TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Easily Amused

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA           Yes, I ran yesterday.  But that was a desperation run, a road run.  I’m not saying it wasn’t lovely.  It was.  But I am a trail runner.  Strange this happened.  But I am.  I like watching the beetles stick their heads in the dirt.  I like worrying about tics and snakes.  I like spotting deer and fretting over rocks rolling beneath my feet.  I love scraping against the foliage on single tracks.  I really love hearing the breeze blow through the trees.  I guess you can call me easily amused. 

This morning I delighted in contrasting colors:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I enjoyed meeting others who take in trails.  And was enthralled when I couldn’t see The Top of the World because it was too cloudy:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

A loved this little, baby snake:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Before taking off on my run this morning, I stopped by the ranger station toMile 1.5 running up Meadows find out more about a new trail opening up.  Turns out it comes off of Meadows Trail and is quite a climb.  The ranger said it’s a great hike.  One of the other county workers that I see often said that he didn’t know about running it.  “But then again,” he said, “You trail runners are crazy.  I see you guys running up Meadows like it’s nothing.  DON’T YOU EVER RUN OUT OF BREATH?”  Thrilled that he called me “crazy”, I chuckled (but I do prefer “psycho.”)  I don’t “run out of breath” anymore.  That’s not to say that I don’t get tired.  Definitely I do and my body moves slower and I may huff and puff on those extremely tough climbs.  But I don’t run out of breath.  Still, I thought his question was cute. 

Onward and upward . . .  

Goats amused me:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Santiago Peak in the far distance amused me:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Spying on Conservation Corps from Wood Creek Trail amused me (look closely in center of picture for several young men and women clearing the creek – may need to click picture for larger view):SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Running leaf littered single tracks amused me:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Checking who called while I was running and setting up a photo to catch the moment amused me:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Elevation Profile:My Activities Aliso Wood Cyns Big Loop Clockwise 9-29-2011, Elevation - Distance

Miles run this morning:  12.14 (19.54 km)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Quick Visit to the Road

Tuesday, speed training on the treadmill again.  Why?  Not the speed training, but why the dreaded treadmill?  Well, I’m at the gym anyway and this saves time.  But more importantly, when I set the pace on the machine I HAVE TO run it.  I did hook the safety cord on this time, so hopefully I wouldn’t fly off that thing.  I didn’t fly off.  And I increased the pace on my bursts.

Wednesday (today), I spent my trail running time test driving used cars.  Yuk.  Yuk.  Yuk.  This of course did not make me happy.  Especially since I do not yet have a car.  And then weekday afternoons are impossible for trails since I have boys to pick up, dinner to cook, etc.  Eventually, my spirits low, low, low, so low I finally decided I really needed to get in a run.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Yes wonderful readers, just about a half hour before dark, I scrambled around searching the haphazard collection of running shoes beneath my bed for a pair of road shoes.  I found one with no match.  And then aha!  I found two that I was wise enough to tie the laces together. Wearing a white shirt and shorts with reflector dots on them, I put a smile on my face and hit the road. 

My feet felt like they glided along the road.  It is so FLAT.  Smile  I don’t mean flat as in no hills.  Even the hills were flat.  It’s a strange sensation to run with no rocks or ruts beneath my feet, no switchbacks, no tree roots. 

One thing I had forgotten about road running are waiting for “walk” lights.  I believe I must have waited FIVE minutes before I could cross at a busy intersection.  All so that I could run up this:

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And run across this, over a busy highway (yes I am very easily amused):

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And when the sunlight disappeared fully, I delighted, as I always have, in the lights that reflected on the ocean water.  And I relished the cool ocean breeze against my skin.  And I forgot all about looking for a car. Smile

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Tuesday’s miles:  2.0

Wednesday’s miles: 7.23

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Holy Jim / Main Divide / Horse thief / Trabuco Loop

I posted a run on my trail running group’s forum,  an out-and-back up Holy Jim in the Santa Ana Mountains for this morning.  I used Twin Peaks to plug this run, because Twin Peaks goes up and down Holy Jim (Saddleback Marathon of which I’m registered, also goes up this 5 mile climb).  Twin Peaks, if I haven’t already mentioned, is a 50 mile race that takes place in two weeks that runs the Santa Ana Mountains,  going to Santiago Peak TWICE.  (Which is why I’ve been running to the peak like a mad-woman lately – but regardless, I'd probably still be a mad woman).   Twin Peaks is the race that I’m pacing, the one that I will run to the peak once, and down upper Holy Jim, the Main Divide and/or Indian Truck Trail possibly in the dark.

There was one “no-show” this morning, plus Jeremy, and two runners training for Twin Peaks, Scott and Chris, and of course, myself.  We met relatively late,  (6:30) but didn’t take off driving to the trail head until 6:50 AM.

The weather was cool, the skies gray.  Not another car was parked in the trail head lot.  I got great enjoyment talking to two folks who would be running Twin Peaks.  I wanted to know their strategies, goals, etc.  And happily, I was able to provide a little advice, being that I know these trails pretty well.  One question that was asked of me was, “Which point of the race do you think will be most difficult?”  Well, I’ve never run a 50 mile race, but I had an opinion.  I believe, miles 30 through 32 running UP Horsethief will be extremely difficult – though short, that climb is the steepest they’ll encounter.  And then of course, running to Santiago Peak FOR THE SECOND TIME will be very difficult as well.  (Notice that I didn’t even mention Holy Jim – that’s how difficult this race will be). 

Digressing too much . . . I took up the rear running up Holy Jim.  Nothing unusual about that.  What was unusual was that I felt strong the entire trip.  
I didn’t necessarily think I was making great time, but I just didn’t feel beat up.  At one point, I thought these exact thoughts, “Boy, if I can run Holy Jim this strong during Saddleback, I will definitely improve my time.”  At the very instant that this thought ended, I ATE DIRT.  The timing of my fall cracked me up so much that I didn’t realize my injuries (though minor they were).  I gashed my left palm, scraped my left knee and right shin, but nothing terrible.

Jeremy was waiting at the top of Holy Jim.  The first thing I asked was, “’What’s the time?”  Ends up I ran from the lot up all of Holy Jim to Bear Springs in 1 hour and 38 minutes.  I was extremely pleased.  My record is 1 hour 45 minutes.   

Ready to take off up Holy Jim, from left to right, Chris, Scott, Jeremy, MeSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Creek Crossing on Holy Jim (so shady it seems dark still)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Canopy on Holy JimSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Running Holy JimSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Scott ran off for a bigger loop going down Trabuco Trail.  Chris opted for a slightly smaller loop going down Horsethief.  When I met Jeremy at Bear Springs, he suggested changing the route to do a loop (adding several more miles that we had to do quickly because he needed to get home). I was more than happy to oblige.  (HOWEVER, I FORGOT ABOUT THE MILE LONG WALL LOOMING AHEAD Smile)  About 3 minutes later I began hiking in almost a frantic pace anticipating the next climb. I wanted these extra difficult miles for lots of reasons.  For starters:  1) I need the training, 2) I need to do hard running quickly and, 3) Jeremy has come out to run with me so many times that I wanted to repay the favor.  However, I’m not sure staying in the rear and making it seem like we weren’t going to make his cut off was such a favor.  Winking smile

Head NOT in, but ABOVE the cloudsSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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Jeremy and I ran the main divide above the clouds.  I really could not run much of the mile or so incline (The Wall) toward the next peak.  When I did hike, I tried to do so with force – that is, keeping my running arms and overall form.

With Jeremy up ahead I met two runners training for Twin Peaks (Rod and Francisco) and they fit the usual mold for trail runners that I love so much.  They were so positive!  They actually applauded me for “ploughing” up a hill (which of course, I felt more like I was plodding). 

Off and on I caught up with Jeremy (Chris and Scott had already raced ahead).  As I struggled running up one incline, Jeremy pointed out a buck racing, and I mean RACING  down the divide.  He was huge compared to what I usually encounter in the coastal hills.  I believe he was probably a four pointer.  Not that I stood there and counted the points on his antlers.  No way!   I didn’t even think to take out my camera.  The only thought that went through my mind as I ran up the Main Divide was this, “If that buck runs into me, he’s going to kill me.” 

There was really no place to hide, no trees or such.  Instinctively, I ran to the trail’s edge, thinking that guy’s not going to run off a cliff.  I just kept thinking of those cats, squirrels, skunks, etc. on the side of the road as I drive by, who seem so confused then suddenly dart out in front of your car.  I thought that deer might suddenly veer toward me just like that.. 

Then in a surreal way, that deer braked and ran up, I mean straight-up a mountain wall and disappeared in the thicket.  Relieved, I felt happy to experience that moment, but just a tad bummed that I didn’t have the wits to pull out my camera.

Horsethief/Main Divide intersection talking with 2 Twin Peaks trainers (far left Rob, middle Francisco)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I really tried to keep a quick pace running down Horse thief.  Very steep, it’s also extremely rocky.  I tripped at least twice.  Once I thought I was going to “eat dirt” and it was going to be big time – meaning big injuries.  Core work, I believe saved me as I pulled myself upright.

Views Running down HorsethiefSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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I met up with Jeremy and Scott on Trabuco Trail.  Confused, because I thought we were still on Horsethief, both guys looked at me like they understood my confusion (else they thought I was just plain crazy, because I wasn’t sure if Scott was the guy we drove in with).

Not too soon after that, both guys got a bit ahead of me.  I concentrated on not falling and staying in the present moment.  I really didn’t think that I’d catch the guys.

Trabuco TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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With a couple miles remaining, maybe it was less than a couple miles, I spotted Scott and Jeremy ahead a ways – catchable a ways!  And so I told myself, “Catch up!”  I had to sprint to do that and surprised the two who made room for me to run along.  Then I told myself, “beat them to the lot.”  And without them knowing that I was racing (LOL), when I knew the lot was very close I sprinted my way in to “beat them.”  It’s best to keep it a secret when you’re me and your trying to race fellow runners.   

I found Chris waiting for us at the lot.  Sadly, but I think it will benefit him for Twin Peaks, he headed back up Holy Jim to meet me and Jeremy.  Of course, we weren’t there, because we changed our route! 

Fun, fun day.  Though I fell, and my hand still hurts, my running partners pushed me enough that I believe I improved even more.

Thanks for coming out guys! (Scott, far left, opted to run back to the canyon lot – an additional 4.5 miles or so)

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Miles logged today:  14

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Not Enough Speed to Lead : )

Friday, I finally got back to speed training.  Still working on short sessions, I actually stepped onto the dreaded treadmill.  The only reason I chose this option was that I didn’t have time to drive to my usual bluff trails.  I was already at the gym, and I had errands to run and chores to do before picking up the boys.  So, I did it.  I crossed the line and stepped up onto the dreadmill.

What an experience speed training was on the treadmill.  I set my bursts to a sub 8 minute pace (0:7:53) and boy oh boy – what a treat.  A treat to my confidence (I didn’t fly off the treadmill) and a treat to my sweat glands (LOL).  I felt a little sorry for the treadmillers on each side of me.  Sweat was flying.  And since I’m giving too much information anyway, my pants were actually falling down as I ran much, much faster than I normally run.  Thankfully, my underwear were the same color as my pants, so I doubt anyone noticed – that is until I noticed, pulled them up and tied them tighter.

This morning (Saturday) I lead the OCTR new member run at my favorite park.  As customary, the run was short.  The runners though were fast!  I guess that’s good for me because it again kept the pressure on to pick up my pace.

Me, Mike, Victoria, ChuckSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The morning was cloudy and heavy with moisture -- what a lot of people call perfect running weather.  With my heat training, I’ve kind of grown accustomed to running in heat and don’t prefer this cool misty weather as much.  It was a fun run anyway.  Always great to meet new trail runners.  And it was also great to run with Victoria.  We’ve run together on several occasions, but it’s been a long, long time. 

Taking up the back (LOL), I “lead” this run down Wood Canyon and up into Wood Creek Trail.  Taking the lead, Chuck was kind enough to break through all the spider webs for us.  I usually run this tranquil trail alone and have to do that myself.  We didn’t see any coyotes on Coyote Run Trail, however plenty of mountain bikers rode the route.  We also saw several deer, both does and bucks on Wood Canyon Trail (our route back).

Waiting for LaurenSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Running Wood Canyon Trail backSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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Miles run Friday:  2

Miles run Saturday:  4.5

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Time for Distance

Well, I’ve been training hard on elevation.  I even began speed training AGAIN.  But time is running short for some big events, and since I’m supposed to taper (you taper right?  LOL), I thought I needed to put in some long miles.  I’m not sure how long it’s been since I’ve run 20+ trail miles.  I know it hasn’t been too long since I’ve run 19 miles.  But 20+?  (I’m too lazy to look up my obsessive-compulsive directory of stats – but I consider 20.1 miles in the twenty-plus categoryWinking smile).

I just had to do this long run to make sure that I could run more than twenty miles without out falling flat on my face from fatigue.  I am happy to report that I ran these miles happily, joyfully, playfully – always my goal.   (Well, I didn’t exactly run these miles like that at first.  If you have a family, you know that it’s hard to get out there and put in the time to get in these miles.  Let’s just say this morning was “difficult.”  But once I let go of the “baggage,” I ran with a light soul.)

So, I went out there and ran with few thoughts on my mind.  I ran two of the big loops at Aliso/Wood Canyons.  I decided on the long gradual climb with a steep downhill at the end, as opposed to the steep, steep climb up Meadows then mostly downhill after that.  This meant for a nice long peaceful run through a breezy Wood Canyon.  Glorious.

The Old Corral on Wood Canyon TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Eye-to-eye with a stink bugSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

A quick pose on bridge crossing Wood Creek on Wood Cyn Trail – though standing a little awkwardly, still fresh on loop #1.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Another beautiful canopy in wood CanyonSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I took a quick detour onto Coyote Run to say “Hi” to the Conservation Corps workers.  And I munched on my peanut butter and jelly sandwich after about 2 hours in.  I ate one-quarter at the time, and that kept me fueled.  What a nice change from the gels! 

I felt fine on the second loop, though slightly slower.  Passing the Conversation Corps guys again, they offered their cold, cold, cold water, which I gladly accepted to fill my cap and wash my face.  A couple guys were sure to poke fun at me with comments like, “What mile are you on now, 50?”

Loop number two grew a bit warm.  I found myself dipping my cap into the water at each stream crossing.  The heat though was nothing compared to what I’ve already run over the past several summer months. 

In addition to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I ate 4 salt pills.  I drank 64 fl. ounces of water with 3 dissolved Nuun tablets in addition to 1 twenty ounce Gatorade, plus another 30+ fl. ounces of plain water.  The heat was at its worst during the last 10 miles, which made the steepest inclines on the second loop (like Cholla Trail) more strenuous, but doable.  They were lonely and they were lovely.  I needed this.   I didn’t see a single person on the trails during the last 8 or so miles. 

In all I call this barely over twenty mile run a success.  I ran it strong all the way back to the ranger station.

Top of Meadows about to descendSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Ending up Meadows with the lovely breeze blowing through these leaves – music to my earsSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Dipping cap in creek on loop #2SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Relief after scooping water onto my headSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Top of Meadows on loop #2 about to empty dirt from shoes (how did I get so filthy? I didn’t even fall!)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Miles run today:  21 (33.8 km)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

To the Top, Please

The alarm went of at 4:15 AM and I immediately jumped up knowing this was my last run to Santiago Peak this month – my last run TO THE TOP before I run it again as a pacer in October. 

I drove in the dark.  Then I drove in the fog (scary).  I pulled into the lot at 5:30 to meet Hank.  A couple minutes later, we witnessed a flashlight moving down the road with a runner behind it.  That was Mark, fellow trail runner that I had the great pleasure of meeting for the first time this morning.  Then Michael pulled in, and we were off in my truck down that bumpy road to the trailhead.  They seemed to not mind my driving. 

Ready to hit the dirt (First off, behind us: Holy Jim, a 5 mile ascent) From left to right: me, Michael, Mark, Hank.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The gnats were out in abundance.  My pack was heavy because I’mSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA           so paranoid of running out of water, I packed it in abundance (about 136 fl. oz.!)  And my shoulder was still sore from this week’s fall. 

My calves stiff from the start, which by the way (if I haven’t already mentioned Open-mouthed smile) was uphill, I tried to pick up my pace some to keep up with the guys.  But they were far stronger and adept to running Holy Jim.  I hoped to make the top of Holy Jim in better than 1:50 (my time the last time I ran this trail).  The guys waited for me every couple miles, which really, really put the pressure on to keep up the pace.

View going up Holy JimSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA           The heaviness of my load weighed on me as I ran all of Holy Jim Trail.  I thought about stashing some  water and picking it up on the way down.  I realize this sounds odd, being that I was running up a mountain and all, but I was just too lazy to find a good hiding place for my water, not to mention taking my pack off to do so.  What I did instead was this:  I drank up.  With a cool breeze and reported temperatures of only 82F, I figured I was safe to do this.  Thing was, I didn’t figure how guzzling would upset my stomach.  At one point, a gnat flew down my throat.  Attempting to cough it out, I nearly vomited on my way up the mountain. Quickly, I decided, just SWALLOW THE GNATS (as Michael said, “consider it protein” : )  I took a big swig and down went that annoying creature. 

Fun.  Really.

I made it to the Main Divide in 1:45.  Mark turned back when we hit the Main Divide (prior engagement) and the remaining three of us took off for that difficult quest to the peak.  Forward, forward, forward – that’s all I could really do.  The guys up ahead, they waited for me around Upper Holy Jim.  And then onward and upward we ran/hiked.  A motorcycle drove by.  Then a brand new Range Rover slowly moved by me.  The driver rolled down the window and asked if I wanted a ride.  Did I look that desperate?  LOL.  I declined. 

I’m guessing 1.5 miles remain to the Peak.  When I took this picture, the ranges were moving in and out, that is, closer and then further from me.  Perhaps I needed more calories going up.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

About a 1/2 mile left, I AM RUNNING OUT OF GAS.  This was the view to my left.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Finally at the top!SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I found Hank and Michael resting in the shade at Santiago Peak.  And even though I felt I made terrible time, I actually made the peak a whole THREE minutes quicker than last time. 

View of The O.C.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Kinda shuffling around/goofing about at the peakSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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We took Upper Holy Jim down, a fully exposed single track.  It grew quite hot (but I had plenty of fluids) and technical as we went along.  From the Main Divide we made (Lower) Holy Jim which provided much needed shade.  At that point, I made sure one more time that Hank wasn’t having second thoughts about me pacing. 

I said, “Hank, I can’t hold a candle to you.  Do you think you can keep up this pace for thirty miles?”  (I will meet him at about mile 32 as his pacer.)  He laughed and said, “I’m going to be DEAD at mile 30, I just need you to get me in to the finish line.”  I don’t think he’s going to be “dead.”  But believe me, I am going to do my best to get him to the finish line.  I know these mountains, and even in the dark, I feel confident I can do that, especially since I will be starting off fresh on the Main Divide (I don’t have to make the climb up like today). 

Anyway, the guys ahead of me as we ran back down Holy Jim, I noticed Michael react to something, like a sting.  He abruptly stopped, grabbing his leg.  Hank stopped as well, and I feared a snake bite.  Ends up, a bee stung him and as a reflex Michael kicked a rock, which gave him the worst damage on his toe.  I actually carry antihistamines ever since a wasp attack about a year ago on Backbone trail in Malibu Creek State Park.  Michael took one, but his leg still swelled up from the sting.  These guys were amazing on the trail today.  A sting and a crushed toe would have taken a smile off my face.  It didn’t take a smile off Michael’s face. 

And we were off again!  Several cyclists made their way up the mountain in this heat, and they didn’t look happy.  I’ve heard, cycling is all about suffering.  But why not take off when it’s cooler?   One guy looked so miserable (he was walking his bike), I said something stupid like, “You’ve only got a little bit of sun to go.”  Actually he had a good mile before he was going to hit shade!

Upper Holy JimSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Running down Holy Jim (Lower Holy Jim)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I met up with Michael at the spring.  We both topped off, just in case.  When he took off I said, “It’s all about doing the time now.”  We had a little over four miles of rocky descent and about 6 stream crossings remaining.  I took my time using the spring to wet down my head and neck.  When I took off, I focused on kicking out the back so that I wouldn’t trip (and fall!).  Most off all I focused on staying in the present moment.  It’s a LONG haul down.  Amazingly it seems much longer running down Holy Jim than running up it.

Usually I suffer with anticipation on the down trip.  When’s this thing gonna end, where are the falls, will this thing f****ing ever end??? (Trail to Holy Jim Falls means I’m almost finished and it’s shade the remaining run).  It can get pretty annoying mentally, waiting for the end.  I have to report that staying in the moment made for an enjoyable trip down.  It also made for a slower trip down.  That’s okay, because I didn’t fall.  And best off all, anxiety was absent and I got to really enjoy the beauty.  (I tried not to think about how long the guys would have to wait for me at the bottom.)

When I reached the bottom, I ran past the creek, hollered out to my running friends, “I’m alive!”.  Nearby hikers taking in a snack laughed.  I ran to the truck got my ice chest full of water and Gatorade and hauled it back to the creek where we all took time to cool off in the shade and ice-cold creek water. 

Michael relaxes in pool after a nasty fall on the way down (still he’s smiling!!)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Soaking my bare feetSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

An amazingly refreshed Hank after relaxing by the creekSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

16.60 miles (26.72 km)  run today (a little under 5,000 ft. /15.24 m elevation gain).

Will I be ready???