TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Scratch That

I’m not running tomorrow, so I can close out February with a checkmark next to my goal – to run the elevation of Mt. Everest (29,029’/8,848 m).  I ran about 1,500’ more elevation than the great mountain, totaling 30,556’ (9,313 m) for the month of February. 

As I ran those 30,000’+ of elevation, I came to realize a few things that must go concerning my running if I’m going to have any chance of finishing Old Goat 50.  First off, I’ve got to loosen up.  Loosen my shoulders, my legs, my arms, basically get rid of all tension.  Another thing I’ve decided, is that it’s okay to grab at branches.  I used to forbid myself from grabbing a branch to climb a steep trail.  Doing so made me feel weak.  To this silly rule, I say, screw that.  I will grab at branches, at boulders, or anything else that will help move me forward.  Another odd rule I used to have (because again, I foolishly considered it a sign of weakness) is forbidding myself to use my arms to push off from my quads.  When a climb is so steep that it’s practically more efficient to crawl, I will use my arms to push off from my quads.  In fact, I will do it anytime such a move propels me forward.

There’s more that I learned, and in today’s run finalized.  To begin, I have been adamantly against the forefoot strike, mainly because it irritates my neuroma.  Scratch that.  I can get up a brutally steep hill faster with a forefoot strike.  Sometimes a forefoot strike is okay!    And lastly, I’ve decided it’s okay to put my hands on my hips.  Yes, hands on the hips slows me down.  But that’s okay.  Hands on the hips is a way of resting without stopping forward momentum.

Concerning this morning’s run, though I was no speed demon, I made decent time.  Best of all, it felt like one of those “easy” runs.  And lastly, the only reason I went up Mentally Sensitive is because it’s a bitch, a real bitch! (Excuse my language, I’m just in that kind of mood.)

Grabbing at a branch moment on Mentally Sensitive:

This morning’s elevation profile:Running Up Mentally Sen. down Mathis 2-27-2013, Elevation - Distance

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Good Run

I got out for a trail run this morning with absolutely no goals in mind.  I didn’t feel particularly strong.  In fact, climbing Rock It was a bear. A big grizzly bear.  But I did enjoy the hills.  They were alive.  They were alive with a cold breeze that played music by rustling leaves and swaying tall grass.  They were alive with squirrels and bunnies, lizards, and a blue heron. 

Yes, it was a good run.

Coyote Run Trail:

Rock It:

Top of the World:

Running Up Rock It, down Meadows 2-25-2013, Elevation - Distance

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I think I can’t

After working a 6 day week, I started off this morning at 4:30 AM in a low mood.  I felt fatigued. I felt discouraged.  As Old Goat 50 approaches, I realize more than ever, that I am in way over my head.  I don’t think I can do it.  And how can I even start a race if I don’t think that I can do it?

Even with this defeatist attitude, I dressed for a run and got out the door early.  I began the drive up the mountain at 5:00 AM.  About five miles into Ortega Highway, a car sped up behind me.  The skies were pitch black, the moon behind me, low on the horizon.  All I could decipher about the car were its blaring headlights riding up my rear. 

Now, I drive that windy, cliffy highway cautiously, but I keep at the speed limit.  Often drivers get behind me and tailgate beyond irritation.  I only slightly speed up when this occurs because I don’t want to become one of the countless fatalities of Ortega Highway.  I always pull over at the first turnout – even if the driver isn’t tailgating.  I don’t like driving up that mountain with any vehicles behind me. 

No turnout for a few miles I sped up, over the speed limit, I’m sure.  The car behind me slowed just a bit, but still rode me.  Then suddenly, the red and blue spinning lights took over the sky.  It was the sheriff.  His lights were magnificently bright against the black mountains.  And in my awe, I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT.  “Of all people,” I thought, “I’m going to get a speeding ticket???”  (Funny thing, the last speeding ticket I got was on Ortega Highway!  I was pregnant with my first son on my way home from substitute teaching at a boys’ detention camp located near Lower Blue Jay Campground.  The irony!)

The deputy was a young guy.  I probably had 20 years on him.  Foolishly, I immediately blurted out my reason for speeding.  He said, “That’s okay, don’t worry about it.”  Turns out, he pulled me over because my truck matched the description of someone who had just stolen some pallets.  (Or so he said Smile). 

“Have a good night,” he said.  And I was off driving up the mountain toward Lower Blue Jay Campground to run The Candy Store Lollipop Loop plus some.  I stashed some water on my way there.  I arrived to Blue Jay under dark skies.  After applying sunscreen and Glide while sitting in my warm truck, I opened the door and stepped out.  Tree canopies all about swirled in a fierce wind.  My face nearly cracked and shattered from the wind chill. 

I could not run in the freezing wind.  Or could I?  I felt like a wimp, like maybe I should.  But in the end, I decided to drive back down the mountain during sunrise.  I stopped to get the water I stashed on the way up.  Then I debated all the way down the mountain what I should do.

Seriously, I didn’t want to run.  My eyelids felt heavy.  I thought about driving home and going straight to bed.  However, I knew that I’d let the evil bashing voices in to condemn me all day.  Then I thought, “Heck, just pull over and sleep in the truck; that way no one will know.”  (Ha, ha, no one but me, not to mention, I’d have to lie to my family, which I wouldn’t do).  At the bottom of the mountain, I finally decided some food might help me get along.  So I stopped by McDonalds for a healthy greasy breakfast.  The Sausage Egg McMuffin totaled 450 calories.  So, I made the decision to run the coastal hills without calories, thinking the 450 would do me.  (I usually don’t eat breakfast before running.)

The weather was quite cold at Aliso/Wood Canyons, but not freezing.  I took off into Aliso Canyon with stiff calves and shins, which is weird because that tightness doesn’t occur in the mountains. 

I really had no idea how far I’d run this morning, though I had planned on 26.  I knew that I wouldn’t do that.  I wasn’t even sure if I could do 5 miles today.  Relieved to just get out there, I practiced loosening up.  I practiced on focusing.  I practiced keeping my core straight.  Whenever I thought about anything, I sobbed.  So, I didn’t think.  I concentrated on running elevation, not so much miles.  (I still want to run Mt. Everest’s elevation this month). 

I wound in and around the wilderness park for a little over 16 miles.  At first I felt very good on the down hills.  I even felt okay on the ascents.  Before I was even half way through (which I didn’t know at the time because I didn’t know how many miles I would run), fatigued settled in.  Allowing the McDonalds breakfast to carry me through on calories was not a good idea. 

Though my mood was in the dumps overall today, I enjoyed much of today’s run.  I got out there when I didn’t want to run.  The only thing I wanted to do was sleep.  So utterly wiped out I was in the end, I hiked the last .75 mile in.  And now that I think of it, I didn’t even stretch at the truck.  Instead, I drove home, but stopped first for some groceries.  Then I slept for 2 hours.

And that is the story of today’s run. 

A quick pose after climbing Mentally Sensitive:

Finishing up Rock It:

Dragging myself up Lynx:

Running Up Mentally Sen. down Rock It, Up Lynx, West Ridge, down Mathis 2-24-2013, Elevation - Distance

Running Up Mentally Sen. down Rock It, Up Lynx, West Ridge, down Mathis 2-24-2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Loosening up

I admire many runners.  Wait.  I think I admire all runners.  I study their form.  I read their books.  I read their blogs.  The other night, I watched a movie trailer about Anton Krupicka, an impressive trail runner out of Colorado.  I couldn’t help but notice how loose and free he appeared in this trailer, even on the technical trails.  I compared that to my running.  I take those technical trails, especial downhill portions, stiffly, fearful and heavy.   No wonder I can’t run The Candy Store run in the time I need.  I run too rigidly.  I don’t loosen up.

Today I decided to conquer Mentally Sensitive for some elevation.  Then for the big downhill, I took one of the most technical trails in Aliso/Wood Canyons: Rock It.  I practiced loosening up, especially my upper body on the rolling hills on the way.  Down Rock It,  I felt like a different runner.  I ran quicker and without fear.  I ran lightly, and seemingly with less effort.  I think I just may be onto something to improve my trail running.  

Here’s to one happy trail runner.  I may have not been able to get out there as much as I would have liked this week.  This loosening up revelation definitely makes up for all that.

Running trails with deer:

Ready to conquer:

The climb:

Rain’s coming in:

Running Rock It:

View from Rock It:

Running Up Mentally Sensitive down Rock It 2-21-2013, Elevation - Distance

Monday, February 18, 2013

More Practice ( and, What was I thinking??????)

I hit the Saddleback Mountains today, driving up before sunrise.  My plan:  run the correct Old Goat first 20 miles.  I had previously missed a turn onto what’s called the Viejo Tie.  And I was also ending this partial practice course on “Old” San Juan Trail instead of “New” San Juan Trail.  The Viejo Tie and the correct ending added about 2 miles to my usual route.

The campsites were full, but quiet as I ran the paved road toward San Juan Trail.  I believe I was the first runner or cyclist to show in Blue Jay.  Not a person stirred.  The weather was cold as I focused on pace, running San Juan Trail without music at first.  It’s an extremely rocky trail, my biggest fear was falling.  In fact, San Juan Trail is the location of one of my biggest trail running falls ever.  Still, I was happy that I made it to the Viejo Tie in good time. 

Running above the clouds on San Juan Trail:

The Viejo Tie added more technical trail (by-passing a milder portion of Chiquita).  So in-tuned and focused, I surprisingly caught the quick left turn I was supposed to take according to the map I closely studied last night.  I ran uphill, then downhill, then uphill, then downhill, again and again, until I worried that I took a wrong turn.  And then FINALLY, I saw it – the Viejo Tie/Chiquita Trail intersection.  At this point, I was still pleased with my time.  Not exhilarated, merely pleased.   

These twenty miles are extremely difficult for me to run.  Some parts are quite technical, at times with boulders blocking the way.  There’s tree roots and tree stumps crossing the trails.  There’s slippery sandy parts.  There’s ruts and crevices.   Thankfully, there’s also lots of shade.

I made Chiquita falls a little disappointed by my time.  But I told myself, “Don’t fret, don’t grow anxious, IT IS WHAT IT IS.”  I had finally controlled my anger over tripping on rocks.  I kinda figured it wasn’t good for the mental game if I yelled out a profanity every  time I tripped on a rock.

Running the San Juan Loop into the parking lot:

I arrived to the turnaround point across from The Candy Store 50 minutes past my best case scenario, 20 minutes past the deadline for making the entire route within the first cutoff back at Blue Jay campground.  To make matters worse, after digging my water jug out of the bushes and refilling, I accidently dumped my entire re-fill.  So, I made it back to the bushes for the jug, refilled the bladder again, dissolved Nuun tablets again, squeezed the air bubbles out again.  I spent 8 minutes at the turnaround.  I didn’t give up the idea of at least trying to make the cut-off, and kicked it in for the most difficult part of the trip.  I ran most of the time, hiked the steepest portions. 

I grew so fatigued toward the end of my climb back, I decided that when I hit the cut-off time, I was going to cut the course and head back to my truck. 

And then, my ipod battery died.  That’s when I heard the breeze.  It sounded like beautiful music to my ears.  The tree leaves rustled in the wind.  And leaves crumpled beneath the squirrels’ tiny feet as they scampered back and forth across the trails.  I didn’t want to leave the trail.  So, I decided to run the whole first part of Old Goat and not cut the course. 

In the end I came in 18 minutes past the cut-off. I’m okay with that.  I’ve got a little time.  Besides, today was the first time I ran the Viejo Tie.  Not only that, I felt good when I finished, like I could run another thirty miles. 

(Still, what was I thinking?????).

Running Candy Store Loop w- viejo tie 2-18-2013, Elevation - DistanceRunning Candy Store Loop w- viejo tie 2-18-2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Birthday Run

I’m not much into “training.”  I’m really into trail running.  When it comes to “training”, I flail.  My confidence plummets when I “train.”  Negative self-talk sets in.  (I’m working on that problem.)

This time around, I’m just getting in the miles, best I can.  And I’m practicing sections of my upcoming race.  I like to know every ditch and boulder on the trails that I race.  That way I won’t need to look for markers.  And there’s less surprises.  (With trail running however, just like in life, it’s impossible to eliminate all surprises.) 

This morning, for my 48th birthday, I woke at 5AM, the entire household asleep, and drove up Ortega Highway into the Saddleback Mountains.  I stashed some water across the highway from The Candy Store and drove on up to Blue Jay campground (total drive = 1 hour). 

Then, on a cool weathered morning, I commenced to run approximately the first 20 miles of the 50 mile race I’m registered for next month.  I came in under the section cut-off with only minutes to spare.  That’s cutting it a bit too close for me.  But I learned lots on today’s run, mainly how to pace myself.  I also came upon the race director, Steve Harvey running with his Trans Rockies partner, Jennie (imagine my luck!!).  I told him, exasperated, “I don’t think I can make the cut-off.”  Steve hugged me and said, “You might not, but I think that you can do it.”  I believed him.  What he said is true.  I might not make the cut-off, but I CAN do it – it’s not out of reach.  To add to my luck, I got to clear up some things about the Candy Store Lollipop loop I was running.  Turns out, I’ve been taking a wrong turn about three miles in.  (Next PRACTICE run, I shall correct that).  

San Juan Trail trailhead – stooping down so that I can fit into picture frame (I cut my head off in first picture):

Chiquita Trail:

Changing socks for ankle socks near my water stash.  Across the highway is The Candy Store.  After refilling my pack, I found it very difficult to depart with my water jug.  And I spent TEN minutes here – much too long.  But that’s okay – it was a lovely time:

Heading back to Blue Jay on Chiquita (Though I believe the first picture below is part of San Juan Loop.)  The trip back is mainly uphill, quite technical and grueling beneath a warm sun:

A rock on Chiquita trail with beauty that stopped me in my tracks:

Still heading back on Chiquita:

Climbing Old San Juan Trail back to my truck:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Metrics Smetrics

In the U.S., unless you participate in a sport like running, cycling or swimming, you talk and think in miles. Yes, we are probably the only country in the world that hasn’t switched to the metric system. And chances are we probably never will (except for in running, cycling and swimming). We are that stubborn.  Wait, I take that back, I think some screwdrivers are measured in metrics, as are pencil leads. ANYWAY, when talking with my non-running friends and family, they don’t give a dang whether I say 30 kilometers or 30 miles. To them, 30 KILOMETERS IS 30 MILES – and that’s that. I used to correct my friends, “No, it was 50 kilometers, NOT 50 miles.” But that did no good.  “I can’t believe you ran 50 miles!!!”

When I tell someone I ran 50 kilometers, they will forever think that I ran 50 miles. In fact, just this past weekend, we had a little party for my son’s birthday. My sister-in-law, who is a runner and understands distance in kilometers, asked me about the Calico race (a 30k). I told her about it, trying to make the stories as humorous as possible. I got some good laughs. Others in the room (including my husband, who is a bright man) went on about the fact that I ran 30 MILES. I did not correct them. Why? Because I have finally realized why my non-running family and friends refuse to acknowledge the kilometer in my running distances – it is due to the fact that 30k (or approximately 19 miles) is the same as 30 miles to a non-runner. They are not stupid. To them, it’s merely, “19 . . . 30, what’s the difference?  Both are hard as hell.”  And they are right. Smile

This morning I ran 13.23 trail miles (or 21.29 km).  The weather was cool.  The skies were blue.  I ran a negative spit, but as you can see from the profile below, I ran lots of downhill for the second half.  Still, I found it quite difficult to keep my pace up for the second half.  During the final mile, I found my trail friend A-Rod heading out for the trails.  He told me he pretty much got hood-winked (my words) into running the LA Marathon.  His mouth dropped when I told him what I was training for.  “It will be by the grace of God if I finish,” I said.  “Way to go, Sista,” he said, we high-fived (slapped each other’s hands) and were off our separate ways.  I arrived to my car fatigued, but not a zombie, and stretched for a long ten minutes before heading home. 

The Run:

My ritual pose at Meadows Trail:

The mountains in the distance that I will attempt to conquer in a 50 mile increment (in a little more than a month away):

Climbing Mentally Sensitive:

Heading toward Top of the World:

Descending into Wood Canyon:

Running Big Loop Aliso clockwise 2-13-2013, Elevation - Distance

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Finally!

Back on the trails . . .

Running out and back cyn vistas 2-12-2013, Elevation - Distance

Friday, February 8, 2013

Where is that Crazy Trail Running Lady?

One of the last things I wrote was I needed to put in the mileage – I needed time on my feet to get ready for Old Goat.  That was my last entry, almost one week ago. 

Then the phone started ringing.  Our district has a shortage of substitutes apparently, and I can’t rightly refuse work in this financial struggle we’re experiencing in California (not everyone, but a lot of people I know are suffering). 

Perhaps you wonder then, why not run after school?  Well, after I substitute, I have my regular evening job.  I don’t get home until 6 or 7.  By then, I can’t run local trails.  They are closed.  I can’t run mountain trails (driving time is too long) and I wouldn’t dare run in the mountains at night alone. 

But I will roll with the punches (which carry cash with them), and . . .

let me tell you . . . I’ve had the experiences that I could have not imagined over the past week.  I’ve substituted “severe” special education in middle school, and laughed with joy during “Fun Friday” when the students got to karaoke for a couple hours.  I also subbed for “severe” special education in our Transitions ProgramTransitions is 4 additional years of school for moderate to severally “handicapped” (disabled) students.  I boarded a school bus and met two students at the local junior college.  I stayed with them for about 4 hours in their adaptive physical education classes.  I knew one of the students from a high school sub assignment last year.  It was a wonderful reunion.  He pretended to know me.  I was thrilled.  Then he said that he really didn’t remember, and I laughed and laughed.  He was a great chap.  We became good pals.  ID-10083081The other student was amazing physically.  During track time, I was so stunned by his speed, I mentioned to the coach that he should be in some running sport.  The coach, though a friendly guy, “blew me off.”

I also subbed a second grade class of thirty something students and no aid.  They were precious.  But the job was so difficult, an hour in, I text’d my husband, “OMG.”  I thought, “Never again!”  Then I got a call the next day for first grade.  I took it.  How can I refuse work????  It helps pay the mortgage, it buys music lessons for the boys, it buys shoes . . .

Mama Mia!!!!  Can you imagine how difficult it is to get 30+ first graders’ attention at once?  If not, I can tell you:  It’s impossible.  I am so not an elementary teacher.  I am high school.  Then to top the first grade day off, the regular teacher wrote me that she promised “dodge ball” for the last hour.  The children cheered!  And I lead them out to the pavement, thinking, “Easy hour.” 

Ends up, I had no less than ten children injured and crying at some point during that game.  I don’t know elementary protocol.  I don’t know what’s allowed.  And so, I treated them as my own children and hugged them until their tears dried.  (I don’t think I will ever again play dodge ball with a group of youngsters). 

ID-10035863I reserved today (Friday) for running.  I received three job opportunities (for kindergarten!).  I declined.  Then it rained all day long.  Locally, snow level is supposedly down to 3,000’ (And I am so jealous).  Anyway, due to the downpour, I ran no miles.  I slept instead. 

The quote Steve Harvey put at the end of his Old Goat Race instructions kept running through my mind all week.  “You get to the start line of an Ultra on physical ability, but you get to the finish  on character!”  At first, this quote gave me great comfort.  I figured maybe character will carry me through.  Then  as the days went by, the quote fell in stature.  I started doubting my character, and began thinking that I’d never cross the finish line based on character!  The weird things that an upcoming ultra puts you through . . . LOL.

Okay, here’s the facts:  I’ve got ZERO miles logged thus far this week. I teach a 6 1/2 hour adult course tomorrow (Saturday).  When I come home I am baking a cake (so I won’t be running).  The next day is my middle son’s birthday.  So, it is likely that this week’s tally will equal a big fat zero.  I refuse to fret over this however.  I’ve already planned to mark myself “unavailable” for Monday, and I shall go from there – ONWARD. 

(1st Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, 2nd Image courtesy of worradmu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)