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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday Run

I was fortunate enough to spend all of my morning and some of my afternoon running trails in the Saddleback Mountains this Palm Sunday. This week the ultra running world lost a legendary runner. I didn't know him, never met him, but today I dedicate this run to Micah True, whose body was found on New Mexico trails yesterday. R.I.P. Caballo Blanco.

I began my morning running up Holy Jim Trail which used to be a terrible trail.  It’s still the same trail.  But now, I can run all of it.  That’s a huge deal for me.  It’s no longer terrible.  It’s a beautiful joy.  Really!

A couple hikers kept their pace up ahead of me, amazingly fast.  They marched in such perfect unison, I had to ask, “Are you in the service?”  They (a young man and woman) told me that they were training for a Mount McKinley hike this summer.  No wonder they were wearing hiking boots, long pants and sleeves.  I would never go up Holy Jim in pants unless I was preparing for something warmer in the summer – even then, I’m not sure I would do it.

As customary, I broke my run into segments.  Just get through one segment at a time, that’s my motto.  Holy Jim was my first segment.  And though I took it running at a relaxed pace, I conquered it feeling good.

Creek crossing leading to Holy Jim trailhead:

Approaching final creek crossing going up Holy Jim:

Sun coming up over the other side Trabuco Canyon:

The Fastest Hikers in The World up ahead (notice towers from Santiago Peak on the skyline):

One of the many reasons I love Holy Jim:

I knew the trip up the Main Divide to Santiago Peak would be difficult.  Knowing makes a world of difference.  Knowing equals no stress.  The Fastest Hikers in the World took off toward Upper Holy Jim, so I was quite surprised as I neared the peak, I looked back and saw that I had passed them by a pretty good distance.  Several motorcyclists drove past me on their way to the top.  I wasn’t too annoyed that I had to step to the side and stop to let them pass. 

I could hear lots of noise as I approached the towers at Santiago Peak, humming machinery noise and something much louder.  It sounded like dozens of people hammering on metal.  This didn’t seem odd to me.  I merely figured that people were working at the towers this morning.

When I got there, no workers were in sight.  But the incessant hammering and clamoring grew louder.  Clang, clang, clang surrounded me as I focused in on my surroundings.  That’s when I saw it.  Dozens, if not hundreds of icicles were melting and slipping off of the towers.  They were as long as swords, plummeting probably 30/40 feet to the ground.  As these ice daggers fell, they crashed onto parts of the towers below, making that loud  clanging noise, finally hitting the ground in several pieces the size of icebox ice cubes. 

Well, I stood there for a while, wondering how I would get to the edge for a county view without getting hit by a falling chunk of ice.  After watching carefully (and in awe) I noticed that most of the ice fell within the parameters of the fences surrounding each of the towers.  So I put my hand on my head and ran.  I figured that it would be better if an ice chunk hit my hand than my head.  Smile 

I made it to the edge to talk to a couple of motorcyclists.  I wish I would have taken their pictures.  One of the gentlemen was so extremely happy to be there he lightened my mood immensely.  It was he who took my camera and snapped the geeky photo of me below. 

The Main Divide on the way to Santiago Peak:

Gorgeous views from The Main Divide:

The towers at Santiago Peak (AKA Talking Peak):


As I ran back to The Main Divide, I ran past the Fastest Hikers in the World who were sitting at the summit.  I ran up to them and we chatted a bit.  I told them about Joplin Trail and pointed it out in the distance.  They seemed excited to try it out.  I saw several hikers making their way up The Main Divide as I ran down it.  Motorcyclists also passed going up and down, as well as mountain bikers.  I spoke with one guy who I would later see a couple times much later in the run. 

Clouds completely covered the mountain as I ran down Upper Holy Jim Trail.  My views were simply pure white, misty skies.  At this point in the run, though physically I felt I could go on forever, my brain could not.  I began losing the mental battle.

Running down Upper Holy Jim:

This run was taking way too long and I thought along the way that I might cut it short a little by running down Horsethief instead of Trabuco.  As soon as I got cell service, I phoned my husband with how I may alter my route.  (He did not like that I was running the mountains alone, so I had written out my route before I left). 

As I mentioned earlier, my body felt strong.  My mind did not.  It felt bored.  It took in the majestic views, but my mind tired of putting one foot in front of the other, again and again, mainly uphill.  Over and over I thought West Horsethief was just around the corner, and if it was, I thought, “I can make it to the top of Trabuco no problem.”  But it wasn’t just around the corner!

Well!  By the time I FINALLY made West Horsethief, there was NO WAY I was running all the way to the Trabuco Trailhead.  Instead, I trotted down West Horsethief for a shortcut to Trabuco Trail.  I passed the cyclist I met by the peak.  He was walking his bike up.  I told him that he picked a tough trail to go up, to which he responded that he had a race in a week.  Funny, I have a race in two weeks – and by this time in my run, I thought I was going to be in BIG trouble come that race.

View from Main Divide of Orange County and The Pacific Ocean:

More than ready to descend upon Horsethief:

Trabuco trail was the longest run EVER today.  Beautiful yes.  Never-ending, also YES.  The high point was giving a hiker directions to West Horsethief.  I love giving trail directions to people.  Anyway, I ran and ran and ran.  I ran over rock, I ran across a couple creek crossings.  I ran on shady, soft lush trails, and then back upon boulders and rocks. 

I was so done.  My confidence dwindled regarding my ability to complete the SJ50k.  It’s not that my body tired, oddly, it didn’t.  This may be hard to understand, especially since I’m not sure how to explain it.  But it was as if my brain grew extremely tired.  Dead-Dog tired.

My Activities Palm Sunday Run 4-1-2012, Elevation - Distance


  1. I love the story of the ice falling. That is something different to see (and hear) for sure. I sometimes get a bit frustrated if there are too many mountain bikers on the trails. I think you are ready for your race. You have trained so hard over the last few weeks I think 50k will be easy for you. And during the race your mind will stay happy...that I know.

    1. Johann, the ice falling was so awesome, I will never forget it. Mountain bikers are pretty good out here, they usually let you know they're coming. (mostly anyway). I hope I'm ready. I'm pretty paranoid right now. We shall see. One thing I've learned about these extreme trails, is that anything can happen. If I can keep an up attitude, I will be good. : ) Thanks for your comments.

  2. You're are ready for the 50K; running up that that long climb is insane and no doubt means you are ready for the race. Just make sure you taper and give your legs the rest they need before race day.

    1. Thanks Rachel. I hope you are right! I am definitely giving my legs a rest, perhaps more so than needed. It's now just a week away -- yikes! Thanks for reading.