TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Aftermath . . . There’s Always the Aftermath

There’s always the aftermath of what?  Usually it’s a race.  This time is wasn’t a race, it was just a run, an ordinary run to the highest peak in our mountains.  Well, not quite ordinary (see last post).  I got a cramp that lasted THREE DAYS. 

Though I rested Monday, I did go on a hike with my oldest son.  Planned to visit the gym.  Didn’t. 

Tuesday, I left my house later than planned, arriving on the trails after 7AM.   I decided to run my normal loop in Aliso/Wood Canyons counter-clockwise instead of clockwise.  Running up Meadows this morning didn’t seem like the best idea with the cramp, so I decided to run my loop counter-clockwise, which makes for a longer, yet gradual climb.

The weather was cool and cloudy.  Relief.

Someone turned on the air conditioner!!SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I met  running friend on West Ridge and we chatted a bit.  I felt fine, not too quick, but my mood was pretty neutral.  Then sometime into this run, a dark cloud of gloom appeared above my head.  Depressed, I began the terrible self-talk, things like, “I pretty much SUCK at everything I do.  EVERYTHING.”  This sort of thing happens to me more than I wish.  And it usually happens after a big run, usually a marathon. 

Such thoughts are not good for running.  They were painful, so once I could no longer stand the wallowing, I forced those thoughts out of my mind.  The only way that I could keep them gone was to run with a completely blank mind.  Which I did.

Top of the WorldSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Leaving Meadows TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Running through Wood Canyon, the sun now shining, I’ve got plenty of Sycamore shadeSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Miles run on Tuesday:  9.63

My Activities CYN VISTAS CLOCK WISE 8-30-2011, Elevation - Distance

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Santiago Peak

Santiago Peak (known also as the “talking peak”) is the highest point in the Santa Ana Mountains.  It’s one of the two peaks of the region we call Saddleback Mountains, named after the two peaks that form a “saddleback” up there.  We can see it from miles and miles away.   When I moved out here more than twenty years ago, I never dreamt that I would “run” up to it.  I would have thought someone who did was a little bit insane.

I have never run to Santiago Peak as a trail runner.  I have never been to Santiago Peak.  But I needed to get up there, because a friend has asked that I pace him for the last twenty miles of a 50 mile race (the 50 miles has 17,000 of elevation gain!).  He will go to this peak twice; I will accompany him on the second time.  Honored to be asked to pace, I gladly accepted.  So, I figure it’s my JOB to get to know that peak well.  Time is fleeting.

I was very lucky to have three others accompany me:  (from left to right – Me, Tom, Michael, Jeremy).SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I didn’t feel my strongest this morning.  I plugged away up Holy Jim which was nice and dark from shade at first.  The gnats came on strong at first too.  As soon as we got out of the shade and the climb began to increase, I fortunately lost those annoying gnats.  They focus on the face, fly into your mouth, up your nose, into your ears.  I spit out several.  And at one point, I felt something on my front tooth and upon investigating found a smashed gnat.

Fun.

The run up Holy Jim was fun too.  I felt confident that the heat would not attack us as everyone feared.

Running Holy Jim before the climb steepensSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Notice the gnats on my face – just wait.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Digging deep to finish running Holy JimSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Jeremy was waiting for me at Bear Springs (on the Main Divide).  The gnats were out in extreme abundance, which is why Tom and Michael just kept on going.  As soon as I hit the Main Divide, I continued on up with Jeremy.  We stopped in the shade a ways up (when the gnats left)  so that I could pack an empty water bottle, put on a bandana.  Then all of a sudden, as we took off, a terrible, severe pain hit my calf.  I couldn’t figure out what happened.  If I had been alone, I would have turned back then and there because I really didn’t think I could take the pain all the way to the top.  I told Jeremy to go ahead, that I’d either catch up or text him if I turned back. 

I stretched, but could barely hold it.  I took some salt pills, and I moved onward.  Hiking.  I had come this far, I decided that I was going TO THE TOP.   I didn’t know how I was going to do it, when suddenly I realized something I read recently – that pain doesn’t exist in the present.  I know that sounds extremely odd.  Without going into pages on this concept, I’ll just say that I  focused on staying in the very moment I was in.  Surprise, surprise!  When I was able to do that, my pain completely disappeared!  Not for long though.  I couldn’t keep it up – staying in the moment that is.  The heat was growing and the climb grew steeper.

The Main Divide going up to Santiago PeakSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Tom meets me on his way down from peak in hopes to beat the heat.  SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Sweating it out while the gnats attack full force (they don’t bite – they’re just annoying as heck!) If you click pic for a larger view & look very closely you should see gnats EVERYWHERE, look to chin, shoulder, bandana – you can even see their shadows.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Finally, we reached the peak.  All 3 of us meandered around the towers, took photos, readjusted, basically taking our sweet time before taking off.  I was WORN OUT.  The pain in my calf continued to bother me, but to a lesser extent.  The gnats were not at the top thankfully.  There were workers installing new generators.  There were motocross riders, motorcycle riders, mountain bikers.  No other runners, or even hikers. 

Why it’s known as “Talking Peak.”SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Posing at the topSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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The view from Santiago PeakSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Locating landmarks, our neighborhoods, etc.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Then it was time for the run down.  It had to be 100 F.  We took upper Holy Jim down to the Main Divide.  Spreading apart quickly,  I ran that single track alone.  It grew quite technical at the end with boulders and lots of twists and turns, not to mention steepness.  With that heat bearing down, I wanted nothing more than to reach Lower Holy Jim.  That’s when I would finally get some shade. 

I didn’t see either of the guys at Lower Holy Jim, so I focused on running quickly, careful not to trip.  I imagined the two were already down at the truck waiting for me.  I do not think that I can adequately describe just how hot that run was going down Holy Jim.  It felt like blow torches were scorching my legs.  My bandana had completely dried.  I guzzled down so many fluids (with Nuun tablets dissolved in it) that I feared that I would run out.  I brought with me 100 fl. ounces.  And I had one handheld left tied to the back of my pack.

After about a mile down this five mile trail I came across Michael in a shady part as he wetted down his shirt in the tiny creek that ran across the trail.  I was so hot I was a little confused and had just drank the last of my fluids in my pack.  Michael stood up and said, “I’m out of water.”  I told him that I’d split my remaining handheld with him.  Then I said, “Where’s Tom?”

Michael looked at me with a funny look.  “Tom?” he said.  Then, he seemed to me that he was confused at my comment.  “Ah, he left . . . Tom?” 

I had forgotten that “Tom” (the one who had already run down).  I was confusing Jeremy’s name with the other Tom I knew.  Finally, it dawned on me.  “Jeremy!  Where’s Jeremy?”  I don’t know if you realize my surprise that I even found Michael and then learned that Jeremy was behind me.  I was imagining they were way, way ahead of me.

So, there Michael and I were, stooped down in the shade, splitting up hot water when Jeremy came running up.  “I’m out of water,” he said. 

Yikes.  Now it was time to split up my water 3 ways, when Jeremy noticed that the source of the creek was coming from a spring in a small cutout in the mountain wall.  “This water’s filtered,” Jeremy said, “It’s coming from the ground.”  He filled up his handhelds, saw that it was clear and drank up.  Michael and I were reluctant.  Then I finally gave in, filled my handhelds and guzzled down delicious ice cold water.  I really couldn’t have cared less if I was going to be vomiting for it later.  Michael gave in too, and we were off running again, refilled for the remaining 4 miles.

Those four miles downhill were the longest, most difficult four miles I can remember in a long, long time.  Though I was able to keep heat exhaustion at bay, I fell once (more like slipped) and my ice-cold water turned downright hot.  No kidding! 

As I ran down Holy Jim, I got a view of the trail like I never had running up it.  I thought to myself, “I run up this thing.  I. AM. CRAZY.”  I felt like I never, ever wanted to run again. 

I came in right behind Jeremy to the truck.  And we both looked at each other as if to say “O. M. G.”

We found Michael laying down in the creek.  He had found a nice pool down stream that we couldn’t even think of walking to.  So we simply sat in the stream where we were to cool down. 

When I finally got back to my truck (parked about 5 miles away), my limp was strong.  Only after a cold bath at home and some stretching has the pain subsided a great deal.  I can now walk around without a limp.  And I’m pretty sure it’s a cramp not an injury.  I’ve just never had a cramp like this. 

One more thing, my little delusional moment when I thought I might never run again is gone.  I just probably won’t run tomorrow.  In all, I’m glad I made the trip to Santiago Peak.  And I plan to again.  The views were breathtaking.  The company was great.  I did feel a little badly being that I planned today’s run and it ended up so dang hot.  Hopefully today’s experience will make us all stronger. 

Approaching Holy Jim endSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

At creek, assessing leg for wounds due to fall earlier (nothing major, just two tiny cuts)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

16.61 miles logged

+4,704 / -4,749 feet

My Activities To Santiago Peak 8-28-2011, Elevation - Distance

Friday, August 26, 2011

Flashback Friday

 

Cherish the babies

cherish_baby

Soon they will know everything, hate your running, tease your for your running because you can out-run them when you’re pushing 50, and some are known to behave like ranting lunatics every-so-often too (not ours of course).  By the time they snap out of it, these babies will be too big to cradle in your arms.   So, CHERISH.Red heart

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Spasms

Two days of back spasms wiped this lady out.  They attacked suddenly, with no warning, and without mercy.  This caused a great deal of anxiety on my part.  The spasms thankfully, weren’t the worst that I’ve had.  They didn’t literally knock me to the ground.  But I often needed to suddenly grab onto something to keep up right, and sometimes, I’d grab something just out of fear that a spasm was approaching.

I think it’s been a good 8 months since I’ve had any spasms at all.  I thought I had them kicked.  Coincidentally, I’ve been slacking on the one exercise that I suspected finally got rid of them!

Needless to say, living in constant fear of an attack for nearly two days tired me immensely both physically and mentally.  I did manage to sneak in two hours at the gym, but I was afraid to run.  My husband asked me where it was in all my back spasm research that it said I should go work out at the gym?

Well, it never said that anywhere.

So there!  I did it in defiance.

At home I worked hard foam rolling, taking hot epsom salt baths, stretching, exercising, and eating ibuprofen.  My sons walked on my back, my husband helped stretch out my back by pulling my legs.

And then this morning.  Gone.  My back felt PERFECTLY fine.  With all the mental stress of these dang things, I just HAD TO GET OUT AND RUN.  And so I went for a run, a lovely run, nearly 12 miles in fact.  Whole miles went by that I had absolutely no recollection of.  But I recall climbing Meadows (the steepest incline on elevation profile below).  And I felt strong. Nearly 3 quarters of the way up, a bobcat came strutting down.  We both stopped in our tracks.  She was a big gal, light coat with dark spots.  A beauty.  I wasn’t turning back, so I walked toward her when she finally ducked into the brush alongside the trail.  I found a nice size rock to carry along and continued my run up, up, up.  And when I passed where the kitty had ducked in (I could still hear her walking about), I turned around and ran backward up that hill.  Though bobcats aren’t known to attack, you never know.  And I certainly didn’t want to show her my back and not see it coming if she did decide to pounce.

A successful run.  The back is back!

Miles logged this morning:  11.53 

Wood Canyon in the early morningSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Entering MeadowsSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Finishing up Meadows TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

View of Saddleback from top of MeadowsSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Heading back down into Wood Canyon (via Rock It) after trip to Top of the WorldSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Elevation Profile:8-25-2011, Elevation - Distance

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Modesty or Vanity? How do you Handle Nudity?

When I was a child, I wore long dresses with white buckle shoes on special occasions.  When I wore short dresses, above the knee, I wore knee socks.  Always.  Somehow, somewhere, I was taught modesty, or perhaps it was vanity.

When junior high hit (7th and 8th grade) I was mortified by the fact that physical education students were required to shower NUDE (as if showering clothed was an option).  The idea of striping down before 30 other girls, plus the P.E. teacher horrified me.  But I had to.  If I didn’t, it meant 15 points taken off my daily score.  And I was aiming for that 4.0 grade point average.  Nude I had to be.

Jumping forward, this 46-year-old woman never wears skirts or dresses more than a few inches above the knee.  I RARELY show cleavage.  When I first began running (in my late thirties) I wore running pants, or maybe capris – never tank tops or anything tight on top. 

When I finally moved to the trail I realized that pants were not going to suffice. I overheated too quickly in this type of clothing.   So, I switched to shorts.  My ideal short length has an 8” to 10” inseam.  Even in high school when I was slender, I wore Bermuda shorts.  Thing is, have you ever been shopping for female running shorts?  “They” only sell them with 2,3, or 4 inch inseams!  Of course, I can get longer inseams, but it’s those skin tight “cycling-type” shorts that will not do with this modest woman.  I’ve tried men’s shorts, but they have too much material for my comfort.

Let me digress even more just a tad.  If you belong to a gym, do the people in your locker room walk about stark naked?  They do at my gym.  But I don’t.  In fact, I shower in my swim suit, then quickly emerge from the shower scrambling for my towel to cover myself.  Yet, women of all ages and all sizes walk about freely without clothes in my locker room.  They blow dry their hair, apply their make-up NAKED.  I once dressed next to woman at her locker when she accidentally locked her locker with everything inside.  There she stood, nude, saying “Oh Sh**!”  Well, I didn’t know where to place my eyes as I offered to help.  I went to the manger and asked for someone to cut her lock, and they didn’t have anyone to help her just then.  SO, I RETURNED THIS NUDE (VERY SLENDER) WOMAN to tell her, she had to wait, she had to stand there completely naked for who knew how long before someone could cut the lock.

The horror! 

Would I wear short-shorts, mini-skirts or walk around the locker room stark naked if I was a slender long-legged woman?  That thought has crossed my mind.  Why?  Because I despise vanity.  Maybe I despise it because I suffer from it.  I’m not sure.  But even when I was slender, when my thighs were thin, I still wouldn’t walk around nude amongst peers.  Perhaps I am an old soul and that’s what I’m used to.  I’m wondering now – perhaps your country or state has different traditions.  Do men or women walk about nude in your locker rooms?  How does that make you feel?

Why bring this up on my running blog?  It’s the shorts issue.  I have some wonderfully comfortable 3 and 4” inseam running shorts that I ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT WEAR IN PUBLIC.  Why?  Well, for vanity sakes (or is it modesty)  – my thighs are wide and now with wearing 8” inseams, they are SO, SO WHITE.  I might as well run in my underwear. 

So, secretly on solo runs recently I’ve been wearing 4” inseams to test out the comfort level and also to get rid of that terrible tan line that begins about 8 inches down.   I’m about half way getting rid of that tan line. 

This morning, after waking way too late for an early  run, I put on my short-shorts and went for a run anyway.  I thought for sure that I wasn’t going to see anyone, so no need to worry over running practically naked. 

Wouldn’t you know, first thing, I saw my running friend Tom as he finished up his run?  I couldn’t pass him by like I didn’t know him.  That would never work.  We chatted a bit.  Then not a quarter mile later, I ran into the cashier at my grocery store and his son taking a hike in Aliso / Wood Canyons.  I felt naked.  I really did.  I could have run right past the grocer.  But I’m not like that, I HAD TO say Hi. 

Embarrassment -- all in an effort to get rid of these tan lines and start wearing these comfortable shorts that I own, despite wide thighs. 

Sigh.

Actually this is a funny story.  And I laugh when I think of it.  Am I vain, or am I modest?  I think both.  I really shouldn’t be vain.  I am 46, I have a wonderful husband, 3 lovely boys – no need to be a swimsuit model here.  And so, I will continue to occasionally run in these comfortable short-shorts.  But it is VERY unlikely that you will ever see a full frontal picture on this blog in those shorts.

Back from my digressed, digression, I didn’t hit the dirt until after 9AM.  It was hot, hot, hot.  Yet, it was LOVELY.  I still felt strong.  After running past my two friends/acquaintances, and tugging at these short-shorts, I took a detour onto Wood Creek Trail.  I took a few detours actually, lackadaisically, stopping often to take pictures.  Once I hit Wood Canyon for good, I put the camera away and focused on running up Meadows Trail without overheating

On Wood Creek Trail / Wood Canyon in backgroundSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Magical Tree on Wood Creek Trail (Perhaps Coyote Run Trail)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

First time seen (by me) red berries on Meadows TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

About half way up Meadows (running all the way) I heard some lovely natural music – a sound of wind blowing through the grass.  And I turned and stopped briefly to take in this summer beauty.  There before me stood a field of brownish grass lazily blowing in the wind, sending out the sweetest sound. 

I reached the top of Meadows after running the trail in its entirety.  I felt fatigued, but NOT overheated.   I practiced at the mid-foot strike, and on the uphills keeping my cadence quick.    

The musical fieldSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

After my fun, I continued my new tradition of recovery calories.  Instead of driving to the closest fast food restaurant (Burger King) for a chicken sandwich, I went for coconut water and the lovely apples (Hollywood Apples) from my father’s tree.

After run snack (I guzzled the water and ate 2 of the tiny apples)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Elevation on this hot summer day:My Activities single loop clockwise from cyn vista 8-23-2011, Elevation - Distance

ps.  After such a wonderful run, back spasms began this evening.  NOT GOOD.  I did what I could, neuro-flossing, ibuprofen, foam rolling etc.  Here’s to hoping for the best.   I thought I had conquered back spasms long ago.   Confused smile  If you have experienced back spasms, you may know that they can THROW you to the floor.  LITERALLY.  I have worked hard this evening at avoid that.  I had my youngest son walk on my back.  Then my middle son (100 lb+) walked on my back and that did wonders.  Still those spasms scare me.  They really do.  Have you ever experienced  them? Hopefully not.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Legal Run on Mathis

Today, I thought it a good idea to leave the house at noon (the hottest part of SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA           the day) and head off to Aliso / Wood Canyons for a little trail run.  Why?  Because I wanted heat.  And I wanted grueling.  Also, Mathis Trail had re-opened.  That meant, no more ducking beneath yellow tape.  No more worrying about a ranger chasing you down.  The trail is again now legal!  I’m of course not saying that I ducked beneath tape to run Mathis.  I’m referring to all those other runners who don’t have to worry anymore.

Mathis has been closed for reconstruction ever since our big rains in December, where a usually dry creek bed had overflowed and took out the single track portion of the trail (among other things).  It took construction workers 8 long months to repair the damage.

Mathis Trail was the first trail at Aliso/Wood Canyons that I ever ran to the top.  I don’t like it much, but the trail’s nostalgic for me.  It’s also the first trail I ever took to the top period.  Jessica Deline and Tom Fangrow lead me up that wretched thing.  I didn’t run much of it then.  Back then I thought it was pretty much impossible for me to run such a trail (Ha!) It’s a tough, tough trail that climbs up to West Ridge, pretty close to Top of the World.  While the grade is steep, what’s worse, is that it’s totally exposed.  I didn’t find a bit shade running Mathis today.

The run down Wood Canyon on the way to this infamous trail was shady and humid.  I felt strong (of course I was running downhill).  But I could tell that my burn-out was officially over.

Running through Wood CanyonSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA           SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Quick stop to pose in Sycamore GroveSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

One more silly pose just past Sycamore Grove on bridge crossing creek in Wood CanyonSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

About 3 miles in I hit Mathis Trail.  That’s when the lovely heat really poured down, as did the sweat from my hat.  A breeze came in as I ran up the incline (in it’s entirety – in a race I probably would have hiked some of this).  At one point, I spied two hikers up a ways and they became my target.  The garmin read 3.27 miles when I spotted the two.  I finally passed the hikers at 3.40 miles.  In all fairness they were standing off to the side trying to catch their breaths.  I tell you, it’s a tough climb!!  They were very complimentary of the fact that I was running, to which I assured them as I ran by that it took LOTS of practice to be able to do it.

Eventually, I needed to turn my cap around because the bill was blocking that beautiful breeze.  I only stopped for a second when I reached West Ridge (for a picture) and pushed on all the way the to Top of the World, passing hikers and dodging cyclists as well, as they flew down that hillside. 

I ran a quicker route back, West Ridge, including the offshoots.  Then I finished off this run gleefully running down Cholla as cyclists struggled up that thing in the heat.  Lots were riding.  Some were resting in the shade.  Others pushed their bikes up that incline.  Not many were smiling. Sad smile

Stream crossing onto Mathis TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The new creek bed, fortified with boulders bulldozed in (by the way, there’s no more single track – it’s all road now)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Late summer colors of Southern California coastal hillsSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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Reaching top of Mathis with still half full handheldSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Top of the World on a Sunday afternoonSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

7.73 miles logged this afternoon8 21 Distance

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Series of Events

After dreaming I was attacked by a tiger, a series of short events (I overslept) lead to not getting out the door for planned trail runs (yes runs).  Needless to say, my mood was somber.  You see, if I don’t get it in the early morning, it’s tough for me to fit in a run, especially a trail run (because they take longer).  Hubby starts work late morning, and I need to be home in time to watch our boys. 

Hubby assured me that he’d make time for me to run later.  And at an agreed upon time I left the home and hit the trails at about 3:15 PM.  The weather was quite warm, but oh so bearable.  I loved it.  I felt strong and joyful as I ran my short(ish) out-and-back up and down rolling hills to the Top of the World, where I overlooked the Pacific Ocean.  Although I missed out this morning, those series of events lead to a glorious run.  Series of events often do that!  In love

Hittin’ the dirt – I’m Ready!SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Centipede crossing West RidgeSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Follow me . . .

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Top of the World (view of Pacific Ocean, barely)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Top of the World (view inland)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Running up Park Avenue Nature Trail toward West RidgeSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Not a zombie!SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Whoa!  I’d better slow down (Cholla Trail)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

View of Wood Canyon while running down Cholla TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Sweet after-run treat (apples from my father’s tree)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

6.37 miles run (10.25 km)

Elevation Profile:My Activities out and back to top of world 8-20-2011, Elevation - Distance