My last run was last Sunday. I recovered Monday. Then my mood dipped pretty low. I felt I needed to get my disordered life in order, so I spent much of my time organizing and cleaning and applying for more job positions. Hubby begged, “Please, go out and run!!!” He didn’t say that because he wanted me out of the house. The house was much cleaner after all – carpets vacuumed, floors swept, bills organized. He just knows me. He knows that runs would have lifted my spirits. But it was gray and wet all week. And that just made me more depressed.
In the interim, I did work on physical strength. I did weight lifting, core work and general strength exercises nearly every day. Then Saturday, I ran with my two youngest sons in the Kids Run The O.C. program. I wore my New Balance Minimus trail shoes, which I can’t wear on the trail at all – they just aren’t substantial enough for technical terrain. Anyway, even though the kids run was only one mile, I felt really good getting my legs moving. The shoes were awesome, extremely comfy on the pavement. It was all over too soon, and I couldn’t wait for today’s scheduled group run.
We started off on “The Candy Store” run on a cool morning, across the street from the candy store on Ortega Highway. Right away I took us on a wrong turn, and we had to run back to the trail to continue onward. Then once we got going on the correct, lush shady trail, I noticed that we were making a loop back to the parking lot. I missed the turn off to Chiquita Trail!! Missing the turn off added at least a quarter mile of technical uphill running (& back totaling 1/2 mile).
I found the trip up Chiquita delightful and wondered why it tore me apart so badly during the SJT 50k. Of course, I had about twenty miles on my legs before making that trip!
The trail was empty on the out portion today. We saw one hiker with hiking sticks making his way down. He said this was, “The one trail that’s uphill on the way out and the way back.” Seems so true. But in reality it’s not. Michael said that it’s like an Escher drawing.
This time around, I was sure to search out Chiquita Falls, which I have failed to discover on my prior out-and-backs on this trail. I found much less than I expected. The falls were dry.
And then we ran more Chiquita trail, now mostly in the shade. It was lovely, lush and green. And most of that green in the undergrowth? POISON OAK. I brushed against it again and again. Here’s to hoping my apparent immunity to the plant is still intact.
Arriving to the Chiquita trailhead, we had a choice to make. 1) Turnaround and run back, or 2) run a loop up San Juan Trail into Blue Jay Campground and back to Chiquita for the return trip. We chose more mileage. But first, Michael was attacked by fire ants as we tried to set up our cameras for “group” photos. Ouch!
San Juan Trail, all ridiculously uphill and seemingly never ending was hot as well. Mountain bikers made their way down the single track as I focused on not tripping over the rocky terrain. At each turn I thought we were at the trailhead, only to find – No! There was more to run in this heat. Finally, we could see campgrounds and we simply ran right through the hillside into the campground, cutting off approximately a half mile from this run.
Blue Jay Campground seemed like a a 5 Star hotel to me. A cool breeze blew. There were trash cans to empty my pockets. There were outhouses. There were people. And there was even running water.
Well, the “down hill” trip back was not all down hill. And when it was downhill, it was usually rocky and difficult to traverse. On our way back to Chiquita, we came to the 4-way fork that I asked Michael to mark on our way in, because I lose my sense of direction there and have twice taken a wrong turn in the past. Sure enough, I had no sense of direction when we arrived to the markers. Had Michael not marked it, I would have surely chosen a wrong turn. Funny. Even with the markers, I began to run down the wrong trail!!
It was hot and I was growing extremely tired. I wasn’t the only one. Two mountain bikers (male & female) were sitting in the shade on the rocky trail, looking utterly fatigued. They complained that they were “so hot,” and asked were they could find water. They each had two bottles of water – one of them empty, the other with some water remaining. When Michael pointed out the quickest way into Blue Jay, they took one look at that giant hill we had just run down and said, “No way, we’re not going up there for water.”
It’s good the two were sitting in shade. But they still had the trip to make back to the candy store. I urged them to make the hike into Blue Jay. “Just leave your bikes here,” I suggested. They didn’t look like they’d be able to make the 8 plus miles back to the parking lot with the little water they had. I hope the two rested a good long while and took our advice and hiked into Blue Jay. We didn’t come across them again.
And we were off on the long, long HOT trip “down” Chiquita Trail with Michael taking the lead. After a few miles, I suddenly came upon Michael standing on the single-track facing two hikers. “We’ve got a rattler here,”’ he said. I could hear its rattles from several feet away. “Do you think I can get a picture?” I asked and everyone laughed. Turns out, I couldn’t get a picture. And I was a little bummed about that.
I really don’t fear rattlesnakes. That’s not to say I don’t fear being stricken by one. The best thing that can happen with a rattler is that you see it from a safe distance. And we were at a safe distance. As I moved in closer to see it coiled up in the brush, the two hikers nervously backed away. I asked Michael if he could tell how big it was. He said he thought it was about four feet long. Well, I gave it an extra couple feet just in case, which means it’s striking distance would be about 3 feet or a little more. The trail was about three feet wide, so I hiked up onto the bank on the opposite side of the trail as the frightened snake rattled away. Now, not only would the rattlesnake have to strike more than three feet – he would have to strike me up hill! (They can supposedly strike further down hill). The two hikers looked at me like I was absolutely crazy. Michael followed right behind me to pass the danger. When I told the hikers that a rattler can only strike a little more than half it’s size, they too hiked up on the bank. They looked back at us nervously. “Just give them their space and you’ll be fine.”
And then Michael and I continued to run – run in the heat and on the rocky, miserable terrain. I was so dang tired, it would have felt good to walk the entire remaining miles, but with about three miles remaining, I wanted to get back ASAP. My fluids were gone.
The last three miles were excruciatingly difficult. We hiked some, we trotted some, we ran some. Michael got out ahead often, but I could see him stop and look back. It really was wonderfully miserable. And when I thought I could no longer take it, I looked around me to take in the beauty. I dreamt of the ice-cold Gatorade in my truck. And I refused to look at my garmin.. I also concentrated breathing through the nose, which worked very well since I ran so slowly. It also helped to calm me down. I tend to get a little anxious when the run gets super tough.
The last mile was truly hellish for me. No fluids and extreme heat, not to mention uphill terrain, was not a good mix. But as Michael said, “One foot in front of the other, eventually we’ll make it.” I think he was a little worried about my directions, especially since it TOOK SO LONG to catch even a glimpse of the parking lot.
What a beautiful sight it was to see signs of the parking lot. I actually hollared, “Woo-Whoo!” when my feet hit that pavement.