park into the marina, ran out to the cliffs overlooking the tide pools that are so heavily watched by docents nowadays. And then I ran through the crowded wharf and back out to the streets where I hit Highway One and ran it all the way home.

Miles logged this Sunday afternoon: 5.25

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Early to Bed, Early to Rise / Emerald Canyon Trail Run

I was on the road under dark skies this morning for a run on a new trail, not actually “new”, but new to me. Not only a new trail, but a new park, again just new to me – Crystal Cove State Park, I’m sure has been around for many years. In fact, I camped at the beach end of it when I was in girl scouts so many years ago.

I met Tom a few minutes before 7:00 AM. One other member, a no-show, we took off about 7:05, on a down hill. That joy was quick to end for a steady climb along Bommer Ridge. The weather was still pleasant, though weather reports promised 90 degrees. I was well prepared with a camelback full of water on my back, and a camera, as well to document the trail.




We took El Moro Ridge to the Old Emerald Falls Trail which was a lovely downhill, cool weathered, single track. And it was pretty much down hill after that til the end of the canyon (or at least as far as we could run). At the bottom of Old Emerald Falls, we came out at Emerald Canyon, which was lush and shaded by giant sycamores and live oaks. The canyon walls were vaguely orangish, at one spot with overhanging outcrops. The sight was gorgeous.


I believe it was around mile four, or around there, that we reached “The Falls.” They were dry, but promised another run, another time, overflowing with water. We ran ahead on past that until the trail ended in Laguna Beach at a chain link fence, perhaps a country club on the other side (I could see tennis courts off in the distance).










At "The Falls"


Dead end past Emerald Falls

On Emerald Canyon (before the climb back up)

Emerald Cyn Trail (Heading back up)

Well, after running down for so long into Emerald Canyon, there was only one way back – and that was UPHILL. Actually, it wasn’t too bad, only a few tough places. Instead of turning off onto the Old Emerald Falls single track, we continued up Emerald Canyon to Bommer Ridge. And continuing on under bright, warm skies, we ended this Saturday morning run with 9.85 miles. I was dang tired.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What to do when rain muddies the trail? Hit the Road.

Rain fell down upon us in sunny California on Tuesday and Wednesday. I didn’t hit the trails on Tuesday, as hoped. Thursday, I thought, Thursday I’ll run trails. (Oh so desperately whispering in my mind : ) But this morning, I didn’t want to make the drive out and back to Aliso and Wood Canyons only to learn that the rangers had closed the park. So, instead I decided to lace up those road shoes and head down Highway One for a run. (I desperately need new road shoes.)

The sky was gray, the breeze cool, but not cold, and the waves were choppy, uneven sets running high up on the beach. Pelicans were off playing or feeding elsewhere; seagulls ruled the skies. I set no plan where to run, or exactly how many miles to run. I was thinking somewhere around ten miles would be nice (that cracks me up -- ten miles! I remember weeping the first time I ran ten miles.). Anyway, last minute, I decided to run through the state beach and campground, and I ran it all the way until the sidewalk ended. I didn’t feel in tip-top shape this morning, but let me tell ya! What a delight it was to get out and run, especially after having missed my regular Tuesday trails.

Tourists have pretty much vanished from these parts. The wharf was empty. Locals walked their dogs, sat at the harbor side coffee house and local breakfast joint. I didn’t have to squeeze through clusters of walkers, nor did I run through puffs of cigarette smoke. Eventually, my headphones died, and I figured it was about time I headed back– I still had laundry and a kitchen to clean, not to mention a soap to watch (which I didn’t really watch), and a class to get ready for.

The “big hill home”, though a challenge, was no problem at all.

Miles logged this Thursday morning: 9.21
Total # number of people I saw running during my beach/harbor side run: 8

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Oops Again : )

Okay, so I didn't come in under 25 miles for the week. That cracks me up. Proves that things do change (despite the saying that "nothing changes!"). I remember struggling to get in twenty miles. And now that I've promised myself a "break" for October, the first two weeks I come in over 25 miles. I'm close though. And I am feeling rested, so tempted to put in a twenty-miler, but forcing myself to stay with the "break."

Don't get me wrong -- this is not to say that running has been easy on my "break" month. It's mostly fun and breezy, true. But there's tough parts too -- especially during the warm-up. Warm-ups have always been tough for me, and so have hills (just because they're getting easier, doesn't mean they're easy). It's precisely the difficulty that's got me with this running thing -- whether it's a full-force, hard-driven 35 mile week, or a take-it-easy 15 mile week. I can fail all week long at so many things, fail at keeping the house clean, fail at keeping my patience, fail at eating a healthy diet, fail at NOT procrastinating, etc., etc., etc. And then I run. That's when I don't fail, and I feel a little better. No, A LOT better. I feel better, because it's HARD, and I did it.

Anyway, I went for an 6:30 group run in Wood Canyon this Sunday morning. It was still dark when I arrived. When the sun finally rose above the horizon it never shined through the gray clouds, and it was lovely -- lovely, lovey, lovely. Tom, Sheila and I hit Wood Canyon trail via Canyon Vistas Park and before I knew it, we had reached the turnaround. It was shady and cool, and the perfect way to start the day. The company was wonderful, and the miles flat. Lots of bunnies, no snakes -- who can ask for anything better? To my surprise, the miles totalled 6.9, bringing me to 26.11 for the week. Oops.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Easy Goin'

I aimed for five miles today; mental math indicated if I wanted to do Saturday’s trail run and come in under twenty-five weekly miles, I needed to run less than six today. Why twenty-five miles? Because, I’m cutting back for the entire month of October. I’m takin’ it easy. : )

Readers of this blog may have guessed this about me: I won’t take the time beforehand to measure routes. Instead, I try and guess mileage (& measure them later). Why won’t I take the time to measure beforehand? Because, I don’t have time, or else, I don’t think I have the time. In a nutshell: I’m always in a rush – that is, until I finally hit the pavement or trail – then it’s easy-goin’ for this forty-four-year-old mother of three. I hit the trail or pavement thinking I can “feel” five or ten miles. And it’s kind of a joke really. To date, I haven’t been able to feel any particular distance.

So! I headed down the highway pretty late in the morning, after 9:30, free as a bird – no running belt, no water, no phone even! I did have my ipod which helped me breeze through this short, relatively flat run. I hit the state beach, bikini clad volleyball players spiked the ball in the sand, and surfers in abundance sat on their boards for that long ride in (we’ve got long boarders out our way.) As usual, I ran through the wharf, and after making my way out from behind the restaurants’ backdoor service entrances, I was caught by surprise. There before me, out in the mouth of the harbor, hundreds of seabirds, pelicans, seagulls and such flew about in a flurry, diving in the waters, swooping through the air. The scene was breathtaking! Those marvelous pelicans, so giant like they are, amazed me the most. The literally flapped their wings straight into an ocean nose dive. And they didn’t slow down a bit before hitting. Their splashes probably reached three feet.

Passing the spectacle, I ran backwards for a bit to keep on watching, so spectacular was the scene. I continued on to the island and my usual places, up and back the small dock, etc., etc., until I came upon the cliffs that towered above. Tide was high. The tiny beach no more, waves crashed upon the jetty rocks. I turned around at that point, and made my way back home, hoping that I had put in five miles – because it sure didn’t feel like five miles. It was a breeze.

Miles logged this morning: 7.71 Oops. : )

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Top of the Mornin' (where else but on the Trail?)

Fall is upon us. And oh how I love that cool weather. My boys and I were actually cold driving to school this morning. I drove to Aliso / Wood canyons afterward, wondering whether I should have opted for long sleeves. There I was in shorts and short sleeves, strapping a camelback full of cold water onto my back, delighting in being cold. (I really have had enough of running in the heat).

Tom and I hit the trails at 8:30 sharp. The breeze was slight and wonderfully cool, the skies, blue with a mixture of puffy and wispy clouds. We ran Wood Canyon in downright shade -- sunglasses I pushed up on my head. What contrast it was to the past few months.

My running friend let me try his GPS on for size, after wondering outloud whether it was heavy. It wasn't heavy. I found myself staring it at so much, I feared that if I owned one, I'd probably fall on my face once or twice. Surprised to find us in the nine something minute mile a few times, I said, "Whoa, we better slow down."

After turning onto Mathis Trail, Tom continued running with me until the climb. I gave him back his GPS and he turned around for a six mile total round trip. Then I put my headphones on and continued running up Mathis Trail. I wish that I could adequately relay just how difficult it is for me to run up that thing. Perhaps I can shed a slight glimpse. I sweat salt running up Mathis, even in this cool weather. And the salt drips into my eyes which stings quite badly. At times, the grade is so steep that the only way to run it is on my toes, and when I try to force a mid-foot strike, my calves hurt. I ache to rest about five minutes in. But I concentrate on my breathing and refuse to think about how much longer I've got to go. And then when I reach the top of Mathis, I'm not even at Top of the World. I still have to climb Westridge. I say "have to" in a gleeful sort of way, because reaching Top of the World is a triumphant prize.

On Westridge, almost to the top, overlooking Laguna Canyon Road



Looking down from Top of the World -- the glorious Pacific in the distance



At Top of the World, I strolled through the park, eating my 200 calorie fruit and nut bar for breakfast. All six tennis courts were full as the meters below indicate (how funny -- meters? I didn't notice them on my last stroll).



Having cut back my mileage some (remember my break?) I felt much stronger cutting across the ridge neighborhoods. I ran on past all the "No Trespassing" signs posted into the ground and stapled into tree trunks, onto the single track that leads back to the wilderness park. Looking forward to seeing "my" Meadows trail -- that exhilerating switchback that leads down to the canyon floor -- I picked my pace up some. But, alas, no GPS to know for sure. Finally making it out of the neighborhoods, there before me grazed hundreds of goats on the slope. What a surprise! (A precious surprise -- they were so cute!)

Looking down (Meadows trail meandering at the base)


Something new at the park


Descending down Meadows



Finishing up Meadows


In all I ran 11.5 miles this morning. It sure didn't feel like it. Cutting back has really helped the overall fatigue factor. I'd been running myself ragged. : )

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cool Morning Trail Run

Again I woke through the night. At 3:30, I thought, maybe I should just get up. Nah. 5:00 AM, I thought the same, and again at 5:30. When my cell phone alarm finally rang at 6:00, I jumped up, “What the heck! What’s today? What am I supposed to do?” And then I remembered, today’s a stress-free morning – I’m going for a nice and easy trail run. Sunday’s the new member run for my group, and from experience have found the new member runs to be pretty stress-free. (Notice my STRESS on stress-free – I’m trying to tone it down in my life right now : ))

After a couple cups of coffee, I set out beneath big, gray cloudy skies. Rain drizzled as I made my way toward the freeway – just enough for one wiper’s worth. Let me tell you the relief I felt was great, knowing that I would not run this morning in the heat.

I met Tom at the Quail Hill Trail Head, and we took off running on a well groomed almost sandy path for a refreshing run in the Irvine foothills. It seemed like ages since we’ve run together, ages since I’ve run Quail Hill.

We began this morning’s run on an incline, nothing terrible, but still, it’s always tough for me to START running uphill. I really like about 3 miles of flat running to begin (downhill is nice too). One very nice thing about beginning on an uphill is that, if it’s an out-and-back like today, you know you’re gonna end on a downhill. I like that!

About a third of the way in, we met fellow club runners, Sheila and Dave, making their way in the opposite direction (two runs were posted for this morning). We stopped and chatted for a bit. We were all smiles – who wouldn’t be with this nice cool weather, STRESS-FREE run?

Obviously, I enjoyed my run this morning. With us both nursing injuries, I think we did pretty good (hopefully, Tom will say the same). Soon after, I was thinking about, planning bigger, harder runs, when I told myself – take a break, remember? You’re cutting back. Well, at least for October.

Miles joyfully logged this morning: 5.20

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Don't Forget to Slow Down in Life."

As I drove my two oldest boys to school this morning, I smiled wide and said, “I’m SO HAPPY.”

“Why?” They asked.

“Because I’m going running.”

“So?”

“TRAIL RUNNING.”

“Oh,” my oldest said with a look that seemed to say, I still don’t get it.

I haven’t seen Top of the World in weeks. Driving to Canyon Vistas Park, I felt giddy. The sky was blue with white wispy clouds. I knew it was going to be hot, but who cared? I didn’t.

I buckled my running belt (phone, pepper spray, gum, etc.) and strapped on my camelback with more than enough water to take me to the top and back (see “Quickest Route to Top of the World” 9/10/09). Then I put those headphones on and ran down Canyon Vistas Park into Aliso / Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, feeling a little anxious about running up Cholla. “Don’t think about it,” I told myself. “You know you can do it.”

I couldn’t have cared less how hard it was running up Cholla. Yup, it was hard, but it was GREAT. Wearing a cotton t-shirt so I’d really get the full affect of the climb’s difficulty, I was drenched in sweat by the time I reached Westridge. One really nice thing about Cholla is that it twists and turns. That makes it difficult to concentrate on the top, being that I can’t see it. The end comes out of nowhere. I like that. I look to the ground and put one foot in front of the other. The knowledge that I’ve done it before, plus the fact that I know that Cholla trail is not very long, helps.

Hitting Westridge was a relief to say the least. Ahead of me, a trail of rolling hills swept off into the distance, with Top of the World looking, oh . . . so . . . far . . . away. Westridge has two really difficult spots: 1) just before reaching Mathis, the climb is quite steep on sandy-dirt, and 2) when almost to the top, there’s another longer, sandy, but with some nice flat rock mixed in to nearly finish it off.

I picked up my speed to run to the edge where I eagerly looked over. The Pacific Ocean was a nice dark blue today. A few cyclists rested at the benches there, as hikers who parked at the top, made their way down Westridge with walking sticks. I ran down into the park, and thought about the wall post from a new Facebook friend, Ileana G. (whom I met at the Writer’s Conference). She wrote, “Hello wonderful people! Don’t forget to slow down in life . . .”

For the first time, in who knows how many times I’ve run to the Top of the World, I took a stroll through that park. I knew about the tennis courts. But I didn’t know there were six of them! There’s also a finely manicured, full-size baseball field back there. And metal sculptures of life-size whales diving into the grass (with just their rear fins emerged) hid behind the courts. This I never knew! I walked beneath the arbors that I didn’t know existed either, when I reached the final surprise: a basketball half court.

After fully discovering the park, I ran back to the trail to the sign that warned that I was entering mountain lion territory. I recalled my earlier paranoia over mountain lions, overcoming that and devising (thru research) a game plan should we ever meet (older blogs found on my MySpace page).

I joyfully, yet carefully, ran up and down Westridge. I was having so much fun, that I toyed with the idea of heading down Mathis for a longer route home. I fought against that urge. Don’t ruin a good thing, I told myself. Just do these few miles – remember you’re taking it easy for a while.

Yes, I’m taking it easy. : ) I finished off Westridge, then ran back down Cholla, past three cyclists struggling up that thing. Then back through the park, I ran to the car where I stretched and finished off my water.

I got lost driving home (again), still looking for that on-ramp to the toll road. : )

5.9 glorious miles logged today, my first run for October.