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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Remember the time . . .

The marine layer burned off fairly early this morning.  Probably by 6:00 AM.  This meant the possibility of some heat training today by 9:00 AM when I finally took off.  Oddly, I have some romantic notion about complete heat misery.  Remember the time . . . we ran out of water . . . Remember the time . . . it felt like torches were burning our legs.  Wow!  Those were some good times. Winking smile

Oh, the silly antics of a trail runner. 

With less time to spend this morning on the trails, I decided for a “smaller” Aliso/Wood Canyons loop – almost the smallest loop I run in the park.  Instead of going up the grueling Mentally Sensitive, I went up Meadows.  Now the difference between the two is this:  Mentally Sensitive is so steep that it’s unrunnable.  I power hike most of it.  Meadows, though ridiculously steep, is steep enough to run.  Therefore, I run all of it.  Insanely, wildly, yes, this is what I do.

The first gigantic ascent is the last mile or so of Meadows (from about 2 miles to 3.25, then there’s more climb toward Top of the World):

Running Up Mentally Sensitive down Mathis 5-29-2013, Elevation

Well, the thing about Meadows, actually any climb, is to take one step at a time.  I tried that this morning.  I didn’t think about the end, or how many switchbacks I had left.  Thing was, sweat was already pouring down my back by mile two.  The heat bared down in vengeance.  As if, I did anything to him.  Smile

I’ll tell you.  It wasn’t pretty.  I so very much wanted to stop, or even just hike.  But I told myself, “No!  You’ve run this before.  Don’t be a wuss.”  And despite all the misery in the scorching heat up this ridiculous climb, I made it.  (I was delighted too, that the cyclist below didn’t pass me).

Meadows Trail (& yes, I’m wearing cotton):

A quick pose (really an excuse to rest at the top of Meadows):

I made Top of the World in about my regular time.  Not my regular quick time, but my regular slow time. That’s okay.  My shirt was drenched.  And all I really felt was relief – relief that the main uphill was over, and relief that this loop was less than ten miles.  Yay!

I ran down Mathis Trail for my trip back into Wood Canyon.  I met several hikers and cyclists struggling up in the heat.  With no shade whatsoever on Mathis, I was surely glad my trip travelled downward. 

Mathis Trail:

The GPS:Running Up Mentally Sensitive down Mathis 5-29-2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013


When my phone alarm rang out this morning at 4:15 AM, I thought (seriously!), there’s got to be some mistake.  I must have forgotten to turn off my alarm.  Today’s sleep-in day.  Isn’t it??  But then I remembered, today is drive- to-the-mountains-and-run-day. 

I have only one or two days with enough time to run in the mountains.  This week, I had only one day.  Sleep.  Yes, that would have been delightful.  I lay there face up in my bed, struggling to keep my eyes opened.  “Don’t close them,” I said to myself again and again.  At 4:30, I finally jumped up because I knew that I couldn’t lay there much longer without dozing off.

The skies were black when I finally made it out to my truck with hot mug of coffee in my hand.  The moon was full and bright, lighting up the entire beachside neighborhood.  Not another person stirred.  Not a bird chirped.

If I didn’t absolutely love running mountain trails as well as fully understand the good they would do me, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it out to Trabuco Canyon this morning.   Trabuco Canyon not only meant a tough run, but some tough off-road driving for my 2X4 truck just to get there.

I would like to make this post short, as mileage was under 15 miles.  Mountain runs . . . they are hard to make short because they are so beautiful. 

That is why I will mainly do a pictorial for today’s post.  But first I want to point out that this weekend is the one of a race that I wanted to run more than any all year.  I had it on my “For Sure” list.  Nanny Goat 24 Hour run began this morning and I was not at the start.  I pretty much dreamt about this race for months.  However, family commitments made this race impossible.  The sacrifice was difficult to swallow.  But I did this sacrifice knowing that it was best for me, and best for my family.  Actually, there was no choice.  I had to omit Nanny Goat from my race calendar.  Our oldest son is being confirmed tomorrow.  This is similar to a bar mitzvah (though not as triumphant) or a quinceanera to the Mexican culture. (To make a long story short, a Confirmation kind of represents a youth’s acceptance of certain religious doctrines – it includes a church ceremony and communion – to not attend due to a race would have been unacceptable in my eyes.)

Since I didn’t run Nanny Goat today through tomorrow, I was able to get in a Saddleback Mountain run this morning.  And that was truly glorious.  Truly. 

I took off up a lonely mountain.  I thought I was surely alone, when three miles in, three men came hiking down Holy Jim.   Somewhat armed, I couldn’t help but think, “Crap!”

Of course, I kept on running headstrong past the group, chatting with them along the way.  I learned that they took off at 2:00 AM for a hike to the peak.  With a full moon, I’m sure it was glorious.   I would love to do that.

Climbing up Holy Jim – the best thing about Holy Jim is that the climb is spread out over five miles.  The worst thing about Holy Jim is that it’s five miles long!:

Glorious Flora along the way:

Running Along The Main Divide:

Amped up to finally run downhill on West Horsethief:

Flora on Horsethief:

Trabuco Trail:

Only a tad of dirt in the end. Smile

Running Holy Jim - Horsethie loop 5-25-2013, Elevation

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Romancing the Run

From Born to Run (Christopher McDougall)

“. . . Ann insisted, running was romantic; and no, of course her friends didn’t get it because they’d never broken through.  For them, running was a miserable two miles motivated solely by size 6 jeans: get on the scale, get depressed, get your headphones on, and get it over with.  But you can’t muscle through a five-hour run that way; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it.”

I can relate.  I can so relate.  This morning I “eased” my body into a longish trail run.  Had I not already known that running was like getting into a hot bath, I wouldn’t have gone or a hilly 12.5 mile run today.  It was gloomy and chilly out.  We even had some sprinkles.  I could have easily gone home and gone back to bed.  But I knew, about two miles in, maybe more, my body wouldn’t resist the run.  I’d enjoy it. 

And I did. 

And I had an extra benefit of adventure and beauty.  Running is romantic.  It really is. Smile

Running along Aliso Creek Trail, past what I’ve named Coyote Field (Do you see the coyote in the middle of the field? I witnessed him pounce on some animal, probably a bunny or a squirrel, then tear at its flesh):

Catching some breeze on my way up Mentally Sensitive:

With a little help from a friend:

Always fun to add in a little bushwhacking:

The relief and giddy apprehension of heading down:

Rock It:

Coyote Run (not really near Coyote Field, in fact, I’ve never seen a Coyote on Coyote Run, only deer, rattlers, birds, squirrels and bunnies):

Romancing the Run:Running Up Mentally Sensitive Down Rock it 5-23-2013, Elevation

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Found It!

I woke this morning at 6 AM, especially tired.  But this was not reason enough to skip my run.  Acceptable reasons to skip this morning’s trails:  broken leg, broken foot, family emergency.  I had a feeling I’d wake up enough for a short run by the time I finished morning chores (getting the boys off to school).

As it was, I did wake up some.  By the time I hit the trails, the skies were still gray and cold.  I didn’t let that fool me.  This time I left the long sleeves at home. 

I had planned on my usual short run, an out-and-back to Top of the World.  On a whim, I decided to extend this run just a tad to search out an old car wreck.  A friend sent me a picture a while back of a blue, bullet-ridden car in the overgrown brush, somewhere off of Lynx.  Last time I ran up Lynx, I couldn’t find the car.  This morning, instead of running back into the canyon via Cholla Trail, I decided to take Lynx and look around some more for this mysterious car.  The weather had by the way, warmed up extensively by then. 

West Ridge on the way to Top of the World, the better trail here is the road less travelled:

Top of the World – always a triumph:

Lynx is a particularly beautiful trail, quite rocky and technical.  I don’t really know why I don’t run it often.  I suppose it’s because Lynx doesn’t add to a nice clean loop.  Though a difficult trail, it’s not the most difficult in these canyons.  And it’s a perfect trail to practice fast downhill technical running.  The trail’s not so thin, that a fall would throw me off the edge. 

Lynx Trail:

Well, I ran down Lynx searching the canyon views for the blue car.  Nothing.  I did spot a trail off in the distance, at the bottom, closer to the opposite canyon wall.  That triggered my search for anything that looked like a trail leading off my edge of the canyon wall.  The first spot of dirt that could have been a trail ended at a sharp drop off.  Down below, I saw nothing but canyon.  The second dirt section that could have been a trail, lead me to an even steeper drop off.  No blue car.  And the trail that I thought I saw at the canyon’s bottom, disappeared.  I figured I’d probably find a trail at the bottom of Lynx that lead into the canyon.  That’s where the car probably laid. 

Before reaching the end, I took one last dirt area that could have been a trail.  It stopped also at a steep drop off.  There was no getting down this edge, that’s for sure.  But lo and behold . . . deep down in the canyon, practically buried by brush, was the bullet-ridden blue car!  I found it! 

See it?

Look closer . . .

Ahh, the thrill of discovery. 

Running Up Cholla to TOW down Lynx 5-22-2013, Elevation

Monday, May 20, 2013

Overdressed (again)

I felt too worn out to run trails this morning.  But I know that I can’t run three days this week due to other obligations.  So, I HAD TO run this morning if I wanted four running days.  Believe me.  I would have much rather gone back to sleep after I made the boys breakfast and lunches, and drove them off to school.  Actually, I would have much rather stayed in bed to begin with and lazily got up, say around 11 AM. 

We were socked in this morning in our seaside town. The breeze was cool, the air damp.  I put on a long sleeved running shirt, filled a handheld and out the door I went for a drive to Aliso/Wood Canyons. 

My run began beneath gray cool skies.  My trot was slow, but deliberate.  I passed two coyotes as they meandered through the dry grass alongside my single-track trail. 

Quick stop in Wood Canyon to stretch tight shins:

Barely a half mile passed running through the dry, yet lovely golden meadows on Meadows Trail, when the sun popped out from the clouds.  Suddenly the sky was blue, and my shirt dripped sweat.  Yup, overdressed again.  I turned my hat around and I begun to think that perhaps a handheld wasn’t the best idea for today’s ten mile loop.  (I turn my hat around because the rim traps heat in around my face, and I hate that). 

A little heat won’t hurt me though, especially dry heat.  As long as I’m not lost and I have access to water, I know I’m okay.  And there’s places with drinking fountains that I know of along the ridge.  But first, there was getting to the ridge.  Of which I, in my infinite wisdom chose the steepest hill (why?  because it’s the steepest hill) to get there. 

Climbing Mentally Sensitive was a bear as usual.  I had to fight against conserving water.  It’s almost a natural inclination when fluids are limited.  I’ve found though that it’s never a good idea to conserve water when I need it.   

A typical step up Mentally Sensitive:

And isn’t it all worth it? (View from Mentally Sensitive):

At the ridge, I debated running the next mile or so to Alta Laguna Park at The Top of the World with about a 1/4 filled handheld.  There was a closer fountain, but I’d have to backtrack to get to it.  I don’t like backtracking.  “I can do it,” I thought.  “It’s only about a mile.”  This is what heat does to a person – it makes you stupid.  But I hadn’t gone completely overboard as the salt dripped down into my eyes.  I told myself, “Don’t be a fool!  How many times do you have to learn?  REFILL.”  And so I ran in the opposite direction into Moulton Park to refill my handheld.  Good thing too.  I drank all of it during that short mile to the next fountain. 

After reaching Top of the World and refilling again, I took the ridge to Mathis Trail for a long downhill trip on an exposed trail with absolutely no shade at all.  By now I would have ripped off my long sleeves and ran in my running bra if I wasn’t so dang modest.  Note to self:  It’s practically summertime.  Time to layer!

In all, these ten miles were a true delight.  (Despite my sleepy sarcasm.  It’s SO past my bedtime). 

Running down Mathis into Wood Canyon:

The Profile:  (Yikes!  Actually, not as bad as it looks):Running Up Mentally Sensitive down Mathis 5-20-2013, Elevation

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mmmmm . . . Candy!

This morning I woke at the ridiculous hour of 4AM.  Why?  So that I could drive an hour into the mountains and run The Candy Store run as the sun rose.  The drive up the windy mountain was uneventful as car after car raced down in the opposite direction from Riverside county, to jobs in Orange County.  I parked in lower Blue Jay Campground.  Tents were erected through out the grounds, but not a person stirred.  It seemed also that not a creature stirred. 

I took off on the same rocky trail that we took off on in Old Goat 50.  The skies were cloudy.  And as I descended down the mountain, I heard child screams and laughter coming from a campground above.  I felt like I was making slow time, yet I felt good.  I didn’t tape my arches, nor did I roll my shins beforehand.  I wound down the trail and made the first point of interest (the Chiquito / San Juan intersection) in about 37 minutes.  I consider 45 minutes very decent time for me.  I didn’t want to care about time on this run.  I wanted to enjoy.  Still, I couldn’t help but celebrate a tad.

I continued on San Juan Trail, which was shady and lush, climbing up toward the Viejo Tie.  Ear phones dangling around my shoulder and not in my ears, I desired complete awareness of my surroundings.  The trails were desolate.  I was completely alone, except for what lurked out there in the forest.  I felt relieved when I hit exposed trail because I had a better grasp on my surroundings. 

Memories from Old Goat flooded my mind as I ran.  I recalled where I fell.  I recalled when I passed, when I was passed.  The Tie went by very quickly, especially compared to the first time I ran it.  Still, I felt like I moved slower than I did during Old Goat.  Yet, I made the Chiquito intersection in about 50 minutes (1 hour is VERY decent for me).  Again, I felt accomplished.  So relaxed was I, the trails’ technical difficulty didn’t throw me.

I ran in and out of shady lush forest, on overgrown single track for the next few miles.  My mind wandered to all the things I needed to do (grade papers, make calls, pay bills, organize, organize, organize).  I thought a lot about our dying friend.  I told myself, “Don’t think!  Don’t think!”  I found this quite difficult.  That is until I told myself to do just one thing today:  call the hospice.  With that one thing resolved, I was finally able to empty my mind.

  The Viejo Tie (Or San Juan Trail just before the split):

The poison oak on Chiquito was unavoidable.  Even though I have been immune to the plant’s poison, I’ve heard that immunity doesn’t last forever. I’ve run through the stuff head-to-toe before with no consequences (knock on wood!).  This morning, I occasionally stepped aside from a bush.  But then my thigh would brush against several leaves.  Eventually, I realized it was useless.  There was no escaping the plant.

Chiquito Trail (notice the poison oak on the forest floor):

“The Candy Store Run” is approximately twenty miles, mainly downhill from Blue Jay to The Candy Store, mainly uphill on the way back.    Beginning this run at The Candy Store rather than Blue Jay, is the much easier way to go because you run the harder part on strong legs.  Both ways are long.  Both ways are lovely.  But I wanted hard.  Excruciating in fact.  This is why I began on the mainly downhill for an uphill climb on tired legs. 

I passed Chiquito Falls still feeling strong, feeling like I’d make The Candy Store in under 3 hours.  Then a funny thing happened on the way to the store.  I saw another person running up from the other way.  He wore all black, just as I did.  He didn’t startle me.  I could distinguish that he was a trail runner by the two handhelds.  But who? 

Why, this other runner was my friend John H.!!  I laughed out loud.  I mean, what are the chances that I’d come across someone I know?  We stopped and chatted for a good amount of time, laughing over the things we put our trucks through and how we both stash water in the mountains.  We talked about Old Goat (John was a sweeper who swept my friend, Emmett).  As we chatted, he helped put my mind at ease over finishing a fifty miler.  John seems quite “laid back” about running, whereas I tend to tense up.  Anyway, I didn’t worry about making The Candy Store in under 3 hours anymore.  It’s not often I get to talk trails and laugh out in the middle of nowhere with a friend. 

But then, I was off running again; John was off running again as well, in opposite directions. 

Out portion of the run, it’s still cool enough for my long sleeves:

Views of The Cleveland National Forest on my way down:

A quick glimpse of the many spring flowers along the way:

Toward the end of the out portion, I came upon a couple hiking groups.  One man looked at me as though I was crazy.  Another gasped, “Running?”  At the giant fallen tree, decomposing for years, I began my climb up to the parking lot.  The sun was out in vengeance.  The climb was difficult.  I finally ran into the parking lot in over three hours.  Across the street, The Candy Store was probably still closed (unless they sell donuts for breakfast).  I didn’t run across the highway to check, though I do love candy.  Instead, I ran over to my water stash in the brush.  After refilling, I set out for the return trip beneath an unrelenting sun.

Running back on the San Juan Loop, toward Chiquito Trail for the climb up:

It came as no surprise that the climb back out toward Chiquito Falls was miserable.  But it was a lovely miserable.  I climbed over boulders.  I ran the uphills in the shade.  Sometimes on exposed trails, I hiked.  I passed more hikers, some in small groups, some with walking sticks. 

Excruciating is a great word for the back portion of this run.  Much of it, before Chiquito Falls, is exposed, hot and rocky.  Tiny gnats swarmed my face.  But despite this, I still felt good.  No major aches or pains.  At one point, about half way, I heard the pounding of fast running.  Disoriented some, I was startled, thinking someone was running up on me from behind.  Turns out, it was John.  He wasn’t behind me.  He was in front of me.  We spoke briefly as I stumbled up the boulders.  Except for the last climb up to the parking lot, he had mainly downhill to look forward to, whereas I was looking at several more uphill miles.  Doh!

A big rock on Chiquito:

A simple view of the climb out:

Sleeves off, it’s now HOT, and I’m greatly looking forward to San Juan Trail because that means I’ve only got a few miles to go:

I came upon cyclists on the way out.  I gave directions to a father and son.  I could have cut the course short on a few occasions.  But I decided to sweat it out.  A cool breeze blew through the trees.  And though I felt fatigued, and pretty miserable, it was the good kind of miserable.  Seriously.  There is a good kind of miserable – it’s the kind of miserable when a difficult, yet gorgeous run is nearly over. 

Today’s elevation profile:Running Candy Store Run 5-18-2013, Elevation

From above:Running Candy Store Run 5-18-2013