TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Solo Saddleback Training Run

I got a late start this morning for my one and only training run for The Saddleback Marathon.  I actually started my run at 9:00 AM.  I rarely start mountain runs that late.  But it’s autumn now, so the weather was nice and cool.  I even wore long sleeves and ran the heater on the drive to Trabuco Canyon.

Planning runs, I forget to count prep time at my truck – this morning it took me ten plus minutes prepping before I took off up the mountain:

It’s deer season in California.  So, I was sure to wear clothing the colors not usually found in nature.  I don’t want to be mistaken for a deer this time of year.  I should have worn a bright orange shirt – but I don’t own one.  I saw two male hunters hiking into the canyon (separately), both in camouflage (but one also wore an orange vest).  Both carried their rifles with a sling over their shoulder, with the barrels pointed upward.  Both also, though youngish men (younger than me), wore their heads shaven clean.  

I ran up Holy Jim, reminiscing about Twin Peaks, or rather trying to reminisce.  I don’t recall much now of running up Holy Jim.  I know today the trail was a lot more crowded with hikers and mountain bikers.  I timed myself going up, but that went out the window when my spouse left a phone message and started texting me.  I forgot to leave a note where I was running today.  This halted my run up Holy Jim because I was afraid to keep moving forward, lest I lose my cell connection.  The other problem was that I couldn’t READ MY PHONE!  Why?  Because I can’t see close up or tiny things without my glasses.  So, I texted HJ.  And hubby brainstormed my oldest son to find out that HJ meant Holy Jim.  (I was so proud of my son : )

Heading up Holy Jim:

Just before reaching The Main Divide, I heard a gunshot.  Just one.  My time was not good when I finally reached the divide.  I turned right and continued running without stopping.  More trucks than usual drove along the divide.  A few motorcyclists did as well.  I made the next junction (Indian Truck Trail) in good time, actually ten minutes faster than usual. 

View of Riverside county from the divide:

This is what much of running the divide is like, but this is section less hilly and less rocky than other parts:

I made it to a secret water stash just in time.  After refilling my pack I heard talking and laughing.  I didn’t want to exit the hiding spot, so I remained hiding in the bushes.  I waited and I waited.  I didn’t want to expose the water spot by exiting just as they went by.  Then again, they might have been runners who knew about the spot.  I waited and waited some more.  Thing was, I needed to pee.  And I could not, would not pee anywhere a secret water stash.  So, I finally pushed through the bushes, and ran up the trail to find four hikers taking photos of themselves.  I came “out of nowhere” to them.  And they were just about in the spot where I had decided to duck into the bushes to do my business.  (I’m just telling it how it is : )  I took a picture of their group with their camera before taking off along the divide to find another sufficient “spot.”

Anyway, the gnats flew about my face as I ran toward Trabuco Trail.  My timing wasn’t too bad.  What was bad was my trip down Trabuco.  This trail is one of the most beautiful trails I know.  It’s also very rocky, and I tend to run it fearfully, which is not good for my time.  There was a day when I ran down Trabuco much quicker.  But with my falls over the past couple years, I’ve grown timid.

Trabuco Trail:

I think I’ll save my quicker running down Trabuco for this Saturday’s race.  Overall, I ran to my truck at a slower speed than expected.  But overall, I enjoyed my training run.  I love these mountains.

Today’s profile:Running Holy Jim Trabuco Loop 10-28-2012, Elevation - Distance

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Big Loop, Clockwise

Today, I had enough time to run “The Big Loop” in Aliso/Wood Canyons.  I call it “The Big Loop” because it’s basically the biggest single loop one can run in the park.  Actually, it’s not exactly a loop, it’s more a lollipop loop.

Well . . . kind of a funny looking lollipop:Running Big Loop Aliso clockwise 10-25-2012

Clockwise, “The Big Loop” has a climb that is short and steep.  It’s pretty brutal, travelling UP Mentally Sensitive (aka Psycho Path) to the ridge.  Counter-clockwise, “The Big Loop’s” climb is long and gradual.  I prefer to go for the excruciating, but over somewhat quickly, than a constant, long gradual uphill.

Running Big Loop Aliso clockwise 10-25-2012, Elevation - Distance

The Big Loop was a joy today.  I came practically face-to-face with a deer.  The meeting was a tad scary.  Though they’re not predators, this one could have easily knocked me down and kicked out some teeth. 

The weather again was cool and crisp.  I simply adore autumn.  I do believe it has the perfect running weather here in Southern (coastal) California. 

I’ll make this quick and end this entry with some scenes from today.  The next couple days are long work days for me, I’ve got to get to bed.  Fortunately, I got this wonderful run in today.

Climbing Mentally Sensitive:

Top of the World:

Chance meeting running through Wood Canyon:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Back in the Saddle

I love not training!  I got out on the trails this morning and I did not think about negative splits, pace or how I need to improve.  I merely had a set number of hours that I got to “play” in the wilderness.

I took off on Aliso Creek Trail with the creek to my left flowing heavier than usual.  My calves started off stiff on this partially paved trail.  I stopped about 3/4’s of a mile in to stretch.  Onward I ran toward Wood Canyon, never to feel that stiffness in my calves the remainder of today’s run.  The skies were deep blue with white puffy clouds.  The weather was perfectly cool.  I barely grew warm enough to roll up the sleeves of my new Twin Peaks shirt. 

With no route planned today, I ran an old favorite, Cave Rock Trail.  I noticed an amazingly blue bird flutter in the leaves.  And then a reddish-brown hawk flew above.  But I couldn’t get my camera out quick enough for a picture.  So, I merely got back into the moment and kicked into a grove on the downhill back into Wood Canyon. 

Cave Rock dumped me out back onto Wood Canyon Trail.  I startled a female runner when I popped out onto the trail.  It’s easy to miss Cave Rock.  Even when you notice the trail, you aren’t apt to take it.  From appearances it doesn’t look like much of a trail, more like a little trip around a big rock.  Runners can’t see that the rock goes on and on.  It took me a few years to finally run it. 

From Wood Canyon, I made one creek crossing, then took Mathis Trail.  But I didn’t take that sharp incline to the ridge.  Instead, I ran another little unknown trail called Nature Loop.  It’s a magical single-track, ridgeline trail with tremendous views of all the main thoroughfares.  Nature Loop is one of those trails where you can see everything, but no one can see you. 

Creek Crossing on Mathis Trail: 

Nature Loop:  Going up . . .

Nature Loop (perhaps the best kept secret in the park) dumps out onto Coyote Run Trail.  I love Coyote Run, but sometimes it bores me with its length.  This is where Nature Loop helps.  It cuts off about half of Coyote Run. 

I saw my second person on the trails today on Coyote Run – he was a mountain biker.  We approached head-on.  I moved to the right.  He did the same.  I love it when it all works! 

Coyote Run:

Coyote Run dumps back out onto Wood Canyon Trail.  I didn’t see any other person and enjoyed running the canyon to its end.  Then I ran up Cholla Trail to West Ridge.  I picked up my speed on West Ridge, so happy to finally run trails for the sake of running trails.  Lovely! 

I didn’t summit today.  Why?  Because I didn’t want to.  No, not really.  I didn’t have the time.  Instead, I blasted down Mathis, to make this an 11 mile run and get back in time to stretch and drive home in time to shower and dress for work.

I love runs like these.

A quick stop on West Ridge to “point out” Saddleback Mountains:

Elevation profile:  I opted for a gradual climb to the ridge.  Really . . . I’m serious:Running Back in the Saddle 10-23-2012, Elevation - Distance

Friday, October 19, 2012

Twin Peaks Recovery

Recovery has been slow.  But that’s okay because I let so many things slide lately, things with deadlines.  I used this week’s down time to get caught up working. 

The first 3 days after Twin Peaks, I woke with extremely stiff legs.  My feet feel good.  I haven’t done much of anything to speed recovery, which is probably why it’s been slow.  How do I speed up recovery?  I foam roll, do floor exercises, stretch those hips and IT band.  All I’ve really done is foam roll – and just once or twice.

Today, I got in my recovery run.  I started late on the trails this morning since I needed to get the boys off to school.  The weather was delightfully cool with a slight breeze.  I took off with a pack because I wasn’t quite sure how far I’d run.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but I decided to add Car Wreck Trail UP HILL (see the steep portion in the elevation profile below.)  It kicked my butt all over the place.

Turns out that I didn’t need the pack, because I put in just under 8 miles.  A handheld would have done with this weather.  Eight miles is good.  I’m certainly not complaining.  I didn’t realize how much that big uphill would shove me around. 

I also forgot to tape my arches.  Turns out, I didn’t feel discomfort at all.  The best thing about today’s run was that it was PRESSURE FREE.  Yes, gloriously pressure free.  I simply got to enjoy.  No worrying about my performance and how I’m going to in Twin Peaks.  That story has now been written. 

Running down into Wood Canyon:

Descending a staircase on Wood Creek Trail:

Coyote Run (where the fairies fly freely):

Running Oak Grove Trail:

Entering Car Wreck:

Car Wreck Trail:  Going up

Greetings from Top of the World:

This morning’s profile:Running Wood Cyn Car Wreck TOW WR Cholla loop 10-19-2012, Elevation - DistanceRunning Wood Cyn Car Wreck TOW WR Cholla loop 10-19-2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Twin Peaks Ultra 2012 Recap

Awake at 2 AM, I was on the road shortly, slotted for arrival to Indian Truck Trail by 3:30 AM (an hour before my start time.)  I felt no nervousness as I drove the lonely highways around the Saddleback Mountains.  I felt calm. 

About 3:15 AM, all lanes on the 91 freeway abruptly stopped.  STOPPED.  Stopped as in, we didn’t move for about 45 minutes.  People shut off their cars.  I learned from the radio there was a fatal accident up a ways. 

A highway patrol officer walked about the freeway lanes talking to some drivers and pointing to the right.  Then slowly, but surely, the traffic began to move to the right, into a single lane.  Race time came before I made it to the offramp.  I didn’t fret.  Someone had lost their life.  It seemed rather foolish to worry about starting on time.  I merely figured that I would start the race when I started. 

4:33 AM, I was finally driving the offramp and noticed traffic dumping into another jam on the city streets.  The car in front of me made a u-turn over the dirt median to enter the onramp adjacent to our offramp.  I followed suit.  There were no cars on the freeway, except of course for the driver ahead of me.  And off to my left, two lanes over, lay a corpse covered with a tarp.  It looked oddly flat.  And that scene stays vividly with me today.

I arrived to Indian Truck Trail in a solemn mood, but I was oddly giddy.  The first wave had already started up the mountain.  I took off up Indian Truck trail alone.  4:50 AM.  I enjoyed my run in the dark.  I took in the black coolness, and didn’t think about anything.  A few miles up the road I could see bobbing headlamps from the other runners.

The sun had risen by the time I reached the Main Divide, equipped with a cheerful aid crew.  They were also late due to the accident, but on-time for my arrival.  John Hocket, the sweeper who chased me and Hank down the mountain last year was there this year with friendly words. 

It took me more than twenty minutes longer to travel this trail than it did the last time I ran it.  I had some making up to do -- my time was already fifteen minutes too slow to make later cutoffs.

The second wave front runners began to pass me as they ran at tremendous, strong speeds.  My morale was dipping.  And then Scott Barnes passed me with a smile and kind words.  I didn’t recognize him at first.  The last time I had seen him was Twin Peaks 2011 at the top of West Horse Thief where I waited as a pacer – he placed 3rd that year, the first year he ran this race (This year, he finished the 50 miles in 2nd place!).  

Anyway, I reached the next aid before I knew it.  Terrific workers manned West Horse Thief, optimistic, smiling and proud.

A cool wind blew as I ran above the clouds.  Other runners passed me as well, pretty much for the next several miles.  A little star-struck, I noticed the faces of many runners that are famous in the local ultra community.  And I saw the faces of friends and other runners that I’ve met again and again on the trails.  I didn’t see my friends Hank or Cody though, as they had taken off with the first wave, and with my lonely start, I just wasn’t quick enough to catch them.

I took the rocky downhill called West Horse Thief slower than I planned.  My friend Robert Whited passed me here with more encouraging words.  By the time I reached the bottom of West Horse Thief, I knew that I was in possible trouble as far as making the cut-offs.  Of course, “that time of the month” hit (yes, I’m still young enough),  and the melancholy that accompanies it did not stay home.  I just COULD NOT pick up my speed to my best.  I was able to increase my speed a bit, but with a foot that was beginning to ache (my neuroma foot), I worried.  But I refused, flat out refused, to think about taking the 50k option.  I had decided quite some time ago, that I would finish the 50 mile option or come home with a DNF.  By the time I reached the bottom of Holy Jim, I knew there was still a chance, but I was going to need some special footwork.

The aid station workers noticed that I hadn’t drank much at all.  I didn’t need refills on anything at mile 15.  So I guzzled down the remaining fluids in my handheld and refilled before the climb up Holy Jim.  

I ran practically the entire 5 mile Holy Jim trip.  I probably shouldn’t have.  I think I was beginning to lose my nerve and wasn’t thinking my best.  A hike would have probably served me better here.  The trip was lonely with a few runners passing me.  I really didn’t think much at all.  I was afraid to think, afraid, because I wanted to quit.  Instead, I put one foot in front of the other and took in the awesome scenery.  I made decent time up Holy Jim.  Still, I had fallen way behind in my schedule.  I refilled my handheld at an unmanned aid station at Bear Springs.  And that’s when I finally allowed myself to think about IT.  There was no way that I was quitting.  And there was no way I was going to make the 50 mile option.  And for the first time, I DID NOT WANT A DNF.  And so I allowed myself the option, the 50k option.  I made the decision remarkably fast, and without regret.  I really felt there was no option.  For all this struggle, I wanted a finisher’s medal, not a DNF.  I chose to take the 50k option. 

All I had to do was make it to Santiago Peak, which I’ve done dozens of times, then it would be basically downhill from there.  The trip to the peak was absolutely miserable.  I ran very little of it, probably 5 percent.  Every single step was painstaking.  It was the worst trip to the peak ever.  I felt utterly fatigued and my foot ached.  But I felt relief.  There were also some high points, the best being that I got to see Cody as he ran down from the peak.  I was so happy that he looked strong.  I told him my decision, wished him a good trip.  I felt comfortable that he was going to make the 50 miles.  I met lots of other fine runners struggling up to the peak.  Despite the pure, hellish agony, I enjoyed myself.  My foot even felt better.

When I finally reached a hospitable aid station at the peak, I emptied everything out of my pack and put it in my drop bag.  I ate a few potato chips, drank some Coca-Cola, and then I took off for a long, long downhill trip to finally end this race.   I was one hour behind schedule at Santiago Peak, which reaffirmed my decision.

With the decision made, though I struggled, I felt happy to be running the trails, to be participating in Twin Peaks.  I felt fortunate.  I would not allow myself to dwell on my decision.  I simply had to do it.  And I left it at that.

Upper Holy Jim was a pleasure.  I filmed quite a bit and remembered fondly where I had fallen several weeks back (seriously).  I met up with Steve Harvey (Old Goat race director) at Indian Truck Trail.  And then I began the long, long, winding trip down Indian Truck Trail.  I didn’t even notice the helicopter hovering about on the divide.  (Turns out, one runner had to be carried a half mile up West Horse Thief and airlifted to a hospital.  I learned very little details, of which I’ll withhold here because I’m not clear on much concerning this.  But thankfully, the male runner was eventually released from the hospital, expected to recover fully.)

Almost everyone running down Indian Truck Trail at this point had taken the 50k option.  Almost everyone.  The first place fifty miler passed me with about 3 miles remaining.  And Scott Barnes passed me with about 50 yards remaining.  These guys ran amazingly strong after such a huge race.  I was in awe.  I had company the last few miles, a young guy named Lucas.  He gave up his hope for the 50 miles after severe cramping set in.  It was nice to have his company, as those last few miles were unbelievably long. 

So, I got my medal, and got to chat and meet many of the runners as we sat about waiting for our drop bags.  I met some new running friends, and talked with old ones.  We ate, we drank.  We had A LOT of time to get to know each other.  I think we waited something like FOUR HOURS for our drop bags.   I noticed a fire truck and ambulance pull up.  I was beginning to hear inklings of trouble at West Horse Thief.  Unfortunately, for my friend Cody, and several other runners, they were dropped from the race at West Horse Thief due to the danger of passing while a helicopter landed.  The situation also delayed our drop bags.  My friend Hank though, made it and finished the 50 miles for the second year in a row! 

EVERYONE has been tremendously congratulatory toward me for finishing the 50k.  I however, do not feel that great about it.  I feel like I failed.  I know that I had to make the decision that I made.  But I still failed.  I was not in good enough shape.  That was where I failed.  On the other hand, the journey was tremendous.  The training was so much fun.  I met wonderful people, and I got to participate in this awesome/prestigious event.  Lots of lessons were also learned.  And that’s important in my life.  Lessons learned – even at my age.  Smile

The 50k option:Running Twin Peaks Ultra 50k 10-13-2012, Elevation - Distance

Twin Peaks / Saddleback Mountains

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Scared and Excited

Well, the eve before the eve of Twin Peaks is here.  I am scared.  I am excited.  I really want to enjoy.  I love those mountains so much that I would really like to make this a positive journey – a frolic through the wilderness, no matter how many miles I make.

I am up past my usual bedtime tonight without regret, because when I wake at 5:30 tomorrow, I want to be good and tired by 7:00 pm to fall promptly asleep, so that I can leave the house by 2:30 AM for my Saturday morning Twin Peaks start.

Today, I did all my errands, called in my son’s anti-seizure medication refill, did ALL the laundry, dishes, swept,  etc.  I did some ab work, some upper body weights and some floor exercises.  I even told my husband where to find things, stupid things that he’s not used to knowing about, like sheets, medication, etc.  PLUS, if it were ever an issue, I told him that I approve of organ transplants, and that I would be honored to save the life of someone’s loved one.  Morbid?  Not necessarily.  I’m just covering all bases.  He really should know these things anyway. He is after all my mate, the man I knew I would marry very early on; the man who also knew the woman (me)  who couldn’t walk uphill without taking a cigarette break and a rest somewhere in there (in my twenties!!!).  

Besides that, I worked today.  A joy as always to be with the high school students.  They took my mind off the upcoming adventure.  Funny, they have no idea what a basket-case I am.  At home, I fluctuated between numbness and anxiety.  My family was very good to me. 

My staging area is nearly complete (the kitchen table), of which I’ve laid out everything I will need (though I still haven’t picked out my running shirt).

These are the things, in case anyone’s so very curious, that I will put into my truck via 3 bags tomorrow evening:

My hydration pack:  camera, phone, gels, fluids, Glide (for chaffing) Endurolytes, Nuun tables, wipes (not toilet paper – wet wipes!), bandana, an ipod, an extra ipod, extra ear buds, extra sd cards (for camera) headlamp (plus extra batteries), lip balm, band aids, knee brace, ankle brace (both cloth), athletic tape  and a watch.  Plus I will wear sunglasses, most likely sleeves (depending on the temperature at 4:30 AM),  a garmin and a hat, and will also carry one hand-held for fluids.  Oh, and lastly, I will have a list of personal time requirements for me to finish this race in the knick of time, already typed in EXTRA LARGE print (because I won’t be bringing my reading glasses). 

My drop bag (available at about mile 22 and approximately mile 41): extra socks, sunscreen, a roller, electrolytes, gels, coconut water, (perhaps a protein shake if I can get to the store in time), more calories, more band aids, more Glide, artificial ice-packs, pain reliever cream, more Glide, more athletic tape, a bottle of Endurolytes, tube socks, antibiotic lotion, more Nuun tablets, extra lip balm and I’m sure more that I will think of last minute.

My after race bag:  another set of undergarments, clean socks, comfy sandals, a light jacket, basketball sweats (the kind that have zippers on the bottom so that I can easily pull up over shoes). 

For now that’s it.  Still to do:  replace batteries in headlamp and set watch to exact time.  And oh yes . . . pack these bags.  Smile

Thanks so much for all your support and confidence!  I can’t adequately relay how much I appreciate you all.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Comedy of Errors

As I approach Twin Peaks, it seems to me that I’ve been playing a part in A Comedy of Errors.  This comedy didn’t begin when I accidently threw my camera off the mountain, and the ground gave away for me to slide down the rocky slope.  The comedy didn’t begin when I took that tremendous fall running down Upper Holy Jim that my arm still bares scars from today.  No, my comedy of errors began some weeks ago when I took an unmarked trail that dumped me into a ravine, of which I had to climb a tree to exit, only to find myself tightly entangled in a thorn thicket.  I escaped demoralized, bleeding and covered with welts.  And I cut my run short.

The day after that, I thought I broke my foot, then blamed my sandals.  Finally ended up that I had plantar fasciitis.  That pretty much put my running to a halt (except for one last excruciating 22 mile mountain run).  THEN, while applying intensive home physical therapy, I stood on a chair in the kitchen, lost my balance and fell to the floor, bruising my butt and back.  THEN, just as my plantar fasciitis took a turn for the better, I caught a flu-like bug.  For two whole days I slept.  On the third day, I sipped wine in the evening while taking flu medication, which I’m sure made my illness last longer.  Hubby scolded me, “Don’t you know you should not drink wine while taking flu medication???”  Like George Castanza (the Jerry Seinfield character), I asked “Is that wrong?”  And I giggled myself to sleep. 

Monday (yesterday) came along and though I felt much better, I still didn’t feel well enough to run.  THEN as I watched television, flossing my teeth (I know, TMI), I broke a crown.  I’m waiting for the pain.  Hasn’t happened.  But I cannot leave the hole in my teeth alone.  It feels like a 3 inch gaping hole.  Of course it’s not that large, but with my neurotic personality, a hole in my teeth is NOT GOOD.  There’s no way I can fit in a dentist appointment before Saturday at this point.  Hubby says expect the pain to arrive Saturday. 

Hopefully not.

The great news is, today I got a run in . . . FINALLY.  It was a short run.  A lovely run.  A run with no foot pain (though I still taped my foot).  I had no goals in mind, except to run trails and enjoy.  To deal with my gaping tooth hole, I chewed a piece of gum and formed it around that tooth.  That worked pretty good some of the time.  But then I would forget and start chewing the gum, and that messed up my breathing.  Despite this, my run was lovely.  And seriously, I didn’t panic at all over Twin Peaks fast approaching.  Though I have visualized myself finishing the race many times, while I ran today, I ran through in my mind being pulled or dropping from Twin Peaks.  I told myself that I won’t cry, I won’t yell at anyone; I will act dignified, turn in my bib and get out of the way for the other runners still in the race. 

Rain is expected tomorrow.  Therefore, today’s run will probably be the last before Twin Peaks. 

Today’s lovely run to the Top of the World in Laguna Beach:Running cyn vistas out-and-back to top of the world 10-9-2012, Elevation - Distance

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What’s the Deal?

Where have I been?  Not running.  I have the flu.  Twin Peaks is in 6 days.  Muhahahahahahaha.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fearful Gait

After diligent self-therapy and constant taping and re-taping my foot, I set out this morning for my first run since last Thursday (and that was my only run last week).  I taped my foot of course, and I am so, so very pleased to report that I felt no pain whatsoever on my nearly eleven mile run.  I took it easy, ran pretty slowly in fact.  It felt like my gait had changed, almost like I ran too carefully, as if my feet were afraid.  I was afraid.  I did not, could not feel the pain once again with just about a week out of Twin Peaks. 

I’m okay with the fearful gait.  The important thing is that I got out there and I ran trails today.  The feeling was so completely joyful, it felt like I had been released from prison or perhaps a psych-ward – as if I were suddenly free.  Not a thing bothered me during today’s run, not my slowness nor the treacherous climb up Mentally Sensitive.  It’s almost like every runner needs an injury so that they can have this feeling of getting back something they had lost.  Of course, I don’t want anyone injured.  But with all my training, I think I was beginning to lose some joy of trails. 

10.75 miles run this morning.  Back at home, I took off the tape, iced and rolled.  And I felt great.

Turning onto my old friend Meadows Trail:

Running up Mentally Sensitive – There’s Saddleback Mountains!:

A quick stop for some swing time:

Goats!:

Back at Top of the World:

View from Top of the World:

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