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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. 


Kinda shuffling around/goofing about at the peakSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA



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!


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???


  1. That is an awesome run and you made it fun all the way. You will be ready for sure! Really great Lauren!

  2. Did you ever think about stashing a handheld on the way up so you do have to carry it all the way up?

    Mike and Hank are great people, and fun to do runs with. Did you ask them about doing Saddleback Marathon?

  3. Thanks Johann for your confidence! Really -- I need it. Believe me, I am doing all that I can to get ready. I'm strengthening like never before. I'm glad you enjoyed the read. Let me know if when you make it out to Calif. and I will take you on this awesome run. (Don't know how long it will take me to get to S.A. : )

  4. Jeremy, I have thought of stashing more than one handheld. It's just once I get running, I am too lazy to stop and stash. I think you ran that Baz 21k when it was freezing at the top. I was wearing sleeveless and was too "lazy" to stop and pull out my sleeves that I ran that mountain with clattering teeth. LOL.

    I have mentioned Saddleback to Mike. I don't believe I got an answer. I recall only a chuckle. I don't recall if I mentioned it to Hank. They are definitely great guys to run with, as are you. I saw your post on Catalina and thought to myself, "Well, he's not running Saddleback."

    I'm considering Coastal Trail Runs Malibu Creek 50k Oct 23. Does your schedule allow for something like that? It's a tough course, but not as tough as we've ran before. : )) Good luck in Long Beach!

  5. Wow that is so hard core!! I can't imagine running up something like that! You guys are so awesome.

  6. I thought to myself, I didn't go up there all this time not to run it. The Catalina is just a bonus run, which I will problem just enjoy versus push. I am planning on going to the river the weekend of the 23rd.

  7. Thanks Kate. I don't feel so awesome going up. LOL. But I love reaching the top. Thanks for the compliment AND for reading. : )

  8. Two marathons back-to-back weekends. That's tough Jeremy! You are definitely the hardcore one. Ps. I'm up for the Baz 21k route. I'll contact you via e-mail shortly.