TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Normal People

When I arrived home from this morning’s run my husband said, shaking his head jokingly, “When I saw your new [minimalist] shoes here, I knew you weren’t going for a short run.” 

“I only ran twelve miles.” 

He laughed.  So did my oldest son.  “Why can’t you be like a normal person and run a three mile short run?” 

“Ya!”  piped in sonny boy.  “Mom’s short run is ten to twenty miles!!”

Now, that’s NOT true.  Twenty miles is a long run.  And I CAN run three miles, but I’m not sure that makes me “normal.”  Just most of the time, I don’t want to run three miles.  If I’m going to get into the truck and drive twenty minutes to the closest trails, I’m not going to run three miles.  Sure, if I wanted to run out my door, which I do occasionally, I’d run three miles.  That would be just fine with me (assuming I already got in 25+ miles for the week). 

Maybe I’m not “normal.”

Does anyone recall that song with the line “If loving you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right . . .?”  I don’t remember who originally sang it, but in Junior High I bought Rod Stewart’s album, Footloose and Fancy Free, and I played that song again and again.   

Funny, those words are kind of how I feel about trails.

This morning, I ran the big loop at Aliso/Wood Canyons, but ran it counter-clockwise.  I rarely do that.  Usually I run up Meadows Trail in a clockwise loop,  which is much steeper climbing, but the major climbing is pretty much over after Meadows.  Counter-clockwise, I run a continuous gradual climb for quite some time (see elevation profile below) and then I get to fly (I mean run) down Meadows. 

The park was crowded with a multitude of people this cool AuguSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA           st morning.  I was “Miss Chatty Cathy” chatting with anyone who would talk to me.  Talking with the ranger first, I learned that what I thought was a ferret a few weeks ago was actually a long-tailed weasel (which is related to the ferret).  I also talked to several hikers from a local hiking club making their way through Wood Creek Trail.  I said a few words to some of the Mater Dei High School cross country team as every single one of them ran past me.  And I even stopped on West Ridge for a bit to chat with an adult student that took, I believe two of the Photoshop classes that I teach. 

Normal people?  These teen cross country runners did at least a 9 mile out-and-back.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Wood Creek Trail entranceSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

A view on Wood Creek Trail that I seldom see since I almost always run it in the opposite direction.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Dainty flowers along West Ridge TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Looks like a party at Top of the WorldSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Running Top of the World toward Meadows Trail (Looking down on Laguna Beach city and Pacific Ocean)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Ready to descend on Meadows TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA            

12.05 miles (19.39 km) run this morning

Elevation Profile: +1,702’/-1723’

My Activities Aliso Wood Cyns Big Loop counter Clockwise 7-30-2011, Elevation - Distance

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Spider Web Patrol

I woke at 5:00 so that I could hit the dirt at 6:00 AM.  Today was double-loop day at Aliso/Wood Canyons Park – my second-to-last long run before I decide on whether to enter Bulldog. Regardless of my choice, I am doubtful that I can make the cutoff’s.  The way I see it, and I’m not trying to be negative, just a realistic, but signing up for Bulldog 50k is probably signing up for defeat – defeat for the race, but not a defeat for so many other aspects (that I can go into later if the time warrants.)  I’m at a point in my life where I realize that defeat carries so many triumphs.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’d love to finish and make the cutoffs.  I’d be absolutely thrilled. 

I actually entered the trails this morning under dark cloudy skies.  Not sure whether I’d see anyone, I carried pepper spray for the first time in a long time. 

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I fought against thinking about the end of this run as I took off down Wood Canyon.  “Stay in the present,” I told myself.  Now.  Now.  Now.  I didn’t wear headphones at first, and being difficult to stay in the moment, I focused on the various tracks in the dirt – bobcat, coyote, deer, runners.  When I thought about the run, or the future of today’s run, I’d fret, thinking  “I’ll never be able to do this – run up Meadows TWICE.  No way!  I’m not strong enough.”

Running is just like life.  When I anticipate, anxiety grows.  I recall when one of my sons was going through several surgeries (3 of them brain surgeries) the only way I could function was to stay in the moment.  As soon as I strayed into the future (or even the past), I’d start to lose it.   Anxiety reached a point where I felt I might vomit, or the ground beneath me began to sway.  I learned then sitting in the surgery waiting room, I survived by staying in the exact moment.  I don’t think you need experience something like this to relate to what I’m writing about.  The present is just simply much easier and more enjoyable and relaxing to experience than the past or present.  Period.  It is the same with running. (perhaps why I took up running in the first place.)

And so I took in Wood Canyon at first having to count to get myself into the present.  Literally, I’d say one, two, three, four, etc., and imagine that at each count that was where I was.  Eventually, I began to enjoy the moment, enjoy the breeze, enjoy the different colors, and even enjoy every single spider web I ran through.  And believe me!  There were plenty. 

Sycamore GroveSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Lone coyote on Wood Canyon TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Soon into my run, I realized I wouldn’t be alone on these trails.  A mountain biker came up behind me pretty quickly.  Then as I ran Cave Rock Trail, posing and taking pictures, several runners, at least 10, ran beneath me as I stood on the rock.  I was amazed to see so many runners this early in the morning.  And I was also truly amazed that they didn’t even notice me as I snapped pictures of them on that rock not too far above.  I don’t wish to be critical, BUT I hope, wish, that I would notice someone standing up above me like that.  (Sadly, I don’t think that I also would have noticed but, you can bet I will NOW.) Sick smile

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Another pose on Cave RockSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

A View from Meadows on first loop (about .5 mile remains of Meadows Trail)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Wood Creek Trail a delightful detour on 2nd loopSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Wood Creek Trail (I believe I take this picture every time I run Wood Creek Trail)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I took the second Meadows climb much better than the last time I ran this double loop.  I worked hard at passing a female mountain biker, came oh so close, but no catch!  I also didn’t run out of fluids until exactly the point where I could refill (imagine that!).  With 3.5 miles remaining, my clothes were completely drenched with sweat, and chaffing had began to take its toll.  My ipod battery also ran out during the Top of the World portion.  I found myself counting again just to stay in the moment.  When I found myself thinking about the past or anticipating the future, I’d focus on my presence in the moment, noticing colors, smells, people.  I said “Good morning",” to every single person I saw – the runners, gardeners, the hikers, bikers, the tennis players (at Alta Laguna Park), the dog walkers, the city workers.  And I truly believe it was the staying in the moment that allowed me to finish this run, happily, joyfully and PLAYFULLY.

19 miles logged.

+3,219 ft / – 3,223 ft,My Activities double loop from cyn vistas 7-28-2011, Elevation - Distance

Route:  Canyon Vistas, Wood Cyn, Cave Rock, Wood Cyn, Meadows Trail, Top of the World, Park Ave. Nature Trail, West Ridge, Cholla, Wood Cyn, Wood Creek, Wood Cyn, Coyote Run, Wood Cyn, Meadows Trail, Top of the World, West Ridge, Cholla, Wood Cyn, Canyon Vistas. 

Satellite above the loop which I ran twice (with some slight detours). 

My Activities double loop from cyn vistas 7-28-2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One of THOSE Days

Today was one of those days.  One of those days when you wake and every soul in the house, probably in the neighborhood still sleeps.  One of those days that you treat your children to movies and then a day at the park.  One of those days when two of your children fight like cats and dogs in said park.  One of those days when one kid throws a fit and tries to knock you off your scooter (yup, I was riding a scooter) in said park.  One of those days when one child interrupts your conversation with a friend and argues with you about what you just said.  But none of these things are what I’m writing about.  I’m writing about one of THOSE days when I wake to run and every cell in my body says NO, NO, NO.

Dressed and ready to go, pack in hand, running bag in other, I ALMOST, almost set down my gear, took off my shoes and crawled in bed.  But I knew.  I knew that I would regret that.  And most of all, I knew that I would change my mind about running, pretty much as soon as I started running.

And so I ran.  Not far.  But I ran trails, and I enjoyed every single minute on them.  If I didn’t have to get back in time for a morning movie show time, I’d probably still be running.

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My Activities cyn vistas out and back w- c's 7-26-2011, Elevation - Distance

Monday, July 25, 2011

Answered Questions

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I am finally getting around to answering your questions.  Sorry for the delay.   I guess that I would rather write about running, rather than write about myself in general.  No, I take that back.  I’d rather be running.  But I did really enjoy your questions.Smile  Here it goes:

Johann asked: 

Do you know the Zombies from Zombierunner? (Gillian and Don) They don't know it but they inspired me to start running trails.

No, Johann.  I do not know the zombies.  Would like to.  Don’t know much about them either.  But I love their store.

Have you lived anywhere else in the USA?

I have always lived in California, Southern California in fact.  I began in San Fernando Valley, was raised in San Gabriel Valley (both in Los Angeles county).  Then I moved to Orange County (The O.C.) in 1988.

When I come to visit, will we run those trails you always show on your blog?

We will definitely run those trails (you will have to slow down for me).

If I do come over there for some crazy race one day, will you be part of my crew?
I will also definitely part of your crew.  I always wanted to crew Badwater!

From Johann’s son Rohann:

What is your favorite color?

I have two favorite colors, Yellow, because it reminds me of the sun and my grandfather who always wore yellow shirts, and “baby” blue which is a little lighter than the sky. 

What is your favorite animal?

Definitely dogs!  But I also love cats too.

Jessie asked:

How long did it take you to adjust to trail running?

The first time I ran the trails, my long run was up to 14 miles.  I ran 9 miles on the trail that day, and I was hooked.  For the next few days I was so sore I could hardly lower myself into a chair. 

For a long time, I could not run up the steep hills.  But I kept trying.  I had to get over the fact that there is no shame in hiking the hills.  And so I did that for a long time (and still do on the steepest hills especially in races).  I think it took me about a year to fully adjust to trail running and their hills.  There was also the fear factor that I had to get over – the fear of nature.  I did a lot of research on the animals and their habitat and on first aid, etc.  And with that knowledge came a full adjustment to trail running.

And last but not least, Lindsay asked:

Did you used to run on roads? if so, what triggered the switch to run (almost 100%) on trails?

Yes, I started running on roads.  I ran roads for about 3 years, then I ran a race over the Coronado Bay Bridge in San Diego.  It’s a huge bridge that goes over to Coronado Island, and driving it scares me to death.  So, I decided to enter the race to see if I could hack it.  The hill going up that bridge was tremendous for me at the time.  Yet, I was thoroughly thrilled by the challenge.  After that race I browsed the internet for other unique races and found a trail race in Calico Ghost Town (in the high desert about 2 hours from Las Vegas).  I had NEVER heard of trail running.  But I had heard of Calico Ghost Town.  I camped there as a Girl Scout, and just HAD to do this race.  But I knew that I wouldn’t stand a chance if I didn’t get out and train on trails.  So, I joined a trail running group with wonderful people who taught me how to do it.  I trained for 6 months and finally entered the race (30k) and I crossed the finish line bruised and bloody, about ready to vomit.  But when it was all over, I said to myself, “I can’t wait until my next trail run!”

What do you do for work?  Is that what you went to school for?

I am a teacher.  I work with teenagers at their high school to make up failed courses so that they can graduate.  After that, I drive to another high school and teach adults vocational education, specifically various software programs like Photoshop and Excel.  I love my job.  But could use more hours.

I majored in Liberal Studies (w/ a minor in history).  I thought that I might be a teacher.  But I didn’t really go to school for a particular job.  I went to college, because I absolutely love learning. 

How long have you been friends with your 'oldest' (longest) friend?
Thirty-Four years (yikes!)

If you had to move, and it couldn't be CA or TX, where would you live?

Definitely Utah!  Keep in mind though, I have only been to ten of the states, so I could change my mind upon seeing more of the U.S.  (However, I don’t think I could ever move from California)

Have you ever seen an enormous snake or spider on your trail runs? no photos necessary on this one... a microsoft paint replica is sufficient :)

I have seen one or two enormous snakes (& many other snakes).  I’ve never seen an enormous spider on my trail runs.  I have friends however, that report they have seen tarantulas on the same trails that I run.  


Thanks for asking.  I hope you enjoy the answers.  Jessie – you are tagged next with a Q & A session.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

When the Cussin’ Ceases on Holy Jim

This morning I finally got back to the mountains (Thanks to Jeremy H. and Hank G.), specifically my favorite trail Holy Jim.  I never run the mountains alone, so I am most appreciative that I had these two friends to run with.

My history with Holy Jim Trail in the Cleveland National Forest:  I first “ran” Holy Jim during the Saddleback Marathon last November.  That race was the first time I had ever laid eyes on the trail.  I ran the beginning portions, but somewhere along the switch-back climbing, I lost all energy and had to hike.  I began leg and foot cramping toward the end, and even found myself crawling through several inches of acorns to reach the top.  I had no idea when it was going to end, so the experience was pretty much torturous.  I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I said one or two cuss words on Holy Jim that day.

That experience really “got my goat”.  I wasn’t going to let Holy Jim chew me up like that again.  My goal is to make it up that five mile trail as much as possible.

General History of Holy Jim Trail:  The trail is named after James T. Smith who lived in a cabin off the trail during the late 1800’s.  He was a beekeeper who also grew fig trees.  He was originally known by the name “Cussing Jim.”  Apparently, according to one source Jim was “a man given to blasphemous eloquence. When he started cussing. . . he could peel paint off a stove pipe."  Anyway, when surveyors arrived in 1870, they thought it more appropriate to name the canyon “Holy Jim” instead of “Cussing Jim.”

Today’s Adventure:  I actually started off this trail run feeling cold.  That’s a laugh, because not fifteen minutes in I ached to take off my long-sleeved shirt.  But I waited until our detour where we stopped at Holy Jim Falls.  After a quick few pictures, I peeled off that shirt and took off again behind Hank and Jeremy toward the trail.  The climb up Holy Jim was breathtakingly beautiful.  Yet, it was HOT.  Go figure.  Smile

I ran the entire Holy Jim Trail, sure at times at a snail’s pace.  Hank lead the pack and waited patiently at the Bear Springs on the Main Divide as Jeremy and I arrived.  From there, the weather grew even hotter.  But it was bearable.  Only once did my temperature rise to 2 degrees above normal.  Mostly, despite feeling otherwise, it remained normal or at most 1 degree above. 

The big climb on Lake Elsinore’s side of the Main Divide nearly did me in.  But I kept my eyes on the prize – DOWNHILL and a cold creek at the bottom.  Jeremy ran out of water first.  Not that he came ill-prepared.  He brought along more than I.  It was just that hot out this morning along the ridge.  We drained our water quickly.  That worried me a bit, so I began to conserve my fluids as we ran that rocky switch-back down Horsethief.  I tripped SEVERAL times.  I never fell. 

Upon finally reaching the canyon, I drenched myself in the nearly ice-cold creek.  Jeremy came up and did the same.  And then I ran on in those last extremely hot and long remaining three plus miles, running out of water with about 2.5 miles remaining.  I hadn’t seen Jeremy since the creek or Hank since somewhere on Horsethief.  I knew how to get back.  But I worried that Hank, being such an excellent runner, was going to get out so far ahead he could take a wrong turn (he’s used to trails elsewhere).  And I worried about Jeremy’s lack of water for so long.  He had decided to conserve energy and was back behind me.  Apparently though, Jeremy seemed to handle lack of fluids WAY better than I do. (I think it’s the mother in me, because there was no need to worry).

I met up with Hank on Trabuco and we ran on into the lot and straight into the stream.  I wanted to lay down in it.  Instead we just drenched ourselves with that cold, cold water until Jeremy came in.  And this is how well Jeremy takes lack of water.  He didn’t even dive into the creek, he went straight to the car, got some water and chatted with mountain bikers until Hank and I finally pulled ourselves from the stream to head on home.

Great run!  Wonderful company!

Miles logged:  14.3 (23.01km) / ps.  I should note that I wore my regular New Balance Trail shoes, not the Minimus due to the length and harshness of this run.

Scenes from today’s Holy Jim (Cussin’ Jim) Run:

Prepped to go (left to right, Jeremy, Hank & Me):SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Stream Crossing on Holy Jim Trail:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Holy Jim Falls (photo compliments of Jeremy):

View climbing Holy Jim:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Glorious shade on Holy Jim Trail:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Nearing top of Holy Jim:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Jeremy running Main Divide:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

View toward The O.C. at Indian Truck Trail and Main Divide Junction:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

(Photo compliments of Jeremy)

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Ready to descend on Horsethief:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Flowers along Horsethief:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

View from Horsethief:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Trabuco Canyon:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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Elevation Profile:

My Activities Holy Jim 7-24-2011, Elevation - Distance

Friday, July 22, 2011

An Evening Run in my New Balance Minimus

I need new running shoes (road & trail), but I’ve been putting off the purchase because I can’t afford them.  All the while, I’ve been switching back and forth between running shoes that I own to try and extend their lives.  But then a friend told me about a Nordstrom’s sale where he recently bought a pair of New Balance Minimus Trail running shoes.  The Minimus shoe is for the mid-foot striker (me).  I can’t fore-foot strike because of a history of toe problems.  And I just plain ole don’t buy into the heel-strike idea (nothing against heel-strikers!!)  Actually, podiatrist’s love heel-strikers.  My last podiatrist (I don’t see podiatrists anymore – they just want to cut up my feet more), bulged his eyes when I said that I didn’t heel-strike.  “You mean you don’t come down on your heel at all?!!!” 

“Well, ya, a little bit,” I lied.  (I thought I was fibbing, but there is slight wearing on the heels of my shoes, so my heel does touch, it just doesn’t touch first).  ANYWAY, I’ve been wanting to try these minimalist shoes for a long time.  It took me just a couple hours after reading my friend’s post, and a phone call to Nordstrom’s to decide to make the purchase.  They were a third cheaper than I could find them anywhere on the internet.  Only thing was, Nordstrom's had to special order my size.  Shipping was free since I ordered in the store.  And so, wait I did.

After a long day, I didn’t much want to attend the run that I posted on my trail running group site.  I posted it for the evening hoping to get people to join who work during the day.  And I’ve heard from some of the members that they’d like runs with lower mileage.  Even though I received no RSVP’s, I knew I had to show up, just in case.  And then, MY NEW SHOES ARRIVED IN THE MAIL. 

As soon as I tried them on, I knew they were different.  They are extremely comfortable.  Unbelievably comfortable.  Like they were meant to be on my feet.  They felt sort of like slippers, like ballet soft-toe slippers (which I wore for many years during my youth).  Though they are so comfortable, I still doubted, because they just seem so thin, fragile sort of, like the trail would tear them up. 

This is what I have to say about the Minimus:  They HUGGED the terrain.  I ran faster, especially down hill.  It seemed like my feet were actually PART OF THE TRAIL.  They were absolutely amazing, almost gripping the earth.

New Balance Minimus Trail Shoes   SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Posing on Wood Creek Trail (Overlooking Wood Canyon)

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Wood Canyon in the evening (something I never see – because I’m a morning runner Rolling on the floor laughing)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I ran in such a delightful state that I didn’t realize when I dropped my phone.  I just noticed sometime toward the end of Wood Creek Trail, my front pocket was unzipped – no phone!!  I turned around and ran back.  Then at the end of Wood Creek, I decided, “Hell!  I want to run onward!  I don’t want to search for a phone!”  I saw 2 bikers and asked if they see a blue phone could they please push it to the side of the trail.  They said they’d do better and put it on the bench at the end of Wood Canyon

I felt there was no hope.  And I said to myself – I’m sick of that phone anyway.  I did a little mourning over the contacts that I would have to re-enter when I eventually got a new “freebie” phone,  and ran on.  (Last time I dropped my phone during a run, someone who found it bought over a hundred dollars worth of videos and games!  So, I knew, first thing, I’d have to do back home was report that phone lost.)

I don’t want to fill anymore of this blog with negativity, just as I didn’t want to fill my run with any negativity.  As you might have guessed, no runners responded to the post, therefore I ran solo, which is fine.  And I didn’t see any other runners on the trail.  But I saw lots of mountain bikers.  And the canyon was a whole new world to me in the evening in colors and sounds.

Sycamore stands out front of a symphony of crickets and frogs with a couple bullfrogs added in for syncopationSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

An enchanted evening on Wood Creek TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Entrance to where the fairies flutter about on Coyote Run TrailFlirt maleSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Crossing Wood Creek to head back on Wood Canyon TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

A couple more notes to this evening’s run:

1)  My toe problems emerged quicker in these shoes (that is the pain), even though I was doing a mid-foot strike.  I stopped at one point to remove my orthotics, and that made the pain worse.  And so after about a mile, I put them back in.    I’m not giving up on them yet though (the shoes that is).

2)  Those guys on the mountain bikes found my phone!  Not only did they place it where they said they would, they phoned my home and told my husband where it was.

3)  After that, another, larger group of mountain bikers came upon the phone, they too phoned my home and told my husband they found my phone.  When I finally located the phone, in utter, yet happy, disbelief, I phoned home to say I’d be a little late (because of the earlier phone searching).  Hubby knew before I even told him.  He said laughing “So you found it!”

I guess I’m NEVER going to get rid of that damn phone.  Maybe next time, I’ll ACCIDENTALLY drop it in the creek. LOL.

Miles logged:  5.46 (8.79km)

My Activities Aliso Woods  7-22-2011, Elevation - Distance