TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Got to Love an Adventure

Perhaps I am certifiably insane.  Perhaps I’m merely an explorer.  I don’t know.  I just love an adventure and I probably spend too much time on my hair-brained ideas. Winking smile

Today’s concoction:  Run the bike path (or the riverwalk, as I call it) above San Juan Creek.  But instead of running into the historic district and downtown San Juan Capistrano as I usually do when I run the riverwalk, I planned to turn off and follow the bike trail that I pass over on the freeway almost every day.

So I strapped on my pack full of water and other essentials and headed down the highway.  About a mile in, I realized my hands were empty and I gasped, “I forgot my water!”

Uhhh, Lauren, your water’s on your back. 

Funny how the brain confuses.  I never wear a pack when I run the road.  Today though, I wasn’t sure where I’d end up, so I put on the pack.

I took Sycamore Creek Trail to the “Riverwalk".  No creek runs along this trail.  Though some small Sycamores grow along the side.  Actually, the trail runs through an exercise park with a dozen or so stations along the way.

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Running along the “riverwalk” aka bike path – Enjoyable?  Yes.  Hot?  Yes!  The cement path offers very little shade opportunities.  Though the sound of rushing water helped me feel refreshed.

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The long, lonely road.  For some reason, just like with trails, I tend to veer to the edge. 

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Running beneath the road (Camino Capistrano) meant shade!!  Up head, more shade as I ran beneath the freeway (I-5).

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Okay, I didn’t care about the heat about now, because I’m feeling a trail coming on . . .

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Ahhhh, yes.  After a quick stop at a water fountain in a park (because I didn’t want to run out of my supply) I happened upon a nice, slightly muddy equestrian trail.  Notice the shade – glorious, glorious shade.  (Today, by the way, was the hottest day in a long time)

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I felt good, confident that I knew where I was headed.  My plan: reach a ridge a few miles up. 

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There’s only one problem.  I ran this trail until it ended.  I mean ENDED. It ended at the locked gates of the equestrian center on Highway 74.  I couldn’t find any way around it.  And as it was, I was on the wrong side of the creek.  Well, I disobeyed (who me?) the signs that warned to stay on the trail.   There was no way I was turning around and running all the way back.  My plan – cross the creek, or rather creeks at this point and find a trail on the other side.

I crossed the first creek merely submerging my shoes.  The second creek, same thing.  The main creek however flowed rather quickly, and appeared about knee deep.  I scoured the land for a way to cross.  Two ducks swiftly floated by.

When I’d find a trail, I’d take it until I found myself boxed in by shrubbery so thick, I was forced to turn around and take the trail back in search for another trail.  This occurred again and again, the brush was so dense.

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Finally I phoned my husband so he could look on the Google Earth and find a way.  He reported that I took the wrong trail – I was on the wrong side of the creek. 

Really?

Noticing mountain lion tracks in the mud (be sure I know my cougar tracks, they are unmistakable once you know them), I told him, I’m just crossing the stream.  “No,” hubby pleaded.  He said that he hated not being there to make sure I didn’t get swept up in the creek.  So while he scoured the satellite maps with the computer freezing up, I talked to him as I crossed the stream.  It wasn’t quite knee deep – I’d say it was 3/4’s calve high.  But it did flow swiftly.  I slipped only once, but made the other side safely.  On the other side – no trails!  Just massive brush.  I ducked beneath branches.  I trampled through poison oak.  Really, I had no choice.  I could see the steep riverbank, but could find no way to it.  Hanging up the phone so that I could concentrate and listen for dangers, I trudged through that stuff knowing I had to get to San Juan Creek Road (according to a very helpful husband who by the way, wasn’t too thrilled about my adventure – but perhaps he’s getting used to this).

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Boxed in again.  Ahhh.  Duh!

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Finally, I saw the light.  A way up the bank.  I scrambled up that bank to find a massive hunk of thick, knee-high brush.  I plowed my way through that and what do you know!  An equestrian trail!  A lovely, muddy equestrian trail!  Just a little ways a head, I spotted a street sign that read “San Juan Creek Road!” 

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When I reached the road, I ran a stretch of pavement with delight in my heart, not to mention flashbacks of those cougar tracks running through my mind. 

Soon I reached the trail I aimed for.  And I ran up to that ridge for a bit of treasure – a view of San Juan Capistrano (I could even see the mission) and behind me, the foothills of The Cleveland National Forest.

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I grew extremely fatigued on my (more direct) run back.  At one point, I realized that I would run near our boys’ school about the time my husband picked them up.  (It’s “early out” all week).  So, I put in one more call to cut this run about 3 miles short.  I asked if he could please wait for me and take me home.  My better half offered to better that, and pick me up at my current location.  I insisted that he just wait, perhaps drive up the road from the school and wait for me at the “riverwalk.” 

Turns out, he arrived at the exact same time as I did.  I hopped into the truck, dead-dog tired, happy to see my two youngest, who weren’t so interested in seeing me as they busily planned the rest of their “early-out” day.

Miles logged on this adventure:  11 (though it seemed like so much more!)

To be determined:  status of poison ivy tramping. 

Injuries:  just a few scrapes on the legs. Smile Smile

ps.  times like this, I feel like the luckiest person on Earth.

pss.  and then I went to work, the students were wonderful, except for one exceptional student I had to “yell down,” and threaten he was out of the program unless he turned in some work today (this after he called me a liar!).  Needless to say, he turned in some work.  And though he still thinks I hate him.  I don’t.  (I could have booted him after the “liar” comment.  But I just don’t have the heart).  Okay, is that TOO MUCH INFO???

It’s so hard to watch people with “talent” for lack of a better word, to waste it.  I on the other hand have no such “talent” (except to be freakishly organized and feel unorganized), but I make do.  And so can you!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Some Nourishment for the Soul

With the end of the month at hand, I’ve made all of my fitness goals, except for swimming and weight training.  That meant that beneath these beautiful dry blue skies I could not run today.  I suppose I can do anything I want, but I didn’t allow myself to run today.  Today, I swam after about forty-five minutes of strengthening.

Blogger Windnsnow once commented on this blog “Running elevates your soul. Swimming nourishes it.”  Today, I felt that water nourishing an unnourished soul. And I kept on going for more, swimming 500 more yards than I had planned.  In total, I swam 2,000 yards (1829 meters, or 1.25 miles which is 80 laps in my gym’s 25 yard pool).  I felt reinvigorated afterwards.

I think I must have over-nourished, because back at home, all I wanted to do was sleep.  I slept off and on from 1:30 until about 5:00 PM.  I NEVER do that.

Wishing you all a great week!

I’ll leave you with this.  I used to be a fisherman (fisherwoman???).  Some more blasts from the past:

1984 Showing off my tiny perch.  Yes, we fried it up.

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1984  Some bigger catches / Rainbow Trout

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1985 Some Brook Trout (though the bigger catch may be a Rainbow Trout)

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1991 A secluded pool up stream, miles away from civilization / click on picture to enlarge and you can see the Brook Trout in hand. Don’t ask me about the bandana on my head – I don’t remember, and I can’t explain it.

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Same day, same place as above – notice the canteen hanging on the rock, I’m fairly positive there’s water in there and nothing else (don’t own one of those anymore, today, I’d probably be wearing a hydration pack FILLED WITH WATER, plus a few Nuun tablets : )  I was so, so young in this picture.  (Let’s see 1991 – 1965 = 26 years old!!).  See the tiny tattoo on right shoulder – I was actually carded to get that when a mere child (18).  Today it’s so faded, I’m not sure you can even see it. LOL.  Oh, how the glorious days go by.  Now we have to relive it through our children with their own lovely souls.  Hopefully, they will learn to nourish theirs’. Smile

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Group Running in the Mud and Rain

This morning I got to run with strangers.  And I got to run with an old friend, Tom (by old, I don’t mean “old person”, I mean the running friend who pretty much taught me how to run trails more than two years ago). 

Wasn’t supposed to rain today for the OCTR’s new member run.  But it rained.  And it rained.  And it rained.  Surprisingly, the county didn’t close the trails at Aliso/Wood Canyons Wilderness Park.  Well . . . they didn’t close ALL the trails.

Out of our group of 8, four continued on with me for the “big” loop up Wood Canyon, Cholla Trail, West Ridge to Top of the World, then back via Meadows Trail.  This is opposite the way I usually run this loop.  If you follow, you might recall I normally run up Meadows down Cholla. 

WELL, the trails were muddy and slippery, but not too badly through Wood Canyon and up Cholla.  Running along West Ridge was cold and of course rainy.  No one would have known unless I mentioned it that the Pacific Ocean was to our right.  The skies were that murky and gray. (The four runners who carried on were from out of the immediate area, 3 of them from the running group train4autism.)

What a great relief to reach Top of the World.  Some of us were cold, all of us a little tired of the slippery climb.  When it came to choosing a route back, the group voted to take the route with the most pavement (these delightful runners are mainly road runners, and I wanted to do what they wanted, especially since I can run this park any ole’ day).  I cautioned my fellow runners that Meadows was going to be a slippery slide.  But I think the mile and a half paved run was all too tempting to consider what we “might” encounter on Meadows.  (I’ve run Meadows enough to know that it gets the muddiest of all the trails).

New Member Run, Tom on far left, I forgot the next 2 runner’s names (sorry) and the last four on right I ran the big loop with (Justin, Alex, Shannon and Sarah)

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When we finally arrived at Meadows Trail (I’m not too keen about running pavement – did I already mention that?  Seems like I always mention that), we found Meadows Trail CLOSED.  Closed!  A couple runners suggested running back.  I reminded them of the route they originally declined.  The others said, forget the closed sign – let’s go for it. 

And so we did.

What a slippery ride it was.  This was one tough group for sure.  We grabbed onto branches to stay upright.  We fell in the mud.  We laughed.  We groaned.  Alex lead the way, and he pretty much said, “screw the switchback” and took us straight down when we could through the grassy parts.  I must clarify that he never said the word “screw.”  He was never more than positive and polite.  I avoided the grass when I could because of ticks.  But then finally I just gave in, because it was so much easier to get a grip in the grass.

I also felt badly for leading this group into the mudslide on their first time on these trails in Aliso/Wood Canyons.  I had to at least once remind them, “Remember?  I said it was going to be MUDDY.”  (The alternative I had suggested was very rocky, much less muddy, but included a detour due to another closed trail, that would have added about a 1/4 mile to the total run.)

Every one of the runners today were true troopers.  We made it back happily to the ranger station, tired, glad to be finished, no injuries and with a fun muddy story to tell.

Thanks for coming out running partners.  Hope to see you all again.

Sliding Down Meadows Trail

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My Shoes in the Mud

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A Field of Lupin on Meadows’ Slippery Descent

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Miles logged this morning:  11.5

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

GOAL!

We had a break in the rain today and my local trains opened up here in the coastal hills of Southern California.  Oddly, I decided on my timed loop.  This loop in Aliso/Wood Canyons:

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BeforeI didn’t feel like running a time looped, besides the fact that I was a little paranoid about rattlers.  If you’ve been following, you might recall that my goal is to run this loop in two hours (also that I had a rattler encounter my last timed loop.)  My best time has been two hours, two minutes.  I made that time once.

I always felt in order to make 2 hours, I had to run to the top of Meadows (5 mile mark) in 1 hour.  Today, I made it in the same ole’ time 1:03.  With just one negative self-talk incident (I thought “I can’t” only once) I decided to attempt make-up time running the ridge through the neighborhoods at Top of the World.  I felt I could do it since it’s relatively “easy” running (compared to the trails I’ve been racing in 2011).

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I made West Ridge with 35 minutes to spare (pretty good, but not the best I’ve done).  Then as I started running West Ridge (pictured below), I saw a runner that I usually see on the trails in this park.   I caught up with her, then on the downhill, flew past her.  I thought she was long gone, when on the next uphill, she was at my heels.  What the heck!

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If I didn’t know better, she didn’t like me catching her and passing so quickly on the downhill.  I left her in the dust again on the next downhill.  Then wouldn’t you know it!  As I topped the next hill SHE PASSED ME.  Well, IT. WAS. ON. 

Neither of us spoke, as we raced along West Ridge.  We actually ran side-by-side quite a few times.  Other times we ran single-file just a few feet separating us.  I’d pass her on the downhills.  She’d catch me on the uphills.  She got out a good distance at one point.  But at the end, when we parted ways (she continued on West Ridge, I ran down Cholla).  She was just a few feet in front.

I glanced at the garmin as I rounded the corner onto Cholla Trail.  NINE minutes.  I had nine minutes to make it to the finish line.  I had a chance, though slight it might have been.  Utterly fatigued, I took very small, quick steps as I sped down Cholla.  Rounding the next corner onto Wood Canyon, the rest of the trip was uphill.  I had five minutes.  And I wanted to collapse.  I could not let this chance pass.  I had to try.  I actually hiked, fast hiked a small portion of the uphill, and with two minutes to spare, I sprinted in.

Goal!  I made it.  I ran my loop in two hours.  It seemed like the world was spinning a little, and I wanted to vomit.  I stopped for a second, only to catch my breath, then turned the corner and walked a bit for a cool down. 

Thank you un-named runner.  You don’t know how much you helped me today. Smile

After Picture (after my cool down and I’m still red-faced)CIMG9473

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Great Silverado Footrace

Today was my third year running the Great Silverado Footrace, put on by Race Director, Chay Peterson.  First off, before I write another word, let me show you this:

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Notice that first hill.  Now, Chay is not an evil woman.  In fact, she’s very nice.  So why’d she do it???  Perhaps it was to wake us up.  Or maybe it was to make the rest of the run seem “easy.”  No, I think it was for the challenge.  Someone yelled from behind as we made that climb, '”Mankind is so stupid!.”  We all laughed.  I’m sure inside we all knew the truth, the truth that John F. Kennedy once told this nation, “ . . . we do it not because it is easy, but because it is hard . . .” Smile

Despite that first hill (though now that it’s over, it wasn’t that difficult), I had lots of fun.  The race is split into two parts.  The first loop being the longest, my garmin showed: 9.83 total miles with +3,763 elevation gain.  That’s a heck of a lot of elevation gain for less than ten miles!

Anyone who likes a true adventure and the toughest terrain should try this race.  I crawled, I bushwhacked.  I slipped and landed on my butt.  I fell.  A branch whacked my eyeball.  I took off my gloves for a minute, slipped and gashed my hand.  Some downhills were so steep, I placed my foot beneath my upper thigh and slid down on my bottom.  I took in awesome scenery spotted with spring flowers.  I laughed.  I joked.  I climbed up a rope.  I tore my clothes, shredded my socks.  And I said a few cuss words. 

Best of all, I raced.  I didn’t plan on racing.  I merely planned on finishing both loops.  But it seemed that one runner targeted me, and then there were three of us running side by side.  And I was so dang tired, I thought to myself, “Heck, just let them take it”.  Then I thought to myself, “No way!  You can run for hours Lauren, maybe they can’t!”  And so on the next uphill, I didn’t slow and lost the two who had been at my heals for at least an hour. I didn’t see them again for the remainder of the race.

Chay Gives Race Directions (she’s the leprechaun)

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Racers (& Sweepers) load up in trucks & head out to Start Line

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I accomplished my goal this year and completed both loops of The Great Silverado Footrace.  It was hard, and it hurt at times.  I have some ugly bruises and cuts.  I had to throw away my socks.  But I am fine.  And I am dang proud.  Proud that I finished both loops, and the vast majority of the second loop completely by myself. 

If I can, I will be back for a 4th year.  Maybe I’ll see you there too!

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The Movie Smile

Fun, fun, fun in Silverado Canyon