TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Did Not Want To Run

I went to bed early (9PM).  Sleep would not visit.  I know that I saw 10:30 when my youngest yelled from his room, asking for a hug.  He’s only little once, so I walked down the hall, climbed up on his bunk and hugged.  Back in bed, sleep stayed at bay.  I imagined running (LOL) hoping to drift off.

I set my alarm for an early run, but when it rang out at 5 AM, I just could not wake.  The alarm off, I quickly fell back asleep.  I did not want to run.  I did not want to run.  I.  Did.  Not.  Want.  To.  Run.

I finally woke at 7:30.  I sat on the couch, draggy, depressed.  If you haven’t noticed, I did not want to go.  But I knew that I HAD to.  Why?  Because if I didn’t run, I would beat myself up all day and if I did run, I would be oh, so happy afterwards that I did.

My middle boy was awake, watching, Dragon Ball (not Dragon Ball Z, two different shows – I’m liking Dragon Ball better).  I made him breakfast, got ready.  Dragon Ball wasn’t good enough to keep me -- I DRAGGED myself out the door.  I dragged myself out the door for the sake of how I’d feel later.

9:00 AM I finally began my run with the anticipation that it would get better.  I wasn’t in pain.  I was just tired and unmotivated.  The skies were gray.  The air was cool and at times the wind blew pretty good.  It seemed like it blew mostly in my face.  Rain even visited me for a short stint (around mile 8 for about 2 minutes).

Mountain bikers covered Aliso / Woods, all trails, especially Meadows, which some of them flew down.  I didn’t see any bikers riding the uphill.  Hikers were out in droves too.  Groups hiked the high route (West Ridge) and others took the low route (Wood Canyon).  I saw 2 different Boy Scout troops.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the park so crowded.  Probably, Aliso / Wood Canyons got lots of press during the December rains.  Or perhaps, I’ve never run that late there on a Sunday.

The Face of an Unhappy Runner who Dragged herself out there for some Trail Running this Sunday Morning. Winking smileCIMG8769

Aliso Creek Trail, running up Aliso Creek Canyon about 1/2 mile from Wood Canyon turn off.  Haven’t run Aliso Creek in ages.  Today I did, because I was too lazy to drive to Canyon Vistas Park (a good 10/15 minutes longer drive – woe is me, I could hardly even handle driving this morning)

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Onto to Meadows Trail (so deceiving, but it gets ya later, big time : )

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Almost to the top of Meadows Trail (I came from the lowest parts in the distance – if you click on picture, you can probably see the trail way far away – about mid photo).

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Feeling a Little Better (Relieved to be up Meadows standing at Top of the World)

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Happier (nearing the half way point, on my way to West Ridge)

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Happiest (All done Smile)

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Miles logged:  11.94

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Elevation Profile:  +1609 / -1590

1 30 11 elevation

My Loop

1 30 11

Friday, January 28, 2011

Where I Love to Run (A Pictorial–Mainly)

Today, “The Planner”, that’s me, had planned speed training.  The idea of speed training stressed me out so much that I said forget that.  Just run.  And that is what I did.  I went exploring.  Exploring with no time requirements, no route really planned, just a plan to run.  I wanted to check out some of my trails that I haven’t been to since Aliso Wood Canyons reopened.  A ranger told me that the trails had changed.  I wanted to see.

(My route:  I ran through Canyon Vistas park then took Wood Canyon Trail down and then ran every detour off of Wood Canyon:  Wood Cyn to Wood Creek to Wood Cyn to Coyote Run to Mathis Trail to Dripping Cave to Wood Cyn to Cave Rock Trail, ending with Wood Canyon.  Then I ran Wood Canyon Trail all the way back.)

Wood Creek Trail

Wood Creek has plenty of ups and downs, including two staircases.  I ran through several spider webs, and I didn’t care.  I used to let out a little scream when I ran through webs.  Oddly, I didn’t today.

Going up . . .

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Going down – look closely and you can see a flight of stairs (railroad ties, I think)

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Going back up on Wood Creek to the shadiest, thickest part.

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California Wood Fern

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California Maiden’s Hair Fern

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Coyote Run Trail

With the bridge wiped out from the rains, I can get close and personal with the creek as I cross over to Coyote Run Trail

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Self portrait on Coyote Run.  This part used to be dark and shady – still is somewhat, but a massive chunk of trees are gone in the background (left).

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If you are familiar with Coyote Run Trail, you’ll notice something terribly different below.  I have a complete view of Wood Canyon Trail (across the creek and field).  Never before did I have such a view, because a wall of trees on both sides of the creek blocked it.

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Mathis Trail

Trail washed out, as this once dry creek, flowed abundantly during the December rains.

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Dripping Cave Trail

Crossing over from Mathis to Dripping Cave Trail, the bridge gone and trail washed out by another previously (& again now) dry creek.

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My favorite part of Dripping Cave Trail – going up, but oh beautiful!

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Dripping Cave (A.K.A. Robbers Cave).  I had planned to dangle my legs off the edge during this photo.  But as soon as I sat, the edge started falling away.

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Bye-bye Dripping Cave.

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Cave Rock Trail

Running up to “The” Rock – a magical trail with rocks looking like they were laid out especially for the runner.

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Attempting to pose on Cave rock, but it’s too steep and I’m slipping down during photo.

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Leaving Cave Rock, headed back onto Wood Canyon Trail.

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Wood Canyon Trail

Running Wood Canyon Trail, close to noon, with the sun beating down.  Most of this trail is exposed.

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Finally!  Glorious shade on Wood Canyon Trail.

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The last of shade on Wood Canyon Trail, approaching Canyon Vistas Park for one last incline to the car.

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Elevation Profile:My Activities aliso wood cyns 1-28-2011, Elevation - Distance

Miles logged:  7.91

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Meadows always kills me

I’m getting freaked-out reactions when I relay my fall from last Saturday’s race.  In reality, my fall is more bragging material than anything else (a fall with minor injuries is a fun story to tell).  As one blogger commented, “everyone loves a dirty girl.” : )

Before I write about today’s run, I’m here to show you that even a hit to the face can turn out okay.  My eye is hardly bloodshot now, nothing worth a photo.  But I still have a pretty nice bruise from the chin impact.  Face-to-face you can hardly notice the bruise.  I mainly notice the injury, because for the first time, I’ve noticed that when I’m reading or grading papers, I rest my chin on my fist – exactly the spot of impact.

Ready for today’s run, Canyon Vistas Park in background, bruise on chin from last Saturday’s trail race.

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A closer, more personal look (gross) it’s kinda yellowish now (doesn’t show so much in picture.)

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After taking these pictures, I set off on my timed 9 1/2 mile loop at Aliso/Wood Canyons park.  I hoped to beat 2:12, after two timed runs, my best time.  On the road or a flat trail I can make that time.  (My best half marathon about 2 years ago was 2:15 – that was route 66 in Barstow, and I’m pretty positive I could beat that time if I were to run that same race today).  But on a run that includes Meadows Trail . . . well, that’s a different story.  Meadows always kills me.  And I’m not sure how to handle that.

I took off at a good pace, not “hauling butt” though, down into the park.  I ran Wood Canyon Trail for the first time since the park has re-opened.  I barely recognized it at some parts.  Huge trees were down, laying in the creek.  The bridges going over the creek to Coyote Run and Wood Creek Trails were washed out.  I was curious what that meant for my run later on, because there’s a bridge that I had to cross on Wood Canyon Trail.  If it wasn’t there, I was going to have to get my feet wet.

A new creek crossing on Wood Canyon Trail confused me for a second.  I grew disoriented not realizing at first where I was on a trail that I have run again and again.  So many trees were down that I could see across the creek and most of Coyote Run Trail, which used to be completely hidden from that trail.  But the bridge I needed to cross Wood Creek still stood.  My feet dry, I powered onward. 

A new creek crossing on Wood Canyon Trail

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Trees down in Wood Creek (Coyote Run Trail visible on the other side)

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I ran all of Wood Canyon Trail feeling good and at a good pace (for me).  The garmin never once told me to speed up : ).  At the end of Wood Canyon, I back-tracked and made my way onto Meadows Trail.  The meadow was green and I bet during the rains it was a swamp.  At the base of the climb, two mountain bikers took off ahead of me, and I thought “Good, I won’t have to worry about them breathing down my back.”

As the climb increased, I came upon four ladies and a teacup pup picnicking in the grass – a lovely picture.  But the girly-girl emerged within and I thought to myself, “Yuk – tics.”  I hate tics.  I think I’ve mentioned before, I’d rather come across a rattler than a tic.  I am serious.  When I see green grass in the wild, I think tics.  Sneaky tics.  They make no warning noises.  They just sneak onto you, latch on and suck blood.  

Sorry, I got off track.  I didn’t get off track on Meadows though.  I stayed on that terribly difficult switchback.  About a quarter of the way up I passed those bikers who were off to the side resting.  They looked at me like I was nuts.  Yes, I am nuts.  But Meadows still kills me.  I’m not sure it ever gets easier.  I told the bikers “The trick is to not look at the top!”  They laughed.  And that strategy worked for a while with me.  But then, especially when I realized there wasn’t a chance I was going to make the top within an hour, I really began to tire.  (I figured if I am going to make this loop in 2 hours, I have to make it to Top of the World within 1 hour.)

Well, that didn’t happen.  But I kept on running.  The sun shined down strong and the wind blew hard as I still had hope of beating 2:12.  I came upon West Ridge Trail with 30 minutes to spare.  I ran West Ridge like the devil, so much so, that by the time I reached the bottom of Cholla Trail I was dead-dog-tired. 

I could have beat 2:12.  That is if I hadn’t hiked that last incline through Canyon Vistas Park.  I reached Canyon Vistas Park in two hours ten minutes with a hill that would probably take me thirty seconds to run if I hadn’t already beat myself into the ground.  Ends up I made it in 2:13.  And I was glad.

Elevation Profile

My Activities aliso wood cyns 9.5 mile loope 1-26-2011, Elevation - Distance

Monday, January 24, 2011

Falls

I used to keep track of my falls.  Now it’s been so long, I lost count.  And I’m too lazy to go through old blogs to figure it out.  As far as I recall, this past weekend’s fall was number 9, that’s 7 on the trails and two on the road.  I’m not sure.  But what I am sure about is that this past weekend’s was different.  Different in the way that I hit my face on impact.  I’ve never done that before.

The worst damage I can remember was to my wrist.  My wrist made first impact on Santiago Truck Trail over a year ago, perhaps two.  I remember my running partner, Tom, said he heard the thud and feared it was my head.  I thought that I broke my wrist the pain was so bad.  Then about 2 weeks later I took a terrible spill at a Malibu Creek State Park race (Bulldog counter-clockwise) were I ended up on my back.  I scared all the runners around me so badly, that as I lay on the ground I looked up to a circle of faces, fellow racers.  Oddly, with such a landing, I reinjured that wrist that I thought I broke on Santiago Truck Trail.  The next week I was in for x-rays, and oddly, all was okay with the wrist.  What was bad was my hip.  Go figure.  (Physical therapy for 6 – 8 weeks taught me a lot).

Falls.  They are not fun.  And when they happen, they happen in slow motion.  I’m always amazed at how many thoughts go through my mind during a fall.  I remember my first fall, it was on the road.  The sun had not risen, and I had made a very stupid move that sent me flying down at the marina on PAVEMENT.  Since that was my first fall, and there was not a single other person out there, this was what went through my mind:  “Who out there is going to see this and call an ambulance?” 

Fortunately, I didn’t need an ambulance.  I don’t even remember my bruises.  That was back before I began trails.

Then my first trail fall, I’m not positive, but I believe it was when I was alone and I had “discovered” this new trail.  In awe at its beauty, I thought to myself, I’m going to take this trail EVERYTIME.  At that very instant, I tripped on a root and made the plummet downward.  And I remember thinking a host of things.  One of those things I thought was, “Oh my gosh – I can’t believe I’m falling!  I’m falling.  I’m actually falling!”  That was one of my good falls.  Instinctively when I hit, I rolled, and my impact made minimal injuries. 

And so on and so forth.  Like I mentioned above, I believe the total is about nine.

So falls aren’t so unfamiliar to me.  I’m just extremely relieved when I come out unscathed, or minimally unscathed.  (Right now, my eye is still bloodshot and my chin is purple and my shoulders ache – that is what I call unscathed.)

Anyway, I got to thinking, after my last fall, about my fall count, and I realized that my falling is not exactly inherent to running as a sport or training.  I remembered in fact one particular time, I was about 26 years old, working the corporate world.  I was so young, and more stupid than I am now.  I had spent about an hour at Barnes & Nobles Books spending way too much money on books. (I used to spend hundreds of dollars during my lunch breaks – yikes, how wreck less is that??)  I opted for a last minute lunch at Mac Donald's (Not my first choice).  I remember I was wearing black pumps and black pantyhose when I ran out to my car with a Mac Donald's bag in my hand.  Then suddenly, I fell flat on my face.  I had actually tripped over a wheel stop in the parking lot.  I tore my pantyhose to shreds.  My knee was bleeding.  I remember people walking about, not even noticing that I lay there on the pavement.  And I remember weeping in the parking lot with bloody knees, not because it hurt, because not one single person stopped to ask if I was okay.  Doesn’t anybody care?  I was so naive.

No.  I wasn’t that na├»ve.  I think I was still hopeful.  HOPEFUL.  Does it make sense when I say that the trail is hopeful?  Falls like mine at the Mac Donalds more than twenty years ago are nothing like falls on the trail.  If there’s people around and I fall on the trail, THEY STOP.  If someone else falls.  I stop.  I gasp.  They gasp.  They ask if I’m okay.  I can fall in the middle of Highway One, blood gushing from the knees and no one will stop.  Out on the trail.  Runners, bikers, hikers, they all stop and they help. 

Why is that? 

Even though my friends and family are nervous about me running trails.  I actually feel safer, despite the falls.  Trails are actually the kinder and gentler place to run.  I tell no lie (right now : ).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Big Baz Winter Trail Series / 15K

Would you think that I was crazy if I told you I ran another trail race this weekend – less than a week after Calico?  I don’t know what got into me, but I did.  Yup, I ran the 15k of Big Baz’s Winter Trail Series.  And I’d do it again!

I had no expectations.  I knew it was going to be tough, shortish, but with big climbs.  Amazingly I felt strong.  I kept a good pace, so much so in fact, that the garmin didn’t tell me to speed up for a long time.  I had lots of fun.  For most of it, that is. 

Waiting for race to start

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The day was gorgeous.  And the 15k course even more gorgeous.  It was a good 95% single track.  And it had plenty of shade – I’ll never complain about shade : )  Plenty of rocks, all sizes littered portions of the trail as well.  So those beginning downhills were quite tricky.  Rain erosion made other parts just as tricky by splitting the single track right down the middle with a deep gulley.

The beauty in this course

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The climb back up begins

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Not hurting too badly yet

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SO!  I was nearly finished with this race, and oh, so tired.  I tripped twice, and my legs cramped up momentarily.  And then on the climb up, I came to a short downhill on that single track right alongside a cliff.  The cliff was lined with what looked like thorny brush, from what I recall.  It was shady, and quite lovely, and I wanted this race to END.  Suddenly, I tripped again.  But this time, I went down.  And for some reason, I didn’t do my usual hit and roll to the side – perhaps it was that cliff that changed my fall style.  Perhaps it was the leg cramping that occurred at impact.  I remember my left knee making impact, and my right hand too.  But I mostly remember my face smashing into the ground and my chin hitting a rock.  Well, I jumped up, I mean jumped up, mainly because I didn’t want the girl behind a ways to  catch me and also because I didn’t want that cramp to travel to other parts.  I looked down at the rock that I hit my chin on, thought about carrying it in for a souvenir then said forget that!  Then before taken off on a slow trot, I started to dust the dirt off.  I was covered head to toe.  Suddenly I thought No, let the dirt be, I want to come in all dirty.  I didn’t know what my face looked like, and I kinda wished that I had a mirror.  I could feel that there was no blood, but if I looked scratched and bruised in the face, then I wanted the head-to-toe dirt to match : )

Fortunately, though the left side of my face slightly aches, the only visible damage is a red eye and an ugly blackish-purplish bump on my chin.  Several hours later as I write this blog however, I can feel the impact all over.  Not in bruises or cuts (though I did notice a cut on my pinkie finger and a tiny rock embedded in another), but in just an overall kind of jolt injury.  If you know what I mean.  It was like my brain shook and all my limbs and torso stopped momentum in an instant (kinda like a car wreck : (

I crossed the finish line smiling, and before everyone went home, even before several others crossed some time later.  I stayed a bit to see the winners take their awards and I laughed at (with) Big Baz as he entertained the crowds.  Then I was off back home.

Miles logged this morning:  9.56

Elevation Profile: +1,644 / –1,654

WTS 15K - BIG BAZ 1-22-2011, Elevation - Distance

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Run for Fun

I admit I was pretty crazy in my last post.  I was just a little angry with myself for throwing out my goals at the last minute.  I’m better now, attitude-wise that is.  I’ve still got this nagging cold, though it’s bearable.  I spent the past few days foam rolling, doing floor exercises, jumping up the backyard porch steps.  I didn’t have it in my heart to run, or even go to the gym.

Today it was time run.  A time to run for fun.  My favorite wilderness park (Aliso / Wood Canyons) finally opened after our heavy rains.  I set out with no distance or trails in mind.  I wasn’t even sure which trails were open. 

I won’t lie.  The climbs were tough.  I struggled more than usual.  But I enjoyed the stress free I-don’t-HAVE-to-do-nothing attitude.  I could run wherever I wanted, as fast (or as slow) as I wanted, and I could stop whenever I wanted.

Turned out that I ran a rather leisurely pace up to Top of the World.  And I stopped only a few times to snap a picture.  Erosion was evident.  Skies were clear and blue.  And the weather, well I dressed for my 10:00 AM run at 7:30 AM, so I was QUITE warm. 

Erosion on West Ridge

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More Erosion on West Ridge, nearing Top of the World

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Park Avenue Nature Trail (a little detour from Top of the World to West Ridge)

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Miles logged my first time back after Calico: 6.59

Elevation Profile:

My Activities aliso woods out and back 1-20-2011, Elevation - Distance