TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Someone Finally Said It

I am reluctant to tell people that I run, because I imagine they look me over and think "you're no runner!"  As if I should care -- I run for many reasons, none of which, so that I can "look" like a runner.

Runners know that runners come in all shapes and sizes.  A lot of non-runners don't seem to think that.  Case in point:  Crazy week, in so many ways, different work schedule, among other personal stresses.  There I was, working a site I've never been to.  I was eating my packed  lunch consisting of an apple, an orange, and a turkey sandwich on whole wheat.  I got to talking to another teacher, and commented how my current schedule was messing up things -- I can't run when I want to.

"Running?"  She looked puzzled.

"Ya, that's my hobby; I like to run long distances -- especially on trails," I said.

"Hmmmm?"  She gave me the once over.  "But you don't . . . [Yes, she actually said this] YOU DON'T LOOK SKINNY."

She wasn't exactly "skinny" either, nor was she slender.  Actually, chunky or plump comes to mind.  Not that I care one bit about her body shape -- I just couldn't believe that someone finally said it. 

"Well, I EAT," I said. 

Heck, she just said something a little stupid.   I thought it was funny nonetheless that someone finally said it.  (And it made me a little self-conscious too, promising to cut the "junk" from my diet.)

Back to running. I'm headed up Bulldog soon for the 3rd time, and as usual this year -- I'm not quite ready. Hills, hills, hills -- that's what I'm concentrating on. So, I hit Cholla Trail running, feeling no anxiety whatsoever as I approached it. And this woman (that is, me -- 45 five years old, with 3 children) who is NOWHERE NEAR skinny, ran up and down Westridge Trail to Top of the World.

Running Wood Cyn Trail toward Cholla -- there was only one single cloud in the sky.



Originally, I planned to make this an out-and-back, about six miles.  But I was having too much, sweaty fun.  And so I ran across the Top of the World, entering Aliso/Woods Canyon Park again about a mile later.  The wind blew rather strong, not terribly, but enough to notice the resistance.  I kept a lookout for Rattlers, saw none.  I felt a little devilish when I warned some out-of-towners I met at Top of the World, "Watch out for Rattle Snakes, they start coming out about spring."   The woman jumped away from the brush and hurried down into the landscaped park at Top of the World. 

The view from the top was unbeatable today.  The ocean was dark blue, speckled with whitecaps -- a sign of the winds' strength.  Pictures can't do the view justice.

I ran down Meadows for a nice size loop for today's run.  I took some video running down Meadows (clips below), but found 1) I haven't figured out how to keep the camera from rocking and 2) Decided I'd rather not fall and didn't film the best parts of the steep, switch-back portion.

In all this run totalled about 9.6 miles.  Time to increase the uphills.

Top of  the World @ Westridge
Running back into Aliso/Woods Cyn Park, approaching Meadows Trail



Heading back down to the Canyon, via Meadows Trail -- Where did those clouds come from?

Meadows Trail caught on video (beware of bumpy ride : )

Saturday, April 24, 2010

One Week (Exactly) Hence

Exactly one week has passed since Camp Pendleton's Hard Corps Marathon.  And eventhough I was pretty bad off (cramp-wise), I am way better off (recovery-wise) than my first marathon  (SD Rock N' Roll Marathon).  I haven't looked it up, but if memory serves me correctly, two weeks passed before I fully recovered from my first marathon.  This time, aside from cramping the second day, I felt pretty much recovered right away.

I have been preoccupied with life over the past week; it has tired me so.  Still, I set my alarm for a run this morning, though I would have rather slept in.  Actually, so much as been going on, that though I yearned to run during it all, when it comes right down to it, I would rather lay in bed and zone-out.  Zone-out ALL DAY LONG.

But I'm old enough to know what's better for me -- even if I do have a chorizo burrito dinner. : ) (Bad Girl!)

Goal this morning: Hills. Just 2 short weeks from now, I heading up Bulldog (at Malibu Creek Park), and having lost a lot of my hill training during physical therapy, I figured today was a good day for hills. I couldn't make the trails though (not enough time with the stuff going on 'round here), so I ran out my front door, first on a down hill to the highway, which I took down even further for a nice flat run on Del Obispo. I forgot to focus on form, and I forgot my mantra, which probably explains why I never really got out of my slump.

I'm not talking about a terrible slump. It's just that, the euphoria never hit. Then again, I kept the mileage on the low side.

After running the flat portion, I began my climb up Stonehill. Waving at a neighbor who seemed to be shocked at seeing me running up this hill at 7:30 in the morning, I turned left on Selva to run a steady climb, for a good two-thirds of the entire length of Selva. Reaching the high point of the city, I barely noticed the Pacific Ocean (it was a gray day), instead focusing on the music of my ipod.

My mood began to lift some when I finally reached the stairway leading down to The Strands (a small beach that's usually pretty empty). My mood didn't lift because it was empty, but because it was like meeting an old friend.  I love The Strands. 

Running on down to The Strands

The Rock Stacker at it again


Quick Stop at the cliffs to greet my friends
Not much hills to run on the sand.  I ran The Stands (there and back), Salt Creek and Monarch Beach, then began my ascent up the windy trail toward the highway.  I ran under the highway, then up the staircase to the apartments my husband and I lived in for nearly ten years (before the children).  From there I ran up Stonehill, a pretty good climb that I would have never dreamt of running twenty years ago when we lived there. 

The morning was still young when I arrived home, happy to see all my boys awake, eating breakfast and not yet raising havoc.   Miles logged this morning:  8.2

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In Retrospect

With a few days to look back, I believe my biggest mistake, a pretty major one that nearly took me down in the Hard Corps Marathon, is that I didn't pack the Nuun tablets. That is what I normally run with to replace electrolytes. Instead, I switched sports drinks and went with what the aid stations supplied (which was Gatorade). Secondly, (and from now on!) I must bring along salt packets -- that sucking pretzels thing has got to go. Salt is definately my problem; I sweat salt. Every bit of me was crusted with salt after Saturday's race -- my clothing, arms, legs, face. Sunday, by the way, my hands and feet were cramping. I neglected to continue replacing those electrolytes after the race.

It's all about learning lessons. My runs, especially races always are. And I like that.

I ran pretty quickly after the marathon -- just waited one day to hit the ground. But what I did differently this time (compared to my first marathon), was to get out for small, yet frequent recovery runs.

Monday, I dropped my car off in the shop and ran home, taking a little detour, for a total of 1.33 miles. I felt strong, yet a little tight in my left hamstring. I sweated an unbelievable amount. Even back at home while stretching, the sweat poured from my face.

Tuesday, after work, I ran 1.26 miles with my 8 year old in the cool evening air.

Today (Wednesday), time to pick up my car, I ran down to the beach first. I ran it at a leisurely pace. The ground still wet from a downpour earlier in the morning, enormous puffy clouds hovered over the ocean. The wind blew directly at me for half of the run, adding resistance, and hopefully strength to my muscles. Though I certainly didn't race up Golden Lantern to PCH, I ran it all with little difficulty, and ran on into the service station wishing I had more time to run. Alas, I had no more time. But that is fine, because as I mentioned above, "small, yet frequent recovery runs." (Miles logged today: 5.4)


"A Glorious Comeback"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Marine Hard Corps Marathon (The Long Story!)

After an emotional week, and sleepless nights, I went to bed Friday night earlyish, but with a heating pad on my back to soothe lower back pain.  I thought to myself, "Boy what a way to spend the night before a marathon."  I resolved to run anyway, first because I paid money to do so, secondly, I needed the exhaustion to set my mind straight, and three, I really like the Marine Hard Corps Race Series -- the Marines really know how to put on a race. 

I woke refreshed, drank a cup of coffee, coated all seam areas with Glide so that my clothing would not tear at my skin and draw blood.  I drank a vanilla SlimFast shake, purely for the calories (180 cal. 23 grams carbs, 10 grams protein), and I filled my handheld with grape poweraid.  Then it was belt packing time:  6 Gu's, cell phone, camera, motrin, gum, chapstick, extra moleskin and not nearly enough Endurolytes.  My goal for the race:  Finish in time (this race had a 6 hr time limit, most have a 7 or more hour limit -- so I was a little concerned after 6 weeks of physical therapy).  My other goals were to keep focused on my form and my mantra which is "don't resist," keep a positive attitude, and if I do cross the finish line, do it SMILING.

Leaving the house by 5:45, arriving at the gates by 6:00, I was surprised to find no line of cars. I was really surprised to find such a low attendance for this race -- I'd guess 2 to 3 hundred (they allow 4,000, and I fully expected that many). But then again -- it's race season; March was the LA Marathon, May is the OC Marathon and June is the San Diego Marathon, not to mention a multitude of races in between.

"We're gonna need a bigger boat." : )
Crossing the Start Line with so few runners

During the National Anthem, I noticed a female runner, pounding on the chest of a another male runner.  I thought she was only joking, but soon realized not so, as she commenced to scream at him.  I could never begin a race that way -- I must be up, and thinking about as close to nothing at all, that I can.  This meant that I could not think about the past week's events (not blogged about).

I began this race at the back of the pack. First off, I wanted to conserve energy and not stress over bursting out the gates.  Also, I figured, I could pass a person here and there if I started at the back. I felt strong and warmed up by walking around for a good half hour beforehand. Passing several in those first few miles, I stopped for my one and only pit stop.  I don't mean to be crude, but as I want to relay as much of the experience as possible, I have to say the porta potty was a mess.  I mean, urine covered the toilet seat (and floors too, but who cares about the floors).  Not that I actually SIT on porta potty seats.  But still, when I walked out of that box, I didn't want the next person thinking that I sprayed all over the place.  And so this strange occurance took place:  I unrolled wads of toilet paper and cleaned up the seat, taking several minutes in the middle of this marathon.  I laughed outloud at myself exiting the porta potty.  No one waited in line, and several of the people I had passed were now running ahead of me. 

And so, I used the drinking water at the aid station to wash my hands, and took off running, focusing on form and saying to myself, "don't resist . . . don't resist."  I felt good.  No hip pain, my pace was not too bad for a marathon.

After exiting the porta potty -- notice 1) GUY IN CAST!   2) Lucinda on far right, wearing black, carrying flag -- she's somewhat of a hero to me, a civilian, the military says to her "welcome back," as she enters the premises.  I've seen her at every Camp Pendleton race I've run -- always running in boots, wearing black and carrying the U.S. flag.  I figured, keep her in back of me, because the Marines are going to let her finish even if she doesn't make the time limit. 

I did not think 26 miles for this race.  I thought five miles five times, plus a little more.  The first five miles, on mildly rolling hills took me about 55 minutes. (This entire race, by the way was on these mildly rolling hills).  The second five miles took me a couple more minutes than the first.   My focuses were going great.  I was taking in the calories (about 100 every 45 minutes).  We ran Las Pulgas road down to Old Camino Real which runs parallel to Interstate 5 and the Pacific Ocean.  We took that road all the way into into San Onofre.  Wild flowers were out in abundance, and we would have had a superb ocean view if the waters hadn't been the exact same color as the sky -- that is gray.

Enjoying the beauty (I guess there was a little blue sky)


Clicking photo of self while running



Spring flowers


Thank goodness I was civilian and not military like this guy who had to run in combat boots (can you believe he's military -- no offense guy, but you look 13 -- lucky you : ) -- cute kid, nice enough to pose for me.

After completing my second five miles, I gave myself about a quarter mile walk, which I gladly took on an uphill.  I still felt really good -- hip good, energy and focus strong.  Others had already hit the turn around, and the first one to pass me on his way back (the front runner) was about 8 or 9 miles ahead of me according to my crude calculations.  The runners after that were few and far between.  I said good morning to each and everyone on both sides of the road, those heading back and those very few that I passed on my side of the road.  After the turn around, I even greeted the woman that was screaming and hitting her guy at the Start Line.  (He by the way was several hundred feet ahead of her making their way toward the turn around as I worked on the last few miles of the 3rd five mile segment).

Aid station workers


The front runner


More pretty spring flowers on the base


San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant


Before the end of my third five mile segment, my right calve began cramping.  Very soon after that, my hamstrings followed suit.  I have read up and studied and prepared in every way to avoid this, and yet . . . dang!  It was about then that I lost focus.  I stretched, practically in a panic to get rid of these things.  I gained focus back a little here and there for the next few miles.  Guzzling the sports drinks even faster, I  took enduralytes as well.  About mile 16,  I phoned home to check on the family.  Mile 17,  I stopped by First Aid to change out my moleskins.  The lady marine said, "Are you the blister lady," to which I responded, "No, I'm the callus lady."  (Apparently, they had reports of a woman with severe blisters laying in the grass a ways back).   She laughed at my response and watched with great interest as the medic helped me pull off my shoes, change my moleskins, wrap one of them with tape, etc.  They both held my used moleskins, commenting on how they had lost their plumpness.  I laughed to myself.  You won't catch me touching and inspecting someone else's moleskins.  These Marines, they are fantastic aid station and first aid workers -- nothing phases them.  Surprisingly, I completed the third five mile segment in less than an hour as well.

About that time, I began stuffing my pockets with pretzels.  I sucked the salt off, and even with the pain increasing, and losing my focus, I somehow managed to move onward, running much of the way, but having to break for walks.  By mile 18 or so, I was in extreme pain with my calves, hamstrings and quadriceps cramping to where I couldn't even run.  At each aid station, I literally threw my leg up on the table for a hamstring stretch.  Other runners around me suffered from cramps as well.  One guy I spoke with briefly was suffering immensely.  Another was just plain ole pissed off about his leg cramps.  I tried to keep the positive attitude but chucked the sub five hour idea, and just hoped I could make it before the cut off.  The sweepers were driving by very slowly, reminding me of  vultures, waiting for us to drop.  I worked so hard to pass this guy ahead of me, when he finally threw in the towel.  With shoulders shrugged and eyes to the ground, he walked to the sweeper's van and got on in for a ride back.

It must have been mile twenty when a medic noticed that I was in trouble with cramping.  Well, it would have been hard for him not to notice.  I wasn't very quiet about the pain.  It HURT.  I have NEVER cramped so badly in a race before.  Usually it's just the calves, or just the hamstrings -- but to have the calves, hamstrings and quads cramp on me all at once.  Well, let's just say, I wasn't silent about it.  In fact, I was a little panicky.  Pain was immense.  It didn't dawn on me to take motrin, though I'm not sure it would have helped.  Instead, I sucked on pretzels, tossing them to the road after depleting them of all their salt.

At mile twenty, I pleaded for more salt, and someone yelled for the medic to help with cramps.  He tried to get me to drink more water.  Which I did, until I finally said, "I am not dehydrated -- I've drank so much, I'm water-logged, I'm full." (I was by the way drinking only electrolytes so far).  I started talking rapidly, because I really was aghast over this cramping.  I mean COME ON!  This is something I've been working on avoiding for quite some time.  Then he handed me a glass of cold water, and said, "Put this on it."  So, I splashed my calve with it and said, "That's going to help cramps?"  And I have to say, this was one of  the most entertaining parts of the day.  The medic said, "No.  But it will help calm you down." 

The medic then asked if I was light-headed.  I lied and said, "No," because I feared he might pull me out of the race.  I took off running with a smile on my face, declining the medic's suggestion that I drop out of the marathon.  Believe me, I was sure to regularly drink and take in calories.  Light headedness gone, my cramps eased up a bit to carry me on.  I ran the downhills and flats when I could.  Sucking on pretzels seemed to work a bit.  I was out of Endurolytes.  I ate a banana (not really feeling like food here!). 

I walked a good portion of the next two miles, actually passing a few guys cramping up rather badly.  I chatted with one guy offering suggestions how he might ease the pain (salt, salt, salt, and stretch in the opposite direction of the cramp.)  He was way worse off than I, and I was in pretty bad shape.  Pretty bad shape CRAMP WISE, otherwise, I was strong.  Dang it!  I could have it the ball out of the park today if it hadn't been for the cramping.

Just prior to mile 21, I stopped at another aid station, threw my leg up on the table, grimacing in pain. I even yelped once or twice because as I stretched the hamstring, my quads cramped!  The hamstrings were hitting worse than any muscle group at this point.  Again, a Marine counseled me about dropping out of the marathon.  Out of the question, I said.  I would walk this damn thing in if I had to . . . if I had enough time.  So the guy said, "I'm gonna radio a truck to follow you, just to make sure you're okay."

"No!"  I said.  "I'll feel like a vulture's following me!"

He laughed.  "We're here to help you, we want to take care of you," he said.  "You're human," he further exclaimed.  "This is bound to happen when you run 26.2 miles!"

And I was off and running . . . with a limp, sucking the salt from pretzels (but, by the way, no hip pain!)

I noticed the sweeper following me right away, even though there were several runners ahead and behind me.  When I bent down to loosen my shoe ties, the sweeper stopped in the road, waiting, waiting, is she gonna drop?  Somewhere up Las Pulgas, the driver turned around and drove back to pass me again and again.  I stopped to walk several times, cramps so severe, it was difficult not to yell out in pain.  I smiled and zoned into my ipod music, and when I walked, I power walked.
 


With about a dozen runners in and around me, I ran/walked miles 21, 22 and 23.  I passed a few of them, but at mile 24 I had to stretch out those cramps again.  And while stretching my hamstring, the quads when into spasms, causing a great deal of pain (a hamstring stretch feeds right into a quadricep cramp!).  The Marines there asked if I wanted to finish the race.  I asked how much time I had left, and I believe they said about thirty five minutes.  "The only way I'm not finishing this race," I said, "is if you don't let me.  I will lay down and roll myself the rest of the way if I have to."  And I was off, cramps subsided some, I finally made mile 25! 

I was smiling, saying, "ouch, ouch, ouch," and other not as nice words as the pain doubled down on my last 1.2 miles.  I passed the last aid station, asked how much longer.  The marines joked with me saying, "Oh, about two and a half miles."  I laughed back.  Up a little further, I asked the marine standing in the road.  He said that I had at least a mile and half to go.  Funny!

 A new sweeper came in and drove right next to me, the woman in the truck saying encouraging things, yet asking if I could make it.  I had twenty minutes to make a mile -- I was gonna make it!!!  And then I had to stop.  And then I had to stop again.  It was quite the scene of agony.  With the finish line in sight, the legs stiffened in cramps and I could not move them.  I stopped to stretch just once more, mustering all the strength I had, and RAN it on in across the finish line with about 8 minutes to spare!

For the next few minutes no other runners came in.  And then in the final moments, I heard cheers as the last runners to make the time limit approached the finish line.  I saw one girl walking as fast as she could with just one minute to spare.  I wanted to cry.  And then several minutes after the six hour time limit -- I'm not sure, possibly five, maybe ten, Lucinda ran across the finish line (there may have been others with her).  And that was it.  The race was over, and the marines began dismantling the scene.  Within minutes it began to look as if there wasn't even a race. (But my memory serves me incorrectly -- time became wierd after that.  Ends up, Lucinda crossed at 6:01, and then there was a cluster at 6:07 and another small cluster finally crossing at 6:11.  My official clock time was:  5:51:35.  It's difficult to determine my standings, because results are separated by civilian and military and age groups.  But I really don't care about my standings.  I care mostly that I crossed the finish line before 6 hours, smiling).

What a run!  And here's the funny thing.  I never really did lose my spirits, except at the very end when I could barely make it to the finish line.  And I would do it again tomorrow.  I can not wait until the next Marathon!

26.2 miles logged today : )




My amateur video, just a sample of the many minutes of video I took on the run.  I caught crossing the finish line on video.  And notice if you watch, that white truck at the very end, ready to drive me in in case I dropped. (Yup, I noticed that I mispelled "Corps" in the video)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Getting Closer to Countdown

With no chance of being ready for Saturday's marathon, I took off for a run this morning, a road run, but jammed-packed with hills.  I'm not even sure I can run the 26.2 miles within the time limit.  My goal is simply to finish (if they let me), uninjured and most importantly SMILING.

So the hills of this beachside town provided quite a strenuous workout this morning.  It was a beautiful run, and the weather was oh so cool.  After making my way inland, I climbed Stonehill feeling strong, then made my way down toward the northern beaches. 

The fountain in front of St. Regis Hotel / I couldn't help think of this weekend's waterfalls, the contrast and similarities.

Heading toward the condemned path that leads to Monarch Beach (Aliso Canyon is just on the otherside of the hills in the background)
On the downhill, getting closer to the Pacific Ocean (Monarch Beach)
Running through the tunnel at the golf course (The Links).  Pacific Coast Highway is above me.

I dabbled with taking video, practicing for the marathon.  Turns out, I don't do too well holding the camera still while running.  The Pacific was choppy this morning, the tide on the high side (though there was plenty of sand on most of the beaches).  I ran Monarch Beach, Salt Creek and The Strands, then ran back up to Pacific Coast Highway via the windy path up Salt Creek's green belt.  After a nice long climb, I finally came in for a lovely downhill, no pain, at 10.80 miles logged for the morning.

Self photo at Salt Creek/Monarch Beach 
Rounding the bluff, The Strands in the distance, most of its beach taken by the tide
Standing at the base of the cliff that ends The Strands Beach

Heading back on The Strands -- Monarch Beach and Salt Creek in distance

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Black Star Falls

I have driven past Black Star Canyon Road many times.  I have even parked on Black Star Canyon Road to carpool into Silverado Canyon.  I have heard of the haunted legends, but I have never ventured into Black Star Canyon. 

First a little about the legends:  William Wolfskill and the entire Indian village he massacred roam the canyon.  There's claims of Indians riding on horseback, rabbits that don't die and other "ghostly" happenings.  People say that the Klu Klux Klan meet in the canyon, and also that witches hold ceremonies there as well (What would happen if the witches stumbled upon the KKK, I wonder?)

I did not see any of these things (though I did have that sensation first entering the trail, where it seems like there's a shadow of someone out of the corner of my eyes -- this happens frequently with me and others as well, so perhaps you know what I mean.) And so I digress . . .

It was a group of five of us today (Me, my husband, Dave, and three locals, Jeff, Sam and Chay). Our destination, "The Falls." (Another side note: Today was the scheduled day for the second Great Silverado Footrace. After its cancellation, the race director, Chay, organized this hike).

We took the main road for a mile or so, then cut down to the stream, then hiked up, passing several smaller "falls" along the way. We climbed over giant boulders, played with newts, tramped through poisin oak (oh no!). The weather was perfect, the hike tricky. I fell while climbing a boulder once, but really lucked out landing on my feet (my only damage is a scrape and bruise on my arm from sliding down the rock face when I fell). And then finally after about two hours of hiking, we came upon the lovely falls. Breathtaking.

Abandoned school bus rolled off the road





The stream was literally full of these little guys.  Often we'd see a ball of newts beneath the water -- several of them entangled around each other) 


Ball of Newts


Which way to go???  Up over the boulder, or through that mass of poisin oak on the left or that mass of poisin oak on the right? : )




Not "The Falls," but one of many little ones along the way


More Falls






I think that I'm going to go sit on that ledge, but it's too slippery to get up on


Sam leads the way


Our destination -- notice how the water falls from the top, then flows through hole in the rock to spill out bottom left of photo





Father & Son


Looking for a way to climb up (too risky in the end)


Me, Dave, Sam, Jeff & Chay


Heading back