TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Just Maple Springs

I sat in my truck in Silverado Canyon, in the pitch black dark, waiting for the sun to lighten the sky this morning.  I saw a woman hike by with a headlamp and a reflective vest.  Just as the sky lightened, I ventured out of the car and saw a man hiking out from Maple Springs Road.  It’s that hot out here in Southern California.  People are resorting to night hiking.  When I woke at 4AM today, the weather was hot and muggy, and I live at the seashore!  

I took off around 6:15 AM for a run just on Maple Springs road, an out-and-back to a place named “Four Corners,” for fifteen total miles.   Only three miles in, I was dripping sweat down my back.  That’s when two male bikers road up behind me, struggling also with the heat.  They said, “You’re our inspiration.  Can you pull us?”  Not a chance. 

This was one of those “just-put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other” runs.  Seven and a half miles uphill in this heat was just too much to think about.  If I would have thought about it, I wouldn’t have been able to make the trip.  I took in the awesome scenery, noticed the uncountable deer tracks, and searched the trail for cougar tracks (saw none).  I didn’t see a single other soul for the remainder of my trip up Maple Springs as that hot morning sun bared down upon me.

Maple Springs Road:

Four Corners showed me wonderful views of the San Gabriel Mountains, and on the other side, Orange County and Harding Truck Trail.  I wasn’t going to stick around long for the scenery though.  Four Corners had to be the hot spot of the entire mountain.  Hidden from view, I sat next to the railing as I unpacked some fuel, drank up and refilled my handheld.  The sound of a motorcycle startled me at first – its motor sounded like a large cat purring (ha, ha!).  Well, this guy on the motorcycle raced up Maple Springs and at Four Corners continued up onto a berm and jumped, that is flew high (I mean got some air!) off the end of that thing.  I was amazed.  And impressed.  Too bad I didn’t get a picture. 

Four Corners:

I got little relief for the run back down.  Yes, the trip was downhill, and that was good, but the heat, oh the heat – it slowed my pace more than I realized.  I got some heavenly cloud cover for about a half a mile.  Several motorcyclists rode past me.  Eventually, the two mountain bikers I saw going up raced past me and yelled out “Great job!”  Finally, when I made it to the bottom of the canyon a wonderful cool breeze blew hard into my face.  That lasted for several minutes – enough to get me through those last three miles to my truck. 

Running down Maple Springs:

Maple Springs Road Elevation Profile:Running Maple Springs out-and-back 8-30-2013, ElevationRunning Maple Springs out-and-back 8-30-2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A New Loop

Some time ago a new loop popped into my head, a lollipop loop actually.  My idea was to connect two trails that I’ve run (Bommer Ridge and Laurel Canyon) with a trail that I haven’t run (Willow) in Laguna Wilderness.  Though I did glance at the map to make sure I could connect these trails (they meet at a staging area), I didn’t bother to calculate mileage.  I like some mystery (but I figured between 6 and 10 miles).  Anyway, I finally decided to do this loop today, on probably the hottest day of the year.    First off, I ran to the public restrooms and was already overheated.

Bommer Ridge gave me spectacular ocean views to my right and some ocean breezes.  To my left I couldn’t help but glance occasionally at The Saddleback Mountains.  On Willow I began to make my way down, down, down, BENEATH THE RIDGE, away from the ocean breezes. 

Running Bommer Ridge:

Willow is definitely not a summer trail, especially in 99f degrees.  With very little shade to be found, my downhill pace was much slower than usual.  I came upon a couple hikers here and there, all dressed too warm in my opinion.  Though a few ladies carried parasols.  I certainly would not rate Willow very high from today’s run.  And I probably won’t return, if I do, until the wintertime.

Willow Trail:

Much needed shade:

So happy to come upon the staging area for some more shade (notice the bunny Smile):

But then the climb up Laurel Canyon began – whew!

In all, this new loop measured 8.08 miles.  I would have liked 10 miles, but I was happy enough to quit at 8.08.  I came upon one lonely hiker as I ran up Bommer to the trailhead.  He said, “It’s hot!”  To which I replied, “Yup, it’s an oven back there.”

The lollipop:Running Bommer Willow Laurel loop 8-29-2013Running Bommer Willow Laurel loop 8-29-2013, Elevation

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Wednesday Start

I like to get in 5 workouts a week.  Six would be better.   By workouts I mean, hiking, gym time, swimming, and of course running.  Five is hard to hit.  It’s hard to hit especially when I miss the first two days of the week.  Monday and Tuesday, I felt ill and decided to take it easy.  (By the way, I consider Monday the first day of the week, many people don’t.  My beloved and every single calendar I own considers Sunday the first day of the week – go figure.)

Anyway, with the first two days off, I’ve got to pull a 5 day streak, which will be tough.   With heat like today, it’s going to be even tougher.  I had planned on a 14.5 mile route, then decided on a 9.5 mile.  By the time I arrived to Wood Canyon, I decided to cut my route even shorter.  I went for a 6.5 mile run in the coastal hills today, one of my usual trips, and the heat was scorching.  SCORCHING.  I did get a nice breeze though at Top of the World.

The run was tough.  But the run was lovely.  And I was glad when I finished my last step.  The first thing I did (after stretching my calves) was sit in the truck and blast the air conditioner.  Then I guzzled down the remainder of my Nuun dissolved ice water. 

Prickly Pear harvest time (if you dare):

Making the tough climb to Top of the World:

Pacific Ocean View:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Main Divide

I ventured back into the mountains this morning for the first time since my last debacle.  That incident was a big blow to me, perhaps bigger than I was able to relay in my blog entry.

This morning I decided to play it safe by sticking to the main trails, THE main trail, The Main Divide.  The Main Divide is a truck trail, sometimes loose, almost sandy, sometimes quite rocky, that runs along the ridge of The Saddleback Mountains.  I’ve run The Main Divide on many occasions, but always as a connection to other trails in order to form some sort of loop.  This morning I ran ONLY The Main Divide.  I parked in Blue Jay Campground (actually Falcon Campground which is pretty much the same place) and headed up. 

Gnats swarmed me in the beginning, but I ran relatively gnat-free during the most difficult, exposed parts of the trail.  I noticed coyote tracks, lots of deer tracks and bobcat tracks, plus a variety of other little cute tracks that I could not identify.  I also took in my calories like a good trail runner (595 by the time I was finished) and kept hydrated.  Toward the end, the weather was hot as hell.  I have no other way to describe it.  When I began to waver, I took in more calories and gained the additional strength that I needed.    The wonder of calories.  I never once felt light-headed or nauseated.  Not only that, even in this hot, hot, hot weather, I did not once need to stop in the shade to cool down. 

I saw only one other runner out today.  He was someone I know, an accomplished, humble runner Scott Barnes (He placed 2nd in Twin Peaks last year, finishing his 50 miles a little before I finished my 50 kilometers).  We chatted for a few minutes then headed off our separate ways.   Plenty of motorcyclists made their way along The Main Divide as well.  I spoke to one of them who asked directions to Modjeska Peak, and then asked me, “What the heck are you doing out here?”  I did not come across one single mountain biker.  This was very unusual. 

So, I ran out a little over 8 miles, which brought me past the Indian Truck Trail junction.  Then I simply turned around and ran back.  Yes, I was quite fatigued running The Main Divide back to my truck.  But I wore a huge grin because this time, I wasn’t seat belted in the seat of a fire truck.

Success.

The Main Divide

 Our moon still above as I take those first few steps up The Main Divide:

Where the gnats are plentiful:

Overlooking Lake Elsinore:

Overlooking Orange County:

Running Main Divide out and back 8-24-2013, Elevation

Hot, sweaty, grimy, red-faced and dirty, but smiling as I run back to the truck:

Friday, August 23, 2013

On the Trails in Tommie Toes

If you follow my Facebook page, you might know that I won a pair of Tommie Toes.  They’re “all-terrain” sandals that I’ve been tempted to try after hearing about all the barefoot and sandal running going around.  I’ve seen runners wear sandals in big races, like the Chimera 100.  I’ve seen countless barefoot markings on my trails.  And I even saw at least 3 or 4 barefoot runners in the last San Diego Rock N’ Roll Marathon. 

After reading Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run and learning about the Tarahumara Indians, I grew even more curious.  The Tarahumara Indians who live in the mountains of Northern Mexico, run fantastic distances, seemingly effortless.  And they run all these miles in sandals!!  Before reading Born to Run, I couldn’t even walk around the house barefoot.  I ALWAYS wore something on my feet – they were that tender.  Venturing onto the trails barefoot or even in sandals was unimaginable.

Tarahumara sandals:

tarahumara

My friend Tom Bychowski wears sandals similar to those above when he runs the same trails that I run.  Tom is the man behind Tommie Toes.  As you can see he worked with the Tarahumara design a bit and came up with a sandal like this:

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Well, I’m not sure if I’m going to become a barefoot or sandal runner.  But I’m for sure going to give it a try.  First, I wanted to get my feet ready.  I began barefoot hiking early this summer.  Ouch!  Ouch! Ouch! The first trip was a bit painful to my feet (while my youngest son ran circles around me in his barefeet on the trail).  Amazingly, my feet grew stronger and barefoot hiking was really cool (as in groovy) and comfortable.  What was NOT cool was stepping on sharp rocks or burning my feet on scorching hot trails.  That’s when I slapped on my Tommie Toes. The sandals took care of both of those problems.  I didn’t notice sharp rocks.  AND the bottoms of my feet remained scorch free while at the same time feeling closely like they were bare.  I don’t think I have the strap adjusted perfectly yet.  But there is a video with strap adjustment directions on the website that I haven’t taken the time to watch very closely.

Hiking with my sons on Car Wreck Trail wearing Tommie Toes:1186127_10201916355329146_2141632211_n

While they are comfy and attractive, here’s the very best thing about Tommie Toes so far:  They stay on my feet at the beach!!!! The waves do not grab them and wash them away.  I have lost more than one pair of “flip-flops” to the ocean.  Tommie Toes, though minimal, are nothing like flip-flops.  They stay on my feet and they fit snuggly.  I would never be able to hike any distances in flip-flops.  I can in these. 

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Just Do It

It’s been a long, long time.  Too long.  This week, I began cross-training again (that is doing workouts that include activities other than running).  This of course is fantastic news for me because I only cross-train in a gym.  In fact I was a gym rat for many years.  THEREFORE, this means . . .  wait for it . . . I have a gym membership once again!  (Thanks to my hubby for this wonderful gift.)

So excited to visit the gym again, I wasn’t able to get out for a run this week until this evening.  But beforehand, I  spent two hours in the gym doing cardio and strength training in the early afternoon.  Back home, I rested up for about two hours.  Then I was off again headed for the coastal hills.  My objective:  to run on tired legs.  And boy were they TIRED.  My legs were so tired in fact, as I set off into Wood Canyon, I really didn’t want to do this short out-and-back at all. 

“Just do it,” I said to myself.  I wonder if Nike, or whoever it was, knew the power of those words when they began using it in their ad campaign.  Just do it.  Just do it.  And I was off, one foot in front of the other, knowing that all I had to do was “do it,” and I would soon be finished.  The steepest portion (Cholla Trail) I found profoundly difficult to run, especially with no breeze and hot weather.  After that, each step became more and more bearable.

I saw two other runners, running together, one hiker and two mountain bikers.  I also saw two coyotes, on separate occasions, one bunny and about twenty-five lizards.   I didn’t run any loop-de-lu’s, like I usually do to fancy-up this out-and-back.  Instead, I ran straight to Top of the World, re-filled my handheld, turned around and ran straight back.  Total miles: 6

Glorious.

View of Pacific Ocean from West Ridge:

Top of the World:

View of Saddleback Mountains from West Ridge:

Running Cyn Vistas to TOW and back 8-21-2013, Elevation

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth

Around here, a popular saying is “Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth.”  Though I love Disney, I have not found this to be true.  People are agitated, overheated, overcrowded, and extremely tired of crowds and long lines at Disneyland.  Because of this chaos, some people aren’t very polite, and parents here and there are ticked off at their children for tantrums and other misbehaving.  Definitely NOT the happiest place on Earth.  Sorry Disneyland, in my experience, I’ve found ski resorts to be the happiest place on Earth.  Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE smiles at ski resorts.  There’s no overheating, the crowds are nothing like Disneyland’s and everyone is polite to one another.  I once lost $40 at a ski resort.  I went to the “lost and found” – and someone had turned it in!!  This is how happy people are at ski resorts. 

This morning I found a new “happiest place on Earth.”  I arrived to Aliso Wood Canyons at 7AM to find the lots and streets more crowded than I’ve ever seen.  Perhaps people were getting their last adventures in before summer vacation ends.  There were different groups of runners, groups of hikers, and a tremendous amount of mountain bikers.  I ran into Aliso Canyon with an entire high school cross country team.  They all passed me of course.  But everyone, I mean EVERYONE was smiling and polite. 

I turned off the beaten path pretty early on to take Mentally Sensitive up to the ridge.  So, I had the park to myself for a while.  The only adventure was the running in itself, which is a-okay with me.  I’ve had a bit more adventure than I need for now.  As I ran Meadows on the way to Mentally Sensitive I noticed lots of tiny bobcat tracks.  I hoped that I might see her up a ways.  She probably would have been smiling too.  But alas, no bobcat.

Mentally Sensitive:

So much like delicate diamond necklaces:

At the top of Mentally Sensitive, I ran out of the park.  This is where I always run along Top of the World to re-enter the park about a mile away.  I came upon another high school cross country team on this portion.  And at Top of the World, where I posed for a quick picture, twenty or so mountain bikers were resting up at the benches.  All smiling.

I experimented with calories on this run also, that is I took in double than my usual for such a run.  Normally, I would have about 300 calories.  I took in 600 today.  That seemed like too much.  But I felt stronger coming in for the finish.  In fact. I finished this run 15 minutes earlier than I usually do.  And it didn’t seem at all like I ran any faster.

Running up toward Top of the World:

Top of the World, ready to enter the park again and finish up my 13.5 mile loop:

Elevation Profile (the dark vertical line is where I accidentally hit the “lap” button just before re-entering the park):Running Big Loop 8-17-2013, ElevationRunning Big Loop 8-17-2013