TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

On the Road Again . . .

Yesterday (Friday) a day off from my regular job, I would have spent resting, or running.  But, I took a substitute assignment for K-2nd grade special education children.  I’ve subbed this class before.  I know the children.  They are precious.  Just like all children, they are a “handful.”  I returned home more tired than if I had run for 6.5 hours instead of subbed.  I mean, I WAS WIPED OUT.  How can that be?  How can working with children for a day tire me more than running for a day. 

Still, I packed my gear, set out my shoes and clothes for a 14 mile mountain run this morning.  Then I walked outdoors barefoot.  You’d think I would know better.  We have these trees, in fact three of them, called Tristania Conferta.  They are lovely evergreens with yellowish flower clusters.  Its fruit is a woody capsule, a pointy, sharp, hard, woody capsule.  These litter our front and back yards.  My husband wants to get rid of the trees but hasn’t due to my protests.  I think they are beautiful.  But those woody fruit capsules have taken me down many a time.  They hurt!  Well, I stepped on one last night.  As I sensed my foot come down on the point, I wiggled my body in some crazy contorted way, such that I pulled my inner thigh muscle.    I walked around the remainder of the night, kind of dragging my left leg, hunched forward like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. 

To cut an already too long story short, I woke at 4:00 AM, made a two cup pot of coffee, sat on the couch, then decided I could never do this.  I couldn’t get myself out to the car and drive to the mountains for a run.  I was much too tired, and my inner thigh still wasn’t quite right.  So, I fell back asleep, this time on the couch.

This does not mean that I didn’t run today.  I decided to cut today’s 14 miles in two.  I decided to run what I could this afternoon, then run my planned day off (Sunday) the remainder of the 14 miles.

At 1 PM, I set out the door for a road run.  Yes, a road run!  Two whole miles passed before my shins felt painless.  Good news though, my inner thigh felt good from the start.  I came upon dozens of runners, walkers and cyclists, most smiling or nodding a recognition or “hello.”  I felt out-of-shape for most of the run, perhaps because I’m so tired, perhaps because I’m not in tip-top condition.  And I also came to recall the many differences between the road and the trail.  First off, there are cars on the road – lots of them.  Secondly, stop lights dictate when I can go and when I must stop.  Thirdly, people smoke cigarettes in town and at the beach.  I pretty close to never smell cigarettes on the trails.  Fourthly, children and adults alike, meander back and forth along the sidewalk or road, and without notice step right in front of me.  Also, I run past poor homeless souls who have manufactured make-shift homes out of umbrellas and towels.  And on another note, no dirt bikes blow dirt into my face as they race by on the road.  There are no dirt bikes and there is no dirt on the road.  There are also a multitude of drinking fountains during a road run.  I don’t even need to carry a handheld (but I do).  Okay, that’s enough of that.  I could go on and on, but it’s close to bed time. (I’m an early to bed, early to rise gal.)

In all, I managed a tad over 7 miles this afternoon.

Where is the local campground?  Look for the flags . . . I want one of these!  Imagine all the different trails I could run. Smile    An unlikely, yet interesting, Laurenontherun elevation profile (The question is, how did I get 80 feet below sea level?  Must have been while running behind the jetty):Running dana point 4-27-2013, Elevation

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Back-to-Back-to-Back

This morning I was back to Aliso/Wood Canyons for my back-to-back-to-back run.  Yes, that’s three days in a row.  Seems like I’m starting to feel like my old self.  I’m sleeping better. I feel more rested in the morning.  Definitely good reasons to force this groove on!

The skies were gray when I first set out through Aliso Canyon.  A couple runners traversed the trails, as did some hikers.  When a hiker up a ways stopped in her tracks, I thought for sure she had come across a rattle snake.  But she pointed out a coyote standing in the golden swaying grass.  I told her that coyotes are usually timid around us humans (as I recalled the one who chased my friend Hank!).  Then I ran past the coyote, as the young lady gasped, obviously thinking I was crazy.  I turned back and told her that I had pepper spray to make her feel better.  I knew the animal would turn off and run away as soon as I got within 30 feet of him.  And that he did. 

I also saw three or four deer through the trees on Coyote Run.  I climbed the exasperating Mentally Sensitive.  I admired the deep blue sea and I did some bushwhacking.  What a wonderful, cool morning on the trails!

Running Mentally Sensitive Rock It Loop 4-25-2013, Elevation

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Back-to-Back

I can’t recall the last time I ran back-to-back days – that is BEFORE TODAY.  Smile  With my mood lately, you’d think I would have used the heavily drizzling weather to zonk the back-to-back notion.  But I headed out anyway, arches taped, shins rolled.  And I took off running into Wood Canyon beneath gray, lovely wet skies. 

I came upon no other runners on my way to Top of the World.  But after running up Cholla Trail I came upon several small hiking groups making their way along the ridge.  They were bundled up, looking cuddly and warm.  And I wore shorts.  My long sleeve provided little warmth, however, I warmed up pretty quickly myself running the ridge’s rolling hills.

I ran today simply for the sake of running.  I’m merely getting back my groove, no pace pressure, no mileage requirements.  I do admit though, I’m still hoping to make Mt. Everest’s elevation this month.  It’ll be a tough task, one that will require that I keep my onward momentum going.

Though I was cold and debated doing a 1.5 mile out, then back, I have to call this morning’s run a success.  My shins felt great.  I enjoyed myself.  And best of all, I got my first back-to-back in a long, long time.

Miles run: 6.47

Running Cyn Vistas TOW 4-24-2013, Elevation

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Meadows / Rock It Lollipop Loops

I just love those lollipop loops.  Wrote it before, I’ll write it again:  I’m a loopy girl. 

With limited time this morning, I thought I’d squeeze in a double digit run on my journey out of the rut. 

The sun was hot, the breeze was cool.  Bluish squished lizards decorated the single tracks.  How does that happen? I thought.  I’ve never stepped on a lizard in my life.  I don’t think I could if I tried – not unless I hosed it down with water first.  Then I remembered the bikes.  Yes . . .  the lovely bikes. 

My shins ached for the first 1.5 miles.  Stretching didn’t help the pain.  Only when I began running uphill did the shins feel good.  Then they felt fine the remainder of the run. 

It felt good to run solo in the lonely wilderness.  I relished the time alone.  This morning I got 11.59 miles of alone time.  Then it was back off to the grind, already looking forward to tomorrow’s run.   

Running up Meadows’ switchbacks:

My “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright Bridge,” on Meadows.  Once I cross this bridge the switchbacks stretch out, and the ascent lessens some, and I feel much better about running the entire thing.

Top of Meadows:

But there’s still a tad more to climb:

Running down Rock It:

Coyote Run:

Crossing over Mathis Trail to meet up with Wood Canyon:

Running Up Meadows, Down Rock It 4-23-2013, Elevation

Friday, April 19, 2013

Mentally Sensitive / Meadows Lollipop Loop

I went for a “short” lollipop loop trail run late this morning.  It was a doozy!

Running Mentally Sensitive Meadows Loop 4-19-2013, Elevation

I put the word “short” in quotes, because distance perception is relative.  For quite some time, 7 miles was my long run.  I would hate to insult anyone by calling a 7 mile run a short run, when it really isn’t “short.”  It’s only “short” compared to what I’m used to over the past few years.  But 7 miles is by no means “short.”  Drive the distance, and you’ll see for sure.  Then add to the 7 miles a climb up a trail called Mentally Sensitive and a run down a switchback called Meadows, and you’ve got one doozy of a run! 

The weather was warm late this morning, 84 F degrees!  Sweating it out beneath a hot sun brought back some delightfully miserable memories of mountain training during the summer (Woot!  Looking forward to that.  Time to get ready!!)

Running a deceitful Meadows Trail: 

My calves were tight again, and my shins ached for approximately the first 1 1/2 miles.  Time to google “shin splints,” though I don’t know how I would get shin splints since I’m running so little lately. 

Climbing Mentally Sensitive was pure hellish fun.  Seriously.  I stopped to rest TWICE. . . on a 7 mile run!  I made it to the top though.  And I still felt accomplished.  Smile

Going up . . .

Finally at the top, overlooking the grand Pacific:

Going down . . .

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rut Update

The thing I hate about digging myself out of a rut is digging my myself out of a rut. The second thing I hate about digging myself out of a rut is that no one else can do it for me. I have to do it myself. Being that I am quite the procrastinator, I have been only half-assed trying to dig myself out of this rut. I feel like blah, like doing nothing. Instead of running (like I planned) after dropping our boys off at school, I returned home and slept on the couch until 11:30 AM!!!  Then I merely sat and surfed the net an hour before heading off to work.  (Oh, I did wash some dishes by hand).

Now, it’s not like if I didn’t run I didn’t have anything to do. I have LOTS to do. I just don’t feel like doing anything.   This is not my “normal.”  Though I am a procrastinator, I am definitely a doer.  So, what the heck? 

That’s my rut update.  My current goal is not to run such and such miles.  It’s simply to get out of this rut.  I’ve got to climb through that hole to the sunshine on the other side. Smile

Wish me luck. 

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Image courtesy of satit_srihin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sorry, but I can’t contain myself . . .

Our middle son home sick from school yesterday, it seemed I heard about the Boston Marathon bombing as it happened.  I wasn’t watching the news.  I don’t watch the news because I don’t appreciate sensationalism.  I learned of the terrorist act through the running community – though we are large, we are small and word travels quickly.

I felt that I couldn’t write today’s blog entry without mentioning the tragedy.  What can be said that hasn’t already been said?  I can write nothing that can ease any pain or make any sense of yesterday’s event.  The bombing was a terrible, cowardly act.  It preoccupied my thoughts during my entire run this morning.  I clenched my teeth.  I cracked my jaw.  And this is what I thought:  I know it’s popular to feel disdain for my country.  But we are among the greatest countries in the world.  We are not a perfect nation.  But we strive to be better.  Sure we are a materialistic society, sure we have problems.  None of those problems however are as evil as a terrorist act hurled upon innocent children and civilians.  Attack us from inside or out, and we grow stronger, make no mistake about that.  This is our nature.  Darkness may strike some blows, but it will never win against the light!

My heart goes out to the suffering families and those friends and families of the deceased.  I dedicated this run to you, those who died, those who suffer, and those who helped others during yesterday’s attack at the Boston Marathon’s finish line.

Flowers for the wounded and dead:

A tranquil path:

More flowers in remembrance:

I felt like I shouldn’t be smiling.  Though terrorists can cause tears and despair, they can’t wipe out the smiles that eventually return:

The mustard seed:

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Return To The Scene Of Defeat

Well, it’s been 3 weeks since my defeat.  I’ve been taking it easy, sulking, catching up on errands, trying to get back my run groove.  I’ve resorted to trickery to get my feet moving (see last post).  This morning, I relied on my hubby to kick my behind if he found me sleeping on the couch AGAIN when he awoke. (The pattern has been, wake early to run, hit the snooze, walk out to the living room, fall asleep on the couch.) 

It sure took me a long time to get out the door this morning.  I wasn’t looking forward to returning to the scene of defeat – Trabuco Canyon.  I just had to FORCE it.  So, I got in my truck and drove mindlessly toward the Saddleback Mountains.   

If you live in Southern California you probably know that Trabuco Canyon is the same canyon that the two teenaged hikers were recently lost for 4 days.  The media spread “my” canyon all over the airwaves, naming trails, etc., for four days.  Thankfully, the two kids were safely found.  I suspect they learned lots of lessons.  Many that I have learned myself, but have been fortunate enough not to cause a 4 day “man hunt,” utilizing hundreds of volunteers, several helicopters, medics, etc. 

Anyway, I finally arrived to the Holy Jim lot around 8 AM.  Two runners and several cyclists stood around talking about the lost hikers.  They had their theories, mine was similar (I’ll leave out my theory as to what happened, unless I hear later that it’s the case).   

Taking off towards the Holy Jim Trailhead:

Though my calves felt tight at first, I found Holy Jim delightful.  It was not the same beast that kicked my butt during Old Goat.  This Holy Jim was cool, scenic and gave me strength.  I ran with plenty of calories stashed in my pockets and plenty of fluids to drink until I arrived at the secret stash several miles away. 

I ran up that switchback with four other ladies who had not run Holy Jim before.  So, when the lady behind me tried to catch me, I had the advantage being that I know how to pace myself on this trail.  In the end I passed the front runner of the group, only because she turned her ankle.  I stopped briefly to talk with her, then whizzed my way up to Bear Springs. 

Hallelujah!  Me and Holy Jim are friends again.

Holy Jim:

While the four ladies headed off toward Santiago Peak, I took the Main Divide for an up and down, up and down run toward West Horsethief.  The sun came out strong, yet I was lucky to have an occasional cool breeze.  I felt very fortunate to have these gifts today – I can still run mountain trails, I know my way around these mountains, and I enjoy the “harsh” beauty. 

Several jeeps drove past me as I ran the Main Divide.  I even came upon two more female runners.  I began to remember that I love trail running. Smile

From the Main Divide:

What a delight to make the top of West Horsethief.  I stopped for a quick photo op, then happily, joyfully made my way down that steep, rocky switchback.  I slid a few times, tripped once, and even fell back lightly once.  The trail seemed longer than I remembered. But then again, it always does.  And I thought, as I always do, that it must be more difficult running down Horsethief than running up it.  Toward the bottom, I came upon two hikers.  I rarely come upon anyone on Horsethief.  These two were sitting in the shade probably saying, “What the heck were we thinking?”

Top of West Horsethief:

West Horsethief:

I finished this 14+ mile loop at a packed Holy Jim parking lot.  A line of cars backed-up on Trabuco Canyon Road trying to get in the lot  Not a place remained to park.  Drivers were eager to catch my eye to ask if I was leaving.  I only put  in a quick stretch before giving up my space.  The drive out was a little odd, no not a little. It was very odd.  Every available space to park along the canyon road was crowded with cars.  Countless hikers made their way in, and at some points were the road was tight, a literal line of cars waited to make their way through.  I have never seen Trabuco Canyon so crowded.  I found this a little annoying – were these visitors there to see the sight of a near tragedy (the lost teenagers) or were they genuinely interested in this beautiful place that the media referred to again and again as rugged, harsh and dangerous?  

I suspect the crowds will die down.  If not, there are plenty of canyons where I can access Saddleback Mountains. 

The main thing is:  Today I returned to the scene of defeat.  AND I remembered that I love trail running. Smile  This is not to say that I totally have my groove back.  But it’s a start.  A dang good start.

Running Holy Jim - W. Horsethief loop 4-13-2013, Elevation