TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Thursday, September 26, 2013

An Autumn Run!

I’m fretting only slightly about Twin Peaks, which is about 3 weeks away.  Fortunately, I’m going for the 50k option (not even considering the 50 mile option).  The 50k will still be quite the task for me, but I will have lots and lots of time to get it done.  So I can walk, crawl or scramble and probably still make the trip (hopefully).  Still, I haven’t got in quite the mileage that I’ve wanted over the past months.  In fact, this summer’s training has probably been one of my worst summer trainings.  That’s ironic since I actually looked forward to summer runs this year.  I don’t ever recall looking forward to summer running before.

Thankfully I got in an autumn run today.  And boy, was it GLORIOUS!  I almost thought that it would rain.  I said, “Bring it on!”  But alas, no rain.  Cool breezes blew practically my entire run.  It felt heavenly.  Even as I “ran” up the big climb, Mentally Sensitive (see elevation chart below).

Climbing Mentally Sensitive:

I always wear my hat backward for a reason (in case you’re wondering from the picture above and the countless others).  One reason is that forward, the cap bill traps in the heat around my race.  And I hate that.  More importantly, the cap with bill forward blocks visibility.  I can quickly recall 4 instances when I ran head-on into a branch wearing the bill of my cap forward.  In one case, I hit so hard that I fell back onto the ground and actually worried about my well-being.  In another case, I hit head-on into a branch twice within 5 minutes of each other (different branches of course). 

So, why wear a cap at all?  Because it catches the sweat from my head.  That way I don’t have as much salt running into my eyes (which hurts like heck).  Anyway, back onto the track . . .

Top of Mentally Sensitive:

I decided on a quick run down Rockit Trail, which is rocky, bumpy and great training for my upcoming Calico Run in January which is rocky to the utmost.  From there, I turned off onto Coyote Run for some gorgeous single track stints through forests and more desert-like terrain.  I learned today that Coyote Run is a favorite weekday trail for mountain bikers.  They were ALL courteous and polite, I am glad to report.

In all I ran almost 12.5 miles.  Happily I ran those last miles in with fuel still in the tank.  I didn’t collapse at the truck!

Coyote run Trail:Running Up Mentally Sensitive, down RockIt 9-26-2013, Elevation

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What a Relief!

Day 28 of my '”Fitness Streak,” I thought I’d merely put in the minimum.  I just had too much to do.  To make time even tighter, today was late-in day (for school) for one boy, and early-out day for the two others.  Why are school schedules so complicated nowadays?  Winking smile

Eventually, I decided to squeeze in a local run between chores. drop-offs, and pick-ups.  This of course meant A ROAD RUN.  Yes!  Another road run.  I really do need road runs more often because I run faster on the road.  You see, I have inadvertently trained myself to run slowly by running high elevation gain trail runs pretty much all the time.  Because of this my legs aren’t used to a quick turnaround.

Thing is, my heel has chronic pain now which I haven’t written much about.  And I only have a little left of the tape that works.  So, I used the “professional” tape I purchased recently at a sporting goods store.  And after wrapping my foot, it did nothing to ease the pain.  NOTHING.  Big waste of $4.  On the good side, the pain forced me to focus more on a mid food strike.  (Right now I’m sitting with my foot elevated taped in the “good” tape, and I have some relief).

SO, I ran down to Doheny Beach and ran the straight away alongside the shore all the way to Capo (Capistrano Beach).  These are rocky beaches, with tons of wet rocks and pebbles that glistened beneath the warm sun.  The birds seemed to like the wet rocks too.  Hundreds of seagulls meandered about undisturbed (until I decided to pay them a visit for a photo-op). 

I stopped running where the sidewalk ends, and turned around headed for the wharf.  The wharf was lovely as usual.  No crowds this afternoon.  I photographed some more elephants from our “Elephant Parade,” and made it back home with seven miles logged.  What a relief to get in a run!

Gateway to the Past – the entryway into Doheny Beach up until the 1930’s.  I think they should still use it:

Birdies:
Elephant Parade:

Friday, September 20, 2013

I am so tired

I woke this morning with aching arm muscles.  Arm muscles!  I haven’t even lifted any weights since Wednesday.  I am just so, so tired.  I wondered if it’s my age, or if I’m just pushing too hard when I haven’t in so long. 

Originally I planned on a ten mile run this morning.  But after my morning chores (which last about 3 hours, from 6:00 to 9:00 AM) I promptly went back to sleep.  At 11:40, I bolted up, remorseful over wasted time.

Wait just one minute girlee.  If you’re that tired, you needed the rest. 

I’m okay with it now.  I had to let the guilt flutter out the window.  That was a must! 

So, on day 24 of my fitness streak, I took off out my front door,

and  went for a nice leisurely run down to the marina this evening. The weather was cool.  Fluffy gray clouds hovered above.  Teenagers roamed about after a long day at school.  I ran out to the beach where beachgoers cooked over bbq’s and surfers waded in the waters,

and then I ran on over to the marina and took in the light reflections on the waters.  The restaurants overflowed with people.  Walkers crowded the sidewalks.  My favorite birds, the pelicans rested upon the docks and flew overhead near the commercial fishing boats.  I love those enormous birds.  They seem so awkward, a lot like myself. Winking smile

 

In all, I ran 3.70 miles this evening.  And it was lovely to just get out there and run for a short distance.  My pace was much quicker than the trails, and the weather was simply divine. (Still, I felt like I ran ever so slowly)

I also learned what all the posters uptown that read, “Elephant Parade” are referring to.  Our town is holding an artistic fundraiser for the diminishing Asian elephants.  As such, we have numerous, delicately and beautifully painted elephants in various parts of town.  I ran past many, probably 10.  Below are some of those works of art:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cooler Temps–I can feel autumn approach

I completed my 23rd day of fitness streaking today – which requires doing an activity for a mile or more every day.  That activity of course wouldn’t be something like driving, or crawling (though I suppose crawling for a mile would be difficult enough to qualify).  I hit day one so many times during this endeavor, that 23 has been my highest number in this facebook group to date.  This of course, means the pressure is on.  At day 23, I don’t want to start over again at day 1.

After spending the first three days of my workouts at the gym this week, I knew I had one thing to do today (besides make breakfasts, pack lunches, get three boys off to school, wash dishes, do laundry).  And that one thing was to run.  And since my week begins on Monday, I needed to get in some good mileage since I was already behind (zero at the end of 3 days – I call that behind). 

Thankfully, the weather cooled for me today.  I didn’t hit the trails until after 10AM.  I started off slowly, and a little weak. And I finished slowly, and a little weaker.  But that’s okay.  Really.  I completed this 14.53 mile route in the same time it takes me to run 13.25 miles in the same park (Aliso/wood Canyons).  Regardless of any of this, it was all a-okay with me – I was running trails, and you can’t beat that!

To make a long, long, long, long story short, I made my way down to a nice size pool in Wood Creek, looking for signs of autumn. It seems that just when the summer rolls over into autumn for good, the bright orange crawdads make their appearance in the creek.  I didn’t see any crawdads, but I did notice a bobcat cross Wood Canyon not twenty-five feet away from me.  I caught her backend as she rushed off into the brush.  I ran back up to the trail, but I was too late.  I stood there for a bit, peering into the thick brush.  I saw nothing, but heard something heavier than a bird or squirrel moving about in the branches and dry leaves.

A View into Wood Creek from Wood Canyon:

I pushed hard on my way up to Top of the World.  I tired easily, and hiked a couple of the steep inclines.  In my defense, I did try to power hike them.  Still, I found myself with my hands on my hips.  I experienced delight hitting my turn around point in this out-and-back.  I stopped for a quick pose at Top of the World, phoned my husband and headed on back in slightly warmer temperatures.

I focused so hard on keeping my pace from falling too terribly, that I almost missed the two deer that bounced like bunnies alongside me on Wood Canyon Trail.  By the time I realized the two does’ presence, they darted off at a quicker pace.  As I reached for my camera, I told myself, “Forget it – you have hundreds of deer pictures.”  Besides that, I didn’t want to stop.  I wanted to finish up at a decent hour. 

Quick Stop at Top of the World:

Yes, today’s 14.5 miles were difficult.  But they were not terrible.  Misery factor was close to zero.  Yes, I ran rather slowly, but I was running trails, and that’s still the best!

Elevation Profile:Running_Wood_Cyn_Cholla_West_Ridge_TOW_&_back_9-19-2013,_Elevation

Saturday, September 14, 2013

How to force yourself through a 20 mile trail run, when you don’t wanna

Woke to a 4 AM alarm, packed my gear, changed for a run, then decided I needed more sleep.  Set my alarm for 6:00 AM, fell asleep on the couch.  When the alarm rang out, I reset it for 6:30 AM, and then later, reset it again for 7:30 AM.  Mistake.

I finally rolled out of the driveway at 7:45 AM and drove an hour to the Holy Jim Trailhead.  After applying sunscreen for the hot morning sun, I stepped out of the truck.  That’s when I, and the inside of my truck were promptly swarmed by gnats.  “I’m sorry,” I told myself.  “But I just can’t do this AGAIN.”  And so, I drove out of the canyon, the entire time fighting against the inner voices that go bash, bash, bash against thyself. 

I decided to stop by my house to give hubby his ATM card.  I got a chance to say hello to my boys and their friends.  Then I drove off again, headed to Aliso/Wood Canyons.  I did not start running until 10:15 AM.  And the weather was already HOT.

I planned on a ten mile loop that I would run twice.  By the top of my first climb, I realized a double loop was not a good idea.  The misery level was just too high today, and I didn’t think that I’d have the mental power to continue onward after the first loop with my truck so close by.  For the next 5 or so rolling miles, I focused on staying in the moment and off and on, thought about how I might alter my plan and still come up with a 20 mile run.

Yummy looking Prickly Pears on Cholla Trail (I have never tried one, but these look scrumptious, if I could figure out how to pick one without a thousand tiny thorns imbedding my fingers):

3 miles in (up), at Top of the World,  the real heat has just begun:

As I ran down Mentally Sensitive Trail, I had no idea that I would eventually concoct a route that later included climbing up Mentally Sensitive.  That’s okay.  An unclear plan made running down the steepest trail in the park delightful, scary sometimes yes, slow sometimes yes, but delightful nonetheless.  By the time I reached Aliso Canyon where I would connect up with the last part of Mentally Sensitive and Meadows Trail, a runner came barreling toward Mentally Sensitive for the climb up.  I thought he was crazy.

By the time I reached Wood Canyon, where I would normally turn left for a loop, I decided to instead turn right and run out as far as I could.  Get as far away from the truck as possible was my plan.  That way, I’d have no choice but to continue this 20+ mile route, else I wouldn’t get back to my truck. 

At the ranger station, I drenched myself in cold water, and took off for Laguna Niguel Lake.  This meant crossing a busy street.   But that was well-worth it.  Laguna Niguel Lake was cool, shady and sprinkled with drinking fountains throughout.  At a little over 10 miles on my garmin, I turned around and headed back.  Before leaving the lake, I filled my pack to the brim and re-drenched my bandana which I now wore upon my head.

Running down Mentally Sensitive:

Laguna Niguel Lake:

Though still quite warm, miles 10 through 15 were bearable.  Not quick, but bearable.  At the base of Mentally Sensitive, I ran out of gas.  I mean, I felt like I could not run another step.  I forced down some more calories and began to power hike that climb.  Pretty quickly in, I hit a stubborn wall, found some shade and sat until I regained energy.  I sat more than once in the shade during that one mile climb.  And I felt no shame about it.  I figured this was the only way I was going to have the strength to run in the last 5 miles.

Sitting in the dirt on Mentally Sensitive Trail where shade is scarce:

Finally!  At the top of Mentally Sensitive:

I recovered pretty quickly for the final 5 mile stretch.  Actually, I was amazed that I was able to run those last five miles.  Mind you, I ran at a snail’s pace. Winking smile  I hunted down a couple of short-cuts, to no avail, which ended up wasting more energy.  The last quarter mile to my truck, I peeled off my pack and walked back up through Canyon View Park.  My energy was spent.  SPENT. 

I am actually a little proud of myself for pulling this off with such a late start – especially since I spent the first few minutes of my running trying to figure out a way that I could get out of running Twin Peaks come October.  I’m just going to force myself, like I did today.

outandback

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Free Spartan Race Goes to . . .

Thank you for all the comments.  I held the drawing tonight.  My son blindly picked the winner of the Spartan Race.  The winner of the free race goes to Maggie.  (Maggie, please e-mail me within 2 weeks from tomorrow, Friday the 13th.  Click “View my complete profile” on right panel of this page & click on e-mail link to do so): 

spartan 

Thanks to all for reading.  For all readers, use this link for a 15% off code for qualifying Spartan Races: http://bit.ly/spartanwarrior

Thanks again!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Chase

Late this morning I ran The Big Lollipop Loop at Aliso/Wood Canyons.  I have run this route frequently, both clockwise and counterclockwise.  Today I ran clockwise, which gets the toughest part over within 4 miles. 

The weather was breezy and cool, wonderfully so.  I spotted lots of coyote and deer tracks, some snake tracks, and fewer bobcat tracks.  Except for squirrels, bunnies and lizards, I’ve seen very few wildlife lately in the coastal hills.  I’m sure this is due to the fact that the park has been so crowded over summer break.

Running Meadows Trail toward Mentally Sensitive (for a huge climb):

FINALLY peaking Mentally Sensitive, I’m off for some bushwhacking into Moulton Park (a city park along the ridge):

Woo-Wee:

After a long run along the ridge, coming off Cholla Trail to make the turn in this loop (entering Wood Canyon):

I ran past a field with about three miles remaining of this thirteen  mile run and saw my first coyote today.  Normally, I don’t stop for every coyote.  But this one had a particularly beautiful reddish coat.  I stopped across the field from the wild dog and began snapping photos.

There she is (click for a larger view):

Well, this beaut appeared nervous, backing further and further from me.  That’s when I noticed a large doe hiding in the brush behind her.  The doe went unnoticed, still as a statue.  Eventually the coyote turned from me and ran into the bush, straight on into the doe.  It all happened so quickly, I’m amazed how much went through my mind.  It’s times like these, that I don’t think actual words went through my mind, but instead concepts and ideas.  Translated into words, this is what I thought:  What the heck is going to happen?  The coyote is a predator; the doe is not.  But the doe is so much larger.  I imagined the coyote lurching at the deer out of fear and perhaps a brawl ensuing.  But this was not the case.  Instead . . .

The coyote ran straight on into the doe and in one motion turned and ran back out into the open field.  Simultaneously, the deer charged after the coyote, both running at tremendous speeds.  I just clicked my camera as I watched in awe.  Eventually, the coyote escaped into the brush. 

Coyote unknowingly walking up on a doe:

The chase is on (again, click for perhaps a better view):

Well, those last few miles of running were tough.  But the chase provided a great deal of exhilaration and helped push me in to finish up those 13.30 miles.

Great, tiring run.

Running Big Loop 9-11-2013, ElevationRunning Big Loop 9-11-2013

Today is the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks; tonight I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on writing this entry.  God Bless all the heroes that day, and all the families who were touched by this horrific act.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Drenched

Thank goodness the heat finally broke.  Or so I thought!  I hit the hills about 10AM; I had beautiful cool breezes.  But humidity was high, high, high.  By the time I finished my 6.42 mile hilly run to Top of the World and back, I was drenched in sweat.  Seriously, my hair was as wet as if I had just washed it.    My clothing was sopping.  Awesome.  It was a difficult run.  But someone had to do it.  Winking smile

A little over a month remains before Twin Peaks Ultra.  I will never be ready.  But such is the story of my life.  I will do the best I can.

Happy running!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Misery Well Worth It

I completed day 12 of my fitness streak (from the Fitness Streakers Facebook group).  Very few of those days have been running because I prefer the air-conditioned gym to the sweltering heat on the trails.  This of course adds to my stress-level because I need to run.  I love trails. 

This morning, I overslept for an early morning mountain run.  I went to church with my family instead.  Afterward, I thought I’d get in some more gym time.  Then I decided, No way!  Suck it up, Lauren.  Get out there and put in some miles in this heat. 

And that is what I did. 

1PM, I ran through Moulton Park in Laguna Beach toward Mentally Sensitive Trail.  I ran down that insanely steep trail into Aliso Viejo.  This took a lot of concentration, else I fall off the edge.  I jumped from side to side of the eroded single track.  Quite often I stepped directly to my side to slow my pace.  This fancy footwork maneuvering the downhill kept my mind off the heat.  When the trail finally leveled out, I ran through a desolate, brown field, in 93 degrees Fahrenheit with 92% humidity. 

Ouch.  

Prepared to descend upon Mentally Sensitive:

Mentally Sensitive levels out:

Aliso and Wood Canyons was practically empty today.  I came upon two hikers in Wood Canyon and two mountain bikers a little later.  The trails were still.  The woods were quiet.  The air was so thick, I had some difficulty breathing.  The only reason I didn’t cut this ten mile loop short by running up any of the drastic hills to the ridge, is because I wanted a more gradual climb.  Gradual of course is relative. 

Wood Canyon:

I ran the ridge alone, and needed to rest two or three times in the shade.  Then I came upon my trail friend A-Rod.  We stopped and chatted for a short bit, as a young man stood to his side.  I was a little delirious I think, because I couldn’t get out the word “humidity.”  I tried three times when A-Rod offered me his inhaler.  I declined, then asked about his friend.  “He’s my son,” said A-Rod.  This shocked the heck out of me.  I looked at his son and almost asked, “What high school do you go to?”  And then, AND THEN, in my heated, misery kind of dumbness, I asked, “Are you a man or a boy?”  I laughed out loud when I said this.  So did A-Rod’s son – “I’m 27,” he said. 

The break, friendly faces, and a good chuckle gave me the strength I needed to continue on up to Top of the World.  Thank God for Top of the World.  I was plumb out of fluids. I refilled my pack and drenched myself down as well.  I took off refreshed for the last 2.5 miles of this run.

As I ran that last mile upon the dry desert-like terrain, a breeze came along. I was completely alone out on the ridge making my way back up to a high point.  All vegetation was chewed to the ground from the goats that occasionally roam there.  My head cover blew in the wind, and out there in the middle of nowhere, I felt like a desert nomad.  I felt tranquil and comforted and thought to myself, all that misery was worth this very moment.

The Adventure:Running Mentally Sensitive Cholla loop from Moulton 9-8-2013, Elevation

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Spartan Race Give-Away

I have another Spartan race entry to give away.  Leave me a comment.  If you’re the only comment, YOU WIN!!.  If I have more than one comment, I’ll have a drawing, and you could still win.   (The entry is good for 2013/2014 in the continental U.S.)

I’ve finally decided I’m going for it.  I’m going to register for a Spartan Race – it’s a 5k, so I can do the miles  But can I hack the obstacles?  We shall see. 

The big news is that NBC has partnered up with Spartan races.  And so now you’ll be able to see what all the excitement is about.  NBC is televising a Spartan World Championship race at the end of this month.  They will be filming 8 professional athletes and 4 everyday Spartans in Killington Vermont.  (Still time for you to register!

sprint

500,000 people are expected to run Spartan Race this year.  Looks like I’m going to be one of them! 

Learn more about Spartan Races and how they are becoming quite a phenomenon in this interesting article from Business Week:

Calling on Muddy Spartans to Save Reebok

ps.  Don’t forget to leave me a comment if you want a free race code.

pss. Re-cap to come in December when I run my Spartan Sprint. Smile