TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Summer Just Wasn’t My Season (The Inevitable Look Back on 2013)

I planned to run to Santiago Peak and end the year with a triumphant run. Not feeling well when I woke, I slept in some. Then I decided that 2013 really wasn’t a year to end with a triumphant run. A run in Aliso/Wood Canyons was more apropos. It was time to get back to where it all began, well, not actually began, but when it all came together with me and trails. Somewhere along the trails this year, I lost something on the run. I lost my drive. I lost my strength. I lost my confidence.  (And I couldn’t help but think, “I’m too old for this self-doubt and self-loathing!”)

2013 began with plantar fasciitis. This aspect alone didn’t wipe me out. There were lots of personal struggles. I gained a good amount of pounds (make that a “bad” amount of pounds).   And I tried so desperately to use the trails to bring me back. But my heart just wasn’t there. It was somewhere else attempting to get myself right again with the world, right again with myself. Then Old Goat happened. Being pulled at mile 41 in a 50 mile race put quite a stomp into my stride.

clip_image002And then summer arrived. Summer. It just wasn’t my season. The heat nearly did me in more than once. The season ended with my head hung low, a severe limp in my right side, a major loss in work hours and no advancement in my personal strides.

In 2013, I sprained my ankle running a road marathon. In 2013, Twin Peaks was cancelled due to the government shut-down. In 2013, I lost my patience too many times. And in 2013, I said good-bye to two friends, one was silver, the other gold. (Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.)

Good-bye Phil Olaskey (We met in 1977):clip_image004

Good-bye Tommy Ryan (We met 6 years ago)clip_image006

So, 2013 was a struggle! Heck, when isn’t life a struggle? I survived it.  In fact, I learned much.  I learned that much of what I learn on the trails applies to my life overall.  I realized that this is indeed why I was given the gift of trails.  So that I can learn.  So that I can appreciate.  And there was much to appreciate this year.  In 2013, my son went another year without a seizure. In 2013, we managed to keep the house yet another year.  No one became seriously ill and all of my family is still intact. I read great books in 2013.  I met wonderful students. In 2013, I also met new good friends. And I re-united with old friends.

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And so, on this last day of 2013, I took to the trails in Aliso/Wood Canyons, the place that I found my own way on the trails.  The place where I learned to tell direction and read the peaks and ridges – the place where I lost my fear of wilderness.

On this last day of 2013, I took off down Aliso Creek Trail with no pain in my foot.  None.  The park was crowded, and I mean crowded with hikers.  That is until I took a left from Wood Canyon onto Meadows Trail.  I saw one mountain biker.  Then I headed onward to the steepest trail in the park, my greatest challenge in Aliso/Wood Canyons – Mentally Sensitive Trail. 

About a mile in, I met father and son mountain bikers.  The father was laid-out on the trail, his son looked as if he had been crying.  I could see his father was conscious as the son moved the bikes and their gear off the trail.  I stopped to check on the boy’s dad.  He assured me his father was okay.  I told the boy that I could not leave them there.  The father still on his back with his arms over his face said a few words about being “okay.”  But he still lay in the middle of the trail.  I wasn’t even sure he could move.  Turns out the man had flown over his handlebars, and that worried me greatly.  The boy said that I could go, that they had water and a phone.  As I gave him the ranger station’s phone number we both noticed another mountain biker barreling down the steep trail.  Both the boy and I began hollering and waving our arms, “Stop!  Stop!”  That biker came around the bend with a screech, stopping just as the injured man scooted himself off the trail. 

I was so relieved to see the injured guy could move.  I also noted the absence of blood.  As the other mountain biker and I discussed what we should do, the boy said that he had his mother on the phone.  Eventually, both I and the other mountain biker took off when the injured biker was sitting upright.  As soon as I turned the bend I phoned the ranger station.  You can imagine my aggravation when no one answered! 

Before I reached the top of Mentally Sensitive, another biker went over his handlebars.  I approached as he used the bike to lift himself from the dirt.  He didn’t look good.  No blood.  But his face was ashen.  I asked if he was okay, if I could do anything for him, did he need me to phone someone.  He said he was okay, but had probably damaged his ribs.  After a small conversation, I convinced him not to take Mentally Sensitive down.  I suggested he take Meadows which is less steep and much easier to manage.  After what I told him about the remainder of Mentally Sensitive he was convinced and went on his way as I ran onward into Moulton Meadows Park. 

Mentally Sensitive:

I ran onward to Top of the World and took in the same view I have relished countless times.  I ran the remainder of this last run of the year with hardly any pain, just knowing there were lots of life’s lessons from today’s run to sort out over the next couple days.  I suppose I should close before the new year actually gets here.

Happy New Year!  Thanks for reading and all your support.  I so much appreciate it!  And also, for enduring this long, long post.  Winking smile

Miles logged:  10.78

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Didn’t Need A Pack

Last night a war break out in the house over Minecraft.  Yes, Minecraft.  A video game!  And this is about the only “in” game with no vulgarity or profanity.  Needless to say, get four guys playing this “tame” game at once, three of them brothers, and the night getting late, something is bound to happen.  And it did.  And I was upset, but happily allowed the father (my husband) to hand out punishments on his own.  Still, I pulled my guilt trip move, and told the two in the deepest trouble that I wasn’t going for my early morning run, because I didn’t trust they’d behave while I was away in the morning.  Oddly, that stung.

Still, I set my alarm because I figured the guilt trip worked.  But alas, I was just too worn out to get out for some early morning trails. 

This afternoon, I decided it was a hike, the gym or a run for me.  I could convince no man or boy in the home to accompany me on a hike up to Bedford Peak.  The 3-mile uphill didn’t go in my favor.  Also, being spoiled by the mountains lately, the gym just wasn’t going to satisfy.  In the end, I opted for trails.  I grabbed my pack, which I packed the night prior for a long morning run.  By the time I arrived to Arroyo Trabuco Trail in the foothills of the Saddleback Mountains, I wasn’t much in the mood for a run at all.  

I set off in warm wind.  My foot felt very decent.  Still, I decided I could probably only muster a three mile run.  Definitely didn’t need a pack for this.  Ends up, I felt better after a mile and a half.  I ventured on a little further, then turned back on the empty trails for a total round trip run of 5.14 miles. 

Definitely looking forward to a new year.

Happy Holidays to all!  And may you have no Minecraft wars in your peaceful home.

Today’s Run:

Saturday, December 28, 2013

New Garmin, New Shoes, New Socks, and a New Hair Cut on New San Juan Trail

I got a late start this morning, but managed to get out the door before 8 AM, and drive up the mountain.  I ran along (new) San Juan Trail for a San Juan / Old San Juan Trail loop with,

My new Garmin:

In my new shoes and socks:

Sporting a new haircut:

I  chose this loop which begins on the so-called “new” San Juan Trail and connects up with Old San Juan Trail just beneath Sugarloaf Peak because it’s basically the course of next week’s 12k that I’m running.  I haven’t run a race of this short distance in a LONG time.  The runners will definitely take off faster than I can even run at my fastest, and I’ll get left in the dust right away.  In fact, I got a pretty dang good chance of bringing home the DFL.  My only advantage for this race is the fact that portions of the trail are extremely technical.  I’ve got quite a bit of practice at that.  Others may not.  Either way, it’s okay.  I need to get back into the game.  I got out there today and was able to take this technical course, without falling AND without excruciating pain (though it was a bit painful coming in).  I’m looking forward to some hard work come race day.  But it will be relatively short, therefore, not much time for that negative self-talk that I pledge to work on conquering in the upcoming year. 

A bit of the scenery (because I won’t be taking pictures on race day.  I will be, after all, attempting to finish before the race director and gang has packed up and left Winking smile)

Total miles run today:  8.34 (about a mile more than the course I will run next week).

Monday, December 23, 2013

Winter Solstice 2013

It’s been a while since I got out under darkness.  Finally did it on the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter.  Boy was it cold!  Southern California cold though, quite bearable indeed. 

As Christmas approaches, I am falling behind on keeping up my blog.  And it seems that all the profound things I wanted to write about this run have flittered away.  Onward nonetheless:  I drove that bumpy, muddy, rocky canyon rode to the Holy Jim lot as the sun began to peer above the horizon.  By the time I arrived, the lot was practically full with trucks like mine.  (The drive from my house takes one hour – thirty minutes of highways and streets, then the last five miles of off-road takes another 25 to 30 minutes)

When I set off on this run up Holy Jim Trail, my right foot felt perfectly fine.  In fact, both feet felt exactly the same, as if I had no injury.  Bliss.  I was able to really take in the trail’s beauty.  And I began to think that perhaps there was an upside to having this injury – I have really been missing the trails, and being away has made my heart grow fonder.

Holy Jim’s Beauty:

About 2 miles up, the beanie comes off!

After mile three, the pack comes off so that I can take off the long sleeves.  I’m warm enough!

My foot began to ache as I ran along The Main Divide.  Fortunately, I had chosen the “short loop” for this mountain run (14.5 miles).  The only really bad thing about my route was that it ended on a rocky, rocky downhill.  Did I ever pay!  Running down Horsethief was excruciating. Trabuco, though not as steep, was no better.  It was beautiful with leaf litter, but still rocky as heck.  At mile 11, I was truly amazed how much pain radiated from my foot after beginning this run with no pain whatsoever.  I wasn’t really angry about the pain.  I was more angry that I chose a downhill rocky route for the end of this Winter Solstice run.  I kept tell myself, “When you reach mile 13, you can hike.”  MILE 13 COULD NOT COME FAST ENOUGH.  But I continued running anyway, just to get there faster.  At mile 13, I walked the remaining distance in to my truck.  A group of mountain bikers offered me beer to ease my pain Winking smile.  I declined, stretched the heck out of my foot and took two ibuprofen in the truck. 

Again, despite the wretched injury returning, I still enjoyed the immense beauty on this trip.  And I am happy to report, that my foot feels much, much better today.

The Main Divide:

West Horsethief:

Trabuco Trail:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Easy Seven

Finally, it was time to slow down.  Slow down life that is, and get in some trails.  I’ve been working practically non-stop (substitute teaching and putting together the brochure cover for the district’s Adult School).  And I finally mailed our out-of-state Christmas packages (to Missouri, Texas, and England).  This morning the boys were off to their last day of school before the long winter break (17 days!), and I had some free time (even after running several errands). 

I was cold.  The trails were muddy.  The skies were blue.  The creeks were full.  And I didn’t fall  in the water once.  Not once.  But I did fall during this easy seven miles.  The story’s stupid really.  I slipped in a cement drainage ditch and slid down smack into the pavement.  In a split second I landed on my rear, my palms slammed to the ground, and then I made impact with my back.  Fortunately, my back was cushioned by the water in my pack.  Funny, I wasn’t even going to wear a pack because I wasn’t sure how many miles I would run.  Anyway, the entire trip was beautiful.  Even the fall (or rather slip). 

Tijeras Creek Trail:

Tijeras Creek Crossing:

Did it without getting my feet wet:

Arroyo Trabuco Trail:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bald Peak (or Lauren-on-the-Run meets HikinJim)

I dreamt I was running (as I frequently dream), but this time on dusty, desolate mountain trails.  There were no trees, only shrubs.  And as I ran downhill, I noticed an enormous sign, 70’s era, Las Vegas style sign, without the brilliant lights,  that read, “Iran. Eastern Border.”  (Looking at a map after the fact, I believe that I was in Pakistan.)  Anyway, I slowed my pace, fearful of that border, then noticed a lion up a ways.  He was a dark colored lion, like Scar in The Lion King.  Stricken with fear, I slowly walked backward away from the creature, until he noticed me.  That’s when I ran, still with my face toward the animal.  As I ran backward rather quickly, he took off after me, and I thought, “I just may be dreaming.”  And so I screamed, “WAKE UP!  WAKE UP!!!”  And I woke, so thankful that I was right.

Back to reality – Saturday, I slept in longer than I planned.  I am changing, that’s for sure.  In the past when I overslept, I usually skipped my run.  Saturday, I finally woke at 7:00 AM and was leisurely out the door by 8:00.  Even with a late start, I drove to Silverado Canyon in hopes of running to Bald Peak (a minor peak that I have not yet explored). 

My foot felt really good.  So, I felt paranoid about ruining my progress by running the first 3 1/2 miles of Maple Springs road, which is asphalt.  And so, I did something I’ve never done.  I can’t believe I never thought of it before.  Get this:  I DROVE that single lane asphalt road (single lane as in, room enough for one car) cautiously all the way to where the asphalt ends. 

I took off on a dirt truck trail in the blustery wind, delighted by the millions of leaves fluttering as if applauding the gorgeous day.  My right foot felt PERFECTLY normal.  I’m telling you, no pain whatsoever.  I could not have been more thrilled. 

I came upon several motorcyclists making their way up (4 or 5) and a couple coming down as I headed up toward “Four Corners.” 

A couple mountain bikers passed me as well.  But the mountains were still relatively quiet, except for the leaves clapping in the wind.  More than once I had to chase down my hat when the wind blew it off my head.  Finally, I decided to turn my cap around.  That way the wind couldn’t easily come up beneath the bill and blow it away. 

I made it to “Four Corners” in no time (being that I drove the first 3+ miles of the 7 mile trip).  “Four Corners” is named so, because it is the junction of 4 routes.  1)  Maple Springs Road, 2) The Main Divide, toward Modjeska Peak, 3) Harding Truck Trail, and lastly, 3) The Main Divide heading back toward Silverado.  I ventured on back toward Silverado in my hunt for Bald Peak. 

The hunt was actually quite easy, as one peak stood out vastly among the other shorter peaks.  And there appeared, from the distance, to be a road up to the peak.  When I arrived, I saw that the road was not really a road anymore, but more a grown in, thorny, low-lying brush area, leading up to the peak.  I marched up it, found my peak, ate my breakfast, took a couple pictures of the view, and ran back down to The Main Divide with scratched up legs (but without any blood).

A view from Bald Peak:

My downhill proved tougher for The Foot.  Four wheeled vehicles began making their way up the mountain.  Some of them drove ridiculously fast.   The motorcyclists, mountain bikers and dirt bikers all carried on with polite protocol, nodding or waving as they passed.  Most of the vehicle drivers behaved well too.  There were a few though . . . grrrrrr.  Baring teeth smile

With about three miles remaining, I came upon a hiker and his young daughter.  Having just moved into the area, he had a question about the trails.  We chatted for a while.  I pointed out the peak I had come to visit.  Turns out, two fellow bloggers were meeting at this moment.  I don’t recall this ever happening to me before.  This Saturday, Lauren-on-the-Run met HikinJim, who blogs his adventures as well.  You can be sure, one of the first things I did when I finally returned home was to look up Jim’s blog.  I had to giggle to myself.  Here I was talking about my peak collecting, and it turns out, he does the same thing with his hiking – collects peak.  I have a lot to learn from HikinJim for sure.  And he has been to some doozy peaks (10,000’+). 

After leaving HikinJim and his daughter, pain began to set in.  My right foot hurt upon impact.  If I were to say that the toughest pain with this condition has been a “10,” Saturday, it was only a “4.”   Still, even with the pain, I was able to hit a ten minute pace here and there.  I wasn’t pushing speed.  I cared more about saving my foot. 

I ran over ten miles on Saturday – mountain miles.  That is a big deal for my foot.  I am hopeful.  Very hopeful. 

Running dirt maple springs to bald peak 12-14-2013, Elevation

Running dirt maple springs to bald peak 12-14-2013

One last notable aspect of this surreal run:  I saw a a brown, furry mole scamper across my path as I drove Maple Springs Road back into town.  Now, I can appreciate just about anything – snakes, tarantulas, crazy-bizarre insects, but a mole!  It freaked me out a little.  I’ve never seen one in person , and it didn’t set well with me.  Let’s just say that I didn’t appreciate its beauty.  Winking smile