TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Harding Hustle / Maple Springs Aid

I woke to a 4:30 AM alarm and frantically searched my brain.  “What am I supposed to do?”  Eventually I realized that I was working the Harding Hustle race in Modjeska Canyon.  Let me tell you!  I was so happy to remember that I was working this race and not running it.  Why?  First off, because I was so dang fatigued.  But most importantly, because we’re in the middle of a so-called “heat wave.”  I wouldn’t have wanted to run uphill for approximately 16 miles for a turnaround and downhill for the same length. Practically the entire route is exposed, with very, very little shade. (I should not forget to mention the bees and gnats.)

So much to tell from this wondrous event, as I always have so much to tell from working races.  I can’t possibly cover it all.  First off, I met fellow blogger Giraffty. She was working “Check-in.”   We’ve been reading & commenting on each other’s blogs, for it seems years.  I recognized Heather the instant I saw her.  She is even more beautiful and smiley than online.

I also worked with a wonderful crew.  There were 7 of us: 4 aiding the runners, 1 medic, the radio (HAM) guy and his wife/girlfriend.  We set up at the top of Harding Truck Trail, a place called “Four Coroners,” where I commonly run.  Because I am a chronic water stasher, I took advantage of ride up and stashed the jugs of water that I purchased the night before.

The quick recap of the day goes like this:  We were beneath the hot, hot sun for many hours.  Over 100 f degrees.  I saw runners come in triumphantly.  I saw runners come in beaten.  Some runners had their wits about them, others couldn’t think straight.  A few runners cracked.  They flat out lost the mental battle.  And for them they had a nice air conditioned drive down to the finish.  Others dropped down to a shorter distance race.  One runner, took off the wrong way at about mile 23.  She began running down Maple Springs Road, which would have dumped her several miles from the finish.  Because we all thought that she had tucked into the bushes for a potty break, we did not realize her error for quite a while.  That made her error our error.  With many minutes head start, I could not catch her down a wretchedly hot Maple Springs.  At times I could see her far off in the distance.  I yelled out in my loudest voice, to no avail.  Pretty quickly, the HAM operator picked me up in his truck, and we drove about 3 miles before picking her up.  I broke the news to runner with apologies.  Turns out, she was a great spirited girl, and she laughed and laughed about her mistake.  Driving her back to our aid, she took in some fluids and instead of DNFing, she actually ran the 9.3 miles back.

I came to realize some things about endurance running yesterday.  The main thing is, the first  and yes, greatest triumph comes from taking off at the start line.  The other thing is, the main defeat is not your time nor whether or not you finish.  It’s whether or not your mind remains strong during all the obstacles that are hurled at you during the event.  Rarely does everything go smoothly.  Instead, you’ve got things like boulders, locked gates, extreme heat, hydration and fueling mistakes, wrong turns, falls, dropped water bottles, blisters, rolled ankles, etc., etc., etc.   On a good day, a runner keeps his/her wits about him – that is, there’s little panic or desperation.  Instead, despite the unknowns thrown at him, he keeps his mental strength.  Even a strong runner though has his collapses.  I know first hand about those collapses.  And I saw them second hand today.  Fortunately, there’s a silver lining.  After crawling out of that mental “defeat,” there is so much to learn.  There’s actually much more to learn, about yourself, about running, about life, in these defeats than there is in the triumphs.  And that’s a good thing. Smile

Scenes from the day: 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer Trails

No work today.  But I spent the morning getting the children to their places.  Though summer break completely messes with my running, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The boys need to do things during their break.  I wouldn’t want them sitting home every day.  Alas, this meant that I didn’t get to the trails until 10:30 AM.  Late morning is much better than mid afternoon.   Still, I started off today’s run in the heat.  Thus I suffered somewhat.  But that’s what this is kinda all about (kinda).  I’m just not used to running in 100f degree weather yet.  I will get there.  Some smart planning beforehand would help a tad.

For example, this morning I spent the first three miles running downhill, deep into Wood Canyon.  I even took a detour along the super shady, gorgeous Wood Creek Trail. 

A look into Wood Canyon from Wood Creek Trail:

Wood Creek Trail:

I would have faired better to run this loop in reverse, leaving this shadiest portion for last.  And why the heck did I choose Car Wreck Trail as my route out of the canyon????  This is why:  I must run through Oak Grove Trail which is lush, shady and fairy-tale like, in order to get to Car Wreck.

The beginning of Car Wreck (still shady and like a fairy-tale):

The car wreck on Car Wreck Trail was swarming with visitors – 5 or so hikers, 2 mountain bikers.  I took the opportunity to run down a hidden single-track for a bit, wondering where this wonder would lead.  I eventually turned back when the shade ended.  I didn’t want to take a trail in the sun that I didn’t know.  I will be back though – perhaps in the winter time.

Off the beaten path, looking back toward Car Wreck Trail:

Well, it was about high noon as I made my climb out of the canyon to Top of the World in Laguna Beach.  Frustrated by my slow pace, I remembered that my pace is always slower than usual in extreme heat, especially in the beginnings of heat training.  I let myself “off the hook,” and picked up my pace only when I felt that I could do it without fainting.  When I finally reached Top of the World, I refilled my handheld, then guzzled down at the drinking fountain.  Feeling rather overheated and now waterlogged from the water fountain guzzling, I rushed off to the public bathrooms to wash my face.  I only slightly watered my face because I didn’t want to wash away my sunscreen.  But then salt dripped down and stung my eyes.  I knew that would happen.  What was I thinking?  Then I thoroughly washed my face in cold water.  It felt so darn good, damn the sunscreen.  Afterward, I soaked my hat in a sink of cold water.  Then I headed back to my truck, running along West Ridge, all exposed trail, but completely bearable because the climbs are not so steep.

Climbing out of Car Wreck:

Top of the World:

Looking at Modjeska and Santiago Peaks (where my demons and angels reside):Running Up Car Wreck down Cholla (to tow) 6-28-2013, Elevation

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

HOT is the Word

With my summer teaching position comes a new way of life.  I now work mornings (yikes!), which means that I can’t run weekday mornings.  I am a morning runner, no if-ands-or-buts about it.  Now, the earliest that I can possibly hit the trails is 1:30 PM. (And that’s if I get out of work a bit early).

So, I sat in an air-conditioned classroom for 5 hours.  Then once all the students left, I quickly put on some running clothes in that air-conditioned classroom.  Then I drove my air-conditioned truck to some close-by trails.  Then . . .THEN I ran inland.  That is, AWAY from the ocean.

I was “out of the loop.”  No one told me about the extreme heat advisory today.

O . . . M . . . G.  It was a little hot.  And then it got hotter.  And hotter.  And there was no shade for the first 3 miles.  No.  Shade.

But it was, oh so beautiful:

Still no shade.  But I did get chuckle out of this sign.  Since when does a wild animal attack WITH warning? Smile (Oh, and notice Saddleback Mountains in the background):

Did I mention already that it got hotter?

And even hotter?

And there was no shade:

And even more no shade!

Finally!

Somewhere I belonged:

I got a little more shade, but found it difficult not to think about the sun I would need to run back through on my return trip.  As I passed beneath a major overpass, I spotted this broken-up chair, next to it a shattered television.  Can you believe that someone probably chucked these off the overpass?  That’s besides the point. (Still, who would do that?)  I took the opportunity of a chair in an odd place for a quick photo-op.

And then it was lovely shade for a little longer.  Notice no brace as I practice my awkward female foot pose:

Can you imagine that this beauty was in such wretched, almost miserable heat?

Eventually, I could not hack it any longer, turned around and headed back.  I’m not heat trained.  But I did manage to run 10.15 miles on trails.  Though I carried enough fluids, I felt like vomiting back at the truck.  Then I quickly blasted the air-conditioner for the drive home.

The elevation gain did not AT ALL seem like this.  But this is what my garmin recorded:

Running Trabuco Creek Trail SJC to Arroyo Trabuco & back 6-26-2013, Elevation

Saturday, June 22, 2013

No Matter What, Do Not Open That Door!”

Do you remember the scene from the American movie Young Frankenstein, when the doctor says, “No matter what, DO NOT OPEN THAT DOOR!”?  “No matter how much I scream and beg, do not open it!”  The next scene Dr. Frankenstein was banging on the door, “Please, please open the door!  Forget what I said before.  I was only joking!!!”

This morning I remembered that scene (actually I remember that scene often, as it is so reminiscent of life).  Anyway, I told my husband last night, “When my alarm goes off, do not let me go back to sleep – kick me out of bed!  I WANT TO RUN.” 

Thing was, after I said this, I tossed and turned for an hour last night, anxious where I might run in the mountains without several downhill miles.  Why?  My ankle.  I feel asleep unresolved where I would run.  Good news was, I had money for gasoline. (Hip-hip-hooray!!)

My phone alarm rang at 4:00 AM, and though I was awake and ready, I didn’t want to drive an hour for a mountain run.  I didn’t think my foot could hack it.  So, I set my alarm for a later time and tried, tried to fall back asleep.  Remember, I told my husband not to let me fall back to sleep?  He is such a good hubby, my biggest supporter.  And he stayed true to his word.  HE WOULD NOT LET ME GO BACK TO SLEEP.  He took away my blankets.  He groped me (I know T.M.I. Smile); he wasn’t going to let me out of this.  I was going to run DANG IT.

“NEVERMIND,” I said.  “I didn’t mean it!  REALLY.  I WAS JOKING!!!  Seriously.  I WAS JOKING.”

Finally, I headed out to the living room, plopped myself onto the couch with the cellphone by my side.  My dedicated husband came out to cover me with a blanket and shut the windows.  Thing was, it was 4:15 AM, and I was wide awake! 

I tossed and turned again, then finally rose from the couch.  That’s when I made a 2-cup pot of coffee, got dressed and decided I would eventually open the front door.  First however, I would toss ideas in my head, for a couple hours, how I would manage this. 

I packed a full bladder of fluids, deciding that I would run around 14 miles.  but not in the mountains.  I was pretty certain that I would re-injure my ankle on long technical down hills.  Coastal hills it was.  So fearful of a chronic injury, I wrapped my ankle in a corset.  Not one like this (I wish!):

ankle corset

http://www.etsy.com/listing/59800644/in-bloom-ankle-corsets-tatted-lace?ref=shop_home_feat

No, my ankle corset was this:

I took off on Aliso Creek Trail before the wilderness park even opened.  Funny thing was, I took off exactly the same time as three other male runners.  One of them looked just like my running friend Tom B., whom I have not run with in over a year – well since he ran the Mexico Copper Canyon 50 miler (Born to Run).  I kept up with the trio for a while, but had to stop and readjust the corset.  It felt too thick beneath my heal, causing discomfort.  About then a few cyclists rode past me on this cool, overcast morning.  As I began “The Big Loop,” I really thought I could do it. 

Along the way I ran up on 3 deer:

I ran into Wood Canyon feeling okay, glad that I opted for short sleeves.  Even though the weather was overcast and breezy, the air was humid.  I ran Meadows Trail completely, utterly (& happily) alone.  And I recalled the first time I ever ran trails solo.  It was this very same wilderness park.  And I was scared out of my mind.  Today, I felt no fear.  I just ran, fully aware of my surroundings, and fully aware that my pace waned. 

I joyfully marched up Mentally Sensitive.  It’s a bear of a climb, but a delightful climb when I can hack it.  (And I can always hack it, just sometimes better than others).

Caught without a smile!  I thought I’d post this one, because my running pals think I’m always smiling on the trail – I tell them it’s because I’m the one who holds the camera!  When I press “click,” I smile. Smile  I’m almost finished with the toughest part of Mentally Sensitive here.  And though I’m not full of laughter, I’m lovin’ it. (And it’s not even 8AM on a Saturday!)

Taking a look back on the climb up Mentally Sensitive:

As I ran toward Top of the World, I knew I would need to make a decision.  Should I run my 14 mile loop?  My right ankle had no spring to it whatsoever.  As I ran along the ridge, I stopped to change out my corset for a looser ankle brace.  I hoped this would bring some of the spring back.  This it did not.  

Goats along the ridge:

I managed to gain on the runner ahead of me.  He ran the hill toward Top of the Word in a switch-back fashion.  I did so by running straight up the hill (which I can do now with many miles of practice).  He kind of chuckled when we met.  “Good job,” he said, I’m sure noticing my brace. 

Even with the looser brace, my ankle felt wrong.  Still, I could NOT pick up my pace.  That caused some minor aggravation beneath my hot breath.  How important is mileage right now? I asked myself.  

Breakfast at Top of the World Café (You supply the food, water supplied by fountains):

Heading down West Ridge on the loop back:

I made my decision at the Mathis / West Ridge intersection to  cut my loop short.  My ankle without spring began to ache.  And I knew that I was going to put in too many hours for my 14 mile loop.  And so I headed down Mathis in a leisurely manner instead of running all of West Ridge down to Wood Canyon. 

About a quarter mile down, I saw a blonde man raise his arms and yell out “Lauren!”  Baffled at first, it took me a few seconds and a peer at those perfectly formed teeth to realize this runner was Tom B!  The very same runner that I thought I recognized at the start of this morning’s run.  The very same running friend that I would not have crossed paths with if my ankle didn’t cause me problems.  Imagine that! 

I stopped at chatted with Tom, enthused by his enthusiasm.  I learned more about his sandals and saw that he was wearing pair.  I couldn’t help but think my ankle and feet would be better off in them and out of the constraints I had put them in.  As soon as I have more cash than enough to get me to the trails, I’m going to buy me a pair, even if it’s just for walking around. (Tommie’s Toes).   

The trip down Mathis:

Even after the lifter from seeing an old friend (not as in “old age”), I still could not gather the strength to increase my pace.  My pace in fact down Mathis Trail was ridiculously slow for me.  Down hill did me no good today.  Ends up the last .75 miles in to the Ranger Station, I hiked.  I watched my pace and tried to increase it in on the hike.  Amazingly, my hiking pace was quicker than my somewhat lame running pace.

Here’s a final foot pose, using the model (childish) foot pose I’ve noticed on websites.  Apparently when one poses feet, you hold your feet at an awkward, childish pose.  LOL:

The Gain:

Running Up Mentally Sensitive down Mathis 6-22-2013, Elevation