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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Back to the Mountains

Day two of “hard” week (Wednesday) rolled around and I rolled myself out of bed.  I felt sore from head to toe, particularly my quads and my arms.  Looking back, I could have probably gotten through the scheduled run, or at least part of it.  I felt more than anything that I really needed a day of recovery.  So, I allowed myself the day off, on the condition that I wouldn’t beat myself up all day for missing the run.  In order to accomplish that, I cleaned house big time, worked on laundry, read and napped.

Wednesday was supposed to be 14 miles and Thursday was scheduled for ten.  I flip-flopped that so that I would not run too much behind, and set off for 14 miles in the Saddleback Mountains this morning (Thursday A.M.)

It was still dark as I sat in my truck in my driveway.  The only reason I didn’t change plans and head for a coastal hills run was because I was too lazy to turn off the car, open up the house and tip-toe in to change the note I left my husband.  (I leave him a note with the trails I’ll be running in case something happens.  And I don’t stray from my note.)

Last night I looked forward to the time alone in the mountains today.  But the closer I got to the mountains, the more I fretted their difficulty.  The Holy Jim parking lot was empty when I took off running up Trabuco Trail.  The sun had risen and the gnats soon discovered me running alone through the canyon.

A quick shot before taking off up Trabuco Trail:

One of the cabins along the trail:

Quickly into this run the gnats swarmed around my head.  Now, I’m usually one to tell people, “You need to accept the gnats.  Then it will be better.”  I usually run pretty carefree through the creatures, especially now that I breathe through my nose.  This morning however, they swarmed my head like I was their hive.  They flew up my nose.  They landed on my eyeballs.    They psyched me out so much, I lost my groove.  I looked to the ground too much, and somehow tweaked my knee along the way. 

I felt like from afar you couldn’t see my head.  All you could see was a swarm of these tiny gnats buzzing, buzzing, buzzing.  I wanted to plop to the dirt and cry.  Seriously.  But to do that would mean remaining with the gnats.  I needed to get up West Horse Thief a bit before they left me, that much I figured.

Me and the gnats on Trabuco Trail:

Needless to say, those dang gnats didn’t get me to West Horse Thief any quicker.  In fact, they sucked the time right out of me.  They pretty much sucked everything out of me.  I didn’t look forward to my run anymore.  I even thought about turning around on Trabuco and heading back to the truck.  But, that would mean that I’d have to run through more gnats.  I wasn’t looking forward much to climbing West Horse Thief either.  However, I managed to run onward, slowly albeit, but run nonetheless. 

The beginning’s of West Horse Thief:

Climbing West Horse Thief WAS A BEAR, though beautiful it was:

Almost to the top, AND FEELING IT:

No matter how tortuous the climb is, reaching the top of West Horse Thief is always divine:

I ran the Main Divide feeling glorious.  The gnats forgot about me for several miles.  I didn’t see a single other person for a long time.  Finally, I spotted a cyclist off in the distance.  As we approached each other I was surprised to see that this lone rider was a woman!  A half mile or so later, I saw another cyclist (perhaps her boyfriend or husband), struggling to keep up with the lady.  Later, a dirt biker passed me as I grinded the dirt toward Holy Jim Trail.

I ran that five miles down Holy Jim eager to get back.  Eleven other hikers made their way up in various groups.  It was a lovely trip for me (hopefully for them too, but their faces revealed a great struggle).  Though lovely, it was a long, long trip.  And I’m oh, so glad I made it – gnats and all (and they were sure to greet me toward the bottom of Holy Jim)

Running up Horsethief to peak down Holy Jim 8-30-2012, Elevation - Time

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


It’s “hard” week again.  And I wasn’t ready.  I really thought that I needed more than one day to recover from last week’s “hard week.”  After much procrastination, running errands, chores, laying around and reading, my husband practically pushed me out the door to run.  The time was 4:00 PM.  And it was hot and muggy.

One thing that occurred to me whilst lazing around this afternoon, falling in and out of sleep, is that I NEVER run without a hat.  Never, ever, ever.  I don’t even wear visors anymore.  It’s always a hat.  I wondered if I could even run without a hat.  What if, perhaps, I left the house forgetting my hat.  Would I drive back?

You betcha. 

I find it humorous that when I take my boys hiking, I ALWAYS say, “Get a hat.”  And they look at me like they wouldn’t know what to do with a hat. 

If I don’t wear a hat, this is what happens:  Sweat drips down from my forehead, salty sweat.  It gets into my eyes (ouch), but even worse, the salty sweat seeps into my eyelid creases and burns a hairline cut across them.   This sometimes even occurs when I wear a hat (on particularly long and hot runs).  A visor will help with the salty sweat, but it won’t help with heat exhaustion.  That’s why it’s always a hat, never a visor which leaves the top of my head exposed. 

Today’s run was relatively short, a little over 6 miles and I still wasn’t going to run it without a hat.  Better yet, today I thought that I’d try one of my hats that I oh, so much want to like.  It’s one of those hats with a flap on the back to provide shade for your neck.  The sun shined particularly bright when I left today.  Time to try it out (again).

Running into Wood Canyon:

Heading up to West Ridge via Cholla Trail:

A view of Catalina Island from Park Avenue Nature Trail (look closely at horizon line):

The verdict on the super cool flap hat . . .  I still hate it.  The hat literally traps the heat in.  I just don’t understand it.  People love these hats.  Even worse, I can’t turn it around to wear it backward.  And that makes all the difference in the world to me.  So I will wash this hat and pack it away in my gym bag for anyone who wants to borrow it.

Another greeting from Top of the World:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mentally Sensitive / Mathis Loop

I did not sleep well last night.  My quads ached.  The tops of my feet ached.  And my waist was raw from chaffing.  Thing was, I still had one more day of running to finish up “Hard” week.  Today, Sunday, the plan demanded TEN miles. 

AND SO, I drove wearily to Aliso/Wood Canyons for my TEN, most likely, miserable miles.  The park was crowded as usual for these summer weekend days.  Seemed there was one spot to parallel park saved just for me.  I talked with some bikers prepping for their trip.  Then I phoned my husband for some coaching advice.  Should I run a relatively easy eleven mile loop?  Or should I run a semi-tortuous 10 mile loop that goes up Mentally Sensitive?

He voted for the latter.   And the latter I took.  I began slowly, but I felt good.  Surprisingly good.  My spirits lifted when I turned up onto Meadows (one of my favorite trails).  I jumped into the brush to let at least ten mountain bikers pass as I ran its beginning slightly rolling hills.  And then I made it . . . made it to Mentally Sensitive.  One rule, I told myself:  SIMPLY NO STOPPING.  I didn’t have to run the entire trail, but I had to keep moving forward.  Turns out, I ran about 50% of that tortuous trail, and I hiked the rest powerfully.  Also, for the first time ever, I saw others on Mentally Sensitive.  I came across at least 6 cyclists and 2 runners, all travelling downward. 

Great run.  Great breeze.  Took Mathis Trail down to the canyon (an old best friend trail).  Got to enjoy talking to a trail friend, and hear the story of his recent triathlon.  Best of all, I made good time, got in my ten miles, and felt amazingly strong, especially after yesterday’s LONG, long, long run.

Running up Mentally Sensitive:

Running toward Top of the World after conquering Mentally Sensitive:

Good Morning from Top of the World:

My Activities Mentally Sensitive-Mathis Loop 8-26-2012, Elevation - Distance

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Today’s training schedule dictated 26 miles.  I thought it would be so much easier if I could just find a marathon to run.  Really.  I searched the internet on Friday.  The only reasonably priced and kind of close marathon was sold out. Dang.  I was just trying to make it easy on myself.  Can you blame a girl? 

Instead driving to the mountains, I concocted a three-park loop in the local coastal hills:  Aliso/Wood Canyons, Laguna Wilderness and Crystal Cove.  I could make this a really long story.  Truth is, I’m just too tired.  Short story is that I miscalculated my 26 miles.  I knew this early on.  So, I altered my loop.  Even with the altered loop, I realized I was still WAY over 26 miles.  But I couldn’t cut it short when I realized this at about 15 miles, because I needed to refill fluids at Ridge Park.  After refilling, I decided to cut it short again (else come in at 30 miles), then I took a wrong turn (for a short detour) and made it back to my truck at 28.53 miles (about 46 km). 

I arrived home overheated and dead-dog tired.  But I felt good, more confident than usual, after being able to run it all the way in.  I am ready for an early night to bed. 

So onward to the pictures, lots of pictures:

Entering Aliso/Wood Canyons:

Wood Canyon:

Exiting Aliso/Wood Canyons Park:

This sign is NOT needed:

See?  No sign needed:

Entering Laguna Wilderness:

Laurel Canyon Trail:

Moro Ridge overlooking Pacific Ocean:

Entering Crystal Cove:

Crystal Cove:

The water fountain!  The water fountain!

Homeward bound, running Rock It:

Elevation Profile (And the route for those interested:  Aliso Creek Canyon Trail, Wood Canyon Trail, Cholla, West Ridge, Stairstep, cross Laguna Canyon, Laurel Canyon Trail, Willow, Bommer Ridge, Old Emerald, Emerald Canyon, Old Emerald Falls, Moro Ridge, B.F.I., No Dogs, No-Name, Bommer Ridge, Willow, cross Laguna Canyon, Stairstep, West Ridge, Rock It, Coyote Run, Mathis, Wood Canyon Trail, Aliso Creek Trail Smile)

My Activities Triple Park 8-25-2012, Elevation - Distance

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I knew the third consecutive run of “Hard” week would be difficult.  I didn’t think the run would be brutal.  Ten miles, that’s all the plan said.  But I decided to run my ten miles on a Holy Jim Out-And-Back.  That’s a five mile trail in The Saddleback Mountains that ends at The Main Divide (Bear Springs).  It’s a tough five miles up (even down).  I’ve got it down now that I can usually run it all. 

I didn’t feel rested this morning, as I haven’t been sleeping well.  And I felt a little weak.  "Don’t care about time,” I told myself, “just do the miles.”

Slightly muggy and a little cool at the same time, about a thousand, yes ONE THOUSAND gnats decided to accompany me during the first two miles of Holy Jim.  I’m sure that I breathed in half a dozen through my nose. 

The downed tree still blocked Holy Jim just after the water falls turnoff.  That was delightful, hiking up the mountainside with a thousand gnats buzzing my face so that I could get around the tree.  I pushed it a little harder, though my pace was still slow, just to get away from those tiny bugs.

I tired easily running up that switch-back that I used to call “Holy Crap” instead of Holy Jim.  Today it felt once again like “Holy Crap.”  I felt a little light-headed and even hiked a few portions of single track.  Then I finally settled in and began enjoying the immense views.

I don’t know how this occurred, but at about 3.5 miles up, my camera flew out of my hand and off of the mountain.  You can imagine my horror as I looked down the side to see it resting lightly on a small tumbleweed-like plant.  The camera was probably about twenty feet down, so I needed to get down there.  Somehow.  I stood sideways at the edge figuring the best way to get down to my camera when the ground beneath me gave away.  I immediately fell and began sliding.  I quickly slid past my camera, unable to reach it.  I grabbed at plants on the way down to easily uproot everyone of them.  This slope was not secure!  Everything I touched went down with me. 

Many, many things go through my mind when stuff like this happen.  I knew instinctively to push my body into the mountainside.  I didn’t want to go airborne.  And I also knew instinctively to dig, dig, dig my foot into the mountain wall as I slid.  What I thought was this:  “Dang it!  It’s going to take ‘them’ forever to find me if I slide all the way to the ravine!”  I even kind of chuckled over the fine mess that I had found myself in.  My main thought, not really thought, but feeling was, “Don’t fall backward!” 

I finally dug my foot deep enough into the slope to stop my sliding.  And I began the slow process of digging in and climbing back up.  I looked for my camera on the way, didn’t see it at first.  Apparently, it slid some too in my avalanche.  Thank goodness there it was laying, as if not a care in the world, in that loosened plant, it’s lens still extended.  (Also, thank goodness I bought that extended in-case-you-throw-your-camera-off-a-mountain-and-break-it warranty). 

Climbing back up onto the trail, I found myself covered in dirt.  I had a minor cut on my left hand, a gash on right elbow (with a tiny bit of skin flapping),and welts up and down my left arm (that I didn’t notice until I got home).

Needless to say, the remaining trip to Bear Springs was excruciating!  Fatigue overwhelmed me, but eventually I made it.  I walked about on top, into the sun mainly to get away from my newly found gnat friends.  You can’t imagine how dang glad I was to have reached the top.  It was only five miles, but heck, what a brutal five miles.   I ran back so, so, so happy that I had only five miles left of mostly downhill.  And best of all, my camera still worked (for now!). 

I made decent (not good) time on the way back, especially considering my fatigue.  I even worked (ever so slightly) on my pivots around the switch-back turns.  And then of course those ONE THOUSAND gnats were back to greet me and run in the last two miles of this brutal run.  Smile

My Activities Holy Jim out-and-back 8-23-2012, Elevation - Distance

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Change of Scenery / Day Two of Hard Week

I should have wondered why I didn’t see a single other runner this morning.  I even only saw a few hikers.  I’ll tell you why no one was out in The Laguna Wilderness or Crystal Cove this morning.  No one came out to play because it was so humid, the air was so thick, even breathing was laborious. 

When I arrived home, my back and hands cramping, I told my husband, “That was hard!” 

“How many miles did you run?” he asked.


“And you expected it to be . . . ?”

I did kind of expect a breeze since I ran so close to the ocean.  I did expect lower temperatures since the skies were overcast.  Expect the unexpected is what I often say.  Today was case in point.

Running in these adverse conditions has got to make me stronger.  Besides that – the trails were gorgeous.  AND, I rarely run these parks, so I needed to guess a 14 mile route.  Can you believe, I was almost right on.

Running No-Name Ridge (seriously that’s the trail’s name), headed toward No-DogsTrail (yup):

Making a turn at bottom of Crystal Cove to run up El Moro Canyon:


After a (kinda) quick jaunt up Nice and Easily Trail (which wasn’t so easy, but it was nice), I hopped onto Missing Link (below):

From Missing Link I ran El Moro Ridge looking for my second favorite trail here, Old Emerald Falls.  As usual, I made a wrong turn, so I got a little extra mileage added on searching:

Finishing up Old Emerald Falls:

Climbing the wretched Emerald Canyon:

Almost to the top (Bommer Ridge):

An exhilarating roller coaster profile:My Activities El Moro 8-22-2012, Elevation - Distance