TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Not Quite Mt. Everest

I got out for my first run since Calico.  Wow.  My calves and shins were tight.  I stretched them after a half mile, and then again at 1.5 miles.  Then I headed off to the steepest hill in the park: Mentally Sensitive. 

Mentally Sensitive was a BEAR to climb today – a grizzly bear.  Sheesh!!!  I actually found myself staggering.  In my near delirium, I noticed a guy back about a quarter mile.  I never see anyone climb up Mentally Sensitive.  This guy was really moving. And he wasn’t running, he was hiking.  He passed me pretty quickly, in super spirits too.  He stunned me with his ability.  I could tell he was a runner by his attire and his gear, yet he didn’t run one step up this trail (that I saw).  He marched up that gigantic hill.  In my miserable stagger we spoke briefly, and he was so positive over the difficulty, visibly happy over it, I thought to myself, I HAVE TO practice his strategy.  His strong hike beat my run by a long, long shot.

Overall, I had a wonderful run in one of my favorite wilderness parks (Aliso/Wood Canyons).  I ran what I call The Big Loop, about 13 1/2 miles.  And I ran it faster than I have before (by about 15 minutes!)  Being my last run for January, I came up short running the elevation of Mt. Everest for the month.  Almost 8,000’ short.  That’s okay.  I’m bound to do it in February with Old Goat a mere two months away. 

Some of the beautiful moments on today’s run:

Today’s profile:Running Big Loop Aliso clockwise 1-30-2013, Elevation - Distance

Monday, January 28, 2013

Calico Trail Run 2013

2013 is my fifth year running The Calico Trail Run.  This is THE RACE.  The Race that lead me to trail running.  In fact, it’s now grown into a family tradition to stay in Calico Ghost Town for 2 days come late January.   

I wrote in my last blog entry that I didn’t expect great results on this year’s 30k, but that I didn’t want my worst time.  Well, folks, I got my worst time, by 15 minutes (& I was 50 minutes slower than last year when I placed in my category).  I did however have the BEST time running this race.  I didn’t feel all together strong, but I felt comfortable.  I felt comfortable in my “skin,” and I felt comfortable on my feet.  Even though a cold, cold wind blew into my face practically the entire run, I knew the trails, I knew the rocks, the boulders, the sand. My head was cold.  But, I felt in my element. 

Waiting to Start:

Starting off on pavement into the lonely, colorful desert:

We ran sand, yes sand, for several miles.  I figured out a couple years ago, to get out of the sand and run in the brush where the ground is solid.  I noticed shadows behind me as others from the back of the pack followed suit. 

I tried not to do much socializing, as I usually spend too much time goofing around and making friends.  Regardless, I did meet some lovely people, saw familiar faces.  My goal was to get as many people behind me as possible.  In other words, get as many runners beneath my name on the board. 

I passed very few runners.  About half-way, I realized I needed to run a negative split to make last year’s time.  Ha, ha.  The hardest part of the run is the last 6 or so miles. 

Good news, I kept the demons at bay.  I didn’t bash myself when I realized I needed to run a negative split and couldn’t.  I just kept on running and took in the desert’s beauty. 

Once I kicked a rock so hard, I was very happy that I wore my most rugged shoes, else I may have broken my toe.  I only tripped once.  Miracle.  And I passed a male runner with a dog.  I took a couple handfuls of potato chips at the stations.  Once I took some jelly beans.  I gulped down one small cup of Coca-Cola at each station.  Besides this nutrition Smilemy pack contained Nuun water.  I also downed a few Endurolytes and two peanut-butter gels.   

Here  (below), I finally caught a delightful couple (from Bakersfield, Ca.) that I had been working hours to pass.  For a while there, it was back and forth between us.  When I finally caught them at this tunnel filled with water, there was no way I wasn’t going to get them beneath my name on the board.  They were tough, tough, tough to lose, that’s for sure.  Finally, I just pushed it with all I had, to give myself a good lead.  And I looked back.  I NEVER look back.  But I needed to see if I had a good enough lead to slow it down it bit for the last big hill.  I could tell . . . perhaps you know that look, “okay, go ahead and take it,” look.  They had that.  So I hiked up that last hill as fast as I could, where my oldest son met me.  And we ran it on to the finish together.

That delightful couple maneuvering through the tunnel:

IMG_0072

Ends up I had ten people beneath me on the board (plus 1 DNF) out of thirty-something 30k runners.  I had my family with me.  I didn’t fall.  I finished.  What more can a girl ask for?

Running 1-27-2013, Elevation - DistanceRunning 1-27-2013

Oh!  I almost forgot the movie . . . LOL

First race of 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Final Thoughts Before Calico

This weekend I run my first race of 2013. It’s a race I’ve run the past 4 years.  It’s a race that I’ve brought my family along for the past 3 years.  Calico Ghost town is at minimum a 2.5 hour drive away.  So, we will arrive the afternoon before.

Calico is the first “real” trail race I ever ran.  (Though I ran a few shorter ones first, they were in prep for Calico).

Last year, I placed in my age group.  I was in great shape.  And I was delighted.  I don’t expect such results this year.  I’ve put on at least 15 pounds since last year’s race.  I haven’t crossed-trained in a year either.  None of that matters at this moment however.  What I love most about this race is its difficulty.  I love the boulder hopping.  I love the camaraderie between runners. 

I know a lot of runners don’t like desert running.  I love the desert, and running in the desert.  Many think the desert is bland, desolate, lifeless.  It is far from bland.  Yes, it is different.  It is harsh.  But it is not bland.  It is not lifeless.  Colors aren’t so much different shades of green.  They are pink and they are blue.  Life is low to the ground or high in the sky.  And plants, they are survivalists.  They are self-bred to endure.  Just like Wonder woman.  

ANYWAY, because of my weight gain, I didn’t want to deal with the negative self talk that I knew would overwhelm me (because most of my shorts are too tight).  Instead, I told myself:  Redefine yourself!  You are not a fat lady running this race.  You are an Amazon woman, from the island of Amazon, like, oh I don’t know . . .  Wonder Woman.  So what if you are big?  That also means you are strong! Winking smile

For this race, I went out and bought a running skirt.  YES!  A running skirt.  I never thought I’d run in a skirt.  But oddly, I wanted to feel feminine out there this weekend.  I found the skirt unbelievably comfortable.  Who would have thought???  Of course, it will be cold in the high desert, so I will be wearing capri’s as well.  None of this matters however, I’m just really looking forward to getting out on the trails that got me hooked on trail running.

Tonight it pours rain down here on the coast.  It rained all day today as well.  As such, my local trails are closed.  And so I wait patiently to finally arrive at Calico and get some running in.  I really just want to have fun.  I want to accomplish the task.    

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Happened to Winter?

I sat in my truck a quarter mile from the trailhead, cozy in a pair of flared yoga pants and an 82nd Airborne sweatshirt that my brother gave me for Christmas when he was in the 82nd Airborne Division.  On my feet a pair of dusty trail running shoes added further dirt to the car floor.

Today was my “short run”, usually a 6.5 mile out-and-back to Top of the World in Laguna Beach.  But I couldn’t get out of my car in the middle of the drama.  I couldn’t tear myself from the book in my lap (White Oleander). I needed to know whether Claire was actually going to kill herself.  I had grown to love this fictional character, and now she was about to rip peoples’ hearts out, both fictional and real, by overdosing in her despair.    And that she did.  So, terribly, terribly sad. 

And so, I finished the chapter, shimmied out of my yoga pants, put on a pair of shorts, took off the sweatshirt to reveal a blue, short-sleeved shirt.  I put on my running belt, turned on the ipod and ran down toward the trailhead, allowing the warm winter breeze blow Claire’s despair from my shoulders.

I didn’t have the time for my usual route.  I even thought about turning around and heading right back to the car since time was so short.  Instead, I talked myself into a small run.  I would run my favorite trail – Wood Creek Trail.  It runs parallel, and up above Wood Canyon.  The trail is soft and quiet.  It’s cool.  It’s shady and green with moss and ferns.  With the creek below you can almost see the fairies dash between tree trunks.  Wood Creek delivered today!

The spell was broken twice by substitute teaching calls that I answered and declined on my cell phone.  I was already running, and I couldn’t turn back now. 

After crossing the creek and running back onto Wood Canyon Trail, I decided not to turn back for a short-short loop.  Instead, I crossed the creek again for a run on Coyote Run Trail toward Rock It because I wanted something hard.  Hard fun.  In 80 F degree heat, I knew that hard was going to be harder.  (Oh winter, where have you gone?)  I went for it nonetheless.  Why?  Because I knew that it would fill me up. 

And I ran up Rock It, not all together strong, but I got the job done.  One mountain biker whizzed by me on his way down.  I saw another biker wipe out when he hit a small tree branch.  I spoke with him briefly to find that he was alright.  I left him standing brushing debris from his legs. 

I must say that winter has left us too quickly.  But I suspect that General Winter will return once or twice before the season’s end.  Until then . . . happy running, and don’t ever let despair overwhelm you!!!  There’s too much beauty out there.  Let it in. Smile

Overlooking Wood Canyon (from Wood Creek Trail):

Ascending on Wood Creek Trail:

Today’s elevation (I’m still quite a bit away from running the elevation of Mt. Everest this month):Running Wood Creek, Coyote Run, Rock It, West Ridge, Cholla loop 1-22-2013, Elevation - Distance

And for those wonderful readers who requested it, here’s a picture of my kitchen drawer reserved mainly for electrolytes and reflectors I’ve found on the trail:

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Dark Side of a Runner. Part 1: The Back Seat

I admire so many runners.  Yet, I find it ridiculous when family or friends admire me for my running.  It’s like I want to correct them, push myself off the pedestal.  I want to shout out:  I’m a slob; I get depressed and cry when I don’t run; I prefer a blank mind; I rarely dust; I have stacks of stuff in every room.  I should spend more time with my family.  I disappoint them when I run, because I’m not there.  I disappointment them when I don’t run, because I’m not doing what helps me, what lifts me up, what defines me. 

Today I was so annoyed by the way running has defined me, I told my husband and my son I wasn’t going to run anymore.  They roared with laughter at my proclamation.  All the while, I got my running stuff together on the sly, and hid it among the stacks of folded clean clothes for tomorrow’s run. 

Yes, I say childish things like, “I’m not running anymore.”  I have an entire drawer in the kitchen dedicated to electrolytes and mountain bike reflectors that I find on the trail.  I constantly trip over the stack of running shoes next to my bed. I wash my hair based on my running schedule.  And the back seat of my truck is so messy, that before I take the boys to school, I rush out to the driveway to shove everything aside so that I can fit them and their stuff.

Today I started taking care of the back seat.  I didn’t finish the job.  But I got a good start.  This is what I saw when I opened the car door:

This is among what I found (and none of it was a surprise):  a portable hard drive, my Disneyland jacket, a running rain jacket, my old skiing coat, 1 fleece long sleeved shirt, a thick, heavy black fleece hat (that I bought when I could buy anything I wanted and was in my Russian history stage, back when running didn’t define me, but Russian history did), 2 running caps, cheap black gloves, several empty water bottles, 2 empty diet cokes, 1 unopened diet coke, at least 5 cd’s in their cases, a cd holder with around 25 cd’s in sleeves,  2 containers of sunscreen (spray on and lotion), Glide, a box with my student cards, packing tape, 2 trash bags, 2 grocery store bags, a roll of athletic tape, 2 pads of paper, a pen, and more!  And that was just the back seat! Girl

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Candy Store Run

In preparation for Old Goat 50 this March, I left early this morning for a drive up the mountain to run what we call “The Candy Store Run.”  It’s named this because either the beginning, or the middle of the route, is across the highway from The Candy Store up Ortega Highway in the Cleveland National Forest.  This route is approximately the first twenty miles of Old Goat.  It’s single track, it’s technical, and even the downhill is hard, very hard. 

Since I parked across from The Candy Store I ran approximately miles 10 through 20 first, then turned around and ran miles 1 through 10 of Old Goat.  To run the route correctly would have meant driving several more miles and parking near a Big Baz trail race event today.  I was in the mood for some solo running this morning.  And solo running I got for a long, long time.

I found the “hard” part (mainly uphill) quite pleasant this morning.  The air was still cold and the scenery was breathtaking.  I felt strong the entire way into Lower Blue Jay campground.  

Running San Juan Loop down into canyon:

Chiquita Trail:

A stop at Chiquita Falls (which was dry).  I spent some minutes here, which won’t happen in the race.  (However, I must get in and out of the aid stations quickly come March!):

I entered Blue Jay Campground toward the end of Baz’s race.  I ran the opposite way as several worn-out runners.  Some were bloody and bruised (and bandaged), one lady was even holding her wrist up as if it was sprained or broken.  I also saw a running friend, John H. in the campground after he finished up a solo 20 miler.  Even though I didn’t stop by the Start/Finish, I could hear Baz’s voice booming through the mountains.  Sounded like a fun time.  Though the race was only a 12k, I could have benefited from it for speed training.  But I really needed to do this Candy Store Run.  I wanted to make sure that I could make it with enough time to complete the remaining 30 miles.

Turns out I ran this extremely difficult terrain in 6 hours, the absolutely longest I can take and maybe finish the 50 miler.  I did stop at the falls.  I also talked with John a bit.  Then on the final stretch back in I was stopped by nearly every group of hikers coming in (at least 4 different groups).  Now, I feel an obligation to be kind to strangers, and an even stronger obligation to answer their questions when they don’t know where they are, and I do.  I would HATE IT if I brushed off a hiker and he/she ended up lost.

One young woman hiking with her boyfriend asked me with despair in her voice, “How much longer til the end?”  There’s that question again.  Exactly WHERE IS THE END?  (Giggle, giggle).

I stopped.  “Where are you going?”

“Chiquita Falls.”

I couldn’t do the math quick enough using my garmin, and I really wanted to get going.  So, I asked, “How far have you travelled?” 

“About an hour,” the woman responded.

(Hardy laugh inside my head, but a wide smile on my face)  Time on the trails gives me absolutely no information.  When I talk about driving, I always talk in time.  For example, “It’s an hour drive.”  But not when it comes to running trails.

“I mean, how many miles?”

Her boyfriend told me that they had gone about 2 1/2 miles to which I responded, “Well then, you are half way there!”  He smiled at his girlfriend and gave her a reassuring hug. 

With about a mile remaining, and out of water for a while, three guys stopped me and asked, “Is there a peak or something somewhere around here?” 

I grinned, almost laughing looking up at all the peaks in the mountains.  Then (with a giggle to myself), I said, “Santiago Peak is about 30 miles away.”  I could tell they wanted to hike to a place of interest.  So, I told them about Chiquita Falls and how to get there.  Then as they marched off I noticed that each of them held ONE water bottle about half full.  “You don’t have enough water!” I yelled back.  I pointed to the ridge they’d have to go over and noted that it was exposed.  They’d never make it.  Good thing they believed me.  When I told them about the much shorter loop back to the parking lot, they said that sounded better.

We’re in the 80’s F here now in California.  When I arrived to my truck I was parched!  Without water for a mile or two, I couldn’t wait to get to the coconut waters in much truck that I had frozen the night before.  I felt for sure they’d be warm by then.  Turned out they were still frozen solid.  Desperate, I ran across the street to The Candy Store.  It smelled sickly sweet of freshly baked cookies and muffins.  I grabbed a water and a diet coke, swiped my debit card, and the total came to $4.85!!!!  Now if you have read my blog on occasion, you may have deduced if I haven’t already downright written it, I AM POOR.  There’s no way I’d ever pay that much for those two drinks (24 packs of cokes or water cost around $6 to $7).  Then the friendly cashier said that debit cards had a FIVE DOLLAR minimum.  “Would you like to add a cookie?”  The thought of a cookie made me want to vomit.  So, I added a small bag of candies for my sons’ dessert tonight and my total came to over $7.  Moral of the story – FILL UP ON WATER WHEN I GET TO BLUE JAY CAMPGROUND.  I had the chance, but I didn’t.  To make my mistake more stupid, I ran out of water after not re-filling at Blue Jay the last time I ran The Candy Store Run. 

Despite the water thing, I loved this run.  BUT, I really must do it faster.  Like an hour faster!!!  I want some time to spare for the next 30 miles.

Today’s profile Red rose:

Running Candy Store Loop 1-19-2013, Elevation - DistanceRunning Candy Store Loop 1-19-2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Redemption Run

I woke through the night once again, twice from leg cramps.  Still, I felt more rested when I woke for good (probably because I bedded down at 8:30 PM).  Also on the good side, our cold Southern California coastal weather warmed up a bit.  (We got around 43F!!).  Be that as it may, this morning I didn’t need the cold to kick my butt up the hill and start running.  I was raring to go.  My first race of 2013 is a mere 11 days off, and though I’m not even near the condition  I wanted for the race that started me on my way as a trail runner, I’m okay with that.  I just wanted to put in the mileage this morning.  And my race in 11 days . . . that will be a mini-vacation for my family, as well as, another training run for me as I edge closer to the Old Goat 50 Miler.  (Oh no! Here we go!!!)

This morning, I decided on about a 10.5 mile (approx. 17 km) counter-clockwise loop in Aliso/Wood Canyons.  Make that a lollipop loop – a lollipop that climbed Mathis Trail.  I took my two oldest boys up Mathis about two weeks ago, and felt like a bad mom for doing so.  But they conquered Mathis with little moans and groans.  As such, I thought I’d do a little redemption run up that very trail.  Dang!  It’s a toughie. 

Bundled up at Aliso/Wood Ranger Station ready to warm my bones:

Creek Crossing on Mathis:

Suiting down for the run up Mathis: Smile

After that gigantic climb I ran across Top of the World, past Mentally Sensitive and did some bushwhacking back to the steepest trail in the park.  Now, when I run up Mentally Sensitive, I have been known to grow angry over how much the climb kills me.  I think to myself, “It shouldn’t hurt this badly!”  If you ever feel that way about an ascent, take my advice.  Run DOWN that hill.  When I ran down Mentally Sensitive this morning, I thought, “Heck!  No wonder it hurts so much.  This trail is STEEP, dangerously STEEP.”  Take my word, you can judge the steepness with a keener eye running downhill.  That’s when you really discover just how insane you’ve been all along running up that trail.  My original re-naming of Mentally Sensitive to Psycho-Path was right on.

Gotta throw in some bushwhacking whenever I can:

Running down Mentally Sensitive:

Today’s Elevation Profile (My new monthly goal is to run Mount Everest’s elevation every month – that’s more than 29,000’ [8,848 m])  Notice I’ve began keeping track of elevation gain on the mileage sidebar:

mathis loop

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Forcing It

I have not slept well for two nights now, waking every single hour.  I had originally planned for my short run this morning.  But, after dropping the boys all off at school, I didn’t think I could do it.  The weather was dang freezing – well, not actually freezing, but pretty close.  Yet, I had to turn down the heater on the way to the trails because it was putting me to sleep.  I made the entire twenty minute drive, parked and still considered turning around, driving back home and taking a long nap.  I knew I would hear it from hubby if I did that.  You see, he suspects I’m sleeping badly because I haven’t been running as much as I usually do.  Friday, in fact, was the last day I ran.  Saturday I worked.  Sunday I hiked with my sons.  Monday, I napped and did chores before going to work in the evening.

I seriously considered sleeping in my truck parked about a quarter mile from the trail head this morning.  Ludicrous?  Absolutely.   The ONLY thing that got me out there was this:  I didn’t want to sleep with the truck running, and it was so darn cold, that I wouldn’t be able to sleep without the heater blasting.  And so I exited the truck, and went for a run to The Top of the World in Laguna Beach to get warm.  Simply to get warm.

I tell no lie – it was the top of Cholla Trail that beckoned me. It said, “Run up me and you will be warm!”

And Cholla did not lie either.  I definitely warmed up running Cholla Trail.  And I had a magnificent run the entire 6.5 miles. I felt strong for the first time in a long, long time.  I was able to increase my speed here and there. And I recovered instantly upon conquering a hill.  I haven’t needed to force a run in a while, which is probably why I forgot that a lot of the time, forced runs end up being the best runs. 

Running cyn vistas out and back to top of the world 1-15-2013, Elevation - Distance

Friday, January 11, 2013

In the Moment

On this very cold morning (it may have been freezing) I went for a Big Loop run in Aliso / Wood Canyons.  I call it the big loop because it’s the largest single loop I can run within this park.  Yet, it isn’t actually a loop.  It’s what some, including myself, call a “Lollipop.”  A lollipop loop has an out-and-back somewhere in the loop (the stick to the lollipop.)  In the Big Loop, the stick portion (out-and-back, is at the beginning and the end; that is, it ends on the same trail as it starts – Aliso Creek Trail).

Running Big Loop Aliso clockwise 1-11-2013

Running the big loop clockwise means running up the hardest trail in the park.  Did that bother me?  Nah.  I pretty much took this run today thoughtless.  Yup, without a clue. Smile That is, I didn’t think about anything.  Not a thing.  I just ran through The Present.  And as such, I was lucky enough to take in the moments as they soaked through me.  I took in the clumps of grass, deer running down slopes in the distance, spider and weasel holes in the dirt.  And after turning onto Meadows Trail, a bobcat pounced onto the trail in front of me. Then he quickly scurried into the brush.  He had apparently caught what looked like a rat, or some other rodent, and I was so lucky to take in his beauty and snap a picture at pretty close range.  He didn’t take his eyes off me, for sure.  And when I left, I trotted away backward (facing him: eyes on eyes) until the cat was no longer in sight.  I felt blessed for sharing that moment in nature with “Bobby.”  He was a beauty.

Turning onto Meadows Trail:

Bobby:

I eventually took off my beanie (running up Mentally Sensitive), but then wished I had it later on.  When I’m running though, I don’t like going through back compartments in my pack unless I absolutely have to.  I guess, I didn’t absolutely need my beanie.  With the wind howling, I was cold (not terribly) this entire run.  Fortunately, I layered clothing, so it was all acceptable.  When I just run and focus on the moment, temperature doesn’t bother me too much.  I know that seems odd.  Seems like I’d notice the cold more while focusing on the present.  But I don’t.  I guess, as the moments pass, you’re travelling to the next moments, and there’s no dwelling in what just was (which in today’s case was cold and wind.) Smile

Okay, I’m a dork.  A dork who enjoyed her run this morning immensely.

Running up Mentally Sensitive:

Follow me, if you dare as I crawl through these bushes:

Overlooking Pacific Ocean, on my way to Top of the World:

A quick snack at Top of the World (a little less than half way in this loop):

Back in Wood Canyon for the trip back:

Elevation Profile:Running Big Loop Aliso clockwise 1-11-2013, Elevation - Distance