Hectic, hectic week. With next week the last of summer work for me, I have been busy with work, busy with anxiety over students succeeding, busy with other issues that I’ll leave unwritten. Needless to say, I didn’t get my first two training runs of the week.
I set off this morning before sunrise, headed for Saddleback Mountains. Though today’s plan dictated 12 miles, I opted for a 14 mile loop up Holy Jim Trail to The Main Divide, down West Horsethief, and ending with Trabuco Trail back to my truck.
I arrived to a canyon lot and noticed only two cars – both of them apparently empty, one locked up, the other with its windows down, inside a battery type light that was lit on the dashboard. That spooked me for no reason other than I found it unusual. I drove the canyon road to Holy Jim parking lot quicker than usual. It’s a rocky ride – very bumpy in my little truck. About a half mile from the Holy Jim parking lot, I came upon two sheriff squad cars, both of the officers standing in the road.
I slowed and rolled down my window. “Is it safe to go in there?”
“Sure,” one of the officers said. “You going for a run?”
I wondered how he knew, but then realized my garmin gave me away when he said he had the same garmin. After talking running for a bit, the officers told me to let them know if I saw a certain type of car (which they described to me).
“Should I be scared of it?”
“Oh no,” they replied. “Just wanting to make sure they’re all right.”
When I told them that I didn’t have cell service in the mountains, they said, that was okay, that if I saw the car, mark the trail and let them know when I’m done.
Hmmm. Now, that was odd. As I drove away, I wondered why I would need to mark the trail, when it donned on me that they thought that I might see it off the road, as in, drove off the mountain. Yikes.
Holy Jim was quiet, lonely and tranquil. Beautifully cool and a bit dark, I ran this portion with a slightly aching right hamstring and calve. About 1 mile in I stopped to stretch the right leg and spotted a rather large campsite hidden deep in the brush, camouflaged a great deal by the forest. With no road access to the sight, I was tempted to investigate, but then decided to run off quietly, spooked again that perhaps I noticed something I wasn’t suppose to notice.
A half mile later, I noted from my garmin, I ran upon a red beach towel spread out over a boulder. This was about the fourth thing out of the ordinary – most of them silly – bit still. I couldn’t wait to get out of the shaded forest of Holy Jim’s Trail.
I didn’t make great time running up Holy Jim. But I took deep breaths of beauty and enjoyed myself. I didn’t see a single person. And . . . and I wasn’t fooled by a false summit. I think I’ve finally got the five miles memorized. (A false summit to me is a high point on the trail that I either think is the last of the hill or some kind of turning point, like another trail head, etc, and it ends up not being so. A false summit is a big mental downfall in my running).
The gnats finally found me on The Main Divide. They were thick at times, other times thin. More than once I breathed in 3 or 4 through my nose at once! Out of tissue, my shirt came in handy.
By the time I reached West Horsethief, I would say that my mental game was pretty much lost. I couldn’t shake the negative talk. And though I told myself to take this steep switch-back swiftly, I ran it too cautiously. Extremely rocky, I just couldn’t get over the fear factor. I thought about how much time I’d lose in Twin Peaks running down West Horsethief, and frankly, that pissed me off.
At the bottom of Horsethief, I forced myself to shake off the negative stuff and just enjoy the rest of the run. And that is what I did. I ran that last very long 3 miles a bit slowly, but enjoyed it nonetheless.
ps. If you wonder why I punctuated the title of this blog that way, it’s because I used a Doors song line, but switched out two words, which I bracketed.