click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What was I thinking?

I came up with an approximate 25 mile route running up to Santiago Peak to train for two upcoming quests.  One of those goals, I have written about – my Tides to Towers run where I will run from my house down to the beach and from there to Santiago Peak, totaling 29 miles. My other goal, I don’t recall writing about, but I will attempt my first 50 mile race (Twin Peaks) which will go to Santiago Peak TWICE. 

Saturday morning, after a late night, I somehow managed to crawl out of bed early, pack and drive to the mountains (Trabuco Canyon).  I decided to go off road and drive closer to the trail head, making for a run with 9 less miles than planned.  I felt extremely tired and as I drove, I suddenly decided, Saturday wasn’t a good day for me to run.  So, I spontaneously turned the truck around, drove back home and crawled into bed.

Saturday night I bedded down at 9:30 for a 5 AM wake up call.  It still took me longer to get out of the house than I planned.  It didn’t matter.  I was off – back to Trabuco Canyon for a long run to the peak.

Standing outside my truck, pointing to Santiago Peak (which you can’t see because of the clouds):

So, how do I run a route like this?  Mentally that is – because if I can’t do it mentally, then I can’t do it physically.  I break it down into sections.  This way I only need to work on / run one segment at a time.  The weight of the entire route does not weigh down on my mind. 

Section 1:  Trabuco Canyon Road.  It’s a little less than five miles with only a slight uphill grade.  Usually I drive Trabuco Canyon Road to the Holy Jim parking lot.  Today was the first time I ever ran Trabuco Canyon Road.  The first two miles are gravel (boring!).  But there’s lots of creek crossings and a gorgeous, shady 3 miles of up and down dirt to run. 

I also got a peek at quite a few great fishing spots – nice deep pools with large boulders to hang out on.  I saw only one person fishing in the early morning (actually two, a man and his young son).  I stopped to talk to him and learned that Trabuco Creek is stocked with rainbow trout.  The fisherman recognized me from his drive into the canyon.  He said, “You’re making pretty good time little lady.” 

That’s right “LITTLE lady.”  LITTLE.  I have never been little.  I’m not talking about leanness or fatness – I’m talking about the fact that I’ve always had big feet, big hands, large wrists, wide hips, etc.  The term “little” made me giggle inside.  But I digress.  I told the fisherman where I was headed, and he hollered out as I ran off, “Make us proud!”

I didn’t feel that I was making good time on the first segment, mainly because I gingerly crossed the creeks to keep my feet dry.  That effort ended up being moot, as at one of the crossings, my right foot slipped off a rock, landing directly in the cold water.

Scenes from Section 1:

Section 2: Holy Jim Trail.  This segment from the Holy Jim Parking lot, up Holy Jim to the Main Divide totaled 5 miles.  I thoroughly enjoyed this portion.  The trail was full of wildflowers and also several groups of hikers that I had the pleasure of passing. 

With about a half mile remaining of this huge switchback the gnats came in for full attack – not huge gnats like last summer.  I think these were babies. But the gnats were still a nuisance, especially because my energy was running low.  After swallowing the first gnat, I decided it was time to work on something I’ve been thinking about trying – nose breathing.  I breathe through my nose, when I sleep, in everything I do I breath through my nose, except for running and weight lifting (& swimming).  With running and weight lifting, I breath through my mouth.  An ex-marine recently told me that when he was desert and mountain trained, the marines had them wear mouth pieces so that they had to breathe through their noses.  He said that nose breathing is much more effective than mouth breathing, and that I should give it a try with my running.  I gave it a try on Holy Jim and noticed an IMMEDIATE difference.  My energy returned.  I felt like I was getting a much fuller dose of oxygen.  Not only that, I didn’t swallow any more gnats.  And when I did occasionally breathe in a gnat through my nose, it came right out with my exhale.  No more choking while trying to spit out gnats.

Scenes from Section 2:


Section 3:  The Main Divide.  This section was a steep grade, totaling only 3 miles and ending at Santiago Peak.  This section was so dang tough, and with the heat suddenly attacking, I couldn’t think of this as one segment after all.  Yet, with only three miles, I didn’t want to split it into two separate segments (yes, I’m funny that way).  So, (in order to play tricks on my mind), I had a section 3 part 1 and section 3 part 2.  LOL.

I passed several more hikers on the final thrust to the top.  Some of them sat and rested in the shade.  Others found cool spots to eat their lunches.  I continued on with my nose breathing, and the gnats continued on with their attack.  Nose breathing didn’t help one bit for those gnats that landed on my face and crawled up behind my sunglasses. 

These three miles were grueling.  Yet, when I finally made it to the top, I was suddenly full of energy.  I passed another set of hikers who said to me, “We saw you running from the main lot when we drove in.  What did you do – run up???” 


They all laughed.

Scenes from Section 3:

Beginning section 3 part 2:

The run down was tough.  But it was not terribly grueling until I ran out of fluids about a mile down Holy Jim.  I really couldn’t eat any more calories, yet my energy was waning.  I did stop for quite some time at a tiny spring in the mountain wall.  There I used my coconut water container to refill my hydration pack.  That took a good ten minutes.  I took the time to take out a handkerchief and soak my head. 

The remaining run down Holy Jim was delightful, though I tripped about three times.  I was fully equipped with cold water and I felt good about the remaining miles.  When the handkerchief on my head dried out, I stopped at a creek crossing to drench it again.

I reached the bottom of Holy Jim feeling good.  But the next five miles were absolutely awful.  The road was crowded with cars.  And I was TIRED.  It grew worse from there.  Once I hit the gravel I lost my shade.  Those final miles passed EXTREMELY slowly.  I kept focusing on my garmin, which is not good.  I didn’t stay in the present moment one bit.  Instead, I was in the future – the future as in, WHEN IS THIS GOING TO END???   

Scenes from trip back:

26 miles run today, +6,450’My Activities Trabuco Cyn Road, Holy Jim, Main Divide to Peak out-and-back 4-29-2012, Elevation - Distance

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Race Against The Rain

With reports of rain and more rain to come, I rushed off to some trails this morning after getting our boys off to school.  Let me tell you!  I needed this after taking a ton of verbal abuse from our oldest boy.  I wasn’t going to engage though – I laughed and laughed which only made his anger and disrespectful manner worse. I think that I need a better approach.

The skies were gray and cold at Aliso/Wood Canyons as I headed up Aliso Canyon for the toughest trail in the park:  Mentally Sensitive (AKA Psycho Path). I knew I was going to run some kind of “big loop” around the park, probably 12 to 13 miles.  I should point out, because I think it’s so important with running, that I never, EVER think about the end of the run.  Never does such a thought as “Only 8 more miles to go,” run through my head.  Instead, I just try and “BE.”  Simply “BE” where I am, experience the mile I’m in.  This way, I don’t have to stress over the difficulty that faces me.  Instead I get to enjoy where I’m running.   

On the way to Mentally Sensitive, I spotted a bobcat meandering along the paved trail that runs up the canyon.  Too far for a picture, I ventured into tickville (the area of tall grass where ticks are sure to latch onto flesh passing by).  I didn’t want to full-out run through the pasture for a better picture of the wildcat, as I was certain that would scare him away.  Therefore, I slowly stepped through the grass (allowing more time for ticks to cling on).  I didn’t get 15 steps in when the cat darted off into the brush.  Though I didn’t get a good picture, my eyes did behold  the beauty of the beast.  Imagine a cat the size of a medium size dog.  This one was striped with dark and light brown fur.  

Running up Mentally Sensitive was a glorious chore.  Rain began to fall about a quarter of the way up when I was already sweating buckets.  I didn’t worry about the rain too much – the only thing I would really worry about is the rangers closing the park.  I figured since I was already running trails, I would get some kind of loop in. 

Loving Mental Sensitive:

I worked hard running up Mentally Sensitive.  And where it got ridiculously steep, I forced myself to stop running and power hike instead.  I need to learn to power hike better.  This habit that I have of forcing myself to “run” up even the steepest terrain isn’t doing much good at this point.  I believe it’s making me physically stronger, but it’s also training me to run slowly and not to hike quickly. 

When I reached the top of Mentally Sensitive, I phoned my husband to tell him my son’s punishment.  It came to me running up Psycho-Path that I needed five written paragraphs on “respect” from our boy.  Hubby liked the idea but suggested a re-write of the three pages of the black belt rules he had broken instead.  I agreed.  (Our son is second degree black belt, only a few months away from third degree – disrespecting anyone, especially your elders, is an egregious action for the black belt).

Scenes from Mentally Sensitive when the punishment popped into my head:

The sun came out in abundance as I ran along the ridge.  I thought to myself, “Some early heat training eh?  Bring it on!”  I stopped shortly at Top of the World, took a few photos, and ran off on a detour onto Park Avenue Nature Trail.  Utterly lost in my own world, I didn’t realize that I had ran into a swarm of bees making their way across the trail.  I looked up for no particular reason, and aghast at the literally thousands of bees, I wasn’t sure what to do.  First I ducked.  Then I stepped back.  Then I fumbled for my camera.  By the time I retrieved my camera, the bees were busily on their way across Laguna Canyon. 

Top of the World:

I felt good, happy as I made my way toward Cholla Trail.  When I arrived, I did not think “Five miles left!”  No way.  Instead, I thought, “I get to run DOWN Cholla – Yay!”  I won’t lie.  I did look at my garmin to make sure I had enough time to finish off the run, get some groceries and home in time to get ready for work.  I didn’t stress over my pace though.  Today’s run wasn’t  a training run.  It was a fun run.

Running down Cholla Trail:

View of Wood Canyon from Cholla:

As I ran into Wood Canyon the heat was sweltering.  A cool breeze came in once in a while.  But overall, the canyon seemed to trap in the heat.  It was oh so beautiful too.  And fun.  I finished off this run a bit tired, but I ran it ALL THE WAY IN, totaling 13.53 miles today (21.77 km)

Shade at last in Wood Canyon:

My Activities big loop clockwise aliso woods 4-25-2012, Elevation - Distance

Tonight the rain pours down upon our rooftop. Smile

ps.  no ticks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


When I began writing my running blog on My Space about 5 years ago, I intended to blog EVERY TIME that I ran.  I blogged treadmill runs, I blogged one mile runs, I blogged mundane runs, triumphant runs, and failed runs.  I wondered whether I could keep up the creativity and have something interesting to write about every single run.  

There were times on this blog when I considered quitting running.  There were times when running was the ultimate highlight of my life.  I wrote about crying on the trail.  I wrote about laughing on the trail.   At times my trail running made my family very proud.  And at times, it made them quite angry because of the time it stole me away.  Many trail running partners have come and gone during these blogging years, and I remember all of those running friends fondly.  I blogged about running in extreme heat, in rain, in snow.  I even blogged about being rescued – actually more than once (once by rangers in Texas and another time by a stranger when I ran off the trail during a 50k, and more than once by my husband who either navigated on-line over the phone with me or drove to pick me up). 

Well!  I think the day has come when I don’t have much to say about my trail run.  I ran it in a usual place this morning, Aliso/Wood Canyons.  I ran a usual route, an out-and-back up Cholla trail to Top of the World.  I came across many hikers, many bikers, just two runners.  It was beautiful.  I was slow.  But I was content.   Most of all, I felt like after a week of recovery, I am ready to get back into the game! 

I’ve been running by these little critters all over the place at Aliso/Wood Canyons lately:

Running a single-track that shoots off of West Ridge and returns to West Ridge (a fun addition for more elevation):

While I snapped some photos, an elderly hiker offered to take my picture.  He was a tough guy taking on such a route (the West Ridge hike):

Top of the World facing Pacific Ocean/Laguna Beach:

Top of the World facing Saddleback Mountains:

Prickly Peak blossom on Cholla Trail:

Profile of a happy trail runner’s content run:My Activities out and back top of the world from cyn vistas 4-24-2012, Elevation - Distance

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Solo Group Run

Due to a series of circumstances, I was to host the new member’s run for OCTR (Orange County Trail Runners) that I had to change the date on, less than a week ago.  Pretty certain that no one would show, I arrived to Aliso/Wood Canyons at 7:00 AM just to make sure.  I would have probably slept in today had it not been for this group run. 

I stood around in the parking lot for about ten minutes.  When I determined there was no “New Member” run for me to lead, I thought to myself, “I can just go home.”

But I had dressed for a run.  The satellites had already loaded on my garmin.  I had my running belt on, had already dissolved a Nuun tablet.  “I’ll just run to the edge of the paved trail and turn around for a mile and a half round trip.”

And so I ran.

When I arrived to the dirt single-track, I thought to myself, “Okay.  I’ll just finish up Aliso Creek Trail for a 3 mile round trip.”

And I ran onward through the misty canyon called Aliso Canyon.

At the end of Aliso Creek Trail, I felt okay.  Not magnificent.  Not super strong.  But just fine.  So, I thought to myself, “I’ll run some of Meadows and turn around before the climb for a 4 mile out-and-back.”

I am happy that I turned off onto Meadows.  As I ran the overgrown single-track, a honey-colored weasel ran across my path.  It was the cutest little critter, its belly so low to the ground as it scampered across the trail.  I would have loved to have scooped him up and taken the little guy home for a pet.  But alas, there’s no way I would have been quick enough to snatch it up.  And if I had done so, the weasel would have most likely left behind quite a few scratch scars before I finally dropped it to the ground, both of us screaming. Smile 

Now that’s a single-track (Meadows):

Well!  At the base of the Meadows climb, I thought to myself, “Heck, I’m already here.  I might as well run to the top for a 6 mile out-and-back.”  And so I ran up that great switch-back hill, running first through bountiful mustard plants like these:

The run up Meadows was misty and foggy.  I couldn’t see the top.  A few mountain bikers and hikers made their way down.  One hiker caught up with me from behind.  With him right on my heels I picked up my pace because I wasn’t going to let a hiker pass me going up Meadows.  I gained my distance on him and beat him to the top.  But I have to point out he was ONE DANG STRONG HIKER.  Because I focused so much on not letting him pass, the top of Meadows came as a surprise.  A welcomed surprise. 

Running up Meadows:

Top of Meadows, the Hiker Who Nearly Passed Me in Background:

By the time I reached the top of Meadows, I felt strong enough to keep on running.  I thought that I could go for a 9 or 11 mile standard loop that I frequently run.  Then on second thought, I figured, wouldn’t it be nice to surprise my family and arrive home in time to attend church with them?

And so I ran back down Meadows and through Aliso Canyon to my truck and drove home.

My Activities Out and Back to Meadows 4-22-2012, Elevation - Distance