TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Monday, May 30, 2011

Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon

On a whim (sort of – I had actually toyed with the idea), Saturday I registered for a half marathon today, Memorial Day.  It’s a road half marathon, but one that goes through my favorite wilderness park (Aliso/Wood Canyons).  Actually, it goes through the paved portion, Aliso Creek Trail, and that’s good enough for me. 

It’s been a while since I’ve run a half marathon on the road.  My last half was in the mountains with lots of elevation gain and it took me over three hours (3:17)!  I was a little nervous and reluctant about running this race.  I feared the road runners would “blow me out of the water.”   

Overall, I am glad I ran.  I saw other runners I know (Tom B. and Jeremy H., see recent Holy Jim runs,  – and I got to meet Jeremy’s wife, Jodeen, as well at today’s race).  Besides the fun of large crowds and cheering bystanders, I noticed lots of differences between road races and trail races. 

I’ll start at the beginning.  Porta Potties.  The lines at road races are immense.  I mean, hundreds of upon hundreds of runners line up to use them – and there is no forest or desert boulder to duck behind.  Secondly, the women either wear capri running pants or itsy-bitsy shorts (of course there are exceptions).  Most people don’t carry water; they rely on aid stations.  And those who do carry water do so in their hands or around their waists.  I only saw two others wearing water on their backs.  (I elected to do so in this race, because I didn’t want to stop for water and I wanted a place to keep my phone, camera and keys.)

Also, People don’t generally run and chat with strangers in road races (though of course, I’m sure there’s exceptions again).  In road races, it seems runners don’t look over their shoulders when switching sides (like I have to, else get hit by a bike on the trail).  Also, the road  race starts off much, much quicker than on the trail.  I mean, amazingly quicker. 

I started off much quicker than usual as well.  We also started off with about 4,000 5k racers, which made that starting pace even faster.  I reached the halfway mark at 1:02.  (My best 10k, the Dana Point Turkey Trot, I believe was 1:03, maybe 1:02, so I was running faster than my best 10k road race pace).  Up until the midway point, I hoped to finish under 2:15.  But upon reaching the halfway point quicker than I thought, I realized breaking 2:15 would be really tough.  I was tiring, and knew I couldn’t keep up that pace.

As it was, about mile 10, I started to really slow my pace.  And at mile 11, the 2:20 pacers passed me.  I said, “Sh*t!” without realizing out loud.  The pacers who carried tall signs that read 2:20 turned around and said, “It’s okay, you’re doing great.”  I felt badly for my comment, because I didn’t want to insult any of the runners that I found myself surrounded by.  Clusters of people swarm around the pacers.  (Another difference between road and trail races.  On the trail races that I’ve run, there are no designated runners holding up signs with ending times posted on them).

I veered off to the side and was able to race by the pacers and the pacer crowd, only to be passed by them again by mile 12.  By then, I said to myself, “Okay, if I come in before 2:30, I’ll be happy.”  And that I did:  2:23:32.  And I was happy.  Happy that I got to play part of this big running event to commemorate Memorial Day.

Other differences between road and trail races, I didn’t realize until it was over are:  1)  my feet ached after racing the road, never on a trail race, and 2) the after-party is much more festive and crowded with vendors on road races, and that’s pretty cool.

Around the half-way point, coming into Aliso Canyon (Aliso/Wood Canyons Wilderness Park)CIMG9938

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Heading back toward finish line (notice waterfall about mid photo)CIMG9940

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The after partyCIMG9944

Elevation profile (also mine and Jeremy’s garmin read 13.25, not 13.1!)saddleback memorial half marathon

My Stats:

Overall:
994 out of 1412

Women:
418 out of 706

Females 45-49:
49 out of 88

Fun, fun, fun in the California sun.  I forgot to mention, it was hot this May day morning.  I mean HOT. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

No Name-El Moro-Fence Line-Bommer Loop

This morning I drove a total of forty-two miles (round trip) to run less than 7.  That cracks me up. 

I’m not complaining.  Just laughing.  I wanted something short because I thought I’d bring the mileage down this week, as I accidentally topped 40 miles last week.  I also wanted something a little different so it would seem like I was exploring.

So, I drove up to El Moro in Irvine.  The clouds were gray, the weather cool.  And I enjoyed this solo-run immensely, all without getting lost, boxed in or stung by stinging nettle (I also didn’t fall, which is always a good thing). 

After running down No Name Ridge (truly, that’s the name : ) I turned off onto West Cut Off (below) to connect up with El Moro CanyonCIMG9911

I ran past lots of these wild rosesCIMG9913

El Moro Canyon TrailCIMG9923

Running up Nice and Easy (Yup, that’s the trail’s name : )CIMG9925

Posing on Fence Line Trail which heads up to Bommer RidgeCIMG9927

Ahhh, single-track Smile

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6.6 miles run this morning

Thursday, May 26, 2011

7 Months Later

Sometimes when I run a trail race, I’m all alone for miles.  Other times, it’s me and a few other runners.  Sometimes it’s just me and one other runner.  There are times when you’re running together for just a little while.  And there are times when you are together for some hours (Calico!).  A couple weeks ago there was the women that I ran with for a while when we both took a wrong turn in Malibu Creek State Park. 

There’s a bonding that goes one when you run with a stranger through lonely parts of a race.  You help each other through with conversation, perhaps a gel.  And when it’s over you feel like old friends.  Old friends who rarely ever see each other again.  It’s kind of sad.  But you get over it, and go onto the next race.  If not that, you go on enjoying your trails. 

I’m pretty sure that I’ve passed sixty races in my relatively short running “career”, and I’ve got to say that I’ve run some lonely trails with quite a few strangers.  I very rarely have ever seen any of them again. 

That is until today!

So, TODAY, I took another lovely run in Aliso/Wood Canyons, a loop up Meadows.  Just before I really started climbing I came across a snake basking on the trail.  I couldn’t see her tail, therefore, couldn’t be sure if she was a rattler.  I can’t rely on color, because I’ve seen rattlesnakes with varying colors.  If I was thinking, all I had to do was look at her head.  I know a rattler’s head.  There’s no mistaking.  Instead, I hollered at it.  She didn’t flinch.  I picked up sticks and tossed them close up to her.  She still didn’t flinch.  (By the way study sticks carefully before picking them up, because they just might be a snake!)  I really wasn’t in the mood for running and leaping over her, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to run off-trail into the thick brown grass.  THAT is how you get bitten. 

I hid back a ways on the trail – maybe she’d think I left and continue her trek.  She didn’t flinch.  Finally I took big heavy fast steps straight at her and she quickly slithered off trail.  That’s when I saw the skinny tail – no rattles. Smile 

1 1/2 miles into park, turning onto Meadows TrailCIMG9851

The stubborn snakeCIMG9855

Running up Meadows TrailCIMG9861

Running the local mountains has dwarfed Meadows Trail.  When I reached the top, I thought to myself, is this the top?  It can’t be!!  Now, I’m not saying that running up Meadows is anywhere near easy.  But it’s definitely easier after the likes of Holy Jim.

At top of Meadows Trail, overlooking Pacific Ocean, acting like a goofball. CIMG9871

I reached Top of the World feeling strong.  I took my usual (of late) little detour onto Park Avenue Nature Trail.  As I ran, I debated whether I should run Car Wreck Trail down or Mathis.  I really wanted to run Car Wreck, because I get to run also through the fairyland Oak Grove Trail.  But time was fleeting, as usual.  I could take Mathis at a much faster pace than Car Wreck.  I had to pick my youngest up from school.

View of Pacific Ocean from Park Avenue Nature TrailCIMG9878

Witch’s Hair (Dodder) draped over flowery brush CIMG9883

At pretty much the last minute I decided to run Mathis down to Dripping Cave, flinching as I passed Car Wreck.  I ran the mostly exposed, sometimes rock trail at a fun pace, enjoying the gorgeous green canyon.  Then running down the last hill, I noticed another runner.  I hardly see runners on the trails that connect the canyons to the ridge – mostly I see runners on the ridge or in the canyons. 

Just as we passed each other, he said, “Are you Lauren?” 

A bit startled, because I didn’t recognize him one bit, my response was a little juvenile.  “Ya.  Why?”  (I chuckle to myself now!)

Turns out that runner was Jeff, the guy I ran with for the last three, even more maybe four or five miles of the Saddleback Marathon

Wow!  I was so happy to see him today.  I’m so glad that he recognized me.  To think that we could have run past each other without knowing!! His company really helped me finish that November race!  Since Saddleback, I often wondered about Jeff, because I knew he also trained in Aliso/Wood Canyons.  But now over 7 months since the marathon, I figured he was like so many runners that I’d never meet up with again. 

I’ll tell ya!  I felt ecstatic, like I had met up with an old friend.  So funny, I could not recognize his face at all!  He is slimmer and also has a beard and mustache now, which may be why I didn’t recognize him.  (If you’ve watched my Saddleback Marathon video, he’s the guy toward the end that my camera catches glimpses of).  Though I didn’t recognize his face, I definitely recognized his voice.  Isn’t that funny?  Someone I met once, I recognize his voice. 

“Old” friends (not as in old age Smile) meet up on the trail.  (I look a mess – and if I weren’t so happy over seeing this “old” friend, my vanity would have stopped me from posting this pic.)CIMG9885

I was even happier at that point for choosing Mathis over Car Wreck Trail.  Afterward, I took a fun little jot up Dripping Cave.  Then stopped for a photo-op in the cave. 

I say, it’s good to follow your instincts, intuitions, inclinations, whatever you call them.  So many times, they have led me to surprises.

Dripping Cave TrailCIMG9888

Posing in the caveCIMG9895

9.60 miles run today. +1536/-1530

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

No Woes

I am now one of those people using a broken-up cracked cell phone and am happy to do it!  I like having a junky phone – ideal for the trails.  Turns out I dropped it on my last run (on the road!)   Fortunately, someone found it, called and returned it.  And it still works same as before (for now). (I will be the last person I know to buy a “smart" phone.)

Went for a delightful trail run today.  Had very little time, but I needed to get rid of my woes.  Not permanently of course.  Such is life.  Instead, I set them aside momentarily for a bit of running:

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Running up Cholla Trail (.5 to 1.00 on graph above & miles 5.5 to 6) – today’s route to the ridge:CIMG9819

Top of Cholla, ready to run West Ridge TrailCIMG9821

Running along West Ridge.  Which Trail did I take?  Hmmmmm . . . CIMG9822

Well, you’re reading the blog of a single-track lover.  I took the right trail, so that I could see this:CIMG9823

And this:CIMG9832

Back on West Ridge, another fork in the road.  Which trail did I take?  You probably have guessed the pattern.  Single-track minded, I took the right.CIMG9834

After running to Top of the World, I took another single track detour onto Park Avenue Nature Trail to end up back on West Ridge, with much of it’s trail laid out before me.  CIMG9840

Miles run this morning: 6.4

Monday, May 23, 2011

One Way Trip

Spent the morning resting – that is making lunches, getting the boys off to school, running errands, scrubbing our bathroom floors, toilets, tub, sweeping floors, vacuuming, doing dishes, laundry.  And then I went to work.  LOL.

I ran home from work this evening.  And let’s just say, I wasn’t feeling the love.  Fatigued, I enjoyed the cool breeze.  But I got spooked by a boy holding a baseball bat over his shoulder like he was going to swing as I ran by him.  I actually lurched out of the way at the last second, crashing my garmin into a street sign’s pole. (He didn’t swing)  And I grew really annoyed at a lady who when making a left hand turn, waited way, WAY too long to stop as I ran (legally, I might add) across the street. 

I am so dead-dog tired, already in my pj’s, I’m going to grab myself some water and a book and go lay in bed.  I’m hoping tomorrow to get to responding to past comments.  That’s one of my favorite things to do.

Miles run this evening:  6.38

About 1/3 mile into my one-way trip home from work.  CIMG9789

I kind of felt like I was running in a penitentiary. CIMG9792

Stacking Rocks / Something people in my parts do.  This one has just begun growing.  They can get quite elaborate.  CIMG9793

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Holy Jim? Holy Cr*p!

I was so fortunate to have a taker again for another run in our local mountains, someone else crazy enough to run up Holy Jim – they’re out there.  Yes, they are!  Today, I took the trip beneath dry skies with Tom Bychowski up  Holy Jim (also referred to by some as “Holy Cow” or “Holy Crap”.)  Now my 3rd time up, it isn’t that bad.  What Holy Jim is, is LONG.  Sure it’s uphill.  But the grade isn’t ridiculously steep (much less than Horse Thief).  Five miles uphill, I’m pretty sure is long by most people’s standards. 

Holy Jim begins in the canyon and goes all the way to The Main Divide (the ridge that overlooks Riverside County and Orange County).  Holy Jim trail is green and gorgeous with several stream crossings, lots of shade cover and then pretty much exposed, single-track, switch-back, high in the sky.  I found it difficult to keep up with Tom (& actually I didn’t that much), but I didn’t worry about that so much.  I just kept plugging away, trying hard to look up and not down. 

The trail is simply glorious.

Crossing stream on Holy Jim TrailCIMG9740

Tom on Holy Jim Trail – it’s switch-back time!CIMG9744

Self portrait going up Holy Jim TrailCIMG9748

Don’t rightly recall how I got in front of Tom here on Holy Jim, but it was an ideal photo-op.CIMG9750

More Scenes going up Holy Jim:CIMG9754

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Finally running The Main Divide SmileCIMG9763

That’s Lake Elsinore below – beneath the clouds:CIMG9769

Running down West Horse Thief (Tom thought a good rename would be Crazy Horse – I agree).  Rocky, switch-back, back beneath the clouds:CIMG9772

Getting closer to Trabuco Creek on West Horse Thief CIMG9774

Coming in for the final stretch on Trabuco Trail to finish up this 14 mile run was long indeed.  I was thankful for shade bursts, though the weather was cool.  Thing was, I ran out of water toward the end.  Dreaming of a tall glass of ice water helped keep me running.  Then I remembered the first time I ran these mountains with the other Tom (Tom Fangrow) I spotted a bullet-ridden car.  I didn’t see that car last week.  I didn’t see it during the Saddleback Marathon.  So, I began the search.  And I swear I found it in a very different place, much closer to the trail.   I think our December rains moved it some. 

Here’s the Car:CIMG9781

Miles logged today:  14

No elevation profile – I actually forgot to strap on the garmin!  But it’s the same profile as last Sunday.  Hard.  Smile