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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



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



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


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.



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)


Miles logged today:  14


  1. Another awesome run. You are strong and very tough Lauren. Well done and thanks again for sharing your adventures.

  2. Great job yesterday Lauren. Thanks for pushing. That was a great run.

  3. Thanks Johann! I am definitely feeling stronger (finally!)

  4. Thanks Jeremy for coming out. I really enjoyed the run -- and thanks for pushing me : )

  5. Great job out there Lauren! You need one of those cabins up there in the canyon though. Save some wear and tear on your car....

  6. I would LOVE to have one of those cabins Glen. Can't afford one right now. Though a couple years back I looked into some. And you can get the shackier ones for relatively cheap (still I can't afford). Also, you can't buy the land, only lease. : ( One of these days though, I wouldn't mind getting me one : )