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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


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Khourt. Thank goodness I have until October to train. : ))

  2. Knowing when to not run, even if you have half committed, is a rare skill. The mind is smarter than we give it credit...sometimes! Nose breathing while swimming? I have to try that. How do you keep the chlorine out of your lungs? ;). Figs...I loved the picture of the figs, by far my favourite fruit! Great accomplishment and fabulous training, "little lady!".

    1. Hi Windnsnow. I corrected my blog -- I mouth breath when I swim. I don't know what I was thinking. I had to simulate swimming just now in my living room to figure it out.

      If you are ever out here in S. Cali, run Holy Jim Trail -- there are THOUSANDS of figs.

      Little lady??? LOL. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. That profile made me cringe- you will do awesome in your upcoming big events. Fantastic run- your body knew what it was doing Saturday. Love the pics - beautiful run.

    1. The profile makes me cringe too Rachel. LOL. I'll tell you though, that canyon road on the way back was pure torture.

  4. damn I love those mountains. Nice pics!!

    1. Thanks Jessica. I love those mountains too. The gnats have arrived though. LOL.

  5. What were you thinking is right. Crazy elevation and yet you still rocked it. Awesome job!

    1. Thanks Neil. Don't know that I "rocked" it. But I didn't die, so that is good. : ) Thanks for reading!