TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A-Okay

I ran trails this morning and was so very tempted to run for endurance and push for extra miles.  But I fought against the urge.  I had told myself that I wasn’t going to train (in any way) until early December.  I was going to rest (while running).  And gosh darn it – I’m going to see this thing through.

Back when I DNF’d Saddleback, I felt pretty low.  Not low necessarily because I decided not to finish the race.  I felt low because of all my downfalls and general mental weakness.  Saddleback just kind of showed them to me all at once – like a wide opened book.  Afterward, I even caught glimpses of thoughts wandering through my mind, thinking that I should quit running.   

Quit running?  Ha!  What then would I do?  (Oh I don’t know . . . perhaps become a better mother, better wife, have a cleaner house, keep groceries stocked, play with our dog, maybe paint the house, finish writing my novels, try and sell my finished novel, read more, finally get a full-time job, clean out my filthy truck, aid the needy, volunteer more at the boys’ schools, be available more to people, in general, and specifically to my family . . . )

This “rest while running” month has really helped me realize that I wouldn’t be half the person I am without my trails.  Sure, I’m not perfect.  I’m not as strong physically as I want to be.  I’m not as strong mentally as I want to be.  Running actually helps me deal with my imperfections, helps me accept them.  I just had a bad day, a bad month perhaps . . . that happens in endurance running.

So today, I didn’t put in those extra miles.  I ran to rest.  I ran up a steep incline (Mentally Sensitive).  And though I suffered going up, at the top, EVERYTHING WAS A-OKAY.  Who cares if I STILL haven’t dropped my extra weight.  I have 3 beautiful sons and a wonderful husband at home.  Who cares if the recession has hit us hard.  Our middle boy hasn’t had a seizure in over 2 years!!!  Who cares if the house needs painting and we can’t afford to paint it right now.  We have a house.  Who cares about all that junk.  I have my trails.  I think I have only God to thank for that because I was the last person in the whole wide world to ever run, much less run mountain trails.  It just happened.  It was a gift given to me.  And I don’t know why. 

Smile

Standing before my dirty truck ready to run (& my truck runs and it has tires with good tread AND it seats five!):

Running the flat part of Meadows Trail toward Mentally Sensitive:

Running Mentally Sensitive was SO HARD, BUT OH SO WORTH IT:

An ear warmer serving a dual purpose.  When no longer needed for warmth, it becomes my snot rag (Ewwwww, she wears a snot rag on her vest????):

Finishing up Car Wreck Trail, so lovely and velvety green:

Oak Grove Trail:

Running Big loop at Aiso, up Mentally Sensitive down Car Wreck 11-28-2012, Elevation - Distance

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

STILL Not Training

I wrote that I wasn’t training (for now), and I’m sticking to it! Like I mentioned, I’m resting while running.  This morning was my “short” run, an out-and-back to Top of the World in Laguna Beach.  This is a nice hilly run, not too steep at all, but a good work-out.  Once I reached the ridge, it was rolling hills, REAL rolling hills, not those hills that some people (and I won’t mention names) call “rolling hills.”  (You know, those hills that you have to grasp at branches, scrape your knees just to climb Smile). 

It’s full-on autumn here, which is a delight.  But this also means that I almost always overdress.  Like I did today.  The weather was cool, even cloudy and darkish at first.  But, after climbing the first hill (Cholla Trail – not a rolling hill), I was ready to strip off the long sleeves.

But I managed.  And I managed happily. 

Here’s to running while resting!!

Cholla Trail:

Top of the World:

Looking at Saddleback Mountains:

Running Cyn Vistas out and back to top of the world 11-27-2012, Elevation - Distance

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Yaeger Mesa Run

While running The Main Divide in The Saddleback Mountains, I always notice what looks like a meadow, far off high up on the other side of the canyon.  I think I’ve pointed it out to everyone I’ve run with up there.  I always say, “I want to go THERE.” 

I used Google Earth to try and figure out the way.  I couldn’t make “heads or tales” out of that side of the mountain.  So, I surveyed my Facebook running friends, and Greg Hardesty told me that he could take me there,  the place called Yaeger Mesa. (Named after a miner Jake Yaeger who had his cabin on the mesa in the late 1800’s)

I was thrilled.  I heard from others it was a tough route.  Tough?  What’s tough?  I can do tough.  I just might be a little slow.  I thought nothing about resting up yesterday and not running.  I put in over ten miles instead

Anyway, we got a small group together for a loop up to Yaeger Mesa (Michael Perlongo, Robert Whited, Daniel Grieves, Greg and myself, plus Mark Rohren who ran the loop in the opposite direction.)

Here is the gist of our run up the mountain.  It was STEEP.  And I could not keep up with the guys.  I was pretty much way out of my league among trail runners.  But that’s okay.  This “run” pushed me harder than I would have ever pushed myself.  And the guys were kind and positive.  They didn’t let more than a quarter mile grow between us.

Running Bell View Trail:

Waiting for Lauren on Bell Ridge:

After running from summit to summit, I gave up hoping the next one was the last.  Some climbs, I used my hands and upper body strength to move upward.  Other climbs, I’d go up several steps, then slide back a couple.  During some climbs I actually had to rest for a minute! 

Mama Mia!

One foot in front of the other, up, up, up . . .

Sure the climb was tough, but the views were grand.  It was beautiful and it was remote.  We had shade cover for some of the way.   Other times I suffered from the heat, especially since I dressed for a cool day.  And we actually did come across Mark who ran this loop in the opposite direction.  As the guys chatted I looked beyond toward another climb and asked, “Do we need to go up that?”  Mark confirmed it, but said that the climb would be the worst of it.

The worst of it?  I thought two climbs back, scrambling on my hands and feet, grabbing at tree stumps was the worst of it.

Hardy laugh.

View of Orange County (& even Catalina Island way out there):

Standing before “the worst of it,” but not our last climb.  Left to right:  Michael (foreground), Robert (background), Greg, Mark, Daniel:

Scrambling:

And then FINALLY, after only about six miles, we came to a natural arch made from the trees – an entrance sort of, into a shady, lush paradise.  Greg offered me the lead to run it on into Yaeger Mesa. 

Ferns grew along a single track of dark moist dirt.  Pines towered above us like giants.  Damp leaf litter added to the fairy-tale-like glamour.  And California Bay Laurel trees freshened the air with a delightful aroma. 

It was different on this side of the canyon.  The smells were different, the dirt was different, even the pine cones were different (much smaller, and without sharp edges).  The down hill was so steep we slid in areas.  And we stopped occasionally to smell the pine cones, or the bay leaves. 

Running down to Yaeger Mesa:

The climbs were WELL WORTH IT.  When we finally reached the mesa, I was utterly shocked to find that what I thought was grass from afar was actually a huge field of ferns – ferns that can take the sun!  This time of year, they were brown.  But I’ve seen from afar that most of the year, they are bright green. 

Yaeger Mesa:

We attempted to make our way to a smaller, lower mesa.  But instead we found ourselves at the bottom of Trabuco Canyon.  I recognized the canyon walls on the other side, but I just couldn’t figure out where we were (even though I’ve run Trabuco Trail countless times.)  I needed to walk across the trail, turn around to view it like I usually do.  Then I immediately recognized where we were.  How many times had I ran past, without even noticing, the trail that goes up to Yaeger Mesa?  Too many to count. 

Running down into Trabuco Canyon:

We refilled on Greg’s hidden water stash near Holy Jim, then made our way out Trabuco Canyon Road.  Finally, we began the climb back up the canyon side to get to our cars in Robinson Ranch.  Though the climb was not nearly as tough as the way up to the mesa, still I found it extremely difficult, and rather warm in some parts.  What a great relief to finally make our way DOWN Bell View Trail to our cars. 

Good hard fun!

 

Capture

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fact Finding Mission

One of the things I love doing with my runs is connecting trails.  Or at least trying to.  For a while I’ve been thinking about a new running route to Aliso/Wood Canyons.  As it is, my routes are all street, and dangerous in some parts.  The most direct route posts a new roadside memorial at least once a year. 

The towns around here are filled with bike paths.  My thought was that if I could just connect them to La Paz Lake (Laguna Niguel Regional Park), I’ve got my route.  If I run out the back of the park, I’m at Aliso/Woods. 

I can catch a bike trail pretty easily and safely pretty close to my house.  So, I drove a few miles inland to pick up that same trail this morning.  Did I look at a map to see for sure if and how these trails would lead me to La Paz Lake (also known as Laguna Niguel Lake)?  Heck no.  That would take all the fun out of this fact finding mission.  One thing I did promise myself was:  No Bushwhacking.  I wanted to do this running adventure without trouble.

Ready to take the bike path down into a small valley:

And we’re off:

I could hear the foghorn very clearly shouting from the seashore.  Visibility was minimal.  Because I’ve lived in the area for almost 24 years, I know these cities very well.  BUT today, without view of the natural landmarks, I felt at a loss over the exact direction I ran.   

Right away, I found a dirt trail, which I of course ran down (gleefully).  Deep down, I hoped for a creek side trail for most of the run.  Every single leg I ran dead-ended.

Dirt!  Awesome!!

Dead end!

Dead end!

Dead End!

Dead End!

Okay, maybe this one is it:

Dead End!

Eventually, I had to run back up to the bike trail.  The road curved here and there, ventured up and down rolling hills.  I could hear cars up ahead, and I really could not decipher which road I approached.  Then I looked up and saw a favorite restaurant we used to dine at pre-children.  Niguel Road!  I was headed in the correct direction.  Best part was, the bike trail travelled beneath the road. 

I came upon plenty of runners, lots of hikers and I continued to run that bike path until it finally ended at an enormous baseball park.  I wondered how it could have been that I had never in my life seen these baseball fields. They must have been buried deep in a neighborhood.  Or perhaps the thick fog camouflaged the fields from my recognition.  The bike path continued up to the left and dumped me out in a neighborhood.  I really had NO IDEA where I was.  I wasn’t lost.  I knew that I was in Laguna Niguel.  But where?  I didn’t recognize the street names and I still couldn’t see the land formations.  I saw plenty of runners.  I didn’t ask; just waved.  I enjoyed the mystery.  And then I came to stop light at this beautiful water feature:

I took a left because I felt like that was the correct direction.  It was.  With no bike paths in sight, I made my way across a main, very busy road and ran onto another paved trail.  I knew my exact location at this point and was very confident I would run into the lake in about a mile or two. 

And I did:

I witnessed this gentleman reel in a rainbow trout.  I ran down the bank to capture his picture:

By the time I began my run back, the fog had cleared and I was one happy runner.  A fact finding mission did not turn out as hoped.  But I did make it to the lake.  And I didn’t get into any trouble.  I call that success.  Oh yes, on the way back, I found a dirt trail that cut some distance off the out-and-back and met up with the same bike path where I began this fact finding mission. 

Miles run today: 11.54

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New Goal Late in the Game for 2012

Still not training, still resting while running.  I plan to continue my “rest” until early December.  Some will wonder how I can rest and run.  It’s fairly simple.  I’m running trails merely for the sake of running trails.  I have no other goals, but to enjoy.  I don’t care whether I run them slowly, whether I feel weak or strong.  I don’t care about negative splits.  I just want to enjoy the trails. 

Yesterday it dawned on me that I was less than 200 hundred miles from hitting 2,000 miles this year.  While deciding on a year-end mileage goal, I settled on 2,012 miles for 2012.  Being that the goal is less than 200 miles away, it’s a doable goal, even while “resting.”

This morning it was a usual routine for me.  Being that the boys (and myself) are on Thanksgiving break (an entire week), I decided to wake early for a run.  I woke to my 5:30 AM alarm, pushed the snooze button on my phone, turned over and slept until my alarm sang out once again.  Then I walked out to the living room, cuddled up on the couch and fell back asleep. 

I finally woke at 8:00 AM and was out the door driving to Aliso/Wood Canyons at about 8:30.  The trails were full of mountain bikers.  I saw runners mainly on the asphalt portion of Aliso Creek Trail.  The skies were gray, the weather pleasurably cool. 

Stretching out extremely tight calves in Wood Canyon (sure I’m still a little sleepy & OH BOY, do I need a haircut!!):

Entering Meadows Trail:

I turned onto Meadows Trail for a clockwise short-ish loop to the Top of the World and around back through Wood Canyon.  I kind of lost myself in the trail and found myself looking down as I ran.  I try never to look down because it makes difficult for a straight column.  I know, it’s difficult not to sometimes look down on trails, especially on technical trails.  Even then, I tend to look out, always a few steps ahead – kind of like a chess game, always thinking a few moves ahead.

Anyway, I was running, looking to the dirt with no thought, nothing going on in my mind.  I was just “being.”  Then suddenly I looked up and saw that I was about to crash into two deer.  No lie!!  They were on the trail feeding on brown grass along the trail’s edge just a few feet away.  This seemed to occur in slow motion, but really only a couple seconds passed.  It’s as if the animals didn’t notice me until I noticed myself.  When I became aware, they became aware.  I scrambled for my camera, they looked up,  and if I could read their minds and they thought human thoughts, I would say they thought, “Oh crap, it’s a human!”  And they ran off.

I caught a photo of them as they ran off:

And then I turned a bend in the trail and saw a buck and two more does:

Running up Meadows, a biker to pass (& I did):

About to clear Meadows Trail (Whew!):

A stainless steel home at Top of the World, a lovely home, but I can’t help but think about ALL THE FINGERPRINTS, and constantly wiping them down:

Running down Mathis Trail:

Mathis on a beautiful day as the gray clouds depart for lofty white clouds and blue skies:

Running the final stretch, I ran a short detour to catch a look at some historic farm equipment (a harvester):

Running Clockwise Meadows Mathis Loop 11-21-2012, Elevation - Distance