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Thursday, July 19, 2012

“Through [the] Strange Hours [I] Linger Alone.”

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 get a little giddy when “The Saddleback” comes in sight – driving the toll road this morning, there she is!:

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. 

Spooked again, being the only person in the Holy Jim lot:

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. 

The Main Divide:

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.

Reaching West Horsethief:

Entering W. Horsethief:

This is how I felt running down, slipping and sliding, tripping along the way down West Horsethief Trail:

But the view was awesome:My Activities Holy Jim W Horsethief Loop 7-19-2012, Elevation - DistanceMy Activities Holy Jim W Horsethief Loop 7-19-2012

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. 


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading Stacey. I am lucky to have such a beautiful course. : )

  2. Awesome run! I would have been spooked by some of those things as well.

    1. Thanks Johann! I just saw that red towel again. This time all folded up neatly! LOL.