I have not been well, and ended my 9 day running streak on Monday. I would have ended it Sunday if it were not for my oldest son. He offered to run a mile with me on Monday, so off we went. I could tell he was frustrated with my pace. I could barely run. If it wasn’t for my lovely son, my streak would have ended on day 8.
Today marked a starting over of my streak with day one. There was a group run going out of Blue Jay for twenty-something miles into Trabuco Canyon. I wanted some solitude today and decided to run elsewhere alone. I chose the Candy Store loop, which is more an out-and-back than a loop (but it’s loopish, with loops along the way). Today though, I decided to run it in the opposite direction. This way, I would run the uphill first, and hit the downhill for the last ten or so miles.
The sun had already risen by the time my feet hit dirt. Solitude I wanted, solitude I got. I saw this furry creature on my way down the San Juan Loop. But I didn’t see a single person.
The run out, that is up to Blue Jay, was beautiful, uneventful and difficult. But it wasn’t as difficult as when I run it for the second half. The weather was cool, the trails were empty. I decided at one point to search out the water stash my friends have told me about. Every time I look for it, I can’t find it. Today, I looked twice. The first time, no luck. On my relook, I found the stash off a beaten path. Camouflaged well, I lifted the debris to see just how much water there was. There was lots – not only that, but there was a brown mouse that poked his head out and scrambled down the bottles toward me. Well, I let out a yelp (I hate mice – sorry I just do), covered the stash back up and high-tailed it out of there.
I ran a several miles without music. And I stopped several times to snap pictures I haven’t taken in a long time.
I ran UP the Viejo Tie for the first time ever. The ground was soft with leaf litter, and portions were extremely steep. But it was all doable. I still had lots of energy. By the time I reached San Juan Trail, I was ready for Blue Jay. Two miles of uphill rocky single-track still remained. I took it running and finally ran into Blue Jay with an empty hydration pack.
Feeling no dread whatsoever for the second half of my run (like I do when I run it reverse), I rushed to a water source and filled my pack to the brim. Lastly I took out a Larabar for breakfast to enjoy as I ran back down San Juan Trail.
I ran through my “two deserts” (mentioned in my last Candy Store Loop post) and found it extremely hot and dry, yet delightful. The sandy dirt was quite loose to the point where I fell. I wouldn’t normally call this a fall because I actually slipped. Slipping and falling are two different actions. But since I landed on my butt, well, I guess it was a fall.
I continued onward through the shady forests of Chiquito feeling good, feeling strong. I picked up my speed as I ran down toward the Viejo Tie intersection when suddenly I tripped on a root hidden in the leaf litter. I flew through the air, like a flying squirrel. I mean FLEW. I landed face down in a patch of poison oak on top of a bed of leaf litter about six inches thick. Talk about a cushy fall. The first thing that came to mind was, “Get up! Don’t let the hydration pack leak.” So, I jumped up, found just a few cuts and scratches on my legs and was on my way. (If you’re a new reader, you won’t know that so far, I’ve been immune to poison oak).
The weather heated up immensely. Still, by the time I came near the secret water stash, I still had probably a pack 3/4 full. And that whole mouse thing creeped me out so much that I decided not to stop and refill.
I ran the next few miles, up and down, up and down (though mainly down) on HOT, exposed trail. The sun drained me, but I still drank up, fearful that I would run out soon. I began to feel nauseated and had to stop and cool off here and there in little sections of shade. My legs felt weak, like they couldn’t hold me up. I kept running, because I wanted to get this portion finished as quickly as possible.
And then I ran out of fluids. With about 2 miles to go, I ran the flats and downhills, hiked the uphills. When I finally turned a corner into some shade, I came upon two male hikers. “Don’t go out there,” I said.
One of the men said, “I know, we were just there.” His face was red. The other guy was laying down in the shade. I ran past them a couple feet and then abruptly stopped. I HAD TO cool down. Bending over, I grabbed my knees and was still holding myself up when the two guys took off ahead of me.
After cooling some, I took off running again. When I caught up with the two hikers, they were resting in the shade again. They asked advice on the route back, and I told them to take the San Juan Loop to the right – it’s the shadiest.
I passed the hikers. Soon enough, they were up gaining on me. I could no longer run. That’s when one of the guys yelled out, “Miss, did you know your arm is bleeding?”
Sure enough a stream of dried blood streaked down my arm. The hikers didn’t seem too sure when I assured them that my arm was alright.
The hikers and I continued like this for about a mile – stopping and resting, then taking off as long as we could. The hiker about my age would just plop down in the shade and lay there. I usually took off first because I HAD TO GET TO MY TRUCK FOR WATER.
Eventually, I could only hold myself up when hiking or running. Standing still I had a problem. When I stopped in shade to cool off, I had to grasp a tree branch so that I wouldn’t fall. I felt that I could not lay down for fear that I wouldn’t be able to get up. For the first time in a long time, I worried about my well-being. The only thing that stopped me from calling for help was the fact that I was only about a mile from the parking lot. I decided to wait it out and see how I progressed before calling aid. I paid close attention to my body and worked and worked at cooling it down. At one point I oddly took off my hat. Thankfully, I still had my wits about me to put it back on. My breathing was rapid. And I was hot, OH SO HOT. But I still could think logically.
We were was SO, SO CLOSE to the parking lot when the two hikers plopped down in the shade again. Some hikers on the boulders above noticed us and waved. That’s when I felt safe leaving the hikers behind and making the march back to the truck.
That march was miserable. I stopped quite frequently, in fact, in every bit of shade. Eventually, I had to sit in the shade. Then my saving grace arrived. On several occasions, it seemed like just as I sat, a strong cool breeze came along to cool me off. That breeze gave me just enough strength to walk another twenty feet or so. I certainly suffered from heat exhaustion. The breezes cooled me of enough that I worried less over the possibility of heat stroke.
I couldn’t believe that I let a little mouse stop me from getting more water some miles back. That will NOT happen again. I hiked those last 100 yards painstakingly slow. Then finally! I caught a glimpse of the parking lot curb. I had made it. I had my pack off before I even reached my truck. My key in the door, I grabbed out a jug of water ASAP. Then I turned on the truck and put the air conditioning on full blast. Feeling too weak to drive immediately, I took swigs of the water. I poured some over my head too. When the salt dripped down into my eyes, I used some of that precious water to wash my face too.
Well, I love an adventure, that’s for sure. But dang it! How many times do I have to learn the same lesson? Refill at EVERY chance, even if I don’t think I need it. This is my promise on day one of my running streak.
Elevation Profile (The route, San Juan Loop, Chiquito, Viejo Tie, San Juan Trail, Blue Jay Campground, San Juan Trail, Old San Juan Trail, San Juan Trail, Chiquito, San Juan Loop).