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Friday, July 5, 2013

Where my Angels and Demons Reside

Every time I run trails, I look up at Santiago Peak wistfully.  I so yearn to run up there, to the place called “Talking Peak.” I want to stand high above the clouds and look over the counties, and say to myself, “I did it!”  At the same time, I’m scared to death of the place.  The last time I made that trek was during Old Goat 50.  It was the most miserable trek I’ve ever made in my life.  I hit the base of Holy Jim at approximately mile twenty-eight, and like a zombie made those 8 uphill miles to the peak.  I really don’t know how I was able to put one foot in front of the other on that day. 

Since then, I’ve run Holy Jim several times.  But then again, I’ve had many good times with Holy Jim.  Though gorgeous it is, the three miles on the Main Divide up the the peak has NEVER been my friend.  Never, ever.

On Thursday, the 4th of July holiday, I left home under darkness and made that hour drive into Trabuco canyon.  The off-road portion was particularly bumpy.  I drove it slowly because I’m worried.  I’ve been giving my truck quite the beating lately.

Not a single car was parked in the lot as I took off up Holy Jim at 6:15 AM.  The gnats were heavy in the foresty lower portions of Holy Jim.  I breathed in a couple of those tiny black critters through my nose.  Believe me, the cool weather made the gnats bearable. 

Running through a fig tree tunnel on Holy Jim:

As usual, I felt relief and comfort when I hit the switchbacks.  I knew I’d be at this back-and-forth, back-and-forth for a long time.  I didn’t count them, the switchbacks that is.  I didn’t look forward in the run.  I simply enjoyed the beauty moment by moment.  I stopped a few times to snap photos.  The photos didn’t pick up the angels, but I know they were there. Winking smile

A male runner passed me about half way up.  He took that trail like a storm.  Gnats swarmed in on me in the shady, final stretch out of Holy Jim.  When I reached the Main Divide, I took pictures of my face covered in gnats, because that’s what I do.  Just then, another runner came up out of Holy Jim.  We hiked the next mile or so together, which made the trip much more bearable.  Still, I felt the struggle big time.  I also worried some about my fluids.  The weather was heating up quickly, and I felt constantly thirsty. 

While talking to this other runner, Mark, I learned that we live in the same town, that we have a son the same age, and they will both attend the same high school in September.  I thought it odd that I didn’t know this family.  And I thought the man looked a little familiar.  That’s normal though.  I come across so many people through the days, that I’m left in a daze with practically everyone looking familiar. 

When Mark took off ahead of me to the peak, my travel slowed quite a bit.  The heat bared down heavily.  Large “horse” flies bit at my neck, arms and legs.  One even bit my hand. Sad smile

The remaining trip up to Santiago Peak was pretty hellish.  Bug bites, gnats, waning water, a hot breeze, you name it.  I told myself, “Giddy-up girl.  Get it done!”  And onward I went, one foot in front of the other.  Then a memory popped into my head, seemingly out of nowhere.  It was of Mark (the guy I had just met).  He was standing in my backyard, talking to my husband about our garden.  Mark was at my oldest son’s 5 year old birthday party!  Our sons went to the same preschool!! 

The Main Divide, heading up to Santiago Peak:

I drank my coconut water and took in some calories as I continued up, up, up.  About a quarter mile from the peak, I met up with Mark as he ran back down.  He got a chuckle out of my revelation, thought it was crazy that I would remember.  He said that he “vaguely” remembered something of what I described.  We chatted briefly about the various preschool teachers we had seen over the years (Boy, does time fly!)

In no time I could see the towers.  But I still had some climbing.  Before I summited, I began looking around for water stashes.  Not finding any, I hiked up to the summit.  Surely, I thought, someone would have stashed water there. 

No water.  

I made it though.  I actually made it to Santiago Peak.  I sipped my fluids (water plus Nuun tablets) as I walked out to the viewpoint and took in the Pacific Ocean and all the cities below.  I spent about ten minutes simply wandering about, relishing my “now.”  I also took some of that time looking for water stashes. (No luck.)

Santiago Peak:

I ran back down The Main Divide at a steady pace.  I drank when I needed, but knew at that rate, I was going to run out quickly.  I stopped where some races set up an aid stop, and looked around for some stashes.  (Nothing.)

My sips grew smaller as I made my way into Bear Springs, the Holy Jim Intersection.  There had to be water there.  I felt confident.  I know some friends who stash near there.  Disheartened, all I found were empty jugs and bottles. 

Running back down The Main Divide:

I did not panic.  In fact, I knew that I’d be okay.  A mere two miles away a tiny spring flowed out of the mountain wall, year round.  That spring had fulfilled me on many occasions.  I realized that mentally, I was with it.  Physically, I was not.  My gait was awkward.  It felt like my body wanted to break down.  It wanted to plop in the shade and lay there, perhaps nap.   

Before I headed down Holy Jim, I had a choice to make:  what to do with the remaining fluids.  I could conserve and sip tiny bits for as long as possible.  That wasn’t going to get me to the spring mentally or physically fit.  I decided to drink up until I felt satisfied.  And so I drank.  And I finished off all my fluids before even heading down Holy Jim.

I ran a half mile down that switchback feeling much relief having just drank the remainder of my fluids.  With 1 1/2 miles to the spring, I saw the landside in the canyon that is just before the spring.  Foolishly I focused on that slide for an entire half mile.  It didn’t do my mind good.  The yearning was too much to take, and that half mile dragged on miserably. So, I decided not to look at the slide and ran the remaining mile in, feeling pretty decently.

The spring came down in a constant quick trickle.  Using my coconut water container I filled my entire hydration pack (68 fluid ounces), drenched myself, and drank two whole containers of cold water in that shady spot.  What a tremendous relief!


The remaining three miles down, though hot, were pleasurable with a full pack of spring water.  I got my body back.  It no longer wanted to collapse in the shade. 

The best thing about the entire trip, besides summiting and meeting another fellow trail runner, was that I kept my wits about me in a potential crises situation.  It’s good to know where you’re running.  I’m fortunate that way, very fortunate for my running friends over the past years who have shown me the way. 

Running Holy Jim to Santiago & back 7-4-2013, ElevationRunning Holy Jim to Santiago & back 7-4-2013

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