TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Up Yours Horsethief

This morning, I woke at 5AM and met running friend Jeremy and carpooled up the mountain for my last mountain training run for the Saddleback Marathon.  As we ran up the Main Divide toward Trabuco Trail, I fretted a bit about that climb come next Saturday.  I had forgotten how difficult that first climb is.  It’s dang steep and longer than I recalled.  The weather was cool going up, a tiny bit windy in some parts.  Overall, the views were breathtaking.

Main Divide on the way to Trabuco Trail: (3rd photo down is Jeremy’s):SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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We recovered quickly from the Main Divide  and took that beautiful downhill called Trabuco.  Running Trabuco Trail is a great reprieve – shady, lush, though rocky, a nice long down hill.  Sometimes Trabuco seems like it will never end.  Not today because we caught this trail early on.  Still I had to push it to keep up with my friend whose strides are much longer than mine. 

Runnin’ Trabuco:  (photo compliments of Jeremy)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

When we reached West Horsethief I took off my sleeves, plugged in my ipod.  I don’t recall if I mentioned to my running partner before then that I had planned to try and run West Horsethief in its entirety.  I told another friend a couple weeks ago, and he thought I was crazy (Challenge!!).  But after a gel, I told Jeremy my plans, which in my mind (after telling at least 2 people) meant that I HAD TO DO IT.  (I’m so funny that way!) 

West Horsethief’s Profile:  My Activities main divide trabuco holy jim main divide 10-30-2011, Elevation - Distance

Running Horsethief was not too bad at first, though it was still bad.  Then . . . about a third the way up, it BECAME REALLY BAD.  That’s not “bad” as in “good.”  That’s “bad” as in damn difficult.  I kept chugging away at it, keeping running form, though running quite slowly.  I exclaimed out loud just how difficult the task was.

I have gone up this trail enough times to “know” it.  But I have never run Horsethief in its entirety.  I have never run most of it.  I have only run the bottom flatter portion, and the very top. 

Today, I knew that I could do it.  All that mattered was whether I decided to chuck my goal if it grew too strenuous.  Saying that I was going to run it out loud to more than one person helped (that only helps with some things), and reaching the half way point helped as well.  Once I made it 75% of the way, there was not a chance I was going to stop running.  And so for the first time in my trail running career (the first time in my life for that matter), I ran UP all of West Horsethief trail this morning.   

View running up Horsethief:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The face of distress (yup, still running):

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A quick pose before heading off on the Main Divide back toward the top of Trabuco Trail:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Back on the Main Divide (photo again compliments of Jeremy):

Gifted with gorgeous views this morning, we continued on running the Main Divide back toward the Saddleback Marathon finish line.  The weather grew a bit warm, then we were blessed with some cool breezes.

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Once we hit the Trabuco Trail again, it was all down hill on The Main Divide from there.  That of course didn’t mean running was easy.  The trail was rocky in some parts.  At one point 2 motorcyclists raced around a corner, blowing dirt into my face.  I waved my arms fiercely to warn them of another runner behind me.  And for a brief second I feared the one idiot driver might hit Jeremy.  Did these bikers not even have a clue that others would use that trail?  I was a bit perturbed by them that when I came upon three rangers also on motorcycles, I tattled.

From there, I thought I’d try out my faster running muscles (from my speed training, ha, ha) and tried to run the finish as quickly as possible.  I took quick small steps, careful not to drag my feet.  In the end, I felt happy with my performance, and glad that the shoes I chose for next Saturday did me good on the rockiest portions of today’s run.  The shorts however, did not do well, with major chaffing in the waist line.  

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The final stretch before the finish line next Saturday – a lovely, shady single-track.  I wasn’t exhilarated with Jeremy’s suggestion to go UP Horsethief for today’s run (because you might recall, I HATE that trail).  But tonight I am so glad.  Thanks for pushing me!

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Friday, October 28, 2011

“Where You Are, Be There.”

I was a gym rat today.  Two and a half hours in the gym (90 minutes of it on the cycle) gave me some time to zone out and some time to think and some time to enjoy the moments.  And I decided something.  I’m breaking the pre-race depression pattern right now.  Originally, I figured it was the lack of endorphins that caused the depression when I cut back miles.  But today I realized that it’s probably more that I don’t focus on the moment, the present, as much when I’m not running.  Instead, I’m anxious about the future (i.e., the race) or I’m fretting about the past (i.e., I didn’t train enough, I wanted to lose more weight).  All things that don’t matter!  The only thing that REALLY matters is right now.  

“Where you are, BE THERE.”  My son’s old taekwondo master used to always say this.  And so that’s where I aim to be.

Of course, I didn’t break the clumsy accident pattern.  But that’s okay.  I tripped on the living room rug once.  I tripped also for absolutely no reason at all after that.  I did not fall either time.  And no injuries today!

Lastly, keeping with the trend of Flashback Friday (but contradictory to my topic today), here’s one from long, long ago, back when it was much easier for me to remain in the present.

swinging

Circa 1967/68

I still love to swing.  I don’t find many swings nowadays.  I think they’re too much of a liability. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Accident Prone

After the bathroom cabinet crashed down on me and then breaking a glass the next day, hubby said, “There will be NO STANDING ON CHAIRS OR BARSTOOLS for the next week.”  Notice no word of me not doing the dishes!  Anyway, he’s on my side and knows how important the upcoming race is to me.  And he feels there’s a pretty good chance that I may knock myself out of the race before it even starts.  

Don’t tell anyone.  But I have stood on at least 2 chairs since hubby’s demand request, and a barstool at least three times (in my kitchen, not in a bar – so that’s a good thing.)  And I didn’t fall once.  Then today, I slammed the truck door into my knee. That hurt. Happens to be the same knee that the bathroom cabinet bruised, except the other side.

Certain patterns occur for me in the days preceding a big race.  First off – I experience weird aches and pains or clumsy household injuries.  The other thing is frequent nightmares.  Usually, they are dreams about being unable to find the start line.  Or ending up at the start line with only one shoe.  Last night however, my dreams were of anger, yelling and screaming.  I finally woke this morning at 5AM and said that’s it.  I’m tired of yelling.  I’m getting out of bed!  Oddly, I dreamt that I was screaming at the top of my lungs at my parents because they had added on an extra room in the house THIRTY years ago and it still stood empty.  So, I stormed about the bedroom that I shared with my sister and began moving myself into this unused room.  At the same time (it seemed) I dreamt that my husband and I purchased the house on the corner.  Stressed over two mortgages, I was so, so, angry, again, screaming and yelling angry, that after several months, I had been so busy, that I still hadn’t got the chance to take a look inside this new house. 

Any interpretations?

I expect the weird start line dreams to begin in a few days.

The other thing that happens prior to a big race is depression.  I don’t taper anymore – that is gradually cut my mileage back about a month prior to the race.  Instead I cut back my mileage 1 to 2 weeks prior to the race simply to give myself a rest.  I hate cutting back mileage.  I hate cutting back mileage because I want to run!!! 

Today, I put in a run, careful not to run too many miles.  I did a couple miles speed work yesterday, so today I ran the exact out-and-back to Top of the World that I ran on Tuesday.  6.38 miles.

Pointing out Saddleback Mountains on today’s run.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

West Ridge, which trail shall I take?SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

That’s easy – cutting back mileage doesn’t mean running the flatter route.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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Acting goofy at Top of the World.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

View of Pacific Ocean / Laguna Beach from Top of the World.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Got one thing on my mind!!SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Take It Easy Mode

SO . . . I was standing on the toilet digging through the cabinet trying to find the Buzz Lightyear towel for my youngest who was in the bathtub.  In the next second I was airborne with the entire bathroom (3 shelf) wooden cabinet falling down on top of me (including the plants on top).  The crash was tremendous.  It sounded like an entire wall came crashing down which sent the remainder of my family running to my aid.  I landed on my left glute and some part of the cabinet LANDED ON MY KNEE.  The floor was covered with dirt, plants and broken porcelain planters, towels and all the first aid stuff in our home (that’s not in my hydration pack or gym bag). 

Now, we live in an old house, built in the 40’s.  Most of the work was done by prior owners (except for our remodeled kitchen).  Some time ago hubby took down the cabinets that weren’t nailed into the studs and put them up right.  Except for this one particular cabinet.  Of course, it wasn’t nailed into the studs (Duh!!).  All I have to say is thank goodness it didn’t take me out!

But my knee – it is bruised.  And the pain actually woke me last night, and I was feeling an ache tonight as I sat down to write this.  Funny thing though, I felt absolutely no pain when I ran today.  Maybe it’s because I’m in “easy mode” right now.  Easy on the running that is.  Or should I say easier?

I may have lost all perspective with running on what is “easy” and what is “hard.”  Today’s run was easy because it was fun, it was cool weathered, it was short,  and it was beautiful.  But today’s run was hard too because I ran hills and besides that, even when it’s easy, running’s pretty much always hard – one of the reasons I like it so much. 

After some short speed work yesterday (2.5 miles), today’s “easy mode” included a quick trip to Top of the World.    It looked like it might rain.  I actually hoped that it would rain, even though I don’t much enjoy running in the rain.  I looked forward to something different, something lively, especially after my bathroom accident scare.

Easy ModeMy Activities cyn vistas out and back w- c's 10-25-2011, Elevation - Distance

City views running along West RidgeSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Running a side trail off of West Ridge (I call these “C” trails, because they’re shaped like a “C” beginning and ending on the same trail)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

A pose at Top of the WorldSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Heading back toward West Ridge (from Park Avenue Nature Trail) – West Ridge is the trail visible at the top of this ridge hereSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

At the top of another “C” trail off of West Ridge sitting at a bench that is obviously two low to the ground.  I just don’t want to leave the trails yet, and I’m almost to the car. Sad smile

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Continuing on to Cholla Trail, looking back on West Ridge and the “C” trail (on right) I just ran offSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

And so there you have it – my “easy mode” run.  The trick over the next ten days is to minimize the injuries at home!!

Have fun on your runs this week. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Eleven Days, Two Hours

That is how long until the Saddleback Marathon.  I ran it last year, basically untrained and injured after a very tough year.  Yet, I finished the race, a race not against other runners, but a race against the mountain.  This year, I’m going back with the intention to kill my time.

The closer I get to this magnificent mountain marathon, the more liberal I get in my goal.  I’m aiming for sub 7 hours now.  (7 hours is the cut-off, last year it took me around 7 1/2 hours).  Some of you may think SEVEN HOURS???  And you are justified in thinking that.  Take one look at this profile though, borrowed from Big Baz Trail Races:

SMM-elevation profile-11-10-07

The first time I ran this marathon (2010), I had never gone up Holy Jim.  It made me want to cry.  I had no idea when it would end.  Since then I have RUN it again and again.  I know Holy Jim.  It is no longer Holy Cow or Holy Crap, it’s just plain ole’ Holy Jim.  And I can run it. 

The first time I ran this marathon, I took in little calories.  This year, I will force them.

The first time I ran this marathon, I didn’t know some special trail runners.  This year, I will take off with their camaraderie. 

This first time I ran this marathon, I was scared to death.  This year, I’m not so much scared to death of running Saddleback Marathon.  I’m more scared to death of not beating my time.

Most importantly I want to enjoy the beauty.  I want to have fun during the Saddleback Marathon.  Most of all I don’t want to piss-off the race director, Big Baz (LOL).

I’m cutting my mileage over the next two weeks, but not drastically.  I will probably run a little under thirty miles  this week.  And I’m continuing big time on the strength training and speed work.  I actually increased my speed work this morning.   And that was tough, tough, tough.

Eleven days!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Own Private Marathon

Had we not lived with only one car for so long, I might never have thought of riding a bus to a trailhead.  Even if I had thought of it, I probably wouldn’t have done it.  I should point out, that we finally have two cars again.  And I should also point out that I love riding the bus, pretty much anywhere.

This weekend I had planned on an 50k, but it wasn’t “in the cards.”  To be truthful, I was feeling a bit jealous reading and hearing about different runners’ marathons and ultras.  And so today, I decided to run my own marathon, one with lots of elevation.  Waking at 5:00 AM, I drank my coffee, dressed, grabbed my pack and ran to the bus stop.  I like to arrive early.  Turns out I was only about two minutes early, so I worried that I missed it, until the bus finally appeared about five minutes late.

Waiting for the bus.  Perhaps I should have run a brush through my hair?  Nah.  I was on my way to a marathon.Smile

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The bus was busy this morning.  Many of the riders wore uniforms – hotel and restaurant uniforms, drug store uniforms.  Two riders got on (separately) carrying skateboards.  One rider boarded in my town who I thought I recognized as a Crystal Cove worker one of the first times I rode the bus to this trailhead.   Turns out, Steve and I got off at the same exit again this morning and walked up to the ranger station together.  (Hi Steve, if you’re reading this blog).

I began running in the dark, surprised how many runners and hikers  I came upon early on.  I ran up “No Dogs” and “No Name,” two trails I had to mostly hike about 2 years ago.  This morning I ran them in their entirety as the sun appeared on the horizon. 

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The mighty sun shined brightly when I reached Bommer Ridge.  I ran without headphones so that I could eavesdrop on other runners.  One guy passed me running up hill, then two others.  When we all reached the top, the leader said to me, “Did you see how much I beat those guys?”

“Yes,” I said.  “But you all beat me.”  I ran on past them as they rested at the top of the hill.  I heard them running behind me on the flats when I overheard one of them say, “Man, this really SUCKS!”  That made me giggle inside as I turned off onto Fenceline Trail, a lovely warm and sunny single track.

Then I began my descent back down into the canyon and the sun disappeared.

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I ran over deer tracks.  And I was alarmed by the tufts of bunny hair scattered about the trail.  Lovely spider webs dangled from the brush like delicate jewels.  Stink bugs scampered across the trail.  I ran East Cut-Away for the first time.  It seemed to be a never-ending climb.  With the mist and clouds I wasn’t quite sure when I was going to finally hit El Moro Ridge, which I would run almost to the top.  Just before reaching the top I ran two of my favorite trails, one of them a delicate, misty single track called “Emerald Falls,” and the other, “Old Emerald Falls,” a treacherous rocky uphill that I took  to hit Bommer Ridge again.  I felt strong, even running up “Old Emerald Falls,” where I gladly hopped to the side to let mountain bikers fly by.  I noticed one of them with blood running down his knees.

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I wasn’t exactly running fast, this was a marathon after all.  But I still felt physically strong as I ran Bommer, Willow and finally Laurel Canyon out of the park.  “Stair Steps” into Aliso Wood Canyon Parks took my remaining mental strength.  Though my legs still moved onward, I was fatigued.  Not drop-dead kind of fatigued but the “this needs to end soon,” kind of fatigued.   

Glee filled my heart when I finally reached West Ridge.  I ran it to Top of the World and stopped there to refill on water, etc.  I had to move onward quickly.  Time was fleeting, and I couldn’t help but think – if I keep this pace for Saddleback I’m in trouble.   

Laurel Canyon (a gorgeous run!)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Ending Laurel Canyon, about to cross Laguna Canyon Highway and make ascent into Aliso/Wood Canyons ParkSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Stair Steps TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I still had physical strength upon reaching Meadows Trail.  But I consumed no additional calories.  With my headphones on, I ran onward, “Just make it out of the park,” I said to myself.  “Out of the park!!”

Top of Meadows TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I ran the streets after exiting Aliso/Wood Canyons Wilderness, UTTERLY fatigued.  I forgot how locate Aliso Summit Trail, asked a stranger for directions.  Upon finally finding the trail, I cut through the brush to catch it, so anxious I was to finish this marathon.  I continued running, wanting, wanting, wanting for this trail to end and my race to finish. 

Aliso Summit Trail ended with a total of 26.38 miles (42.45 km) on my garmin.  I took time to stretch waiting for my family.  I was chaffed raw.  Otherwise, I felt fine.  No cramping.  But I really felt that I sucked, excuse my language, as a runner.  Why did I run out of energy with so much training?  I can answer that now with several hours to rehash the experience. After about 17 miles, I didn’t take in additional calories.  Why?  Because I didn’t feel like eating.  I must learn from this, continue with the calories!!

The good news is, this is the first marathon I ever WON!!!

View of Meadows Trail and Top of the World from Aliso Summit TrailSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

First placer, placing first in my age group and first overall – Just play alongWinking smile SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Elevation Profile:My Activities Long Run 10-22-2011, Elevation - Distance

My Activities Long Run 10-22-2011